Getting the north east trading online – your input, please

by Justin Souter on September 15, 2009

Introduction

I’ve been invited to take part in a roundtable event by RMT – my accountants.

This is an excerpt from the invite:

Getting the north east trading online @ RMT Gosforth on the 24th Sept 09

The aim of the day is to discuss how we can help get more north east based business trading online.

Cut through the mystery of trading online and dispel some of the myths, many of us take our knowledge for granted!

I will need to have a think about this and collect my thoughts – but please suggest anything you want me to raise on the day.

‘Trading online’ – to my mind – is about using the Web to market, sell, and serve customers. I suspect the ‘answer’ will be quite complicated and ‘multivariate’!

I believe there is a local newspaper involved, and also some people from various ‘grown-up’ industry bodies – so please chip in!

Agenda

There are two sessions, either side of lunch:

  • Session one – online business issues
  • Session two – develop a strategy to get the north east online

Further background:

If you could all think about your experiences of businesses that you have dealt with, which trade online and those that don’t, and try to identify any key issues.

Please bring to the table anything you think might be hampering online trade in the region, and things that might help improve it.

If you raise it, I’ll do my best to mention it – and then blog the upshot.

UPDATE 21/9/09: I thought I’d dig out the PDF that Peter Moran mentions and publish it through Scribd.com and hence make it more accessible…

The Value of ICT for SMEs in the UK: A Critical Literature Review

  • peter moran

    hi

    my son (matt moran) asked me to respond

    briefly, I designed and delivered the stepchange project during 2005/8 as part of my role as (acting) head of the cto (part of newcastle council)

    the project was delivered on behalf of tyne wear partnership to around 1100 smes. the aim was to promote e-trading and to create an awareness of the developing e-procurement agenda in the public sector

    my background was in IT (working for Crown Paints) where I helped implement the trade-a net e-trading process in the late 1980s – based on leased lines between ourselves and major accounts (B&Q, Texas etc)

    latterly I was a director of a couple of smes where part of my role was to develop IT based business improvements. In both businesses it involved a root&branch examination of all business processes – both were complex – to appreciate the full implications of moving to more advanced IT based processes.

    This was fairly basic stuff – developing detailled bills of materials for example using item codes – but it led to multiple benefits.

    This is one of the fundamental issues that sme's face to enable them to move effectively to trading on line. It is the need to start from the bottom and work upwards – trading on line is the culmination not the starting point.

    The stepchange project encouraged this bottom up approach and used the dti 'ladder' model as part of its evaluation process when it met with individual smes – consequently if we assessed a business was at level 2 we highlighted what was needed to move to level 3 etc

    Have to say that the vast majority of the businesses we helped where at level 1 and below for a whole stack of reasons. Survey based feedback from smes was generally positive.

  • peter moran

    hi

    my son (matt moran) asked me to respond

    briefly, I designed and delivered the stepchange project during 2005/8 as part of my role as (acting) head of the cto (part of newcastle council)

    the project was delivered on behalf of tyne wear partnership to around 1100 smes. the aim was to promote e-trading and to create an awareness of the developing e-procurement agenda in the public sector

    my background was in IT (working for Crown Paints) where I helped implement the trade-a net e-trading process in the late 1980s – based on leased lines between ourselves and major accounts (B&Q, Texas etc)

    latterly I was a director of a couple of smes where part of my role was to develop IT based business improvements. In both businesses it involved a root&branch examination of all business processes – both were complex – to appreciate the full implications of moving to more advanced IT based processes.

    This was fairly basic stuff – developing detailled bills of materials for example using item codes – but it led to multiple benefits.

    This is one of the fundamental issues that sme's face to enable them to move effectively to trading on line. It is the need to start from the bottom and work upwards – trading on line is the culmination not the starting point.

    The stepchange project encouraged this bottom up approach and used the dti 'ladder' model as part of its evaluation process when it met with individual smes – consequently if we assessed a business was at level 2 we highlighted what was needed to move to level 3 etc

    Have to say that the vast majority of the businesses we helped where at level 1 and below for a whole stack of reasons. Survey based feedback from smes was generally positive.

  • Peter – brilliant, this is a terrific piece of feedback. It sounds like we need a similar education & process review exercise to help the next generation of businesses.

    Where might I find resources which refer to the DTI ladder model etc. d'you think?

  • peter moran

    justin

    tried to re locate dti model for you but cannot trace – have a look at folowing which is similar in principle

    http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file38315.pdf

    each business is different and most do not recognise the need for a structured implementation of e-trading (or trading generally) processes

    the popular impression is 'plug and play' a 'we can all do it' which we can but we need to understand what 'it' means.

    example – trading on line is trading 24/7 globally (potentially) – it means (perhaps) delivering product/services outside your operational area – so we move from using a local tried and trusted delivery channel to putting faith in (potentially) a white van, dirty T shirt, driver with attitude, what do you mean customer service ?!?!*** delivery channel to a new customer in the south of england who has fallen in love with the 'dream like' imagery of your website

    it means having a totally reliable web connection – do you have a contingency if reliable translates into something else? – in your garage, bedroom,shop etc

    it means demand surges coupled to delivery commitments which your stock level cannot support – I know of someone who received 35 orders in one evening and they were going on holiday the next day etc with no stock left

    all basic stuff which some people/businesses overlook in their rush to prove themselves on the web.

  • herbkim

    Main comment is that I think issue no 2 requires a sustained campaign populated by the biggest names in enterprise IT/software (MSFT, BT, Oracle, Google, Sage, etc.) but fronted by an independent brand (IOD, CBI, etc) as a way of businesses to invest their time and eventually money/attention towards online adoption. This could be orchestrated by the RDA, sponsored at least 50/50 with the big brands.

    Once calls to action/trial are made you can then connect interested these businesses to digital/IT service providers based in the NE to fulfill.

    Sounds like the Stepchange experience could be valuable in informing the actual engagement with sme's on e-adoption.

  • Herb – many thanks for your thoughts. Are you aware of any country-wide schemes that involve the big tech co's?

    I.e. is there a programme of some sort that the NE can get involved with?

  • gavinelliott

    There are medium-large companies who are still not online or they are online but still don't understand how to grow or use the internet to their best advantage.

    The North East shows this more than other areas. There are a lot of large companies which, if they looked at how to develop their business online could grow astronomically in 12 months but they fail at this because they either don't understand it or do not have the guidance to do it well.

    I think Herb is correct, but it is still about getting the right information to the right people, the right people then need the funds to pay for the people who can help them. After that you need to find the right people who can help them in the first place otherwise we'll end up back at square one with the funding gone and businesses being in the same state as they were originally.

    Time-wise, this should have happened over a year ago. With the recession supposedly coming to an end there are a lot of businesses which could reap the benefits of such advice.

    This discussion could go on and on so it will be interesting to see what comes out in the wash, however when it comes down to it;

    Businesses simply need the education to know how to take their business online, how to market themselves correctly and grow.

  • Gavin – many thanks for this!

    If I was to add to this, I would say that it's also about getting buy-in from all parts of the business to change existing working practices and mindsets.

  • And normal people don't like change. Look at Theo Paphitis, when taking over a company he asks if anyone doesn't want to change and then watches them walk out the door.

    Change, no. Move forward, yes.

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