Sunday, June 18, 2006
Widgettron comes to Latvia, 2007
This, again, comes from the hammock, what you see is our shed.
In the summer of 2007, the mid-sized European doohickey manufacturer Widgettron started operations in Latvia with a manufacturing plant and logistics center near Riga Airport. Riga was the first place where Widgettron would manufacture doohickeys in a major diversification move away from its traditional widgets. It chose the site because of Latvian skills in making ķiņkēziņi, which roughly translates as doohickeys.
Moving into the industrial park, Widgettron found a pre-installed fiber optic network and a web address to go to to set up and start the connection.
Plugging her laptop into the port, the new Widgettron Latvia SIA managing director Mara Zarina (Stanford MBA 2004, Riga Tech 2001) instantly got a menu that said: "What would you like to do today"?
Basically, it was a link to Lattelecom BPO, which offered her a choice of "build your back office" modules. Already there were 60 e-mails on Mara's Blackberry (courtesy of Bite), all of then ardently interested in buying doohickeys. So the first thing Mara clicked on was a set of windows for configuring a order intake and customer relations management (CRM) system. One would also need an inventory management system and, eventually, some kind of megasystem to run the whole Latvian operation and link it to the rest of Widgettron Europe.
Since Mara was setting up a new and largely independent doohickey business, Widgettron left it up to her to pick the IT solutions, together with Antons (MIT 2000), the CIO/CTO rolled into one (and speaking of rolled, he skateboarded around the largely empty manufacturing building, connecting doohickey assembly machines to the network ports in the floor).
By the summer of 2007, Lattelecom BPO, thanks to its cooperation with Big (guess what color), Larry E, Bill, the Germans and others could offer a suite of on-line, on demand business support services, most of them electronic but some involving staff such as call centers and web-based help services.
Upon closer examination of her e-mails, Mara saw that there were two huge potential orders. Bardakchik of St. Petersburg wanted 100 000 doohickeys practically yesterday for putting inside its matroschka dolls, and a Swedish company wanted the same for its line of talking stuffed reindeer. This meant there would be a lot of customer queries -- how do I make the doohickey sing in Russian or chatter in Swedish (or Lapp, for that matter, considering the most likely language of the reindeer)? So Mara immediately put in a request for provisioning of call center capacity in both Russian and Swedish. The appropriate toll free numbers, reachable by VOIP to Lattelecom's POPs in Moscow and Stockholm, would appear on the customer web-based order portal (these were being generated in Russian, Swedish and other languages using a toolset available from the Lattelecom BPO).
By the end of week one, Widgettron Latvia had set up, simply by using its fiber-optic connection to Lattelecom, a functioning CRM and order taking system, inventory and supply chain, manufacturing process management and an ERP metasystem from Larry (yes, Fusion worked at last) but with its on-line ordering portal running on something from Big Guess What Color. Also included were VOIP, e-mail and videoconferencing on demand. In fact, all of these services were on-demand with pre-signed service-level agreements.
And you know what, except for a number of local PCs (well, Intel Macs, Widgettron believes in cool :)), the company never installed a single server nor DVD disk with any of its core business systems. All that stuff was running, virtualized, somewhere in the caves and bunkers where Lattelecom, a company formerly know as a telco, kept its web accessible business operations services platform hardware.
P.S. This is a kind of vision thing, what is done in this fantasy is something all fixed network telcos will have to do or simply die.
And yes, I did have an interesting and visionary chat with those IBM honchos :).