Enterprise application integration (EAI) and enterprise portals may also play pivotal roles in e-business implementation projects. EAI can take the form of a product (middleware on steroids) or a service (e-business system integration) or a combination of both. Enterprise portals, Web sites acting as focal points for consolidating all varieties of enterprise system access, are likely to become a de facto standard across most industries. Rather than requiring system users to physically organize individual sets of access points (internal system menus, e-business partner connectivity, frequently accessed external URLs, etc.), the enterprise portal provides a logical and efficient navigational center. However, while the linking of disparate applications via a portal may give the appearance of system integration, actual cross-application integration is achievable through some sort of EAI.
Another factor affecting customer-facing application requirements is the new class of sales and marketing intermediaries, the e-commerce market makers. Largely deployed through marketplace portals on the Internet, these companies represent new business opportunities in that their core competence sits on an e-commerce foundation. Without robust systems and networks, they cannot enter the market. For others—manufacturers and wholesalers—they may represent a lessened need for customer-centric e-business systems since they may envision these market makers as outsourced sales and marketing departments. Such companies still have a need for e-business enablement since their ERP systems must communicate with the new marketplace portals electronically, but their systems requirements are more likely to be of a supply chain nature. Keep in mind that this does not have
to be an either/or situation; a company can also opt to view these external marketplace portals as simply another sales channel.
Here are some of the more significant customer-facing application areas:
A solution that enables companies to sell their products and services over the Internet. To establish an Internet selling presence, the first step is setting up a virtual storefront and the company's product catalog on a Web site. Typical transactional features include quoting standard prices, showing product availability information, providing self-service order entry, authorizing credit, presenting invoices, processing payments, and providing order status information. Advanced features may include automated knowledge-based sales assistance, product substitution advice, up-sell and cross-sell prompting, shipping option alternatives, catalog personalization, digital promotions, product configuration for complex products, and support for buying groups. Ease of use is the single biggest factor in providing the customer with an enjoyable shopping experience—an essential for earning repeat business.
Customer Relationship Management—CRM
The objective of CRM is to create a more effective marketing relationship between the company and its customers. It is based on bi-directional communication facilitating proactive opportunity management, marketing strategy, and customer care. Customer-specified pref-erences and feedback exchanges are used in the deployment of sales programs and marketing campaigns. CRM solutions often include formal call center management modules. Establishing a more formal link between company and customer, CRM readily supports trading partner agreements such as vendor managed inventory and collaborative planning, forecasting, and replenishment programs.
To Be Continued