Like a number of businesses in the late 1990s, Value City Furniture (VCF) (Columbus, OH) was in growth mode. New stores were opening on a regular basis, but David Thompson, president of the furniture chain, was finding it difficult to communicate with his expanding company. Rhonda Dybiec, marketing director and former IT director of VCF, proposed a new, back end infrastructure to streamline operations and improve customer service. "We had classical problems of a family-operated business that grew beyond the size that anyone could manage successfully without the support of a technology infrastructure," Dybiec said. After evaluation, VCF implemented RETAIL.net, a portal/workflow module from Tomax Corp. (Salt Lake City).
Under its old business model, VCF's store managers were quite autonomous. Implementing an automated corporate communications system would impose accountability through process discipline and audit trails, making each employee's actions accountable. To promote rapid acceptance and use of the new computer system, the team highlighted immediate benefits to users. One was the reduction of operational redundancy, eliminating many tedious tasks that employees had to perform. To help employees embrace the system, VCF created an interface that was intuitive and required minimal training.
Create An Electronic Enterprise Link
VCF named its new system eLink. The system's Web browser-based interface forms a communication and information network used by more than 1,200 employees. The portal/workflow module of RETAIL.net is the basis of the application solution. It relies on Lotus Domino tools for the security and scalability that VCF requires. Because the company knows eLink will be adding new users and more functionality in the future, VCF chose IBM's RS/6000 server as the hub of eLink. An AS/400 with internal Windows NT servers supports the functions of each store.
In streamlining its operations, VCF targeted three major functions: internal publications, accounting, and warehouse. "We estimate we saved more than $200,000 per year in publishing costs alone," Dybiec said. Using the full-text searchable library function in the portal/workflow module, manuals were put online, and the departments responsible for the publications now update the information frequently and in real time. The eLink system also eliminated redundant accounting work across stores, saving unnecessary processing while increasing the overall accuracy of information.