Introduction to e-Business

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As more organizations understand the importance of e-business concepts, the prefix e- may eventually disappear from our vocabulaI3'. Whether we want it to happen or not. e-business affects every organization. It is impossible to hide from its impact or influence in the marketplace.

E-business will remain very important to our organizations: however. understanding e is not as much of a challenge as we all might think to begin with. Throughout the rise and fall of the New Economy (whatever that has turned out to be), vendors and influencers in the marketplace have tried to keep the relevance of e-business 'hidden from the average Joe on the street. Much has this has happened because of the propensity of vendors to have solutions looking for problems, (Hammers looking for nails, as I like to call it.) Also. the media and the financial markets have head sway during this process, causing firms to take action just for the sake of it. The reality is that technolog3' and the supporting work processes that make up e-business are just alternatives. They can be ignored or they can be used but they are options, no more and no less.

Beginning with the fundamentals, there are three ways that we can do business: directly with consumers, commonly known as B2C; between business operations, whether in supply chains, partnerships, or development environments (B2B - Business to Business); and internally inside the organization (B2E- Business to Employee). Using e-business tools and techniques dramatically, assists organizations with the development and delivery of improved strategies.

One thing we do now know. is that the world will never be the same again for us, now that this technology is out there in the marketplace. The Internet has meant change for us, we have experienced the early years, but as James Champy. chairman of Perot Systems consulting practice and also head of strategy for the company, quipped at a recent conference "We are ten minutes into a 24 hour poker game." We have already had to change, but we are still not sure how much more is to come.

For any strategy' to become a successful e-business plan, focusing on the business in e-business is a great place to start. While that might sound trite, it is unlikely that e-business technology alone will transform your operation. Most firms that have been successful using these technologies have initiated change associated with their existing businesses and created opportunity through incremental improvements in operations for themselves and their clients.

This book is a good example of such a change. Traditional publishing models have followed a pattern unchanged in centuries. The book outline is prepared, a contract is signed with the author, and this is followed by development of cop)', editing production, printing, marketing, and distribution. Typical timelines arc around 9-12 months from beginning to end. Far too slow for some of the time-sensitive information contained in this series. So, taking advantage of electronic creation, production, and distribution technology., a new product, process, and business model emerges, one not bound b)' book- sellers, marketing timelines, and the processes normally associated with marketing books. This example, like most examples in the e- business catalog., does not mean that the traditional book market is going away. but in the same way that Amazon has changed the way that many shop for books, the other e-business technologies will create new options for the presentation and delivel3. of information.

Building business environments that are ready for change may turn
out to be the most important aspect of using e-business technology.
Managers today are faced with many challenges: paying attention to
costs and productivity while staying flexible enough to ensure that they
are ready for the next round of changes that markets and competitors
thrust upon them. In addition to being experts in their fields, managers
have to stay abreast of the most important technology developments, or
risk missing opportunities. Using e-business technologies and systems
can help in this effort.
Market conditions are changing faster than ever. yet our ability to
adapt and deal with these changes seems to be decreasing. Despite the
fact that information technology and e-business solutions that meet the
most complex business transactions are mature and available, the gap
between the organization that wins the first time out and the others
continues to widen. How can operations such as Cisco and Altra create
tremendous value using technology to support their business needs, and yet another spend millions and still fail to get it right? How can one firm by so immensely successful, while others fail?

One way to ensure that benefits are derived from IT systems is to focus on the most strategic applications and tie them into the way that the business is working and needs to work in the future. The development of new products and the promise of an Internet-based economy have all added to the confusion in the marketplace. Now more than ever, executives and line managers need to create game plans that will bring them successfully through potentially challenging market conditions.

We all understand the value of strategy to an organization, but the real value is not just understanding what strategy is, but knowing how to transform a strategy into results. Turning strategy into results requires expertise and techniques that leverage enterprise and individual business function skill into improvement across the board.


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