Saturday, October 15, 2011

What REALLY is Social Media and How Does it Help a Person and/or Organization?

As a practicing consultant day in and day out, I have and continue to encounter people that are looking for more information and/or answers on a number of issues but especially social media and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) problems, hence my continued analysis of the subject matter. In fact, as I have learned over the last 3+ years throughout my Doctoral studies and entire business career not only does my own personal knowledge continue to increase in this subject matter but I am also finding that everyone’s knowledge is also increasing exponentially. This could be for many reasons but mostly thanks to network marketing, the new wave of social media, and CRM software (apps included) that are continuing to allow us all to communicate more effectively from just about anywhere.

However, for those out there that still think “social media” is a new part of our continually changing and mainstream culture, others disagree, as this median is by no means new. (Borders, 2009) stated that people and businesses all over the world have been using different types of digital media over the last 30+ years to communicate, socialize, network, etc. except back then, more often than not people referred to this median as the telephone, newspaper, television, etc (i.e. phones have been used for the last 60+ years). So then, what is “social media?” According to an industry expert social media is a way or form of expressing you and/or your company’s information in a social online forum. It can be looked at as the passing of information amongst friends, colleges, co-workers, and worldwide connections. This is actually no different from those days, when we used digital media such as newspapers or the landline telephone to connect with our friends, colleges, co-workers, or those often referred to as our “target market.” Whether we are connecting with people online or in-person, the truth is we can now connect deeper with others who are truly our “target markets.” Each and every time we connect in these ways (in person or online) it increases our relationships and our brand awareness. Most of the time people may not need your specific product and/or service at that exact moment but when a person does or when they run into someone that needs it they are more likely to think of you or recommend you and/or your company. Therefore, social media is often referred to as another friendly way to advertise to those within your inner/outer circles or can be broken down further to apply to a percentage of the contacts that you make over time. For example, if you meet 1000 people in a year and it applies to 10% of them, then you have gained 100 potential or “hopefully” actual clients. On a larger scale is you meet 10,000 people and have a 7% return, then 700 would be the number of potential of “hopefully” actual clients. Perhaps this is the most important part of social media, as it provides one of the only means of meeting that many people in open or closed forums through sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Empire Ave, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc. After all, if meeting people is a big part of creditability, then you should build relationships with others first regardless of the median, and sales and/or other potential opportunities will come later. In the end, social media helps not only build relationships but also helps people plant seeds, that if watered and given sun, will eventually grow. This new thing called “social media” is no different then what people have been doing for years in sales or other organizations like local Chamber of Commerce’s or Business Network International (BNI) groups. The only difference is that social media allows a person and/or organization the ability to plant additional seeds, that 30 years ago would have been impossible or required much more time, energy, and effort, which then will in turn, turn into ripe orchards in years to come (G Social Media, 2009).

As I continue my research and reporting, not only will I continue to report on Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) but also how Supply Chain Management (SCM), CRM, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), social media, and other technological system advancements will impact people and other (i.e. Small-to-Medium Enterprises) organizations in the years ahead. From this research and collected data, I will then introduce readers to a completely new concept and program that will help take us forward into the 21st Century. Until then, sit back relax, and enjoy the history, current progression, and future direction of social media and other technological systems analysis that I have/am continuing to provide and more importantly are continuing to change the way we communicate and the way the world operates. Of course, if you have any questions, comments, and or advice I am always looking to expand my knowledge base as explained in the opening; otherwise, keep smiling, as I continue to look forward to our journey together!


Borders, B. (2009). A Brief Histroy of Social Media, 2011, from media

G Social Media (2009). What is Social Media, why, and how can it help me, from

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Who is the NCCI & What is the Importance of Proper Workers Compensation Classification for Businesses

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) based out of Boca Raton, FL is one of the countries largest database managers of workers compensation insurance information. In fact, NCCI helps to analyze industry trends and risks associated with them in order to help others prepare workers compensation insurance rates, while providing a combination of services, which help to maintain a healthier overall workers compensation system (NCCI Holdings, 2011).

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, the NCCI is not a rating bureau; instead, the organization is often referred to as an advisory committee because its board of directors is comprised of insurance executives and/or companies, which at times may seem a little biased, as these individuals or companies are in business to make a profit. Nevertheless, having a board made up of top-notch executives and companies who compete in the industry make it a little easier to help determine a fair classification system for the approximately 700 different workers compensation classification codes, which cover almost any employee or workplace exposure or does it?

One of the most elementary parts of pricing workers compensation insurance for a client is by properly classifying a company’s workplace exposures into one of these several hundred codes previously mentioned. Indeed, each code developed by the NCCI carries with it an individual rate that is based on that codes exposure within a particular workplace. For example, the classification codes for a clerical or sales worker usually carry with them significantly lower rates versus classification codes that may be associated with a roofer or logging, as the workplace exposure of these different types of jobs are extremely different (mostly inside positions versus outside positions). However, when the exposure is not so obvious, classifying a specific exposure can be very complicated and something a business owner wants to be absolutely sure of since a misclassification can cost a business a lot of money they didn’t necessarily expect to pay if something does go wrong or they end up getting audited.

Today employers can use multiple classification codes on a policy or a company can classify their workforce under one as a group but it is important to document or provide records that show what exact tasks workers complete or how they are split their time between different comp codes if using multiple codes. What the costs (annual premiums) are for a policy most of the time are based on an employer’s annual payroll, which can be in the form of a standalone policy or a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) arrangement. Therefore, for a decision maker of a company or the business owner, it becomes even more important to understand these different codes and make sure your employees who perform work for you are correctly classified for the actual work they perform. As a result, you could save a lot in the annual premiums and rates you receive in return.

Perhaps the most important part about all this is that the details the NCCI provides insurance carriers (i.e. SCOPES Manual) in regards to the many workers compensation codes is that this manual is NOT available anywhere unless you purchase the proprietary material or subscribe to the NCCI online database. However, as a Business Consultant and Doctorate of Business Administration Candidate who researching this as well as other industries, I welcome anyone to contact me directly for an analysis. Having this expert opinion on whether your employees are classified correctly or not could even save you and/or your company money, while minimizing costs or any additional fees for a misclassification. Providing you with this knowledge and service will help both of us sleep better at night.

As always and as I continue my research, you can expect more analysis and opinions about this along with other common issues found in advancing technologies and the workplace, which at times can make it hard for you to focus on your core business. Of course, the information that I continue to provide here are my views and not views and/or opinions of any others but views based upon real world research, which the title of my Blog depicts. Until next time, keep smiling, as it really does look good on you!

NCCI Holdings, Inc (2011). National Council on Compensation Insurance. NCCI, retrieved on July 24, 2011 from:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Do you and/or your company understand how to properly manage your Payroll, Workers Compensation, Human Resources, Risk Management, and/or Employee Benefits? Is a Professional Employment Organization (PEO) the Answer?

Professional Employment Organizations (PEOs) or employee leasing companies are organizations that help other businesses by offering a number of valuable services to their customers. In general, PEOs provide organizations with payroll services, access to workers compensation policies, help in managing their human resources, risk management (i.e. employee manuals and other services), which at times may be difficult for these same organizations to manage on their own. As a result of this more efficient way of managing workplace processes and workplace safety, companies can further reduce administration costs while remaining focused on their core business strategy. PEOs also help companies gain more control over their costs of worker compensation coverage since most of the time workers’ comp rates are based on actual hours worked, so a company is exactly even every week and the worry of tax penalty goes away because the PEO pays all the state and federal taxes.

Additionally, most PEOs help organizations with their hiring practices by attracting and retaining good employees, while reducing their employee turnover and unemployment compensation claims, which is critical in today’s working environment. Because most employee leasing companies also represent a number of different employers these companies usually have access to a larger pool of workers. In turn, having access to a larger pool of workers can sometimes help lower the costs associated with certain employee benefits such as health and dental insurance, supplemental insurance, and even 401(k) retirement plans, which many companies cannot afford individually but now can because of the buying power of an employee leasing company (U.S. Department of Labor).

The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) Financial Ratio and Operating Statistics Survey (2010) found, “that 2-3 million Americans are currently co-employed in a PEO arrangement. About 700 PEOs that offer a wide array of employment services and benefits are operating today in 50 states. PEOs have an 88 percent client retention rate due to strong client satisfaction.” If you would like more information on Employee Leasing or Payroll Companies you can email or call me personally at 813-474-2705 to discuss how you continue to remain focused on growing your bottom line, so you have a competitive advantage over your competition.

Otherwise, please feel free to post any additional questions or comments, as I continue to collect real world research on how new technological advancements are helping to shape the future of Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Until next time, keep smiling, and thanks for stopping by :)

National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (2010). What is a PEO? Industry Statistics. PEO Industry Statistics, retrieved on June 26, 2011 from: /

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Does it Take for an Organization to become known as a Vanguard or a Sustainable Company?

