The business presented in the case study is a brick-and-mortar business, i.e., one that has a physical building (e.g., a store) and performs face-to-face marketing (compared to e-commerce where there is often no physical building). The business has a website that does not provide opportunities for online purchases to customers. The owner wants to integrate e-commerce into her brick-and-mortar business that will manage inventory/shipping, online payments, internal and external collaboration, customer contacts, provide reporting and manage the brick-and-mortar processes (sales, payments, contact with customers, etc.). The business needs to resolve the problem of the management of customer information, whereas there should also be a reporting tool for managers to help them in decision-making.
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The three technologies selected for the business are cloud computing, business analytics and business intelligence (BI&A), and wireless, mobile computing, and mobile commerce. According to Jadeja and Modi (2012), cloud computing “is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage applications, and services)” (p. 877). Cloud computing implies that users will be able to access data regardless of the type of PC they use and their location. Performance is monitored, and maintenance is easier because the software is not installed on each of the user’s devices.
At the same time, wireless communications will allow users (staff and customers) to access information from their devices (tablets, phones) anytime and anyplace (Pitoura & Samaras, 2012). WLANs provide high-speed wireless communication, while mobile commerce relies on wireless access to the Internet to perform transactions via users’ smartphones. Mobile commerce becomes more popular due to the rising percentage of smartphone users in the world. According to Khalifa, Cheng, and Shen (2012), “m-commerce refers to conducting any transaction, involving the transfer of ownership or rights to use goods and services…by using mobile access to computer-mediated networks” (p. 14).
BI&A relies on data collection, analysis, and extraction; they provide data to end-users who can use and analyze data to “adopt or develop the appropriate analytical techniques to derive the intended impact” (Chen, Chiang, & Storey, 2012).
The project will provide wireless Internet access to the main building so that communication among staff and customers will be possible. Cloud computing will allow the integration of online shopping and the management of current processes. Moreover, it will also help manage and store reporting, as well as ensure online payment processing.
To satisfy the objectives, the business will need to maintain or pay for the servers, which the cloud computing system will use to provide users with access to online shopping, transactions, internal and external communication, etc. The mobile commerce system will need to provide mobile browsing and purchase to end-users, as well as secure money transactions. BI&A will provide data reports to the management.
At the end of the project, the staff will be able to use cloud computing services to communicate with each other and customers; customers will be able to purchase online and make mobile (as well as PC) transactions, while managers will be able to gather and manage customer information provided by cloud computing. BI&A will allow managers to extract information to review their decision-making.
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The technology will need to provide on-demand access to data in the organization and outside of it (to customers). The data centers that provide access to cloud computing can be third-party centers if the business cannot own it. Still, a private data center is advisable for the management of internal processes.
Technology should also allow internal users (staff and managers) to gather and store customer information efficiently with instant access to it if necessary. It should also help managers analyze customer transactions, user logs, and user-generated content (if any) to manage customer information.
Competitors and Technology
In this section, cloud computing in Zappos, wireless and mobile services in Nordstrom Rack, and BI&A in Bluefly will be examined.
Zappos uses the technology Super Cloud to move its entire server infrastructure to Amazon Web Services; this is done to facilitate difficulties that arise when companies manage data centers (Weinberger, 2016). The company (possibly) has some obsolete systems that need to be transformed into efficient data hubs with the help of Super Cloud.
Wireless and Mobile Services
Nordstrom Rack uses wireless and mobile technology to speed up the functionality of transactions and checkout. It helps the company personalize the interaction with the customer, remove checkout counters, and draw direct line benefits (RIS, 2012).
Bluefly uses new business analytics technology called DynamicAction that analyzes business data and suggests “profit-ranked business changes that will improve operations and maximize sales” (Internet Retailer, 2016, para. 1). It collects and integrates data to Bluefly’s e-commerce platform data and predicts changes in various dimensions that will result in profit.
Using DynamicAction, Bluefly’s employees do not have to analyze the data themselves; the technology provides managers with possible solutions in e-commerce, sales, marketing operations, etc. that can improve its business performance. It can make the decision-making process more cost-effective and efficient, as well as gather much more business-driven data compared to other types of technology. This data can indicate what issues or profits the company needs to consider.
Cloud computing allows managing inventory and shipping, facilitating internal and external collaboration, and managing brick-and-mortar processes. However, it cannot provide reporting because the gathered data will need to be analyzed by an employee.
Wireless and Mobile Commerce
It allows integrating online shopping and providing it to customers via their devices, checking order status and payment processing. It also facilitates internal and external collaboration. It cannot manage brick-and-mortar processes.
It allows reporting, managing inventory and shipping, as well as other brick-and-mortar processes. It can also facilitate internal and external collaboration. It is unable to manage customer contacts or provide order status checking.
The suggested technology solution is BI&A based on cloud computing. It will provide managers with data that can be applied in business processes, whereas cloud computing will not demand complicated and costly maintenance.
BI&A will address issues in e-commerce, marketing, and sales to make the business process more efficient, while cloud computing will provide necessary data on-demand via any device, thus accelerating decision-making.
More companies prefer using BI&A based on cloud computing because they facilitate and quicken internal and external processes; without them, the company will be unable to compete successfully due to slow transactions, decreased customer satisfaction, and lack of customer and business-related data.
Basic Security Considerations
Identity management and physical security of the hardware is necessary to avoid security breaches. All employees will need to be authorized when using any of the suggested technologies. Third-party cloud computing is difficult to control; the company will have to find a reliable provider.
Third-party owners of cloud computing will need to ensure their services are protected with cloud security controls (preventive, corrective controls, etc.). These controls increase the efficiency of cloud security architecture and identify issues that can lead to security breaches.
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Personnel security is crucial for internal safeguards. It includes training programs that will raise awareness of possible security issues in employees and teach them how to address those. The employer will need to take employees’ previous experience with technology security into consideration (i.e. conduct security screening).
Chen, H., Chiang, R. H., & Storey, V. C. (2012). Business intelligence and analytics: From big data to big impact. MIS Quarterly, 1165-1188.
Internet Retailer. (2016). Bluefly’s rapidly expanding business model bolstered with new prescriptive analytics technology.
Jadeja, Y., & Modi, K. (2012). Cloud computing – concepts, architecture and challenges. Computing, Electronics and Electrical Technologies, 877-880.
Khalifa, M., Cheng, S. K., & Shen, K. N. (2012). Adoption of mobile commerce: A confidence model. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 14-22.
Weinberger, M. (2016). 50 employees left Zappos before an important project was finished.