An Overview of Overton’s Information Systems

Parker Overton started Overton’s twenty-five years ago with a simple philosophy of “growth and knowledge. ” Not knowing a great deal about sales or marketing he created his own mail order catalog. Very quickly he became successful and his company and his knowledge began to grow. Since then Overton’s has become the largest mail-order water sports retailer in the world. One of the reasons for Parker Overton’s success is that he discovered a niche market; the market for mail order water sports equipment.

Realizing that there are not numerous outlets for water sports equipment he recognized that many people would be interested in ordering such equipment from catalogs. Also, Overton’s has grown and adapted to meet the ever-changing needs of boaters and water sports enthusiasts everywhere. Today Overton’s sells “everything for your boat except the boat,” as well as clothing and sporting gear. 2. 0 IS Department Last year Overton’s mailed out over twenty-five million catalogs to addresses in over thirty countries.

With their corporate office and main processing center in Greenville, NC, they have managed to become a large international business. However, Parker Overton still remains in charge of his company as the President and owner. The Information Systems department (IS) at Overton’s has the mission statement of supplying its customers with excellent customer service. Their goal is that the customer be fully satisfied, receive excellent service, and a quality product. The IS department considers its customers to be not only buyers but also the employees, suppliers, and anyone that is affiliated with them.

In fact the manager of the IS department, Dan Hardison, claims that 80 percent of the IS department’s customers are internal, meaning employees in other departments within Overton’s. The Information Systems department strives to use technology to continually improve the processes within the company while maintaining high quality and customer service. 2. 1 Organization The Information Systems department within Overton’s is fairly centralized. All of the computers and servers are located in the corporate office except for the computers in the distribution center which are on their own T-1 server.

Overton’s customer service activities, sales and support activities, and marketing applications are all completed in their corporate office. The distribution center however, is connected to the main processing center through a wide area network (WAN). The Information Systems department consists of eight full time employees and four part time employees. These numbers vary slightly depending on the season and the projects at hand. Two of the full-time employees and one of the part-time employees are programmers that design and create new programs and systems to continually improve Overton’s efficiency and usability.

Their programmers write code in COBOL, PHP, Pearl, and a lesser known program called Python that is similar to Pearl in that it allows a program to compile at runtime. Several different databases are used by Overton’s including: MS Access, MS SQL (along with other SQL versions), and Oracle. This is one of the ways that Overton’s diversifies their information systems. By spreading out the number of programs used they become less reliant on a single software package. This is considered by the IS manager to be a great benefit to the functionality of the department.

Objectives As the manager of the Information Systems department Dan Hardison’s duties are to oversee the budget in IS and to advise and manage the IS department. Mr. Hardison is the authority to whom all IS employees report. When new programs or systems are needed for Overton’s Mr. Hardison supervises and authorizes their implementation. Mr. Hardison also sees that the IS department strategy is utilized and correctly incorporated into Overton’s business strategy. The main focus of the IS department is that their goals are in line with the corporate business strategy.

Overton’s business strategy is to continue to grow with the customers and meet their changing needs. 3. 0 Company Website Overton’s currently has three retail showrooms, one in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greenville. Greenville is also the location for the main distribution center, where all of the orders are shipped across the globe. The website for Overton’s plays a major part in their sales, accounting for 30 percent of their sales last year. That amount has increased 7-9 percent every year since its creation in 1998.

This shows that the Internet is truly the way of the future for Overton’s. The peak season for Overton’s is from April to July; during this time the website can receive 900,000 to a million hits a week. An estimated 90 percent of their business is done in these months. The conversion rate or purchase rate for the hits on their website is between four and eight percent. This is very significant since Overton’s average order is over $100. Not only does the site receive orders but it also provides customers with important information about products.

If customers wish to make purchases they can do so over the web, or by calling the 800 number. Their website, which is hosted by Blast Internet Services, (formerly Emji) runs on Linux. Blast hosts the website out of Cary, NC. Overton’s does most of the web design for the page, but outsources most of the programming and web functions. The web page also has a live feed for customer service. This feature actually allows the customer to chat or ask questions about a product and receive feedback in real time after they type in the questions.

Overton’s has done an excellent job so far of utilizing the Internet; however, in order to remain competitive they must continue to upgrade their web services and their computer systems to handle the large amounts of web traffic and sales data. 4. 0 Personal Computers Before 2001 there were no personal computers in the sales department. Only a few select employees used PCs, such as some managers. All sales transactions were done through dumb terminals. With PCs, the users can type in the order and the terminal relays the information or data directly to the point of sale (POS) server.

The credit card orders are taken from the customers and from the website and processed in batches three times a day. In peak season between April and July there are approximately 118 employees working on order entry. This means that 118 personal computers had to be bought and setup for Overton’s sales department. This was a large change from using dumb terminals. Dan Hardison stated that it cost the company approximately $800,000 to install and manage all of the new personal computers.

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