For Cisco, it’s a natural that employees, suppliers must rely on the Internet

With 18,000 employees, you might think that it would be an administrative challenge to get an expense report processed at Cisco Systems, the San Jose, Calif.-based developer of products and software that are the backbone of much of the Internet.
But with a minimal amount of manpower, the firm is able to have expense vouchers paid quickly. Within three days of receiving the vouchers, the firm deposits the funds in the respective employee’s bank account.
It’s a simple system that somewhat relies on honor – receipts are randomly audited. But the main reason it works so smoothly is that Cisco makes good use of the system its livelihood depends upon – the Internet.
Cisco employees submit their expense reports via the Web, said Scott Brown of Cisco’s Wisconsin operations in Madison during a discussion with a recent TEC roundtable gathering in Milwaukee.
The firm does a lot more via the Web. So much so that Brown mused that the answer to every question at Cisco is: “It’s on the Web.”
“All of our suppliers have to be Web-enabled,” Brown told the group, noting that, for example, Cisco employees enroll in the firm’s benefits programs through Web sites. And because of the power of those Web sites, the need for live staff is minimized, he added.
Nearly 80% of help-calls to the firm are via the Web and not to live technical staff. At the same time as the firm has relied more heavily on the Web for customer service, customer satisfaction has risen.
Cisco has not only found that use of the Internet can make processes easier, but can also improve operations and competitiveness.
“I know today how much we have sold, not three weeks after the quarter ended,” said Brown, referring to daily sales reports the firm generates that allow for immediate response.
Overall, the firm attributes its Web activities to an astounding $550 million in cost reductions.
While most firms couldn’t enjoy that kind of cost-savings, Brown’s point is that every firm should be aware of the growing impact of the Internet on business and on life in general.
The changes are already affecting some businesses. Six of the top 10 airline ticket companies are now Web-based firms, he noted.
Electronic business
What’s what in the world of electronic business? Business owners want to know, according to results of a recent Whittman-Hart survey. To help people understand the new world, the firm offers the following definitions:

  • e-Business A generic term for high-value business activities that use electronic tools to help companies empower employees, engage customers and extend their enterprise. E-Business is the highest general term in the e-Business hierarchy.
  • e-Commerce A generic term for Internet-based business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions. Because it’s only one component of e-Business, e-Commerce is lower in the overall hierarchy.
  • Web-enabled An adjective for a business process or application that uses Internet technology. Interchangeable with Internet-enabled.

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