Category Archives: The Role of Technology in Operations

Technology-Related Issues

Technology-Related Issues

The integration of new technologies into an organization requires a significant amount of training and support in order for both workers and customers to reap the full benefits. The lack of proper training and support, in many instances, will not only fail to yield the expected improvements in performance and/or productivity, but could also prove disastrous financially as frustrated workers quit and unhappy customers take their business elsewhere.

Application Service Providers (ASPs)

Application Service Providers (ASPs)

Application service providers (ASPs) are firms that provide remote services to customers. For example, an ASP accounting firm will
have on its own server the most current accounting software package that reflects the latest changes in the tax laws. A customer then logs into the accounting firm’s website and uses that accounting package to prepare its financial statements. With an accounting ASP, customers no longer need to buy a new software package every time the tax law changes. A major challenge for ASPs is to convince customers that they are not fly-by-night operations and will be in business for the long term. Along with demonstrating financial strength to survive in the long term, ASPs also must convince customers that they provide highly reliable services and that they are very trustworthy with sensitive customer data that are given to them. Finally, customers must have confidence in the reliability of the network over which they will connect to their ASPs.

Information Providers

Information Providers

We are clearly in the information age, and it should therefore
not come as a surprise that there are screen -service businesses. often referred to as infomediaries, that primarily focus on providing information. Some firms focus exclusively on providing information. while others provide information . part of the value added to their
core business. These firms often prov idea information on several levels. H00ers Online, as an illustration, provides information on three levels. The first level. which is free to users. is general information on companies' financial information. The second level adds value by segmenting
or sorting the information to fit the needs of individual users. who pay a fee for this service. The third level involves custom searches that are designed specifically to meet the needs of an individual customer.
Companies that provide information as part of their total offering often also provide chat rooms where customers can discuss issues relevant to the focus of the firm. For example. Magicmarnan.corn, an e-service firm in Paris, France, that focuses on parents with young children, provides a chat room where parents can discuss problems they are having with their children and how some parents have dealt with them (either successfully or
unsuccessfully).

Network Providers

Network Providers

Network providers are e-services that provide a connected network
for buyers and sellers to exchange goods and services. Electronic marketplaces are one form of network provider. These marketplaces, which are usually B2B, will typically focus on a particular commodity such as chemicals, plastic, or steel. By using these marketplaces,
buyers can place their order requirements on one website and receive several quotations within a matter of hours.
Such marketplaces are very efficient in terms of their ability to link buyers and sellers, and have advantages for both parties. From the buyer's perspective. less time is required to obtain quotes from a number of vendors and the ,·~..tficiency of the marketplace translates into significant savings. From the seller's perspective, the marketplace eliminates the need
for a distributor or salesperson (an example of disintermediation), thereby reducing costs. These savings can either be passed on to the customer or go directly to the bottom line as additional profits.
Firms that conduct auction are another example of network providers. Auctions can be between businesses and consumers (B2C), such as priceline.com, which auctions off airline tickets and hotel rooms. or between consumers, such as eBay. which will auction off just about anything. Again. the e firms provide network that link a large number of buyers with a large number of sellers. thereby creating a very efficient marketplace and eliminating intermediaries (except for the firm providing the network, .inch charges a percentage of the price for which the item was sold).

Customer Support

Customer Support

This type of e-service provides customer support services in a wide variety of forms. At Fed Ex. for example, customers are able to track the location of their packages through the Internet. Customer support also can take the form of chat rooms, which provide a forum for customers. or a web page that addresses frequently asked questions (FAQs). Many firms combine their -e-service customer support activities with their call center activities. With proper design. such operations can provide fast service and be
highly efficient at the same time. . As with e-tailers, there are some firms that focus solely on providing customer support, often under contract to other firms, while other customer support activities can be part of
the overall organization. A major challenge for these types of services is to persuade customers, in a positive manner, to switch from requesting customer support through call centers, which are time- dependent and involev~ interacting with an actual person, to Internet activities. which are
non-time-dependent and are therefore more efficient.