AEC needed to determine what to give their clients, each which had different needs. They also needed to address the requirements in “Internet Time”, meaning fast or faster. Finally, AEC needed to ensure that data for the various clients was kept secure so that clients did not see each other’s information.
AEC certainly could have done a formal study with each of its clients and documented what was required. However, as Michael Shrage (2003) noted “Most clients neither know what they want nor truly understand what they really need. They’re ignorant. They don’t quite ‘get’ IT, and their grasp of their own internal processes is uncertain.” What AEC realized is that they already had the requirements form their clients, in the form of previous requests. While clients may be ignorant when asked for a formal requirement, they could be pretty good when asking for something they just needed. AEC could simply gather the previous requests together for documentation and analysis.
AEC already had a secure support site for the Internet clients where they could pick up documentation, see lists of industry top sellers and gather marketing materials (see figure 1). They needed their clients to feel comfortable with a new reporting system. As Michelle Champers (2001) said, “If you want your Internet channel to be successful, you need to create an experience that is understood and embraced by your users.” Building upon an existing internet support site was the ideal concept as it was already familiar to their clients.
AEC’s existing Internet Retailer Support site already had a mechanism for client based logins to limit access. When examining solutions, they needed to extend on this capability. Their now was a need to ensure that transactional data was available only to the appropriate client for both legal and ethical reasons.