1 April 2001
Versatile Hospitality Bases Attuned To Business ( IT & E-Commerce )(HKTDC Hong Kong Trade Services, Vol 01,2001)
Vol 1, 2001
IT & E-COMMERCE
|Use of IT and the Internet allows SMEs to sharpen their competitive edges and achieve higher quality while working faster and better.|
"Hong Kong has a reputation and long tradition as a leading application developer in many sectors. For example, Hong Kong is a leader in software applications for banking, finance, insurance, retail, transport, logistics and telecom industries," says Hong Kong Information Technology Federation president Charles Mok.
"After the Internet arrived in Hong Kong about five years ago, the focus of Hong Kong's IT services industry shifted toward networked informational and transactional services," Mok says.
"Use of IT and the Internet allows our businesses to regain a competitive edge, so they can work faster, better and with higher quality. IT service providers must stand behind conventional businesses, so they can receive the support to maintain competitiveness. The businesses themselves cannot, and should not, over-invest their own resources to bring IT services in-house."
Usually, developing in-house systems is more expensive for SMEs than using an IT service firm.
"Larger enterprises drive suppliers and business partners to adopt IT to lower trade or manufacturing costs. So SMEs increasingly have no choice but to adopt the use of computers, IT and the Internet," says Mok.
In the past, IT vendors focused on servicing larger companies, not SMEs. This changes as the Internet age makes it more realistic for SMEs to seek IT solutions.
"Now IT service companies must learn to work with SMEs, cater to their needs, solve their problems and bring them applications and networks to reduce costs, expand market accessibility and enhance productivity," Mok declares.
|E-commerce and online selling are irreversible business trends proffering a range of tangible and intangible benefits.|
Corpmart.com Ltd, a one-stop application services provider (ASP) for SMEs, supplies communication platforms and software. It enables SMEs to establish corporate Intranet and communication platforms on the Internet, thereby boosting competitiveness and efficiency.
"Traditionally, SMEs are short of IT human resources and capital to build and maintain an IT infrastructure to fully execute e-business initiatives. Compared to large enterprises, they are at a disadvantage to capture benefits from waves of technology advancements. With us, SMEs enjoy the privileges of large enterprises in minutes," says Corpmart.com chief executive officer Wallace Ng.
Since many SMEs share the same ASP, costs for each client are low, compared to investing in a stand-alone IT system. "We manage and deliver application capabilities to SMEs from a centralized place across a wide area network. We replace heavy initial set-up costs and subsequent maintenance costs with low subscription fees," Ng notes.
"Our products and services help companies to focus on core competence and strategic objectives. We help save significant deployment time, lower risks and costs of software ownership and provide SMEs with access to best-of-breed applications and the latest technology."
Software and hardware systems integration solution provider Systems Scanning Ltd supplies Third Party Logistics Warehouse Systems, radio frequency-based Warehouse Management and Palm Computing, plus an extensive range of bar-code-related solutions.
"Our products and services target companies providing Web-selling and e-commerce, transforming from traditional warehouses to third-party logistics work-flows," says Systems Scanning director Terence Wong.
"Hong Kong's role as a trading centre is shifting to the logistics side," he adds.
WRITTEN BY LIZA LEE
THE Hong Kong government and related organizations play key roles in helping small and medium-sized enterprises use electronic commerce to boost efficiency and stay competitive in global markets, says Tradelink Electronic Commerce Ltd vice-president for corporate communications Kenny Chan.
The government established Tradelink as a joint venture with 12 private-sector shareholders (all major players in Hong Kong trade) to enable businesses to submit electronic trade declarations to the Customs and Excise Department.
The system saves time, paperwork and labour, replacing onerous paper submissions that created mountains of forms and long queues.
"Since all import or export shipments involve government documentation at some stage, Tradelink jump-starts e-commerce in Hong Kong by providing electronic services for the most needed government transactions," Chan says.
With 98% of Hong Kong exporters and manufacturers being SMEs and over 87% having fewer than 10 employees, Tradelink recognizes constraints on IT investment. Services and software are affordable and convenient.
