Business Processes

This chapter looks at one way information systems can bring competitive advantage through their effect on business processes. As you read, think about the previous chapter on competitive advantage. How are the two concepts related?

Sidebar: Reengineering the College Bookstore

The process of purchasing the correct textbooks in a timely manner for college classes has always been problematic. Now with online bookstores competing directly with the college bookstore for students' purchases, the college bookstore is under pressure to justify its existence.

But college bookstores have one big advantage over their competitors, namely they have access to students' data. Once a student has registered for classes, the bookstore knows exactly what books that student will need for the upcoming term. To leverage this advantage and take advantage of new technologies, the bookstore wants to implement a new process that will make purchasing books through the bookstore advantageous to students. Though they may not be able to compete on price, they can provide other advantages such as reducing the time it takes to find the books and the ability to guarantee that the book is the correct one for the class. In order to do this, the bookstore will need to undertake a process redesign.

The goal of the process redesign is simple. Capture a higher percentage of students as customers of the bookstore. After diagramming the existing process and meeting with student focus groups, the bookstore comes up with a new process. In the new process the bookstore utilizes information technology to reduce the amount of work the students need to do in order to get their books. In this new process the bookstore sends the students an e-mail with a list of all the books required for their upcoming classes. By clicking a link in this e-mail the students can log into the bookstore, confirm their books, and complete the purchase. The bookstore will then deliver the books to the students. And there is an additional benefit to the faculty: Professors are no longer asked to delay start of semester assignments while students wait for books to arrive in the mail. Instead, students can be expected to promptly complete their assignments and the course proceeds on schedule.

College Bookstore Redesign

Here are the changes to this process shown as data flow diagrams:

College bookstore data flow diagram (original)

College bookstore data flow diagram (redesigned)