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e-Enabling the Corporation
by jumpsystems at 07:53 27/07/05 (Seminar>Consultant)
Today, there is a lot of bluster about how firms have moved their business online or have empowered their user community. The reality is often far from what is publicised or implemented. This article explores the facts and exposes some of the fallacies that abound.

Getting the message across

All too often, companies look on e-enabling as a gateway to fraud, system abuse or job losses. Those responsible for promoting the technology must first focus on selling the idea to those in charge of the organisation; without their support, youíre going nowhere. It is very important to identify both hard and soft benefits of moving to an e-platform. Typically, the hard benefits are those that are of most interest to the CEO, so try to identify any real cost savings inherent in the solution. Of course, costs are not just monetary; time and resources are important cost areas as well. The softer benefits can be harder to justify; improved staff morale leading to reductions in staff turnover (although this is also an identifiable cost benefit and should be quoted).

Candidates

When trying for an e-enabled solution, there are several candidate areas for consideration. The actual choice may come down to the type of company, either because of their line of business or the internal politics. Iíve made a few suggestions below but there are numerous other options out there.

Expenses

Even the smaller companies handle expenses claims. You may think that, because there are only a small number of claims per month, it isnít worth pursuing. However, with the current availability of hosted ASP solutions, e-enabling the expenses function becomes a reality. Most, if not all, packages provide for a BACS function so that expenses can be credited directly to the userís bank account. You can also feed claims into the accounting system, setting up ledger entries to match the claims.

Reporting from such systems also allows the completion of annual tax returns, such as P11Ds.

Recruitment

Recruitment has traditionally been the preserve of the HR department and often involves email, agencies, press campaigns and lots of paper. Adopting an e-Recruitment strategy can involve a leap of faith; will we be able to put our vacancy in front of the right people? Will enough people see our vacancy? The arguments can roll on endlessly.

The true cost of recruiting a staff member is high. Typical agency costs can be high, at 20+% of the remuneration package, not just salary. By adopting an electronic solution, a company isnít removing their contact with the agencies; rather they are generating another conduit for candidates to join their company at a significant cost and time saving.

A further benefit is that you can use an e-Recruitment system to actively retain staff. One of the major reasons for staff leaving companies is that they are unaware of vacancies until itís too late. By the time they find out, theyíve already got a new job. By providing alerts when a particular job profile is advertised, they can easily apply for the position and bingo, no staff turnover.

Travel

Organising travel in large companies can be a real headache. There are usually forms to be completed and approved, rigorous manual procedures to follow and it all takes an inordinate amount of time and effort. How nice it would be if the staff member could select the travel mode and destination and let the system get on with it. Automated approval processes are the norm here. If youíve asked for a first class flight to New York but your profile only allows cattle class on the cheapest of airlines, you wonít be able to make that booking without change, but if the system automatically makes those choices for you, a lot of aggravation and annoyance can be avoided.

Staff Rostering

What seems like a simple job can in reality be a mind-numbing task taking days to complete. So often the solution is a paper or spreadsheet diary maintained by a manager. If multiple locations are involved, these systems are invisible to a managerís peers. By adopting an electronic solution, managers have a relatively simple means of planning the staff time and the staff can easily see just when they should be at work. These systems can also handle leave requests and other forms of absence. Legislation is covered by all worthwhile systems meaning that you are unlikely to run into problems with the Working Time Directive for instance.

Because of the nature of these systems, HR can easily monitor absence and staffing levels centrally, something that is normally a nightmare under the localised solutions. There is also scope for cost saving by reducing staff absence and turnover.

Mobile Solutions

This article wonít cover this area in detail, as it is a very wide subject with many options. However, as an e-enabler, mobile and remote working can provide your workforce with a much more flexible working environment. However, care must be taken to ensure that staff do not end up working a seven day week simply because they are reachable by email etc.

Smart phones and PDAs with access to the Internet form a large part of the mobile working ethos, not least because they can receive Ďpushí email, which means not having to constantly dial in and check.

Remote working can also mean working from home. For this to be effective the company may have to fund the cost of a broadband connection to each affected staff memberís home. While this may seem like a high overhead, remember that they are no longer sitting in your expensive city offices with its enormous overheads.

Intranet

Intranets are an often-overlooked resource. By targeting specific areas, the Intranet can be used to drive the user community into using a browser to access information and applications. The corporate intranet can also be used as a delivery mechanism for reference material, removing the need to maintain, store and distribute costly paper editions. By utilising the intranet in this way, the workforce can be assured that everyone is looking at the same information.

Internet

Often cited by companies as their e-enablement solution, the Internet offers a means of communicating with staff in disparate locations, often outside the corporate network. This doesnít just mean putting the company profile on a web site but moves into mobile email (perhaps using a product like Outlook on the Web) and secure access to company applications.

About the Author

David Raison has been working in IT since 1970 in a variety of roles. He has been a freelance since 1985, working both as Business Analyst and Project Manager, with first-hand experience of e-enablement.

David can be contacted via his website at www.jumpsystems.co.uk.

© David Raison 2005

-- jumpsystems
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