When people think of a sustainable or vanguard company, often times they fail to mention the different ways that management can affect long-term sustainability planning within an organization. According to (Kanter, 2009) “a vanguard company is only as good as leaders’ ability to attract, motivate, and retain skilled people and enable them to self-organize and collaborate” (p. 28). Partnering with Boston Consulting (Hopkins, et al., 2009) adds a manger(s) sustainability practices within an organization are often based on the assumption of the more you know, the more you do within an organization. Thus, the more experience a manager has dealing with long-term sustainability issues, the more equipped they will be for future endeavors through social, economic, or environmental planning that directly affects a company’s long-term bottom-line results.

Hopkins et al., (2009) clearly point out that it is obvious that the more managers know about things that affect long-term sustainability planning the more they could/will help in shaping future business plans of an organization. However, the fact is many business managers or owners do not give much thought to long-term sustainability and this is why sustainability planning within many companies exists in a limited capacity or not at all. (Senge, Kruschwitz, Laur, & Schley, 2008) also mentioned that millions of people “including managers” are/will continue to search for ways to educate more people about sustainability issues. Like Hopkins et al., (2009) discussing the importance of managers uniting suppliers across that value chain Senge et al., (2008) recommended that more people need to learn how to “see the larger systems” in which they belong such as the supply chain, industry, or a region. This philosophy will not only provide additional insights for managers but also help educate more people with different perspectives, which will continue to help shape long-term sustainability plans of an organization.

According to (Wüstenhagen, Hamschmidt, Sharma, & Starik, 2008) another concept that can/is helping managers see the big picture is sustainable entrepreneurship, which has characteristics that carry with it high social benefits for the private, along with the public sector(s) of business. Sustainable entrepreneurship is dependent on innovation and stakeholders in order to succeed long-term. (Schlange, 2009) defines this concept as a process of identifying opportunities by being creative, while defining stakeholders as people or companies that are associated with certain organizations, which can help minimize risks, while maximizing benefits. In addition, Schlange (2009) identified three types of sustainable entrepreneurship (1) socially, (2) economically, and (3) ecologically driven. From a stakeholders perspective the key to effective sustainable entrepreneurship is to develop all three types of sustainability in order to create value and venture relationships that are likely to mature overtime.

However, business models that carry high social, economic, or ecological benefits may not always be suitable for the mass market, as in some instances they are actually detrimental to society. Expanding on the concept of sustainable entrepreneurship (Carter & Rogers, 2008) use conceptual theory building of sustainability to introduce readers to the concept of sustainability across the supply chain, which they explained helped shape the social, economic and environmental environments of this business segment. Using past research theories based on Transaction Cost Economics (TCE), ecology, and views within several organizations Carter and Rogers (2008) developed a framework driven by entrepreneurs that represented the middle ground of “Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM),” which would ultimately connect social supply chain responsibility with environmental and political programs (p. 360).

Carter and Rogers (2008) were also able to determine that sustainable entrepreneurship within an organization can also affect the societal, economic, and environmental performance of a manager and/or company much like (Hopkins, et al., 2009; Kanter, 2009). In fact, the societal, economic, and environmental processes analysis showed improved results in the overall economic performance of an individual or the entire supply chain. Four main factors supported the claims (1) the overall business strategy, (2) culture, (3) transparency, and (4) risk management. Carter and Rogers’s combination of processes with the identified four factors are a good starting point for those managers that are actually looking to learn more about and develop long-term sustainability practices within their organization(s) or the old adage of the more you know, the more you learn.

There are many ways people, managers, and executives looking at sustainable development in their personal and professional lives. In fact, as previously mentioned, sustainable management and entrepreneurship are two ways of creating long-term sustainability within an organization. However, can we meet the needs of the present with these sustainability processes without compromising future generation’s abilities to meet their own needs? Kanter (2009) says yes, as a sustainable or Vanguard Company is “able to change internally with fewer stumbles and less resistance because they empower people to change themselves,” by collaborating, forging new relationships, and developing new networks for future generations (p. 258). Wüstenhagen et al. (2008) also identified several strategies, which can help create a more sustainable future such as collaborating to improve the triple bottom line. (Markley & Davis, 2007) also looked at and examined collaboration as a way of improving the triple bottom line (socially, ethically, environmentally, and financially) through the creation and development of a sustainable supply chain. The purpose of this discussion was to outline appropriate future directions for management in order to improve a company’s overall organizational performance, while working with manufacturers, distributors, and customers to decrease the environmental effects of a supply chain manager’s decisions over the long run.

The concept of triple bottom line is not only important to the continued development of social, environmental, and financial sustainability but it is also important because it can enhance purchasing decisions, inventory management practices, employee training, material handling and material disposal. In other words, the triple bottom line can help managers address sustainability affects socially, environmentally, and financially throughout an organization. Although most of the time financial sustainability is at the top of most managers’ priority lists, it is also important that managers also recognize the importance of sustainability from a social and environmental viewpoint if they want to continue providing ideas that help an organization maintain a competitive advantage.

The fact is that many factors can contribute to an organizations long-term sustainability development planning. As a result, looking ahead it becomes even more of a challenge for managers that are searching for answers and additional ways to remain competitive, which in turn may become more of a challenge for even the most experienced managers or executives. Therefore, it is important that employees, managers, executives, and other individuals continue to work together to help solve problems or “creating futures they truly desire,” which sequentially will help improve an organization’s 21st century social, economic, and environmental performance and sustainability (Senge, et al., 2008).

In many organizations across the globe, stakeholders are becoming an important part of a company’s innovative strategies, other business development processes, and additional corporate initiatives. Senge, et al., (2008) stated, “trying to get people committed to a sustainability initiative is a bit like trying to be happy: The harder you try, the less successful you’re likely to be” (p. 267). Consequently (Wüstenhagen, et al., 2008) suggested a way of integrating social, economic, and environmental factor planning with an organizations management’s efforts and stakeholders concerns in order to further improve sustainability initiatives such as “customer value” (p. 241). This blog post has explained several important factors that are helping shape the social, economic, environmental, and financial sustainability efforts of executives, managers, and employees throughout many companies. A common theme throughout this work was that the more people know and understand sustainable business practices, the more they are doing to improve sustainability practices in management, thus helping their organizations become a vanguard company. As a result, this improvement within organizations will continue to help leaders find additional ways to reduce costs, while becoming more efficient and yielding solid social, economic, environmental, and financial results. As technological advancements lead to new systems, regulations will continue to force companies to rethink their long-term sustainability practices if they want to increase their global reputation. There is no doubt moving forward that companies will continue to grow more dependent on sustainability practices over the next 20+ years. For that reason, decision makers need to consider these factors along with others if they want to continue sustainable development thus moving to a vanguard company.

Carter, C., R. , & Rogers, D., S. (2008). A framework of sustainable supply chain management: moving toward new theory. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 38(5), 360.
Hopkins, M., Townend, A., Khayat, Z., Balagopal, B., Reeves, M., & Berns, M. (2009). The business of sustainability: What it means to managers now. MIT Sloan Management Review, 51(1), 20.
Kanter, R. M. (2009). SuperCorp: How vanguard companies create innovation, profits, growth, and social good. New York Crown Publishing Group.
Markley, M. J., & Davis, L. (2007). Exploring future competitive advantage through sustainable supply chains. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 37(9), 763.
Schlange, L. E. (2009). Stakeholder identification in sustainability entrepreneurship. Greener Management International(55), 13-32.
Senge, P., Kruschwitz, N., Laur, J., & Schley, S. (2008). The necessary revolution: How individuals and organizations are working together to create a sustainable world. New York: Doubleday.
Wüstenhagen, R., Hamschmidt, J., Sharma, S., & Starik, M. (2008). Sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship. Cheltenhem, UK: Edward Elgar.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Three Futuring Trends that are the Most Likely to Help Organizations Achieve Short and/or Long-Term Success

In the ever-changing world of business, it is extremely important to be able to identify past trends in order to recognize future opportunities that may or may not affect the short-term or long-term health of a business’s functionality now or in the years to come. According to (E. Cornish, 2004) there are an endless amount of ways to assess future events and when doing so you must make sure to use techniques that you are comfortable with. Three important futuring techniques that are sure to help an organization achieve short and long-term success are (1) scenarios, (2) modeling, and (3) wild cards.

According to Cornish (2004), a scenario is a developing future trend or strategy that describes a story or is explained in a detailed outline form. Usually those companies that utilize scenarios as part of the planning process do so if they are uncertain about future events and their potential impact(s) on the organizational planning. (Fink, Marr, Siebe, & Kuhle, 2005) also state that “scenarios can play a significant and new role in combining the well-structured planning process with the often less-organized and in some planners’ minds more “chaotic” early-warning processes” (p. 376). Nevertheless, a company maybe filled with varying perspectives of problems, and different interests that can turn a good strategy into a bad strategy overnight. Therefore, Fink, et al., (2005) explained four ways executives and managers could deal with these differences in order to create a stronger future for the company. First, recognize the key elements of the strategy as step one, where you identify twenty or less factors in order to discover relationships to where a company sees itself now and where it sees itself in the future. Second, improve and explain future options as step two, while describing what factors of those identified in step one can lead to potential future opportunities within the organization. Third, combine future options with step one scenarios since they are the link between future options of each factor identified in step one to strategy scenarios, while stressing the importance and strategy of each scenario developed by the members of the team. Finally, develop a strategic roadmap, which was referred to as the final step (four) or the identification of all the resources needed for any changes, also known as “windows of opportunities” (p. 367).

