|"Business goals may lead to seeing new e-business possibilities, and e-business possibilities may lead to new business goals. "|
Studying leading e-businesses shows what is possible with e-business today. Once a category or application is selected, leading practitioners can be identified by searching the Web or by reviewing leading periodicals. If, for example, supply-chain management is of particular interest, Dell Computer Corp. and Ford are good places to start. For CRM, Amazon.com, Cisco Systems Inc., and Ford are good candidates. For employee-facing applications (such as travel-and-expense reporting and knowledge management), Oracle and Ford offer illustrative examples. Business goals may lead to seeing new e-business possibilities, and e-business possibilities may lead to new business goals. I've mentioned Ford repeatedly to underscore a point: Your appropriate e-business strategy may be to pursue multiple e-business initiatives at the same time. Ford is successful with intranet applications such as employee reviews, sharing best manufacturing practices, supply-chain management applications, and customer-facing applications (including Web-based sales). Plus, the company has joined forces with GM and Daimler-Chrysler to develop an industrywide automotive-procurement electronic marketplace. The caveat before pursuing multiple projects, of course, is to ensure you have adequate resources available to support all initiatives. It is far better to succeed with one focused e-business initiative and then move on to the next than it is to fail with some comprehensive effort. Vision made real Although it is convenient to present the e-business strategy planning process in a linear fashion, the reality is, once the process gets started there is a natural give-and-take between business goals and e-business possibilities. Business goals may lead to seeing new e-business possibilities, and e-business possibilities may lead to new business goals. The key is to get the process started and let the vision develop as it may. Then, by applying business constraints (such as budgets, schedules, or staff availability), the vision is captured in a plan that details its realization. Executing the plan--implementing the e-business vision--is the final step in establishing an e-business strategy. The implementation should be managed with an eye toward the problems that particularly plague e-business initiatives. Technical infrastructure is one such potential problem. Of particular concern are performance, reliability, and scalability. On the other side of the fence, business infrastructure issues pose another frequently encountered problem. Fulfillment systems must be able to scale along with Web-based sales volumes, and customer-service staff needs to be ready to handle volume spikes, to list a couple of examples. When you get down to it, jump-starting your e-business strategy is a matter of common sense. The ultimate goal is to develop a strategy that's right for your business, so start by knowing your business and identifying your goals. You then can take advantage of industry experience to pick the e-business capabilities that make sense for your company. You also must make sure your e-business execution is properly supported. It may not have any mystical qualities, but jump- starting your e-business strategy will produce an e-business strategy that works for you. // Chris Pickering is president of Systems Development Inc., an IT research and consulting firm. He also is a senior consultant for the Cutter Consortium, where he has just completed a survey on the state of e-business. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.