Doing IT Best
The Internet, intranets and extranets are almost old news, with companies of all sorts, shapes and sizes having implemented some sort of IP-based communications methodology over the years. While this is good news for just about everyone, its critical to execute the solution properly, realizing that a poorly implemented online presence can cause customers, whether retail consumers or business partners, to shake their heads in dismay.
Enter software that allows beautifully rendered online sites to grab data from the back-end and quickly present it on the fly to busy and often impatient users. And mercifully, these solutions often integrate with legacy mainframe data, needing little reconfiguration or data translation. A blessing, especially for companies that prefer to concentrate on business rather than the intricacies of low-level IT.
Do It Best Corp., for one, has discovered the ease by which middleware such as this can be implemented. And significantly, it also discovered that this ease of implementation quickly translates to improved productivity and increased customer satisfaction. Working under both time and budget constraints, the company delivered full extranet capabilities to its customers in a matter of months-from initial concept to fully functioning site-realizing that it could do its extranet best by choosing a best-of-breed solution.
Hammers and Such
Headquartered in Fort Wayne, Ind., Do It Best is the third largest cooperative in the hardware industry. Rather than acting as a franchiser, it works with independently owned hardware stores (there are around 4,400, most located in the United States) to help them get the best prices. The company's bulk purchasing power (it stocks some 70,000 hardware and building products) provides a competitive advantage over its one-store counterparts, which pay premium prices for essentially the same products.
"We buy from thousands of vendors, and then store the products in the seven retail service centers we have located around the country," says Bob Langston, development manager with Do It Best. "And then, once a week, we send trucks out to each location with their orders. As a result, they don't have to mess with a whole bunch of vendors, and they get better prices. This is in keeping with our motto, which is sort of, Let the retailers concentrate on selling and let us do the buying. " At the end of the year, Do It Best then rebates some of the item costs back to the retailers, hoping that "those funds, which can be quite substantial," Langston adds, "will be used for store expansions, modernizations or perhaps the purchase of additional stores. Its a true co-op."
In addition to buying in bulk, Do It Best offers several add-on services. For example, member retailers can get what the company calls "personalized pricing," where the retailer determines what price they want to sell, say, a hammer and Do It Best will tag that item with the price. When a truck arrives at a destination, the retailers simply pull it off the truck and put it on the shelf-the price already on the hammer. Additionally, Do It Best tracks the retail margin (50 percent, for example) and adjusts it accordingly.
As one might imagine, this large customer base and mass of available products requires a heavy-duty and reliable IT infrastructure. In accordance, it has a z800 running VSE 2.6.
"We were staring our deadline in the face, and we just had to have something that was easy to install, easy to learn and easy to implement." -Bob Langston, development manager, Do It Best
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