(Bracken, 2008) agreed with the insights of Cornish and Fink and describes four additional scenarios that are commonly used by leaders in order to help executives continue identifying business trends. The first was technology, followed by political risks, attrition, and strategic personalities. By no means are these four trends the only trends affecting business; but from the research, (Bracken, 2008) stated that these trends would likely continue to be at the forefront well into the next decade. Bracken (2008) also discussed the necessary leadership skills that would be required to produce future scenarios that could help everyone involved in business transactions as (1) foresight, (2) leverage, (3) agility, and (4) broader perspectives. (Bodell, 2006) research also showed that those organizations that are the most successful using scenarios and/or scanning methods are the ones that use foresight and perspective to identify opportunities, while preparing for what is next. (Bodell, 2006; Bracken, 2008) discussed similar methods that others can be taught in order to learn possible future tracks of their organizations. Those leaders that possess these traits will be better equipped to deal with turbulent times, be ahead of the game within their industry, and able to solve problems by viewing the situation from all possible angles.

The second futuring technique that could help an organization achieve short and long-term success is referred to as modeling and Cornish (2004) defines modeling as “something that we use to represent something else” (p. 70). Although there are a number of different modeling techniques that were/are used, (Wind, 2008) describes a modeling technique in relation to the discipline of Marketing. In fact, marketing, like technology has/is continuing to advance into a rigorous field of work and study. Wind (2008) explained that marketing today is a combination of “analysis, economic, and econometric modeling, behavioral economics, data mining, and techniques,” which are “derived from mathematical psychology” (p. 21). As the world continues to move forward, marketing will also need to continue forward; therefore, Wind (2008) proposed seven strategies modeled after several different disciplines (i.e. finance, customer relationship, supply chain management, operations, etc). Wind’s proposed strategies are an excellent example of how modeling can have major impacts on one specific element or several. (Giunipero, Hooker, Joseph-Matthews, Yoon, & Brudvig, 2008) agree with Wind (2008) and add that those organizational leaders that choose to evaluate past literature, while producing new models will be the ones who are able to determine what future development(s) may occur within a network or organizational framework. Like Wind (2008) modeling technique (Giunipero, et al., 2008) were able to correlate different frameworks, challenges, and trends of the past with new information technology and e-commerce, which is perhaps a new way to solve other strategic issues or help solve global supply chain issues heading into the future based on the past.

The last futuring technique that could help an organization achieve short and long-term success is wild cards. In a recent article published in the Futurist (Petersen, 2009) describes some of the same things in Cornish’s (2004) Futuring about wild cards that Petersen (2009) previously mentioned in his book Out of the Blue, which have continued to shape and reshape the future. In fact, Cornish not only uses Petersen’s work to describe past events but offers his analysis of Petersen’s three basic rules for dealing with wild cards, as also featured in the (Edward Cornish, 2003) article The Wild Card of the Future. Cornish quotes Petersen’s three rules as
(1) We need to think about wild cards before they happen because if we do then we are more likely to find a solution(s).
(2) We must also be able to understand the affects of potential wild cards in order to prepare better for a potential response.
(3) Extreme past and future events require unique approaches in order to help solve them.

Understanding the likelihood of future events can better equip you if/or when those events happen. In fact, both Cornish and Petersen describe some of the past wilds cards that have taken place and remind readers those events that happen unexpectedly may or may not be as uncommon as one may think. The truth is, over the years, wild cards have and continue to transform our own daily lives along with that of the global business environment. However, creating a long-term organizational strategy that transforms multiple partners is just the beginning. (Wagner, 2008) points out that an organization can forecast for the future; however, they cannot predict changes or “wild cards” that may occur outside the normal realm of conducting business. Her work examines several wild cards discussed in a work by Schwartz and Randall (2007) along with the main categories used in long-term business planning. Wagner (2008) identified six trends and forecasts companies utilize to predict future demands (1) demography, (2) economics, (3) environment, (4) government, (5) society, and (6) technology, while offering readers a brief classification of each. Obviously many variables can influence our daily decisions, which can affect long-term business forecasting; therefore, Wagner (2009) noted that many futurists often discuss a single trend across several sectors. This organization of trends has proved to be valuable in understanding many global issues or wild cards that can dramatically affect later business decisions and affect long-term business planning, so there are no surprises that you unprepared for.

This blog post examined three futuring methods that Cornish points out in his book Futuring Methods. Although there are many techniques that can predict the future; scenarios, modeling, and wild cards are the most important to my dissertation, hence the correlation of this work to previous blog posts. Additionally, the tools identified here were developed years ago; however, these tools will continue to be used to identify problems, as we continue to look for new tools and additional ways of predicting the future. We must also remember that we need to continue to think strategically, while remaining dedicated to innovation and technological advancements as a group if we want to continue advancing at the current rates. Regardless of the efforts, a company that uses these three methods to try to predict the future will be better equipped to deal with or plan for those unforeseen events, as they are essential to survival in the world we live in today.

Of course, I am always up for other opinions, especially those that involve some of the other futuring techniques used by individuals and business small or large. Shoot me an email, post here, or Tweet me a reply. Until next time, Keep Smiling!!!

Bodell, L. (2006). Best practices in scanning. The Futurist, 40(5), 22.
Bracken, P. (2008). Futurizing business education. Futurist, 42(4), 38-42.
Cornish, E. (2003). The wild cards in our future. Futurist, 37(4), 18.
Cornish, E. (2004). Futuring: The exploration of the future. Bethesda, MD: World Future Society.
Fink, A., Marr, B., Siebe, A., & Kuhle, J.-P. (2005). The future scorecard: combining external and internal scenarios to create strategic foresight. Management Decision, 43(3), 360.
Giunipero, L. C., Hooker, R. E., Joseph-Matthews, S., Yoon, T. E., & Brudvig, S. (2008). A decade of SCM literature: Past, present, and future implications. Journal of Supply Chain Management: A Global Review of Purchasing & Supply, 44(4), 66-86.
Petersen, J. L. (2009). How "wild cards" may reshape our future. Futurist, 43(3), 19-20.
Wagner, C. G. (2008). Anticipating wild cards in world affairs. Futurist, 42(1), 6-7.
Wind, Y. (2008). A plan to invent the marketing we need today. MIT Sloan Management Review, 49(4), 21.

Friday, May 6, 2011

How Does/Can Social Media Impact Your Supply Chain and/or Business Strategy?

Of late there has been a lot of talk about the influences that social media plays in almost all the things we do in our daily lives. In fact, many people have argued that this new median for reaching larger audiences is now starting to affect the ways organizations conduct business, build relationships, and increase sales throughout the world while enhancing supply chain operations. Or is it?

As customer wants and the business landscape continues to change, we must also continue to look for ways to integrate social media into our daily business activities if we want to continue achieving the type of long-term growth most of us are looking for, or the old adage “innovate or die.” In a recent blog post (Cunha, 2011) discussed some of the ways that we can connect customers with things they want to buy in it what he terms “the Connected Experience” by discussing four important concepts (1) ERP, (2) Real-Time, (3) China, and (4) Software, while offering several detailed explanations of each.

(1)Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)- the corner stone of the supply chain, which offers a company the ability to plan, analyze, and/or implement new strategies in a timely manner in order to produce enough product in real-time. That is if the organization realizes the strengths and weaknesses in what their system(s) can do such as integrating your ERP system with a reputable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system in order to track customer issues with product quality, other opinions, and reviews or through other medians such as Social Media.
(2)Real-Time- what many purchasing decisions are based on, especially now with social media, as these medians offer leaders the ability to track potential purchase decisions simply by tracking the number of likes, dislikes, comments, and/or discussions through almost any social media site, which is extremely important in small and large purchases alike.
(3)China- the research continues to show China a leader in retail marketing by their continued success in online trading platforms such as Alibaba, Made in China, Global Sources, etc. It is no secret that these as well as other social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have and will continue to allow China and others the ability to reach mass audiences while streaming the way the products are purchased, distributed, and consumed all over the world. Either organizations will have to get on board or be left behind.
(4)Software- with a number of different enterprise systems available to organizations (ERP, VMI, APS, etc) obviously the key here is to understand what system can offer you the best ways to analyze data in order to make additional long-term strategic decisions. If you use one if not more of these systems with a mix of social media sites, you should be able to segment, create benchmarks, and correlations between your software solutions and your bottom-line results.

(Cunha, 2011) identified four important and relevant items that can help you and/or your organization collect, analyze, and assemble new ways to reach more people, hence streamlining your supply chain functionality. Regardless of the reasons, you use social media, it is becoming more important now a days to use it, and if you don’t then later you will more than likely end up asking yourself why you didn’t. As more and more companies continue to build their online presence, more and more people and businesses will continue to make purchases, while influencing others within their network to make the same purchases, which should indicate that your social networks can not only grow your business but also encourage new strategies for those involved in making strategic supply chain decisions. Ultimately, social media will never replace personal relationships but it should allow companies to build leaner supply chains, while connecting more brands with more consumers for any organization that competes in the market today.

