Web 2.0: New Opportunities for Companies


    Internet Strategy as a Competitive Factor


Web 2.0 and its interactive cap...
flexible pipes that could be marketed and used in
numerous applications. Even today, this remains the
core business of the...
specialising in small and medium-sized companies,
“Web 2.0 can help medium-sized companies to use
a highly valuable compan...
ies. “Communication on the Internet”, says Wester-
barkey, ”has its own laws; the customers and users
of our products exch...
phasises “that over all the years in this process, we
have yet to fall on our face”. Rather, communication
with customers ...
says he spends no more than half an hour a day
with Web 2.0 tools. After all, he doesn’t have to do it
all himself. He say...
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Westaflex E2.0 Tools

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Westaflex E2.0 Tools

  1. 1. Web 2.0: New Opportunities for Companies Internet Strategy as a Competitive Factor Web 2.0 and its interactive capabilities are growing in significance and are particularly relevant for medi- um-sized companies. Internet applications can pro- duce perceptible competitive advantages when used as solutions for marketing, corporate communication or knowledge management. Westaflex GmbH, loc- ated in the Westphalian city of Gütersloh, shows particular commitment in this regard. Gütersloh, Germany. Anyone who enters the name Jan Westerbarkey in the Internet search engines Google or Yahoo will see countless entries about a person who can be found in the widest variety of places online. This man twitters, blogs, chats, pod- casts, is on Xing, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and many other Web 2.0 platforms. Furthermore, he is extraordinarily active in the open source com- munity, which is all about free software – in short, we are talking about a full-blooded netizen. That, however, is just one of the sides to Jan West- erbarkey. In real life, he is the managing director of Westaflex GmbH, headquarted in Gütersloh. The company was founded over 75 years ago by Ferdin- and Westerbarkey, who was inspired with a new business idea by a patent that was new at the time. With his brothers Leonhard and Lorenz working with him as technical consultants, he used that patent as the basis for developing technically sophisticated,
  2. 2. flexible pipes that could be marketed and used in numerous applications. Even today, this remains the core business of the company, which expanded to become a holding in the 90s and founded two further companies in Salzwedel, Germany. Westaflex systems are used in applications such as automotive production, train technology (ICE ventila- tion), for the air supply and ventilation of living spaces, exhaust technology and water treatment, to name but a few. The company places particular em- phasis on sustainable, environmentally compatible processes and products, which are exclusively avail- able from authorised wholesalers (exhaust techno- logy and building services) or through two-stage dis- tribution (vehicle production, project business). “We provide good air and clean water. With use products made from aluminium, stainless steel and plastic to create living space” says Westerbarkey, citing the company’s slogan. Now, what does this business have to do with Web 2.0? Westerbarkey is certain there is a connection there, and market studies have also proven it: “Web 2.0 and open source software are not short-term hype, but rather are among the most important trends for the upcoming years.” This is why medium- sized companies should significantly increase their usage of these new World Wide Web mechanisms and turn their great potential for the future it into a component of their business model. According to Professor Manfred Leisenberg of the FHM in Bielefeld, a university of applied sciences
  3. 3. specialising in small and medium-sized companies, “Web 2.0 can help medium-sized companies to use a highly valuable company culture as a competitive advantage by connecting customers and employees via the Internet and generating enthusiasm.” Even now, companies like Westaflex GmbH are increas- ing their use of weblogs, wikis or videocasts as solu- tions in marketing, corporate communication or knowledge management. Furthermore, market pion- eers are also using Web 2.0 for improved product development, automated trend research, meaningful market analyses and more efficient marketing. “In contrast to the traditional Web 1.0”, says the aca- demic from Bielefeld, “the new ‘collaborative Web’ means that technical measures alone, such as search engine optimisation, cannot influence the popularity and presence of companies, products or services. Moreover, even today Web 2.0 users are already producing more marketing information than the companies themselves.” Leisenberg says that these new challenges have to be addressed, which can, for example, be done by integrating “social me- dia optimisation” into a medium-sized company’s Web 2.0 implementation strategy. Westerbarkey, too, stands confident: “We believe that the days of monologue on the Web have ulti- mately given way to dialogue, which, on the other hand, means that we have to react correspondingly.” For more than five years now, the ca. 350 employ- ees in Gütersloh have been encouraged to become familiar with and understand the Internet’s capabilit-
  4. 4. ies. “Communication on the Internet”, says Wester- barkey, ”has its own laws; the customers and users of our products exchange information, and com- plaints go public. One doesn’t have to find everything good, but one does have to have an opin- ion about it.” Employees should also actively parti- cipate in this exchange of information. Whoever so wishes, for example, will receive premium member- ship on Xing, a network for companies, for free. For many industry managers, this may still be un- imaginable. Online activities in which employees represent their own company on the Internet con- sume time, be it blogging, twittering or using social networks. One often-sounded argument is that there is no time for leisure during working hours. Wester- barkey, too, admits that this kind of online culture is- n’t for everybody, but rather has to be a good match for the respective company. One stipulation is that there be an open corporate culture in which employ- ees have plenty of room to make their own de- cisions. However: it is not easy for creativity to come on de- mand, says Westerbarkey. That’s why some of the contributions made to Web opinions are made in a calmer setting, outside of working hours. Nonethe- less, the tasks of a brand manufacturer also include monitoring the opinions communicated over the In- ternet, such as those expressed in blogs or forums. Those kinds of contributions are indeed made during working hours. Above all, the principle of voluntary participation is important. The company director em-
  5. 5. phasises “that over all the years in this process, we have yet to fall on our face”. Rather, communication with customers as a whole has progressed posit- ively. There have, although, been changes made in internal communication as well. There are more or less no more mails being sent internally. With “West- atwitt”, the Twitter principle has been applied to de- velop a service in which nearly all internal commu- nication runs in a manner that is quicker and less complicated. For Westerbarkey, having a uniform electronic solu- tion for order processing is a component of customer communication. To this end, the entrepreneur is a proponent of electronic data interchange (or EDI). For Westerbarkey, the myOpenFactory standard offered by RWTG Aaachen University is a simple way to make profitable savings in order processing, particularly for medium-sized companies. He is greatly committed to promoting this open source software, as he believes that interchanging PDF or Excel files has long since been an aspect of “the Stone Age”. Automated updating of all relevant data means that manual employee entry is no longer needed – this saves time and hinders transfer er- rors. As an advocate of electronic order processing, Westerbarkey is convinced that EDI is lucrative for smaller order volumes as well – both for one’s own company as well as for customers. With all of this online activity, is there time left over for the actual entrepreneurial duties? That, too, says Westerbarkey, is all a question of organisation. He
  6. 6. says he spends no more than half an hour a day with Web 2.0 tools. After all, he doesn’t have to do it all himself. He says it is at its most authentic “when the team does it”. 173 lines à 48 Contact Westa-Holding Jan Westerbarkey Tel: 05241 – 4010 GESAMTMETALL The Employers’ Associations of the Metal and Electrical Industry Printing free of charge, send your request for a free copy to: Arbeitgeberverband Gesamtmetall Press Office – Vossstrasse 16 – D-10117 Berlin

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