Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Humans, Not Technology, Make Successful Extranets

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Humans, Not Technology, Make Successful Extranets

Article excerpt

In 1996, Marc Andreessen, Netscape Communication's co-founder, predicted that extranets would be one of the most exciting innovations to hit the World Wide Web.

Andreessen's prediction couldn't have been more correct. However, he probably never imagined the non-technical obstacles many companies have faced when launching extranets.

Most people are familiar with intranets. They are private Web sites that are restricted to members of a particular group within a company. Extranets use similar technology to provide access to select people outside your organization.

Extranets are powerful tools that can help businesses improve their customer service, increase their revenue, and save time and resources. If you've gone online to track a Federal Express shipment or pay a bill, you've used an extranet.

Although important, the key to a successful extranet isn't having the right technology in place. Changing the way people work and marketing the extranet to its intended audience are often more difficult challenges. The human factors are what will make or break you.

One local manufacturer, Little Giant Pump, has shown how successful an extranet can be when it becomes part of an organization's culture. Last year, Little Giant introduced RepNet, an extranet for the company's 100-plus manufacturer representative firms.

According to Mike Gilliland, production manager-inside sales and advertising, Little Giant decided before RepNet was officially launched that the company was committed to using the site to automate several processes.

"The key to an extranet is not to simply offer it, but to mandate it," said Gilliland.

Shortly after RepNet was introduced at a sales meeting, the company stopped doing things by phone or fax that could now be done online.

According to Gilliland, reps can log into RepNet to order "wearables" such as Little Giant branded clothing, golf items and promotional products that they previously had to order via phone or fax. …

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