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    For Your Comfort: Use of Intranets and Extranets

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    For Your Comfort (FYC), an ergonomic furniture manufacturing company was a dream founded by Ronald J. Dirksen and Richard Woodart in 1947, the year after World War II ended. War veterans were returning home and wanted to lead a life of material comfort; FYC's trademark Easy Couch was a seller! The company expanded its line of furniture into both residential and commercial office furniture but remained largely a small-town family-owned boutique for many years. In the early 1980s, FYC introduced "mail-order" selling which increased its revenues substantially. FYC gained gradual recognition with its introduction of an "ergonomically friendly" office and home furniture line in the late 1980s and opened 2 branches in different cities during the decade. It also started sourcing timber from Canada and South East Asia and some hardware, hinges, saws, and fasteners from China. The 1990s saw FYC branch out to new territories by owning and operating branch stores. There are currently 16 stores throughout the USA with the manufacturing plant at its base. The biggest store in each city is equipped with a clearance floor, which holds items that are rejects, used returns, or items that are simply out of style but are marked down consistently until they are sold. In 1999, Ronald J. Dirksen, CEO, passed away, leaving the business to his daughter, Donna Dirksen, a smart Berkeley-educated mechanical engineer.

    Donna had several challenging tasks on her hands: sorting out the operations and finances of the company; knowing her employees; riding through the recession of early 2000's; and getting the company out of the red. Before she took over, the company's sales had been slipping, and it even suffered a small loss one year due to increased competition. With Donna at the helm, the company's profitability and product line visibility grew but still functioned in an old-fashioned way. Both fixed and variable costs were very high in comparison to industry averages, and Donna had some concerns: high paper-based transaction volume; delayed processes (especially in invoicing and collections); expensive overhead costs in managing different locations (franchisees and employees), internal departments, ineffective marketing campaigns; and lack of latest technology (old POS systems and applications).

    Donna, who is quite technologically savvy, has analyzed many furniture and other retail organizations which have shown remarkable profitability through a well-managed technologically-upgraded IS strategy. She wants to invest in new technologies and a sound IT strategy aligned with FYC's business to turn the company around. She has hired you as the IT leader in the organization who will spearhead the alignment of IT and business goals; capitalize on the latest emerging technologies, e-business, and IT management; and harness that information to aid corporate growth.

    Details: You have managed to take FYC to the next level by setting up an e-commerce website for selling furniture using the Internet. Portals and collaboration applications involving internet, intranet, and extranet applications "talk" to each other to provide a seamless, paperless, real-time, workflow environment to manage all business operations.

    Now you have made sufficient impact on the top line; it is now time to concentrate on the bottom line. How can intranets and extranets make a difference in FYC's operations? Where should they be deployed? Study each department's functions and processes in detail; choose one: (a) Intranet or (b) Extranet. What functionalities should the 'net contain? And what will be the benefits for FYC?

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    - Now you have made sufficient impact on the top line; it is now time to concentrate on the bottom line. How can intranets and extranets make a difference in FYC's operations?

    Intranets and extranets can make a great difference to the operations of FYC. Intranets will increase the internal collaboration within FYC. For instance, a piece of furniture is ordered on the FYC website. The intranet allows the employee executing the order to locate the furniture in every store of FYC. In this manner he can select the store closest to the customer to make the delivery. Moreover, intranet provides FYC cross-platform capability improving compatibility, moreover, the intranet allows a common culture of FYC to develop across its stores. It helps connect business operations and management and reduces costs as only few servers are required to connect the entire system. FYC requires complex information about furniture to be accessible to employees of different stores. This is easily possible through the intranet. Most importantly, the moment an order is received, every relevant employee is alerted through ...

    Solution Summary

    This posting breaks the questions down in a detailed, 695-word discussion of how interanets and extranets can help For Your Comfort increase its business.