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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

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

Lean Manufacturing Articles and click on Series 12

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