Project Management Institute

Project management enables an e-business transformation


Jim Lesko is president of e-Business and TeleWeb at Xerox Corp. The global firm provides document technologies, products and services to help customers manage documents—paper, electronic, online—in an effort to improve business work processes and results.

As part of an aggressive turnaround plan announced in 2000, Xerox Corp. took a hard look at its business strategy. We recognized the need to leverage the power of the Internet to transform Xerox and gain a strategic advantage in the marketplace. Our goal was to utilize the Web more effectively to improve operational efficiencies, customer relationships, the development of innovative products and our time to market.

Enabling the transformation into an e-Business would be no simple task. Xerox had more than 100 customer-facing portals in more than 100 countries. Various business divisions posted individual sites. With nearly 80,000 employees worldwide, coordinating all areas that touch the “e” space was a daunting assignment.

The guidelines of project management proved helpful. A successful project manager defines goals, figures out tactics to accomplish those goals, creates metrics and milestones to measure progress, puts together a business case justifying the project and implements the plan. But it's not enough to get the ball rolling; the project must continually be evaluated.

The first step in organizing Xerox's e-Business activities was to bring together all of the “e” players and create an overarching e-Business strategy. We formed a senior-level steering committee representing cross-sections of the company. The steering committee is supported by an e-Business network of employees. Those employees come from information management, service and sales, global purchasing, finance, human resources and other major functions within the company.

The initial challenge quickly became apparent: Everyone had to agree on a specific understanding and explicit goals of the project. By definition, a steering committee is designed to engage various departments. However, not all organizations are equally invested in each other's interests. The key is to encourage steering members to think beyond their own areas of interest.

The newly created team identified three goals: Use the Internet to reach customers, improve internal and external efficiencies and create new business models. We recognized, however, that “e-Business” is about “business,” and while it may shape the specific business objectives, it is imperative that it aligns to the overarching corporate strategy.

We tapped the “e” players to identify the projects they believed made sense in their organizations. As a group, we selected the top 10 initiatives and agreed not to abandon the other programs, but to place them on the back burner for now. All programs that made the cut were assigned sponsors. Those sponsors are responsible for serving as the champions for what's become known as “the vital few.” Sponsors keep other steering committee members educated and updated on developments of the “vital few” projects. From that information, quarterly progress reports are compiled and shared with the entire e-Business network.

The e-Business steering committee identified customer care as its primary concern. We needed to manage the Web into a powerful tool to market our offerings and extend our reach into new geographies and customer segments. Research proved that the majority of our customers first go to the Web to learn and shop before making buying decisions. The steering committee agreed on the need for a central portal for customers to access information about Xerox.

In addition to our customer portal, Xerox “virtual sales executives” (VSEs) combine the power of the Internet with the ease of the phone to reach customers. VSEs work closely with the direct sales force in providing information and care to our customers.

Today, people can buy Xerox products and supplies via the Web, and they can take advantage of a host of online customer care services. Customers are able to check the status of their orders, submit meter reads and tap into a global knowledge base for product information and support.

As part of our e-Business strategy, we also looked to the Internet to improve external and internal efficiencies. Xerox has cut costs by moving purchasing of supplies and contract labor to the Web. Internally, we've found a variety of “e” ways to reduce spending. Seventy percent of our North American employees now book travel online. In 2001, that change helped reduce our travel spend by 44 percent. Last year, thanks to an online employee reimbursement system, less than one percent of Xerox expense reports were manually entered, greatly reducing processing costs.

The Internet also is proving to be a powerful learning tool. More than 75 percent of all sales training occurs online, cutting the time and cost of keeping employees well trained.

Although the project is ongoing, Xerox already has noticed benefits. In today's fast-paced, over-worked corporate society, getting a cross-section of employees to dedicate effort to e-Business is not always easy. However, when managing a project of this size and nature, generating across the board buy-in and remaining true to the agreed-upon goals is essential. PM

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