Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Business education

E-business for the services industry: improve your business Add to ...

Improve the accuracy of demand forecasts and service plans

Easy-to-use, automated statistical forecasting systems allow for more calculated and accurate demand forecasting.

Several opinions, not just one: Forecasting systems reach the desktop of every manager, bringing company-wide input to the process through interactive Web-based applications.

More related to this story

Real-life data, not just estimates: The raw data going into the forecasts is based on actual figures and is therefore highly accurate. Anyone with authorization can obtain past demand data, forecasts and upcoming contracts, as well as updates and adjustments. If the central database is linked to the company's Web server, you can incorporate branch offices and outlets.

Automated calculations: Projections are fast, facilitating scenario planning. You can do what-if planning relating to special promotions, spike orders, or changing market conditions.

e-Procurement: reduce the transaction costs of purchasing goods and services

How it works: Typically, the procurement officer uses a Web browser to enter a company purchasing site that contains electronic catalogs from approved suppliers. The user can search the site by supplier or by specific product or service. He or she simply selects items from as many suppliers as necessary, and the system consolidates the order into one requisition. It is then distributed through the online network to the respective suppliers.

Controls: If the value of the order is beyond the purchaser's authority, it is automatically rerouted to the supervisor for approval.

Value: For purchasers, there is only one process, saving time and reducing per-transaction costs to a fraction of their former levels.

Beyond transaction costs: As they get into e-procurement, the first objective of many organizations is to reduce transaction costs. There is an even more attractive related benefit: resources previously allocated to transaction processing can now be devoted to cost-effective strategic sourcing activities.

Reduce supplier lists and negotiate volume discounts with the most competitive suppliers: gather detailed information on purchasing activity

Beyond reduced transaction costs, you can actually use an e-procurement system to lower the cost of supplies and services.

The detailed purchasing information accumulated by the system will quickly indicate the pricing, specification, and performance comparables that will begin to narrow the list of eligible suppliers. If you are putting in place a global or broad-based e-procurement system, perhaps for a number of corporate offices, the list of potential suppliers may be even smaller.

Driving more sales volume through a reduced number of suppliers will provide leverage to obtain lower purchase prices.

Lower the cost of materials for which the company doesn't have volume-purchasing or other types of leverage

Electronic procurement options such as auctions and buying consortia assist strategic sourcing of materials for which the company doesn't have volume-purchasing or other types of leverage.

In addition, dot.com suppliers may sell unique products or parts that other distributors do not offer.

Maximize employee utility by reducing paperwork and bureaucracy through automation

Corporate purchasing solutions cut the time spent on repetitive processes by about 70%, eliminating paperwork and unnecessary approvals along the way. It's good for the business and it empowers employeesto make more valuable contributions to the organization.

By automating the process as much as possible for non-strategic procurement, buyers have more time to oversee the strategic supplier base, analyze purchase patterns, evaluate suppliers, and explore new opportunities.

Human Resources Management

Widen reach, reduce costs, and improve selectiveness of recruitment efforts through interactive online job applications

Nearly everyone in the job market these days has the minimal computer literacy skills necessary to fill out a job application. And if you're recruiting at higher levels, the Internet acts as a selection tool - only those who navigate the Web can apply. Indeed, many newspaper recruitment ads now direct applicants to apply via the Web.

Data mining: Web-based job applications supply data for specific credentials or characteristics, eliminating the need to enter it into an existing database.

Qualifying candidates: Online applications can include an initial aptitude or knowledge survey to eliminate unqualified candidates , saving enormous amounts of HR time.

Wider base of potential candidates: Anyone can apply at any time. For example, many potential candidates with an existing job are not able to take time out of their work day to attend an interview.

Benefits tailoring: Job applicants' survey responses can identify salary expectations or other benefits that candidates expect for the job in question, saving time and wasted effort.

Instant dialog: Candidates immediately become a part of the HR database. The application solicits questions with the company immediately following up with an e-mail and phone call. The candidate's e-mail address is also an easy point of contact for future job openings.

Widen candidate search by looking for passive job-seekers who post resumés on a personal site or another Web page

Internet recruiting has created a new category of "passive" candidates who are not actively looking for a new job but post their resumés and invite recruiters to approach them. High-tech workers in particular tend to post resumés and search for jobs online. They also use personal sites as well as a resumé "bank".

Some recruiters use the Internet to peruse corporate Web sites posting key employee names and credentials.

Reduce administrative costs and improve employee satisfaction: communicate employee benefits online

Applications that allow workers to manage their own benefits, payroll deductions and career changes give employees more control and satisfaction. What's more, self-service takes the job off the shoulders of the HR department.

Using these applications, employees can weigh the merits of different benefits and criteria, such as cost, coverage, customer service, or performance. The site's interactive tool can help with choices by supplying rankings and graphs, using data supplied by the employee.

Some common features are:

  • Benefits enrollment;
  • Training enrollment;
  • Employee share purchases;
  • Guidelines and entitlements for work and family benefits;
  • Personal information files: allows employees to change their own personal or family status information;
  • Access to payroll services;
  • Benefits awareness sessions: alerts employees to changes in benefits as a result of marriage, parenthood, eldercare, leaves of absence, or job;
  • A "benefits links" section to direct employees to benefit providers and employee programs.

A typical benefits handbook of 10 pages can easily translate into 100 screens of information. Pare it down by making it easy to read and understand. Employees should be able to get what they want within three clicks.

Reduce the cost and improve the effectiveness of employee training programs though Internet-based modules

Web-based training approximately halves the time and cost of classroom training. No one has to travel to a classroom (a major advantage with today's far-flung workforces) and lost productivity time is kept to a minimum. Trainees progress at their personal pacethus they retain more.

Cost caveats: There are some upfront costs to consider, both for hardware and to adapt information and materials to a Web format. These outlays can slightly increase the payback period for the investment.

Instructor-led components: Experience has shown that the human element should not be eliminated. Instructor-led components - at the beginning and periodically throughout the training - provide participants with motivation, feedback, and orientation to the material.

Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC provides entrepreneurs with financing, venture capital and consulting services. To find out more go to BDC.ca.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeSmallBiz


In the know

Most popular video »


More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories