The continuous development of international market has led many firms towards the increase of their communication initiatives. The methods that companies around the world use to attain the above goal are not normal. Alternatively, they can be classified taking into account the company’s requirements, customer demands and current market conditions. In most cases, the communication between the customer and the firm is achieved more effectively through a website which is appropriately customized in order to respond to the cultural characteristics of the firm and its targets both in the short and the long term. Current paper focuses on the methods used by a firm that operates in a specific industry, this of the martial arts, in order to improve its communication with its customers and therefore increase its performance. The firm under examination is a Judo club which is not well established in the market; it has entered the market rather recently – one year ago – and it seeks to increase its performance by improving its communication with its customers. It can be assumed therefore that the resources available for the achievement of the above targets will be limited. The chances for the achievement of the relevant plan will be explored and analyzed using a series of appropriately customized research methods.
As already noticed above, the firm’s resources that are available for the realization of the relevant project – development of a communication website – are limited. The short presence of the firm in the market could be regarded as the main reason for the lack of necessary resources; however, there are firms that are developed very quickly, even if they work within a given market for a short period of time – this is the case for businesses using all available resources – referring not to local but also external tools e.g. the funding options available in a specific market. It seems that until now, the particular firm has struggled to ‘ gain ‘ market support (probably because no appropriate research has been done in this direction). For this reason, it is necessary that all available resources of the firm will be employed in the particular effort trying to ensure the increase of its competitiveness within the particular industry. Currently, the systems available for the completion of the specific project – communication website – are rather limited. The firm’s operation is based on a simple IT network consisting from 3 desktops that communicate through an internal network. The project suggested, i.e. the development of a communication website, would require the update of current systems, the establishment of a ‘central unit’ in which the firm’s data would be stored, the creation of an appropriately customized website (in accordance with the current market trends and the similar sites of the competitors) as well as the establishment of both the internal and the external network. Under these terms, it is necessary that the performance of the firm’s existing IT systems is accurately evaluated taking into consideration the current position of the firm in its market and the resources available. At a next level, a viable IT system would be proposed also considering the above mentioned issues. It should be made clear that the development of the firm’s website should be followed by the update of its existing IT system; it is for this reason that particular reference is made for such a system without limiting the project only to the creation and the development of the website. The potential cost as well as the profitability of the specific system would be also analyzed in order to measure the final gain for the firm after developing its presence in the WWW.
Internet is an extremely valuable tool for the development of commercial activities worldwide. In accordance with Cassiman et al. (2002, 2) ‘the Internet affects conventional competitive strategies in at least in three different ways: (1) the greater efficiency generated by lower transaction costs and new organizational forms reduce the firm’s cost structure, (2) the reduction of consumer’s search costs and, (3) electronic markets affect pricing and allow new pricing mechanisms’. Under these terms firms that operate in the modern market have ‘to understand the level and nature of demand for the new products and services they develop’ (Almquist et al., 2006, 23). In other words, the use of Internet is considered to be inevitable when a firm seeks to expand its activities both in its market and internationally.
In this context, the use of website for the development of communication between the firm and its customers (but also internally, between the firm’s employees) is a common phenomenon in modern market. Through the years, many criteria have been developed in order to justify the effectiveness of a firm’s website. In accordance with Agrawal (2002, 168) ‘web site usability is a critical metric for assessing the quality of a firm’s Web presence; a measure of usability must not only provide a global ranking for a specific website, hopefully it should also highlight individual site design strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, Merono et al. (2005) tried to identify the importance of the firm’s online presence and came to the conclusion that there are ‘three dimensions in e-business: e-information, e-communication and e-workflow’ (Merono et al., 2005, 583). In order to identify the value of these dimensions for the firm’s performance the above researchers conducted a survey using data from 288 firms in Spain. In the above survey it has been proved that a firm’s performance is depended on the structure and the effectiveness of e-business systems employed by the specific firm. In any case, it has been proved in the literature that the development of a firm’s online presence can help significantly towards the increase of its profitability; of course, the effectiveness of each system depends on the type of the firm’s activities, its position in the market, its customer base and its financial strength in order to respond to the needs of the relevant project. In a relevant project developed by Fortin et al. (2002) it has been proved that the limitation of the operational costs of residency programs can be achieved through the improvement of the internal and external communication using a website. In accordance with the study of Fortin et al. (2002, 278) ‘ Evaluation of the Website’s effectiveness was assessed by monitoring the use of the Website, the costs of resources and personnel, and the satisfaction of residents, staff and faculty; costs have been reduced by 89% and staff commitment by 85%; an internet-based communication system that provides a single, secure, accurate and usable source of information for residents, faculty and staff; less resources can be built and costs can. ‘ The above study can be used as an indicator for the effectiveness of relevant projects that are based on limited sources. In the case of this project as well – where limited sources are available for its realization – it can be assumed that there are high chances for success if the whole effort is carefully designed and monitored through all its stages.
