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Contributing Writer

Consolidation is king – even in e-commerce

May 06, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsERP Systems

* Salvaging projects that went awry

There are many types of consolidation when you’re talking about e-business. There is the consolidation of systems, the consolidation of data, and the consolidation of suppliers and business partners. All of these are incredibly important as we prepare to climb out of the economic mess we are in.

When e-commerce managers think of consolidation, they tend to get tripped up. Rather than slimming down operations, they sometimes feel they have to start over from Ground Zero – getting rid of applications that proved too unruly and complex, or applications that had multiyear commitments for return on investment.

But that’s not true.

If you read my colleague Senior Editor Ann Bednarz’s Special Report on saving ERP systems, one thing is quite apparent: as the manager of e-business systems you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Take for instance, Robert Moon, vice president of ViewSonic’s Information Service Group. Rather than get rid of the company’s $4.5 million ERP network that went awry, Moon methodically revamped it, saving the company millions of dollars a year as a result. You can read his story at:

This is the type of thing that all e-business managers should be looking to do. After all, you weren’t alone by investing in that complex CRM system or proprietary customer call center that didn’t quite meet expectations. A lot of IT managers invested heavily in software and gear that was bulky and required a lot of customer support.

The trick now is to figure out how to salvage key elements of those rollouts and use them in your streamlined operations. Don’t assume that you have to walk away from those applications and leave precious assets behind.

E-business application vendors are working hard right now to make these systems more modular and interoperable. Chances are your vendor is one of them. Talk with them and see if they can help you accomplish your consolidation task.

There’s a tendency to think that if you go with all new software it’ll go over better with your management than trying to rejigger the application you have. After all, you can play off a new software tool as a strategic move and it might be harder to explain why you overbought your current software.

But truth be told, if you go with a new system, you’ll probably wind up with a bigger headache. Information will be in two different places and you’ll be managing both as a stopgap measure. This isn’t a good plan.

As you can see from Robert Moon’s example above, you can still save your company millions of dollars by keeping the system you have. You may be able to tweak it in such a way that you get even more power out of it than before – for instance honing in on the strength of the database and not worrying about the bells and whistles.