Lastly, (Cunha, 2011) analysis like many of the others that I have continued to review over the course of my Doctoral work provides yet a few more reasons why this subject matter is extremely important not only to the continued evolution of supply chains systems but any system that social media has/will impact in the years ahead. Of course, other opinions, ideas, and suggestions are what will ultimately decide who, what, when or where consumers make a purchase but this subject should continue to drive business and purchasing decisions in some fashion in the foreseeable future, hence why this is such as important piece of the work that I continue to report and conduct. Of course, I am always up for your opinions and you can also contact Mr Cunha through my references at the bottom of this page.

Until, next time continuing smiling, achieving, and dedicated, as we all look for answers to the social media maze-- Cheers

Cunha, L. (2011). What does social media mean to your supply chain? Warehouse Management Systems Guide, retrieved on May 6, 2011 from:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in Sales-Intensive Organizations

Over the last several decades technology has continued to change the way organizations manage, strategize, communicate, build relationships, procure vendors, create marketing campaigns, and track customer inquiries. According to (Tanner Jr, Ahearne, Leigh, Mason, & Moncrief, 2005) CRM currently ranks in the top five of most corporate strategies in over 60% of companies, as these systems allow leaders to manage processes, communicate more with their customers, while growing organizational marketing effectiveness and increasing customer and vendor retention rates. Additionally, Tanner Jr, et al., (2005) identified three important aspects of most CRM systems. The first is Strategic CRM, which is the organizational decision making process that helps define and/or build a customer-oriented business strategy with their business processes, and technology implementation. In other words, “the ability to define and implement a right customer → right strategy → right organization → right channel → right people → right rewards success model” (p. 169). The second is Analytical CRM, which are the processes used to analyze customer and industry information in order to provide information that is more accurate and will guide the company’s future marketing efforts. Finally, Operational CRM, which is the business process such as sales, marketing, service, support, etc. All of these important aspects of CRM and resource allocations across all channels accompany a firm’s relationship strategy and point to four issues at the strategic level (1) account management issues, (2) organizational or sales structure, (3) cultural issues, and (4) enterprise-level knowledge management.

(1) Account management issues- a strategic issue that involves how sales organizations use CRM to review the different way that accounts are managed (i.e. territory, key account management, and collaboration).
(2) Organizational and/or sales structure- CRM has allowed more organizations to place more emphasis on selling based on customer needs across many different organizational departments (i.e. field and divisional sales, electronic and team selling, call centers, supply-chain personal and vendors, partners, etc).
(3) Cultural issues- the degree to which an organizations culture may or may not be more inclined towards a CRM implementation (i.e. sales organizations commission based tend to be non-supportive of CRM versus those organizations that offer base plus commissions).
(4) Enterprise-level knowledge management- CRM systems allow leaders the ability to access vast amounts of information in order to predict, develop, and market new products and/or services. This enabling can create a general view of an organizations customer, which in turn can create even more sales and marketing campaigns that are effective.

As more and more organizations gain a better understanding of CRM, these systems will require more researchers to look at the specific benefits that CRM technology can provide a company throughout the entire organization. Therefore, Tanner Jr, et al., (2005) framework, and research for use in analyzing systems such as CRM and Sales Force Automation (SFA) could enable more organizations to achieve even higher levels of performance, procure more vendors, ROI, sales, satisfaction, and enhanced business relationships. Since these five variables are also some of the same drivers in my research analysis this study just like the others analyzed over the last several weeks should allow me the opportunity to determine if the proposed framework in this study will be the best way to determine if a CRM technology is the most important change initiative in SCM. Over the next two weeks, I will make my determination and of course report my findings for additional feedback or comment. Otherwise, if I do deem CRM to be the most important you can expect a more thorough analysis and discussion of this system in the weeks and months ahead as I apply other scholarly pieces into a real world dissertation that will be published in late 2012. Until next time, keep smiling, as it really does look good on you! Cheers

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Leveraging your Organizational Capabilities through CRM for Increased Sales

Often discussed amongst organizational leaders and sales managers are some of the issues, impacts, and activities of sales forces, which are responsible for a company’s overall bottom line results. In fact, activities such as sales calls, sale's success stories, and long-term relationship building are continuing to change the way these issues, impacts, and activities are used to manage customer information, which in turn are helping to increase sales volume, identify additional customer buying habits and requirements, thus increasing customer satisfaction, organizational profitability, and competitive actions. (Raman, Wittmann, & Rauseo, 2006) identified CRM as a technological tool that can help an organizations sales force minimize some of these challenges while helping to increase returns on a sales person’s time invested in exchange for higher sales, revenues, profitability.

However, in spite of the tremendous amount of growth in CRM implementations, many people are quick to point out the high failure rates that these systems have also experienced. (Raman, et al., 2006) reported that in a survey conducted by CSO Insights consisting of 1,337 international companies who have implemented some form of a CRM system, that only 25% actually reported a significant benefit in a sales team’s performance. The most common citing found in the survey was that most of the time organizations lacked proper strategic planning that is required prior to any major system implementation such as that of CRM. Therefore, if an organization carefully plans for a CRM implementation (operational^1 or analytical^2 ) then they will be more likely to segment customers, and market more efficiently while identifying those customers that are more and/or less profitable.

Using some of the strengths and weaknesses found within the literature on a CRM implementation (Raman, et al., 2006) conducted their own qualitative study and developed a grounded theoretical model in order show organizational leaders why they should continue to focus on the CRM technology implementations. Four capabilities are discussed (1) organizational learning, (2) business process orientation, (3) customer centric orientation, and (4) Task-Technology Fit (TTF).

(1) Organizational learning- “organizational characteristics such as size, formalization, centralization, complexity, and interconnectedness on adoption and implementation of innovations” (p. 42)
(2) Business process orientation- an attempt to clarify technological innovations that an organization is considering adapting to match their existing processes (i.e. CRM, ERP, etc)
(3) Customer-centric orientation- an organization’s ability to focus on its customers wants and needs versus that of its internal structure or processes
(4) Task-Technology Fit (TTF)- the degree that technology (i.e. CRM) helps individuals position his/her tasks with that of the organizations desires in order to meet/exceed company needs

The results of (Raman, et al., 2006) study showed that most successful CRM technological implementations occurred when an organization incorporated both operational and analytical characteristics combined with the four main capabilities previous mentioned in order to help guide additional strategic long-term decision making (i.e. sales, marketing, customer service, segmentation, properly identifying profitable, non-profitable, and cross-selling customers, etc). Furthermore, the results of the study opened new doors for research opportunities for those curious to draw on the discussed model or those who want to see if different variations of these characteristics and capabilities would help or slow a CRM implementation.

Although CRM is viewed by many as a technological solution to sales and customer service (Raman, et al., 2006) also identified some of the drawbacks of a CRM implementation. One thing is certain from this review and my analysis of CRM over the last few weeks is that CRM can provide many strategic benefits to those people and organizations that understand and utilize all the tools by properly leveraging this resource to produce higher sales, returns, satisfaction, and profitability. Everyone else who does not fully understand how to build CRM into the strategic long-term plans of the organization should be cautious with an implementation of this type.

Like many of the other articles on CRM that I have analyzed over the last few weeks, (Raman, et al., 2006) proposed yet another model, along with some very interesting follow-up (qualitative and quantitative research) for others to consider who are interested in CRM. Therefore, those people like me who are interested in researching this type system additionally could use this study and model to draw their own conclusions of these type systems. It is one thing to say something about CRM or anything for that matter but actually backing up your statements with actual data is a more effective way to get people to listen. Hence, why I will continue to research and report my findings for those who are interested in this niche technological innovation and all others looking for answers that are credible.

Of course and like usual, I am always open to other opinions of the research that I report, so if you got a thought or want to chime in with some additional insight(s) please drop me a line; otherwise and until next time… Keep Smiling

1 Operational CRM involves functions such as sales, service, support, and marketing.
2 Analytical CRM technologies involve customer information that is used by all organizational departments to analyze data in order to improve business decisions and/or future actions.

Raman, P., Wittmann, C. M., & Rauseo, N. A. (2006). Leveraging CRM for sales: The role of organizational capabilities in successful CRM implementation. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 26(1), 39-53.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Measuring Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Effectiveness in Order to Reduce Costs and Increase Sales

There are a number of applications or systems that an organization can use evaluate their current market share, profit margins, customer relationships, loyalty, and satisfaction. One such application or technological system most commonly used to analyze these trends is referred to as Customer Relationship Management (CRM). According to (Ja-Shen, Yen, Li, & Ching, 2009) CRM systems are a major marketing and/or services tool that can help an organization take full advantage of its customers by identifying trends in their customers buying behaviors, needs, and future expectations in order to maintain and grow relationships. Although a number of studies have researched and proven that a CRM implementation can enhance an organizations performance with increases in sales, few have focused on how these same systems can further develop more customer relationships, while increasing a company’s market share. As a result of these findings (Ja-Shen, et al., 2009) recent study examined three other factors (marketing, operations, and human resources) of CRM, which they believed could help organizations improve or grow their customer relationships, thus creating more organizational profitability and market share.

