Utilizing E-business at Ocean King Transportation Co., Ltd.
The primary goal of this project was to generate an implementation plan to bring e-business method s to Ocean King Transportation Co., Ltd. in order to improve its ability to service its customers, curtail growing costs, and increase overall efficiency. This would also entail improving email communication with customers and other stakeholders without increasing communication costs.
The first part of the project was to research the company and its operational methods to determine how best to implement e-business solutions. A key problem discovered during this investigation is the corporate culture of the company. This is a very traditional company, wedded to doing things they way they have always done them. This makes implementing changes challenging and absolutely requires the management buy-in that Kross et al. (2008) recommended.
Another challenge uncovered during this research phase of the project is that the necessary infrastructure is not readily available. For example, ships in the company do not have satellite transmission capability to stay on-line and thus provide up-to-date information about their status. Even various company offices do not necessarily have reliable high-speed Internet access. Thus, in order to implement a sophisticated e-business suite of applications, substantial investment in fundamental infrastructure of the company must be made.
Because of these two roadblocks it was determined that the best path to implementing e-business involved taking a slow, gradual phase-in, beginning with the very simplest of e-business applications. As noted in the case studies by Penaloza et al. (2007), the small ocean transport company had to take a slow implementation path when implementing their e-business solution. Similarly, it was determined that Ocean King Transportation Co. Ltd. should follow a similar path.
Finally, because the entire technological infrastructure of the company needed to be upgraded, it was determined that professional IT consultants should be brought in to assist and guide the transition. This was an expensive option, but was included to ensure success at each step of the way. After a discussion of the risks involved in an inappropriate or inadequate implementation, company management agreed and an IT consulting firm was brought on board to assist with the transitions.
Key to bringing professional IT consultants on board for an implementation of e-business is determining the appropriate characteristics of such professional both in terms of their personal interaction style and their expertise and experience levels in e-business specifically. Thus, a search was made for IT consultants who matched the desired personality, expertise, and experience levels to best ensure success of e-business project implementations. This resulted in a short list of three IT consultants who then were interviewed by company management.
A critical aspect of this IT consultant selection process was reviewing their proposed plans for implementation to determine if they understood company culture, status, and needs. Also, because the consultant would have to work with company management, it was essential that their interactive style was compatible with that of company executives. These keys were crucial to obtaining a good match between company and consultant.
The simplest and easiest step toward bringing e-business to the company was determined to be e-mail for several reasons. First, it is an application that can be implemented from only a single location, the company’s main headquarters. Second, it requires no significant computer expertise or sophistication to produce e-mails using readily available tools. Third, producing electronic newsletters using that same technology is equally easy. Fourth, e-mail and electronic newsletters require no significant infrastructure investment. Thus, the first recommended step in the implementation plan was to develop a mailing list of customers and stakeholders, and to begin e-mail communications and a regular (quarterly initially) newsletter for those customers and stakeholders.
Weinclaw (2008) noted that e-mail (and newsletters sent via e-mail) can be one of the best business resources because e-mail is an extremely low cost communication channel, yet it is also extraordinarily efficient in time, arriving almost instantly after it is sent out. In addition, the company can send one e-mail to many partners and customers or can automatically tailor the e-mails to specific types of customers or other recipients. Moreover, e-mail produces an automatic record of all communications that can be later analyzed to identify problems, as well as service areas that may be potential candidates for improvement. Thus, e-mail is an extraordinarily cost-effective business tool with multiple benefits (Weinclaw, 2008).
One key problem identified by the company CEO was slow (and inefficient) communications with customers, employees, and other stakeholders. Thus, the initial element of the plan received management approval and was implemented. This phase was to bring the company improved communications with customers and stakeholders. This step included constructing a permission-based mailing list, combined with a regular email newsletter directed primarily at customers, as noted by Weinclaw (2008). The initial newsletter provided a variety of information to customers
- New service announcements, as well as details of new services;
- Replies to customers’ specific requests and comments;
- Relevant news about the company;
- Price changes and specific offers; and
- General business news and helpful tips.
- Effective implementation of knowledge management procedures.
By informing stakeholders (including clients) of pertinent information gives them the tools with which to execute relevant decisions (Burke & George, 2000). The second phase of the implementation plan is the development of a company website. After the positive response received on the e-mail implementation, management has approved the development of a company website, and that effort is underway. More details about this website effort is presented in the Recommendations for Future Directions section of this report.