Special initiatives reduce Tradelink start-up costs for small businesses or infrequent users. Low-cost packages include: SilkNet Service, ValuNet Service and Total Solution. Other services are Secure Internet and special facilities for non-computerized traders.
The SilkNet package for garment and textile traders waives a new-user registration fee, creating immediate savings of HK$670. ValuNet for general importers and exporters also waives that fee.
The Total Solution package makes e-commerce convenient and affordable with all necessary hardware and software installed in offices.
More information is available online at www.tradelink.com.hk.
SINCE launching in early 2000, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's Internet portal tdctrade.com has developed numerous features to assist representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises, no matter where they may travel.
Among the portal's many services, it supplies shipping and flight schedules, sea- and air-cargo tracking, logistics-services searches and travel-visa applications and requirements from more than 100 countries.
Manufacturers, traders, shippers, forwarders and consignees can utilize this quick and easy reference information. This ability speeds up the process of shipping arrangements and facilitates prompt delivery.
To provide such crucial information, TDC has formed strategic partnerships, including with the Hong Kong Shipping Gazette, Hong Kong Shippers' Council and Hong Kong Airport Authority.
"All these features, especially the Visa-On-Demand section, are ideal for SME representatives who may travel frequently," says TDC senior e-commerce manager Clare Wong. Supplementing the travel-visa forms and information are details on overseas consulates and representatives in Hong Kong, including phone numbers and opening hours.
Equally useful is the portal's newest feature, a mobile capability allowing users to click-in not only through personal computers, but also on small-handheld devices like WAP phones or personal digital assistants, so as to stay informed even while on the move.
INTERNET banking is the wave of the future for SMEs. Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp Ltd manager of commercial e-business Pricilla Mok lists the advantages of Internet banking:
- Privacy and confidentiality. No one can access information about a company without its knowledge and approval.
- Security controls protect tasks conducted on-line and all personal information entered on the Web site.
- There are substantial time-savings compared to visiting branches or making phone calls.
- E-banking improves office efficiency and facilitates accounts reconciliation via printing or downloading statements on-line.
- Cost-savings. Incentives and discount prices may be offered for on-line transactions.
- Conducting transactions over the Web is ultra-fast.
- Complete access control. Defining what individuals can do delegates authority and imposes limits similar to offline company structure.
- Use is easy and clear with simple user-friendly screens.
- Sufficient audit-trail records and controls on all banking transactions are created.
- Real-time information on balance, statement and trade positions is readily available.
- On-line banking transactions are confirmed immediately.
KEEPING up with the constantly changing lexicon of information technology is a daunting task. Managing director Chris Cheung from ITApps Ltd, a full-service customer-loyalty solutions provider, and other IT or Web specialists offer the following definitions relevant to SMEs.
- Ad: a company-related graphic or banner on a Web site that when clicked on takes visitors to another site.
- Clicks: a mouse click on content of a Web site that transfers users to another page or site.
- Click-Through Rate: percentage of Internet users who click on viewed material (a good indicator of content effectiveness).
- Computer Telephony Integration: an open interface between telephone switching equipment and computers. The simplest implementation is a "screen pop" where a customer's profile appears on an individual's screen prior to the moment a call is answered.
- Data Mining: the process of extracting previously unknown, useful information from databases, facilitating the discovery of hidden trends and patterns in large quantities of data.
- Hit: an action on a Web site, such as when a user views a page or downloads a file.
- Home Page: the main page of a Web site. A home page provides an overview and links to the remainder of a site.
- Interactive Voice Response: a system that answers telephones, obtains information from a host computer and provides information to callers using a recorded voice. Typically, IVR is used to generate automatic responses to callers.
- Sales Automation Software: technology providing sales organizations with the ability to gather, monitor and report on key sales indicators, enhance productivity and help management analyze each stage of the sales cycle. It helps companies to maximize sales, standardize sales processes and facilitate collaboration between departments.
- Server: a computer that hosts information available to anyone accessing the Internet.
- Visit: all activity for one user of a Web site.
- Voice Recognition: an application able to recognize callers simply by the sound of speech. Natural language voice recognition enables customers to use their own words to interact with a phone system.
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