Scholarly Contributions of the Project
In the literature, the development of IT systems towards the improvement of a firm’s activity has been extensively explored. However, not sufficient research has been made on the effects of online presence of small firms that try to survive within each market. More specifically, this study focuses on the development of a firm’s online presence but under a specific criterion: the resources available are limited. In this context, this study is considered to be quite important offering the chance to identify the potentials of developing a firm’s website presence using limited resources. At a next level, the effectiveness of such a project in a firm belonging in the specific industry, martial arts, has not adequately analyzed in the literature. Both the above targets, i.e. evaluation of the potentials of success of a relevant project with limited resources and chances for improvement of the performance of a firm operating in the martial arts industry through a website, are considered to be achieved through this study.
Description of the Deliverables
As noticed before, the potentials of development of the firm’s website will be evaluated after examining carefully its existing system. At a next level, a viable IT system (through which the firm’s website will be developed and controlled) will be proposed. In accordance with the above, this paper will include both the literature related with the particular issue while appropriate analysis of the systems involved in the effort will be made. The use of graphs and tables in this case will be necessary. In other words, the paper will be characterized by both theoretical and practical analysis including the necessary graphical representations in order to make clear the various parts of the project.
As noticed before, the main target of the particular project is to develop a communication site that will support the improvement of the firm’s performance but using limited resources. In accordance with the above, the effectiveness of the relevant project will be evaluated taking into consideration the following criteria/ issues: a) has the firm’s performance increased? (including potential signs for such an improvement either in the short or the long term), b) were the resources available sufficient for the realization of the project or additional resources were finally used and which was the relevant cost? c) are the firm’s employees capable of using the new system, i.e. communicating with customers through the website and d) which is the cost related with the maintenance of the website on a long term basis? In case that a high cost is requested on a regular basis the effectiveness of the relevant project could be doubted.
Current project will have two major parts: the first one will be the literature related with the particular issue (the literature will be carefully identified and analyzed in the relevant section of the paper); the other one will be the research methodology part in which the development of the firm’s website will be analytically presented describing the material (hardware and software) that will be employed in the relevant effort. It should be noticed that the availability of resources for the completion of the project will be one of its risks (as explained in the relevant section, 9, of this proposal); however a significant effort will be made in order to ensure the incorporation of all available material (referring both to the literature and the software-hardware necessary for the completion of this project).
Project Plan and Timing
The project will be completed gradually. The whole procedure could be divided into phases each one of which will require a specific period of time. The particular steps of the relevant procedure along with the estimation time required for their completion could be described as follows:
- Research Proposal (Development of the project’s proposal highlighting its main parts and methods used for its realization; this proposal will be submitted at the beginning of the project; approximately 10 days of the whole procedure will be required for the completion of the project’s proposal – current paper)
- Literature Review (At a next level, the literature that will be used in current project will be located and presented for evaluation as of its appropriateness regarding the needs and the demands of this study; 10-15 days will be required for the completion of this stage).
- Research Methodology (The most important part of the project will be the development of the firm’s website using specific hardware and software; the specific stage is expected to take approximately 20 days taking into account that appropriate tests should be included in this phase ensuring the effectiveness of the system when implementing in practice).
9. Risk Assessment
The development of the project is expected to face certain difficulties. More specifically, because particular software and hardware will be required for the completion of the project, the availability of this material would be a problem especially if additional requirements will exist for the realization of this project up to its final stage. On the other hand, it is possible that the above material is proved inappropriate regarding the particular use (development of website for a Judo club); the material would be identified in advance but it is possible when testing it for its effectiveness in practice – especially regarding the needs of a firm operating in the particular sector – to be proved inadequate. For this reason, it is necessary that alternative solutions (both regarding the software and hardware) to exist in advance in order to avoid any delays in the completion of the project.
All steps of the project will be appropriately monitored. Primarily the progress of the paper will be monitored by the researcher through the careful revision of any part of the project before its submission; at a next level, the project will be reviewed by the Course administrator who will identify any potential weakness and suggest any change required. In this way, the quality of the project – at all its stages – will be ensured
- Agarwal, R., Venkatesh, V. (2002) Assessing a Firm’s Web Presence: A Heuristic Evaluation Procedure for the Measurement of Usability. Information Systems Research, 13(2): 168-186
- Almquist, E., Kon, M., Bosic, W. (2006). ‘Economics’ gift to Marketing’ Mercer Management Journal, 15: 22-34
- Cassiman, B., Sieber, S. (2002) The Impact of Internet on Market Structure, available at http://web.iese.edu/bcassiman/EI%2018-1-2001_final%20english_.pdf
- Fortin, A., Luzzi, K., Galaty, L., Wong, J. (2002) Developing an Internet-based Communication System for Residency Training Programs. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 17(4): 278-282
- Merono, A., Acosta, P. (2005) Examining e-business impact on firm performance through website analysis. International Journal of Electronic Business, 3(6): 583-598