E-Business is Dead, But Not Buried: Page 2

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Then, suddenly, the hemorrhaging began and e-business passed aged rapidly. Venture capitalists—the source of needed transfusions—began asking for evidence of profitability before injecting more money into heretofore bellwether dot-coms. And the dot-coms themselves had mostly bad news for Wall Street. By the spring of 2000 no one was willing to pay ridiculous multiples for the stocks of companies that could not say whether they would ever turn a profit. E-business the miracle-worker was growing weaker by the day.

E-business the miracle-worker died in the summer of 2000. It turns out that it wasn't magic, that it couldn't ignore economic laws, that it couldn't produce profits when costs always exceeded revenues. E-business the miracle-worker was mortal after all. May it rest in peace.

Long Live E-Business

E-business the miracle worker left its mark, though. Its virtues—communication and collaboration, 24x7 availability, a simple interface—have had a lubricating effect on business processes that is so powerful they have given a new life to e-business. E-business is different this time. It has been reborn as a business tool. No miracles. No New Economy—just a tool to be used when the job requires it.

And there are plenty of jobs that require it. The old jobs of brochureware and e-commerce still need to be done, as do the newer jobs of customer relationship management (CRM) and supply-chain management (SCM). Intranet applications, such as human resources (HR) portals and time-and-expense reporting systems, have proven valuable. Procurement systems linked to vendors' order-entry systems are another natural e-business application. These are all everyday business applications; just the thing e-business is good for.

Looking at e-business as just another business tool is a healthy and necessary step in e-business's evolution. As long as e-business was supposed to be magic, it was impossible to judge it fairly. Now that its mystical aura is gone, it is easier to see e-business for what it is. From this new vantage point—as an enabling technology for greater business effectiveness—the future of e-business seems secure.

Some still cling to e-business the miracle-worker and are trying to raise it from the ashes by calling it "m-business," for mobile business. But the truth remains the same—m-business or e-business, it's still just a business tool. Long live e-business.

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 written a survey-based report on the state of e-business (more information is available at www.cutter.com/itgroup/reports/ebustrend.html). He may be reached at cpickering@mail.planetkc.com.

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