When an organization improves its relationship between marketing, operations, and human resources, they become better equipped to disseminate CRM data, which can then lead the organization to make additional innovations, while taking responsive actions. (Ja-Shen, et al., 2009) refer to this dimension of CRM as the Information Technology (IT) or Customer-Focused Information Technology (CFIT) segment, which is the first of three dimensions of interest in their analysis that supports the operations of a company’s CRM processes. The second dimension of interest in (Ja-Shen, et al., 2009) study was referred to as Relationship Marketing (RM), which was identified as the root efforts of a CRM process that can help an organization manage and improve its new and existing relationships with its customers in order to increase customer satisfaction, all while creating additional long-term profitability. Finally, (Ja-Shen, et al., 2009) referred to the third dimension of interest in their study as Customer-Focused Organizational Climate (CFOC) or the human resource side, which deals with an organizations culture to accept, use, and build upon any CRM system in order to help the organization develop, maintain, and grow customer relationships.

(Ja-Shen, et al., 2009) empirical study found that together (marketing, operations, and human resources) with (CFIT, RM, and CFOC) the most common view of CRM as a marketing application or complement of a company’s information technology or CFIT should also include the other two dimensions (RM and CFOC). If an organization wants to excel in the global market it is imperative that more organizations focus not only on advancing their information technology through systems such as CRM but that they also need to use CRM system data to create additional programs that focus more on the retention of current customers (needs) and acquisition of new customers (expectations). Only then will more businesses develop deeper understandings of their customer bases, while being able to target and market more effectively, resulting in more value, satisfaction, and cross or up-selling possibilities.

While the concept of CRM is an increasingly popular and hot topic throughout the world, research into the systems effectiveness on increased market share, profitability, customer relationships, and satisfaction is rather limited. Therefore, (Ja-Shen, et al., 2009) analysis provide three important dimensions (1) RM, (2) CFIT, and (3) CFOC of Customer Relationship Management Effectiveness (CRME). In order to improve the understanding of CRM systems it is dimensions such as these that managers will need to consider as they are continuing to identify the strengths and weaknesses of these programs, so they can continue to retain, update, and analyze the mass amounts of data collected to develop a deeper understanding of customers needs and wants. More importantly, these factors are even more important for individuals that want to reduce costs, while finding new ways to increase sales, Return on Investments (ROI), or enhancing their business’s performance.

This analysis of CRM systems is yet another example of the type of benefits that this supply chain function can provide organizations that truly are looking to grow their business. Therefore, I will continue to provide additional updates into this niche market, as I continue to refine my research in hopes of finding the supply chain function that can contribute most to the additional growth of Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Of course, your opinions are always welcome as I truly welcome any additional insights that you may be able to provide. Otherwise, keep smiling since it really does look good on you—Cheers!!!

Ja-Shen, C., Yen, H. J. R., Li, E. Y., & Ching, R. K. H. (2009). Measuring CRM effectiveness: Construct development, validation, and application of a process-oriented model. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 20(3), 283-299.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software, Applications, and Business Performance

Many different products, services, processes, and systems offered across the globe have had their own unique trials and tribulations throughout their existence. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are one of those products that have had success along with failure in many of the world’s markets. As more companies continue to collect and access more customer data through programs such as CRM they will continue to increase their capabilities of using this data in order to fragment it into more sophisticated client messages through web based supply chains, mobile messaging, and ecommerce technologies. As a result of these new abilities and this newly constructed dependence through CRM implementation, those companies that encourage and promote the benefits to its employees will be the ones that create a cultural climate that fosters even more client centric innovations, while increasing organizational profitability. However, I found in (Ang & Buttle, 2006) literature review that many of these same CRM systems also tend to focus too much on the software itself or “a one-size fits all approach” versus the actual use or implementation, which is or has caused many CRM implementations to add to the increases in problems or in functionality and flexibility.

Considering both the negatives and positives of a CRM implementation, (Ang & Buttle, 2006) conducted a study throughout the Australian economy that focused on customer retention, customer acquisition, and customer development. The results of their study yielded three major insights

(1) First was that less than 40% of those companies surveyed throughout Australia were found to not use any type of CRM system (i.e. market analysis, lead generation, or customer profiling) to support the their operations or clients in any way
(2) Secondly, if an organization uses a CRM system as part of their overall strategic plan, they are more likely improve their retention, acquisition, and customer development rates significantly resulting in more return on investments and increases in company profitability
(3) Lastly, an organizations overall size seemed to determine the success rates with a CRM implementation (i.e. the larger the organization the more dissatisfied they were versus the smaller organizations who most of the time seemed more satisfied with CRM software)

From (Ang & Buttle, 2006) analysis and study of CRM systems in the Australia market there are still many organizations out there that are still undeveloped or lack a clear understanding of the real benefits that CRM can provide their company and long-term strategies. It is no secret that a company’s relationship with its customers cannot only strengthen the organization internally but also externally by providing its customers with superior service and added benefits. Additionally (Ang & Buttle, 2006) show readers that those organizations that want to achieve higher customer retention, customer acquisition, and customer development are the companies that want their customers to be more satisfied, thus increasing the organizations revenues and profitability. However, in order for these systems to gain more credibility manufacturers and vendors of these programs will have to build different systems for different companies based on size and location. This is exactly what I am looking for, as I continue to look for the key elements in the research that customers are demanding, which will allow me the ability to bridge any gaps in the literature in order to see more growth, enhanced business performance, and return on investments through CRM or other technological system implementation. Therefore, this article much like the others reviewed in previous posts are providing me with all the pieces that I will require to conduct a study, make recommendations, and contribute additionally to a niche market such as customer relationship management or enterprise resource planning.

Of course, I am always searching for other opinions, so if you got one let me hear it, as I continue upon in my research. Until next time-- Keep Smiling

Ang, L., & Buttle, F. (2006). CRM software applications and business performance. Journal of Database Marketing & Customer Strategy Management, 14(1), 4 - 16.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why you Should Develop a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Strategy at your Company?

With changing global trends like outsourcing, consolidation, mergers, and acquisitions many organizations are looking for new ways to manage collected data in order to identify new clients, potential disruptions, and other selling opportunities. One such process that offers a company different analyses tools is through the implementation of a system such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM). (Lassar, Lassar, & Rauseo, 2008) explain that those leaders that develop a better understanding of CRM systems now, along with some of the things CRM systems can and cannot do will be the ones to build a “strategic vision that integrates people and processes with technology to maximize a firm’s investment” (p. 68). It is this type of strategic thinking that will then allow for more employee buy-in, and value within and outside the organization.

CRM has been around since the 90s in various forms and has continued to change with the introduction of new technology; however, its main focus has not changed too much and that is to help managers collect, share, and analyze customer data in order to make better strategic decisions on pricing, customer needs, and new services. Alternatively, a simpler definition is that CRM allows managers and employees a way to view data from multiple sources, in different angles, throughout the company. According to (Lassar, et al., 2008) CRM technology has four distinct features (1) contact data, (2) demographic data, (3) transactional data, and (4) relationship data.

(1) Contact data- often referred to as the simplest form of data, contact data includes items such as name, address, position, etc, which help employees build better relationships with their clients while providing a better way to identify anticipate their needs or concerns
(2) Demographic data- this feature is often described as a clients attributes or characteristics (i.e. entity, geography, size, requirements, etc), which help managers profile and predict a current or potential clients profitability
(3) Transactional data- this CRM feature helps outline historical event such as outcome of a meeting, interaction, and account history, which can help managers effectively manage client relationships, personalities, motivations, and expectations
(4) Relationship data- this feature allows managers to identify potential client problems or concerns, in order to generate more referrals and higher retention

If an organization uses a CRM system correctly, they will be able to recognize the importance of their client demographics and become more equipped to uncover problems faster, build better relationships, obtain new referrals, and gain a competitive edge over their competition as a result. However, often this strategy is easier said, than done, as a major challenge with any CRM implementation is employee participation and adoption. Therefore, much like any technological implementation encouraging employee buy-in or by designing the business strategy first, an organization will be more equipped to train its employees on the technology value, which will ultimately enhance the business processes (Lassar, et al., 2008).

As highlighted by (Lassar, et al., 2008) and others in my previous posts, CRM implementation can help an organization develop a deeper understanding of the industries they serve, their markets, and their clients needs, which can result in a major competitive advantage in a very competitive and global market. Although some CRM implementations require extra time, energy, and effort those companies that embrace CRM as a true business strategy will be the ones to use such a technological system as a true solution in order to identify additional opportunities, while continuing to grow. Regardless of the decision or process used, a company must continue to look for the best way to analyze customer data, in order to find new ways to satisfy its current and potential customers, which CRM clearly does. In addition, and as I again have mentioned in multiple other posts, CRM is a hot topic that offers many businesses the opportunity to collect and analyze customer data for future sales, marketing, and business development campaigns. If CRM implementation is taken seriously and is done correctly this system process can yield many positive effects throughout an organization, while continuing to increase sales, enhance a business’s performance, all while creating more return on investment. Over the last several weeks, my research has continued to allow me to continue analyzing this one niche in order to understand what effects CRM is truly having on a company’s long-term strategic plans. As they say research doesn’t lie and so far…so good… on the quest of discovering the best technological systems for SMEs and MNCs to implement alike!!!

