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According to Camarinha-Matos & Picard (2008), virtual companies or organizations can be defined as those organizations whose members or stakeholders are geographically apart, but work through computer groupware or e-mail while seeming to others as a single and unified organizations that actually have physical location. Kudler Fine Foods is one of the virtual organizations and is defined as a gourmet foods retailer that was started by Kathy Kudler in 1998, in California (Apollo Group, 2005). This organization offers a broad range of gourmet cheeses and fine wines organic meats, spices and exotic herbs, produce, seafood, and European-style baked foods. Currently, Kudler employs information technology in keeping track of the purchases made by customers in a daily basis.
Kudler uses cash registers at each and every store to collect sales data. These registers give a record of all items, prices, quantities, taxes, and the total sales for daily transactions. The collected sales data enables Kudler to be aware of the total number of sold items and therefore can predict well as far as future ordering is concerned. According to Kudler Intranet (2005), a database is kept with a number of tables comprised of customer information. The customer information consists of the demographic data for all customers who belong to Kudler. This demographic data is very useful because it allows Kudler to access both the addresses and names of customers for easier order processing as well as for special mailings that are intended for birthdays and anniversaries. Kudler uses a competitive intelligence process to monitor the performance, activities, websites, pricing strategies, advertisements, and many other pieces of information regarding the competitors of the company.
Kathy Kudler employs competitive intelligence process to monitor the products offered by other gourmet foods stores, the advertisements in the gourmet magazines, the presentations at gourmet conventions, and what come on the gourmet websites. By monitoring this current information, Kudler stays updated on the new products available in today's gourmet foods industry and therefore can better the quality of the current strategic planning. Kudler uses these progresses in information technology to make improvements and changes in the manner in which business is conducted, to enhance operational efficiency. For instance, the website of Kudler indicates that the current methods used to predict future inventory demands have not been very effective. The order system that is currently used by Kudler involves the use of a number of paper documents standardized and bought off-the-shelf. The store manager completes the purchase order form and uses fax, hand delivery, postal delivery, or email to avail it to suppliers. The document serves as the primary source for purchasing as well as tracking. Kudler needs to computerize this process of ordering for increased efficiency. By use of the up-to-date information technology, Kudler can ensure efficient services and therefore enhance customer satisfaction (Apollo Group, 2005).
There is need for the Kudler Fine Foods to invest in additional computer hardware for the server room so that all of the organization's data from various branches can get enough space to be backed up. It is advisable that the servers will be installed with RAID 5 hard disks for the data to be distributed across each and every member disk so as to avoid data loss in case of a hard disk failure (Thompson & Thompson, 2006). It is in the server room where the networking administrators perform most of the maintenance. There will be a need for a tape drive for the backups of every night because all the databases for the supply and inventory application will be stored here. These servers should allow for efficient data access by a number of users at the same time, for instance the Kudler Fine Food; buying, receiving, as well as parts department, are the application's primary users, which necessitates the availability of hardware to support up to ten users at the same time. Having two servers is a wise decision since the users will continue accessing data even when one of the servers experiences hardware failure. If the organization could depend on only one server, a hardware failure may discontinue most of the routine operations of the supply and inventory information system, and therefore will bring about inconveniences to the involved individuals. For the system to be successful, a thorough analysis must be performed to determine the problems that already exist in the current supply and inventory application of the organization (Camarinha-Matos & Picard, 2008).
The analysis can be done through discussions in the meetings which will be conducted with the accounting, purchasing, and receiving departments so as to address the particular requirements for the new inventory application to perform better. After the requirements have been arrived at, the senior management together with the three department's management must conduct a meeting to propose the solution so as to ensure that the requirements are agreed on. The solution will now be developed with client side and server side applications developed to suit the maintenance of the Information Technology, as well as to complete the three departments' client side applications, to enable data access. The SQL server will be interfaced with this application for the structure of database (Dewson, 2008). In addition to the client side and server side application, this database structure needs to be completed as well. Thorough testing must be done on the additional hardware together with the application before implementation of the system is done. The project's execution schedule should be managed by using time as a basis. A schedule is perceived more important as compared to the budget. For the project's budgetary constraints to be managed, the projected time and actual time will be used for cost and savings estimation (Apollo Group, 2005).
Kudler's Information Technology based solutions deal with the supply chain and related issues by allowing for the merchandise procurement to be cost-effective and more efficient, and dealing with their sale anticipating shortcomings by using the computerized sales reports. The solutions will enable Kudler's Fine Foods to serve the available customers more efficiently and therefore become even profitable.