One of the fundamental concepts of electronic commerce platforms (like ServiceChannel), introduced in a very popular 1999 book Blown to Bits by Evans and Wurster, is that "e-commerce blows up the richness versus reach trade-off". First let me explain this trade-off and then let me explain how platforms like ServiceChannel have done exactly what Evans and Wurster predicted.
Explaining Richness and Reach
Simply put, "rich" information is information that is: extensive, customized, detailed, current and interactive between buyer and seller. A pretty good example is the kind of information you can now get from Yelp (and used to get from your friends). Yelp gives you detailed menus, reviews, real-time rankings, recommendations, etc. The same was true of the door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesperson. He/she gave you a customized demo on your carpet, told you all the features, who on the block owned one, and let you touch and feel the product. Alas, the door-to-door salesperson could not reach many homes in a day! That's where the concept of reach comes in.
Reach is simple--it is just the number of people that can participate in the sharing of the information in question. The concept of the trade-off between richness and reach is that before the world of e-commerce, it was hard to share rich information with a lot of people--that is, achieve reach. E-commerce changed all that. Yelp gives you a pretty rich experience about a lot of restaurants to a lot of people. Hence the near demise of Zagat. The door to door salesperson gave you a slightly richer experience than the Best Buy store and website, but not by much, and Best Buy reaches a lot more people more easily.
What Does This Have To Do With Facilities Management?
Facility managers of "fleets" of stores face the challenge of providing their stores, restaurants, sites with rich, customized, timely, responsive service, while at the same time providing this over a wide geographic reach of stores--national or international. Traditionally, this trade-off has been approached by hiring a big national staff, entirely outsourcing the task, or often using national or regional brokers who did some of the work themselves, but promised to bring a network of subcontractors to ease the trade-off and reduce the paperwork inherent in having many providers.
But with the advent of, and the maturation of, e-commerce platforms like Fixxbook (a rich contractor directory with reach to tens of thousands of contractors) and Service Automation (a rich transaction system with similar reach) the same phenomenon we have seen in travel agencies, commerce, advertising and many other industries is taking hold.
Facilities managers can use these platforms to build their own programs which involve many local, regional, or national providers and get the reach they need without sacrificing the richness of the service. The platforms gives FMs the ability to easily identify qualified contractors and transact with them on very detailed, "rich" transactions without being buried in paperwork. Today a small group of facility managers can manage a large national or international program, just as we can get on Expedia and create a customized trip in a few minutes.
Our goal is to continue innovating on these platforms to make it easier and faster and even more consumer-like to break the trade-off of richness versus reach for facility managers and contractors alike. This will allow both to use our platform to reach many more of each other, and yet still engage in rich, deep, satisfying transactions.