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28 June 2005
Newsletter Title: Extranets - Just What the Doctor Ordered

By Rebecca Cook

Dear Doctor Webb,

For the last five years I have developed some troubling symptoms, which are now beginning to make my bottom line very red. Half my staff are outsourced in different locations, using disparate computer platforms and I can't communicate with them properly. I'm forever running back and forth to meetings, ordering couriers, and my email is so choked up with document attachments, yesterday I had to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on the server. Is there a way I can bring my business back into line?

Signed Stressed & Tired

Dear Stressed & Tired,

You'd be surprised how many businesses have these similar symptoms. As organisations become more complex, you now need to consider partners, contractors, resellers, outsourced staff and other key stakeholders in your extended family communication equation.

The Way We Were

Once upon a time, a company had all its dedicated and long-serving staff at the one location, where they could all access the same information in the filing cabinets or on the local network. But with the global boom, this company's now got offices all around the world, and all types of new employees. Their IT department might be outsourced to another group, who are not on the same system, or they might rely heavily on resellers to move their product. These new variables highlight the critical need for the flow and accessibility of information to be uninterrupted, centralised and individual.

Extranets - Just What the Doctor Ordered

An Extranet is basically a private, secure link between two businesses using the Internet as the backbone. Users are given a secure login and password to access information tailored to their relationship with the Extranet owner. For example resellers may login to the Extranet and be able to download marketing and sales materials, while a supplier who logs in through the same interface can't see the marketing area, but can access an online billing and invoice system. All of this can be done regardless of time and place as it's online 24/7.

Streamlining Business Practices

Dealing with an increasingly disparate workforce is only one area where an Extranet can help to increase efficiency and cut costs, they can also help to reduce paper waste, slash the cost of face-to-face meetings and encourage immediate support solutions. Self-serve options can be set up, enabling clients to directly access answers to their problems, generate their own invoices and order products online thereby taking the pressure off your phone or administrative staff allowing them to get on with other work.

While slicing the cost of your overheads, the Extranet has the added advantage of personalising and customising your communication with your stakeholders - making them feel well cared for.

Strategies for Getting Your Business into Shape

Here's some options you could think about including in your Extranet:

  • Document libraries - Placing electronic documents in a central location that can be accessed online anytime of the day from any location will save time and money in printing, locating and transfer costs. The real advantage though is that documents can be kept accurate and up-to-date at all times without any further cost to the organisation. Data can be supplied so efficiently that businesses can now react quicker to changing market conditions.
  • Forums/ discussion boards - These allow you to build relationships with your stakeholders as well as find out valuable information about their needs and wants. It also gives you a place to collaborate with partners and resellers.
  • Project management tools including timelines, budgets - Transparent business practices will foster trust and even stronger relationships with your stakeholders. By publishing the status of work in progress to relevant clients, they can provide input at crucial points as well keep in touch with the developments.
Image: Arrow Editorial: We're back!
Image: Arrow Feature: Extranets - Just What the Doctor Ordered
Image: Arrow Launch: Telstra Online Billing
Image: Arrow Launch: 40 Hour Famine
Image: Arrow Launch: Goulburn-Murray Water
Image: Arrow My Two Cents
Image: Arrow Case Study: CPA Australia
Image: Arrow Other News from DDSN

Time flies when you're having fun... also when the workload is a bit overwhelming. Nevertheless, after somewhat of an extended break we've finally managed to reinvigorate the DDSN newsletter.

It's a really exciting time for us. The company is growing along with its client base, we're looking for people to move in with us, we're expanding our service offerings in several areas (hosting and information architecture to name just two), and the well known cm3 content manager is achieving success that even we didn't predict.

A new opportunity pops up every day. The only frustration is that huge collection of creative ideas and prototype projects sitting in the wings waiting for a spare moment to be dusted off to see the light of day. And that's a good thing... I hope it's the same for you, let me know.

Rob Wells - Director
(June e-news editor)

Screenshot of Telstra multimedia presentation

Telstra Online Billing Multimedia Tour

The Telstra Online Billing Tour is the first of a series of multimedia tutorials for the new telstra.com. The presentations including original design, music, and professional voiceovers, highlighting use of the new site features and providing online help for new users.

DDSN is an authorised member of the Telstra Web Panel, a select group of companies contracted to provide exclusive web development and design services to the telecommunications giant in Australia.

Screenshot of 40 Hour Famine website

World Vision 40 Hour Famine

This year's 40 Hour Famine website was built and launched on a rapid timeline to coincide with key marketing events. DDSN has been working with World Vision for over 7 years.

Screenshot of Goulburn-Murray Water website

Goulburn-Murray Water

Goulburn-Murray Water manages water storage, delivery and drainage systems, involving 70% of Victoria's stored water. DDSN has worked with G-MW for over 8 years. The latest re-launch of the website includes an upgrade to the newest version of cm3 content manager.

cm3 content manager - Enterprise content management without the enterprise price tag
  • Online customer/ partner support - Online forms for technical support can cut down on the time spent on the phone. You can also upload manuals, warranties and technical information to your Extranet for customers to access on a self-serve basis.
  • Marketing kits - Creating areas for resellers, where they can access promotional materials, price lists and product descriptions at a moment's notice will take the time and hassle out of their job, for which they will love you and sell more of your product.

Extranets in Action

It's hard to catch an Extranet in action, like the Intranet they're a bit elusive, unless you have an established username and password, but why not take a tour of the general admission areas of the DDSN Extranet ( http://extranet.ddsn.com) to find out more about the types of features and functions an Extranet can have.

Tell them the doctor sent you!

news in brief

Office space available. The schmick first floor of DDSN's spectacular offices in Chapel Street, Melbourne, are up for rent. We're looking for a company of 4 - 10 people wanting to work from a top city location in a high tech office. We have until the end of June to find someone or we'll be moving ourselves later in the year. If you're interested, please hurry! 
Read more about the office space here

DDSN is hiring. We're looking for web developers and designers with intermediate to advanced skills.
Read more on the DDSN jobs page

New premium shared hosting and dedicated servers. Thanks in part to an important new partnership with Destra Corporation our hosting platform has been completely re-designed with new and expanded services. Customers with business critical websites should check out the DDSN.netPremium hosting service and highly affordable managed dedicated server options.

New major version of cm3 on the way. The next major version (version 4.0) of the powerful cm3 platform boasts brand new author, editor, and administrator interfaces designed for speed and usability, plus the usual wide range of new functions.
Read more at the cm3 website

Welcome Dave Harding and Kim Dezen. Dave joins the DDSN team in the position of Business Development Manager. Contact Dave with questions and ideas about new projects or other ways DDSN can help you out. Kim's been with us as a Senior Web Developer for a few months now so this is a belated welcome message. Welcome guys! 

my two cents

One of the greatest aspects of working in the online space is that no two websites are the same (theoretically). Isn't it any wonder then that the diverse client base of DDSN has provided such a rich and rewarding experience for all who work here. In a knowledge-based economy we feel a bit like the lucky company in the lucky country. We love what we do.

Dave Harding,
Business Development Manager

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case study

Screenshot of CPA Australia website

CPA Australia - Information Architecture and Design

The CPA website provides over 10,000 pages of information to nearly a dozen major user groups. It provides both detailed marketing services as well as customer support mechanisms. Put simply the plan behind this project was to re-design the massive site for maximum usability. 

To achieve this lofty goal, DDSN led a qualified and deeply analytical user centred design process. The information architecture (IA) and interface design of the new CPA website was carefully constructed from an iterative series of focus groups, user tests, and expert analysis sessions, coupled with creative input from our design experts.

Read the full CPA case study


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