Of course, I am always open for comments and would love to hear your thoughts on CRM, ERP, etc., or any other business processes that are continuing to change the landscape of your organizational development. Until next time, keep smiling—Cheers!!!

Lassar, W., Lassar, S., & Rauseo, N. (2008). Developing a CRM strategy in your firm. Journal of Accountancy, 206(2), 68.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Are e-Technologies such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) changing how Organizations Market, Sell, and Provide Customer Service for their Products and/or Services?

Are e-Technologies such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) continuing to change the ways that organizations market, sell, and provide customer service for their products and services? According to (Ross, 2005) Yes! In fact, (Ross, 2005) describes and provides some of the main functions of most CRM programs. CRM has three essential responsibilities (1) Marketing; (2) Sales, and (3) Service and collectively these three functions can help an organization improve on the best ways to provide its customers with better and/or expanded relationships, which in turn usually result in additional company profits. CRM has been around for quite some time but over the last several years, CRM programs have continued to be one of the hottest segments, as they continue to evolve due to the growing popularity of the internet and new computerized toolsets. As a result of these advances organizations are continuing to use new CRM programs to create even more visibility of their products and services, while attracting, retaining, and enhancing new and/or existing customer bases.

It can be argued that sales is the most important function of a CRM program but how can this be when the program is not the one who actually makes the sale? Thus, (Ross, 2005) suggests that a salesperson’s role should become even more important than before, as CRM programs advance and more sales professionals develop more defined and mutually supportive relationships between their companies, with suppliers, and customers. This now changing sales force paradigm, assisted by CRM programs will more than likely continue to broaden both selling and buying habits of all small to large organizations in the years ahead. For that reason (Ross, 2005) further defines the major components and functionalities of CRM and Sales Force Automation (SFA)

(1) Contact Management- one of the first components of CRM, which enables a company to manage prospect information, while providing follow-up and tracking information
(2) Account Management- this segment allows employees and managers useful ways to effectively market products to that of customer wants
(3) Sales Management- this tool was designed to help employees keep track of a set of sales activities in order to promote sales, while providing reminders and greater productivity
(4) Opportunity Management- this segment is often referred to as the pipeline of potential customers that highlights a new opportunity, those involved, potential revenue, and proposed closing date for a product or service
(5) Quotation Management- this component assists individuals in the configuration of pricing, inventory, and process availability for a prospective customer
(6) Knowledge Management- tools that assist in the standardizing and automation of the sales process where information such as policies, presentation materials, contracts, etc. can be stored and used for further analysis and reporting

Once a company understands some if not all of these segments, which are important to their continued long-term growth they will be more equipped to handle any problems that may occur after a sale. Once considered a drain on profitability of a company’s revenues, customer service through investments in programs such as CRM has now become a necessity that creates growth, hence a vital link between an organization and other supply chain processes. (Ross, 2005) leaves readers with six metrics developed by (Giffler, 1998; Pechi, 2000):
• On average a company will lose half its customers over a 5-year timeframe
• If a company reduces defections by 5%, then they could boost profits from 25-85%
• An organization typically spends 5x more on customer acquisition than on retention
• 65-85% percent of customers who defect do so without being dissatisfied with their former supplier
• A completely satisfied customer is 6x more likely to make an additional purchase than a satisfied customer
• Happy customers tend to tell five people about their experience versus a dissatisfied customer who will tell at least 9

Over the last few weeks, I have continued my examination of CRM, which is an important element of SCM, enhanced business performance, and long-term growth. Much like the previous works examined (Ross, 2005) does an excellent job at defining some of the main reasons that leaders need to consider and develop this element when constructing a long-term strategic plan. In the changing landscape of business and supply chain processes technology that assists employees with buying, selling, etc. will do nothing but improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness, while providing additional resources that allow more interaction with customers and the marketplace. Therefore, CRM has and will continue to be my emphasis of analysis over the next several weeks, as I continue to develop a niche subject for business leaders to consider in finding a better way to manage and utilize collected data to their advantage, which is part of the larger part of my Doctoral research.

Of course any opinions, suggestions, or thoughts as to the importance of this or other supply chain concepts is also appreciated, as I continue to look for the most effective ways to build sales, increase awareness, and create additional long-term growth for SMEs and MNCs alike!

Ross, D. F. (2005). E-CRM from a supply chain management perspective. Information Systems Management, 22(1), 37.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Advanced Planning Systems (APS) as a Supply Chain Optimization Tool?

Throughout the last decade, organizational leaders have continued to look for the best solutions to help solve many organizational procurement, production, marketing, administration, sales, etc. problems. As a result of such exploration, many technological systems have been developed to help organizational leaders plan strategically for many unknown future occurrences. In a recent article (Jonsson, Kjellsdotter, & Rudberg, 2007) discussed one such process termed “Advanced Planning Systems (APS)” (i.e. often referred to as supply chain optimization software, as it helps create near optimal organizational plans); which, in turn, helps solve some of the organizational problems and supply chain issues mentioned earlier and in previous posts. By explaining the importance of advanced planning systems and/or software (Jonsson, et al., 2007) focused their analysis on five specific variables (1) Complex planning environment, (2) Design and planning model, (3) Data planning, (4) Organizational planning, and (5) Effective planning. From the five identified variables, a framework developed and a conclusion followed, which highlighted the effects these variables played on the long-term functionality of an organization and different supply chain channels. From the empirical evidence gathered, the identified variables, their relation to supply chain optimization, and the model, (Jonsson, et al., 2007) recommended, several further directions researchers could take in expanding upon their work in order to fill any potential gaps, which are as follows. (1) What possibilities do advanced planning systems play in different organizational planning activities? (2) How does the developed model optimize organizational performance? (3) Can the data collection process effect advance planning systems, what other methods might be implemented? (4) How can an organization achieve positive planning throughout the supply chain and integrate these positive approaches into their daily structures?

It is no secret that in today’s rapidly changing business environment, organizations are continuing to examine different ways that they can grow relationships and improve efficiency with suppliers, their customers, and employees. (Jonsson, et al., 2007) purposed Advanced Planning Systems as a concept and analyzed its effects in three model companies. Although the study focused mainly on supply chain effectiveness and procurement, after the research the authors were able to conclude that this concept is easily transferable and can be used as a support tool, or help solve other issues in other parts of most organizations. Therefore, it only makes sense that when leaders discuss the different ways to enhance organizational systems (i.e. SCM, CRM, ERP, EDI, etc) that they should consider tactical or strategic systems such as APS. In turn, those researchers that are interested in a model that will help develop strategic and/or tactical planning processes in software implementation throughout an organization they should also consider APS.

APS is yet another important tool available to organizational leaders in order to make better purchasing decisions, or forecasts, while developing better ways to plan and schedule throughout the supply chain. This is my first report on APS but like the other concepts (i.e. SCM, ERP, CRM, and EDI) that I have been discussing is an important topic for me to expand upon, as I continue to seek the most effective methods for supply chain optimization through technological innovations. Therefore, in the weeks and months ahead I will continue to dive into this topic more, well reporting my findings in hopes of other expert opinions. Nevertheless, if you have some please share, as this is the best way to learn! Until then and as usual keep smiling!

Jonsson, P., Kjellsdotter, L., & Rudberg, M. (2007). Applying advanced planning systems for supply chain planning: three case studies. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 37(10), 816.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) as a Complement for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Supply Chain Management (SCM)

Although many of the technological advancements occurring within Supply Chain Management (SCM) are still considered by many to be in their infant stage(s) (Bendoly, Bachrach, Wang, & Zhang, 2006) discuss how Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) advancements could lead to additional technological advancements in systems such as online ecommerce medians. As a result of this analysis, a new way could then help an organization secure additional vendors and system advancements in a process termed “e-procurement.” Describing e-procurement as a form of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Bendoly et al (2006) created a framework for those individuals that are involved in international purchasing decisions of their firms through online medians. Three benefits of EDI systems described were (1) the elimination of domestic market boundaries, (2) the introduction of new international suppliers, and (3) the ability to conduct transactions that are more efficient.

In order to substantiate the data proposed within past theories and concepts, Bendoly et al (2006) conducted a study by examining the different components of EDI systems, which they also found helped reduce material costs, while streamlining other organizational processes such as those found in ERP systems of many international supply chains. Bendoly et al (2006) examined 72 cases, which claimed e-procurement activities conducted online increased profit margins while decreasing overall costs. The results of this analysis combined with the previous literature showed a potential link between the benefits of implementing an ERP system and other emerging technological advancements. In addition, Bendoly et al (2006) showed that those organizations that utilized online e-procurement, EDI, or ERP systems and practices were the ones that could compete with like businesses regardless of the market or location.

The rapidly changing and evolving world of business technologies are giving way to additional technological advancements that are allowing many small businesses now to compete directly with their larger counterparts. Bendoly et al (2006) showed several of the evolving systems (ERP, EDI, and e-procurement) which are helping organizations compete on a global scale. Regardless of the system that an organization utilizes to build relationships and grow their business it is important to understand the tools available to them. As e-commerce becomes a normal part of any businesses long-term strategy, ERP, EDI, and e-procurement will become even more important to organizations. Since Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are usually late adopters, of most technological advancements, it then becomes even more important for these organizational leaders to understand how these systems or others (i.e. those discussed in previous posts such as CRM, SCM, etc) operate. This is where I come in, in each post, I have been discussing not only the benefits of such technological systems, but some of the drawbacks leaders’ face, as they decide which system is right for their organization. EDI is yet another spoke in a complex wheel of technological advances that leaders need to be aware of. With the help of many scholarly pieces, over the days and weeks ahead I will continue to report my findings in search of the best systems adoption for not only SMEs but also Multi-National Corporations (MNCs), as I get ready to conduct real world research into some, if not all of these discussed systems. In the meantime, any comments, suggestions, or real world experiences you can offer please take the time to comment, as this is the best advice we can give leaders faced with a major purchase decision or implementation such as ERP, CRM, EDI, etc.

Of course make sure to keep smiling, as this truly breeds success, as we all look to achieve more!

Bendoly, E., Bachrach, D. G., Wang, H., & Zhang, S. (2006). ERP in the minds of supervisors. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 26(5), 558.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Supply Chain Management (SCM) and other Technological System Relationships (i.e. CRM, ERP, eCommerce, etc)

Over the last decade, organizations and researchers have been looking at and evaluating the entire supply chain network in hopes of being able to predict future trends within the industry. As such,(Giunipero, Hooker, Joseph-Matthews, Yoon, & Brudvig, 2008) are part of those researchers that have chosen to evaluate past literature in hopes of determining what future development(s) may occur within the network. In fact, in their latest study they offer readers an extensive review of 405 articles, focused around current and/or existing trends along with the identification of any gaps in the literature. From this analysis, the authors hoped too later conceptualize the most studied categories, along with the identification of any relationships or links for later researchers to expand upon.

From the research Giunipero, et al. (2008) were able to identify a five year peek period from 2002-2006 that contained the most frameworks, challenges, and trends within the supply chain. From these identified frameworks, challenges, and trends the authors were then able to draw a correlation between two other variables (1) information technology and (2) e-commerce. It is this correlation between the (frameworks, challenges, and trends) and (information technology and e-commerce) that then becomes that much more important in helping solve global supply chain issues heading into the future.

Additionally, the conducted research also offered Giunipero, et al. (2008) a historical analysis of some of the shortcomings within the evolution of the supply chain network. The identified shortcomings or “gaps” and recommendation(s) for future studies fell into the following five categories

(1) Most of the reviewed research sample sizes were too small- the authors were able to determine that most of the studies had small sample size(s) and recommend that future studies examine multi-tier relationships, which then will increase future sample sizes.
(2) Most of the research studies were one-tie investigations- like small sample sizes, one-tier investigations between multiple suppliers, was not completely addressed, which means that future studies could place additional emphasis on examining internal and external multi-tier relationships to fully understand supply chain efficiencies and inefficiencies.
(3) There were limited methodologies used- several of the evaluated studies limited their data analysis through qualitative research and non-descriptive analysis, when perhaps a more practical approach would have been to use multiple regression or ANOVA, thus the authors recommend quantitative studies in future research.
(4) There was a lack of longitudinal research studies- several of the studies were conducted at a specific point in time, where it might have been more beneficial to spread the research out over different industries. The authors noted that although this type of research was more expensive it could help develop megatrends throughout the supply chain.
(5) Most of the studies were limited in International reach- upon review the authors were able to determine that most authors lacked the element of globalization. As companies in different countries continue to operate with one another this area will be one of the major avenues for future supply chain studies.

Giunipero, et al. (2008) extensive review of literature combined with several conceptual maps and a study showed several potential relationships that might exist between different variables throughout the supply chain network, which are invaluable for those researchers interested in this subject matter. In addition, Giunipero, et al. (2008) were able to clearly point out in this article any “gaps” in the literature and give recommendations and advice for the identification of feature trends, research, and analysis, which are of particular interest to me in my continued analysis of the supply chain and technological systems. Of which, several possible combinations and correlations were identified that would help contribute to additional work of past-future frameworks, challenges, and trends along with the continued advancement of information technology with e-commerce (some of the same variables of interest for my Dissertation). Finally, Giunipero, et al. (2008) stated that this topic should continue to “receive increased attention from academics” now and later, as information technology and e-commerce continue to revolutionize the supply chain. This is exactly the type of opinion; I seek, as I continue to examine the supply chain, along with other technological systems (i.e. CRM, ERP, etc) that I have/am continuing to report on in my BLOG, as well as in my other Doctoral work.

This is my first report on SCM but a very important one as CRM, ERP, and other information technology systems are key drivers in long-term growth and management of the supply chain. Of course, I am always seeking other opinions and advice, so if you got any, please drop me a line and let me know your thoughts, until then keep smiling.

Giunipero, L. C., Hooker, R. E., Joseph-Matthews, S., Yoon, T. E., & Brudvig, S. (2008). A decade of SCM literature: Past, present, and future implications. Journal of Supply Chain Management: A Global Review of Purchasing & Supply, 44(4), 66-86.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Do the Ends Justify the Means for an ERP Implementation?

Yesterday I discussed some of the reasons why Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has helped many organizations achieve some of their International Strategies. Today, I am looking at how a company’s culture can affect Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) initiatives within an organization. Using a previous model that consisted of cultural and linguistic concepts developed by Antonio Gramsci, (Willis and Chiasson 2007) provide some helpful insights into why negotiations and debates that occur across organizational sub-groups can make it difficult to achieve technical or cultural change based on democratic participation. Since ERP implementation provides an organization with the opportunity to enhance their business and management processes and/or strategies through technical change, Willis and Chiasson implemented a case study that examined the positive and negative effects of normative and spontaneous grammars. In other words, since ERP, implementation is affected by an organizations culture, then the organization’s culture must change first before any type of software implementation takes place, which was the objective of the research.

By analyzing the different ways that groups within a company interact with one another during a major software implementation effort, (Willis and Chiasson 2007) found three normative phrases present in an ERP implementation project (1) a new way to manage, (2) best practice, and (3) professionalism.

(1) A new way to manage- an opportunity that surfaces as a result of the restructuring of an organizations systems (i.e. software implementation)
(2) Best practices- the unification of management interests with local practices or in this case ERP system implementation and employee satisfaction
(3) Professionalism- to move up the corporate ladder while maintaining ones personal interests with that of the company or threatening the sub-cultures of the organization through the implementation of an ERP initiative

Using these three narrative phrases (Willis and Chiasson 2007) were able to determine managers that expect change and prepare for change, while using best practices and professionalism would be the ones “organizations” that develop key negotiation strategies, which unite software implementation “ERP” with that of the corporation. Because of this strategy, ongoing negotiations taking place between management and sub-groups would be minimized and ERP implementers “management” would recognize the need to prepare their company culture(s) better before making such a software purchase.

As I continue to review different scholarly articles that deal with ERP systems (Willis and Chiasson 2007) describe yet another viewpoint of how ERP system implementation can have both positive and negative effects on a corporation’s employee culture, which makes this another important piece in the puzzle that I have and will continue to examine over the next several weeks.

And, as usual, any comments, questions, or suggestions are always welcome and remember to Keep Smiling!

Willis, R. and M. Chiasson (2007). Do the ends justify the means? A Gramscian critique of the processes of consent during an ERP implementation. Information Technology & People 20(3): 212.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why Companies are Aligning Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems with their International Strategies

With the continued globalization of economies and organizations throughout the world, many companies have or are turning to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to meet organizational goals, or are they? (Madapusi and D'Souza 2005) agree, but caution managers to be careful and not to mis-align the organizational ERP systems with their international strategies, as this more often than not will result in poor business performance. For that reason, the authors identify three important areas that executives should address when using these systems (1) “systems configuration, (2) information architecture, and (3) systems roll-out to reap the benefits of ERP systems alignment.”

In fact and according to (Madapusi and D'Souza 2005) those executives that correctly align new or developing ERP systems with their international strategies were found to outperform their competition, which ultimately lead to additional organizational growth. Therefore, once executives decide on an ERP alignment strategy, they must chalk out a future configuration for the system that touches on all three of the previously identified problems, while making sure that they will align properly with their international strategy and future growth plans. Based on this premise the authors recommend five strategies that managers should need to be aware of when implementing or advancing an ERP system.

(1) Make sure to appoint a senior level executive before rolling out any type(s) of program
(2) As much as people pretend to think that ERP systems are “magical” the fact is that benefits derived from ERP systems come from carefully configured system(s) that should be well planned out and implemented throughout the entire organization, plan, plan, plan
(3) Make strategic, tactical, and operational plans to fully leverage an international ERP system
(4) Any international organization that utilizes an ERP system needs to remember that successful alignment of systems will also require flexibility to allow for newly evolving systems
(5) Make sure that the company has the correct personal in the correct positions in order to leverage the entire ERP system on an international level

Madapusi and D. D’Souza, help readers understand the complex nature of international enterprise resource planning. As more and more companies, continue to compete on an international basis, these same companies will be forced to re-think the ways they conduct business. The fact is that conducting business on an international level requires most organizations to use these types of systems, as these systems help companies streamline their operations while providing real-time data. Companies that have a global business enterprise strategy in place before implementing a new system will be the ones to operate more efficiently. Enterprise resource management is not just a technological challenge it is an important change to almost all components of a business, so executives need to also make sure to ask what will be enhanced if we implement an ERP system? What will be diminished if we implement an ERP system? Etc. Over the last two years, I have continued to mine information on ERP systems along with the different ways these systems are helping Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) procure vendors while competing with larger organizations on a global scale. (Madapusi and D'Souza 2005) provide another view of some of the benefits and drawbacks that company leaders face with ERP implementation and this viewpoint is another good find into my continued analysis of the supply chain and technological systems (i.e. SCM, CRM, ERP, etc).

Of course, any comments, questions, or suggestions are always welcome and remember to Keep Smiling!

Madapusi, A., and D. D'Souza (2005). Aligning ERP systems with international strategies. Information Systems Management 22(1): 7.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as an Important Business Process in Supply Chain Management (SCM)

As mentioned in my previous post on Feb. 12th, 2011 (Wu, 2010) described some of the ways CRM has/is becoming a critical part of organizational and/or strategic planning, as competitive pressures increase and customers continue to defect from large and small organizations alike. Expanding on some of these same principles (Lambert, 2010) also examined some of the reasons why some organizations succeed while others continue to fail at managing this business process, especially in regards to Supply Chain Management (SCM). In fact, (Lambert, 2010) explains that CRM and SCM provide four important linkages (See Figure 1.3) within and throughout the supply chain, which all result in increased profitability of one or multiple customers over any given time.

(Figure is Omitted from this post but available at Figure 1.3. CRM and Supplier Relationship Management

As noted in Figure 1.3, the success or failure of a CRM process is growth and/or profitability and if harnessed correctly then CRM software could provide managers within a company the ability to gather more data from more customers, while providing customized products and/or services that should increase customer relationships and loyalty. On the other hand, (Lambert, 2010) also explains that there are also four main reason that CRM implementation could fail or decrease growth and/or profitability. The first is implementing a CRM system before a clear strategy is created. The second is implementing a CRM system before preparing and/or embracing the organization for such an advancement. The third is assuming that a CRM system is the answer (i.e. the more is better approach) and finally not understanding how to build relationships correctly or with the wrong clients. As far as creating a strategy for CRM implementation success (Lambert, 2010) identified five strategic sub-processes that are extremely valuable.

(1) Review corporate and marketing strategies- The CRM team should consistently review the corporate and/or marketing strategies to make sure that the company now and later continues to target the correct markets.
(2) Identify criteria for segmenting customers- This sub-process of CRM should help identify the criterion that is used to segment different customers in different markets.
(3) Provide a clear set of guidelines for product and/or service agreements- In this sub-process the CRM team should develop a set of guidelines that identify the revenue and/or costs associated with certain product or services.
(4) Develop a set of frameworks or metrics- This sub-process involves identifying the main areas of interest in regards to specific customers on the company’s profitability.
(5) Develop a set of guidelines to share- The CRM team should use this sub-process to develop specific processes that are being ignored, which could create win-win solutions for both the company and customer if solved.
In addition, to the five sub-processes (Lambert, 2010) also discusses seven operational sub-processes that closely relate to the first five discussed strategic processes, however Lambert adds (1) the need to continue monitoring customer accounts internally for any abnormal trends and (2) the additional need to measure performance by generating profitability reports for both internal and external analysis.

If an organization prepares properly by following some if not all of these strategic and operational steps described by Lambert in a CRM system implementation, then the chances of growing profits, relationships, and effectiveness in a Business-to-Business (B2B) or Business-to-Customer (B2C) setting are greatly increased. However, the ultimate measure of success in a CRM implementation across the enterprise and throughout the supply chain is the financial growth of the entire network as CRM systems should be a more effective way to migrate everyone to the most successful and efficient structures.

As discussed by (Lambert, 2010) there are many reasons that CRM implementation succeeds as well as many reasons why CRM implementation fails. Although the main people responsible for a success (i.e. information technology, sales, marketing, etc), there is no reason to suggest or believe that other organizational leaders in finance, logistics, research, administration, etc should not contribute to a successful launch or re-invention. As with any successful process, usually it is not only one person responsible for success but also the entire team as a whole. If more companies embrace this frame of thinking, then more companies will likely benefit from a CRM implementation or any technological advancement that an organization is considering in order to build, grow, and cultivate relationships that will last a lifetime. Relying on technology alone is not enough and those who embrace this frame of thinking will ultimately end up looking at the project in the end as what went wrong. Therefore, in order to avoid that thinking later, remember to strategically plan the work and work the plan. This is what I am doing now, as I continue to research and analyze the best and most efficient ways or systems such as CRM that organizations can utilize in order to create better Return on Investment (ROI), enhanced business performance, or additional long-term growth as I prepare to enter the applied research phase of my Doctoral work. This is my second report on CRM analysis, which is in agreement with the findings of (Wu, 2010), thus making this another important piece of my Dissertation, and as always I warmly welcome any comments, questions, or suggestions

Lambert, D., M. (2010). Customer relationship management as a business process. The Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 25(1), 4.
Wu, Y. (2010). Applying the strategic approach to assess customer relationship management. International Journal of Organizational Innovation (Online), 2(3), 186.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as a Strategic Approach

Throughout the last decade, organizations have continued to look for ways to create new strategies in order to retain customers, while improving service quality based on new competitive measures. One such way these organizations are creating, these new strategies are through advancements in technological programs such as CRM. (Wu, 2010) describes CRM as “a 360 degree projection which requires not only technology implementation but also strategic making and other integration in an organization” (p. 187). Additionally, CRM can be defined as those tools or technological advancements that help organizational leaders manage, develop, or assist employees in the day-to-day interactions with customers, suppliers, and other business partners. Wu quotes Giga (2001) who discovered that only 30.7% of companies worldwide actually consider CRM as a strategic tool that can help their respected organizations achieve some of their long-term goals, which in turn makes it very difficult for others to adopt this as a strategic initiative, hence why some 70% of companies overall fail to implement or utilize CRM correctly. However, if CRM is used correctly within an organization the research shows that companies are better able to build relationships (internally or externally), target new customers more effectively, and assist others by providing consultative solutions for a distinct product or service. There are four characteristics of a well-defined CRM system

(1) A CRM system that provides a 1-to-1 solution to a customer’s needs which will enhance communication, relationships, satisfaction, and service.
(2) A CRM system that provides a company’s sales force with a better way to track client interactions while providing useful information for follow-up, repeat, or future sales.
(3) A CRM system that allows employees to warehouse, mine, and customize data, which helps a company, stay ahead of its competitors.
(4) A CRM system that provides predictable sales demand, growth, and prospects in order to meet the needs of a company’s current and future clients.

(Wu, 2010) found that those organizational leaders, which understood the four main characteristics of CRM systems, would be the ones that could take advantage of its competitors, thus creating a competitive advantage within any given industry. However, before any CRM system implementation (Wu, 2010) suggests that these same organizational leaders also carefully analyze five important aspects referred to as “Porter’s Five Forces (1) Bargaining power of customers, (2) Threat of substitutes, (3) Threat of new entrants, (4) Extent of rivalry between existing competitors, and (5) Power of suppliers” (p. 195).

(Wu, 2010) provides readers with some of the reasons that CRM system implementation succeeds, while at other times fails because of the lack of understanding about what CRM actually is. The fact of the matter is many CRM system implementations fail because organizational leaders lack experience, knowledge, and a clear strategic vision of what they can or cannot do with such a system. Therefore, before a company decides to invest or re-invest in a CRM system it is clear that more organizational leaders need to develop a clear-cut strategy to adopt in order to avoid any potential risks that such a system implementation may cause. Although there are tremendous, amounts of benefits that CRM systems can provide organizations (i.e. reduced costs, increased customer satisfaction, along with gaining new and retaining other customers) a proper system implementation will only occur if leaders strategically plan for its integration and use. This is the beginning of my in depth analysis of one of the most important variables that make up the foundation of my Dissertation and I look forward to exploring this concept more and reporting my results in the weeks if not months ahead.

Wu, Y. Applying the strategic approach to assess customer relationship management. International Journal of Organizational Innovation (Online), 2(3), 186.