ANALYSIS: Read Before You Leap

By Bob Lewis

Humans are stubborn. How many times have we unsuccessfully tried to install a new VCR, dishwasher, stereo, etc., and finally had to resort to reading the installation manual?

I know of many instances of IT Managers being handed an e-commerce project and blindly starting the system design and programming effort having never been in 'e-commerce land'.

Computer Technology Research Corp. (www.ctrcorp.com) has recognized this problem, and created a series of reports focusing on 'best practices' in the electronic commerce world.

Their latest offering, entitled "E-Commerce--Implementing Global Marketing Strategies," was produced to "help plan, implement, and manage a successful e-commerce business architecture for your organization." The initial chapters focus on e-commerce basics and business characteristics; the remaining chapters address segments of the economy where e-commerce is being implemented.

Some of the more interesting portions of this book were the e-commerce services listings, which described several dozen organizations offering tools and services to aid in the implementation of an e-commerce site. Other chapters deal with real-world examples of successful industry-specific e-commerce sites, including the Automotive, Stock Market, Financial Services, Real Estate, Travel and Transportation, and Retail fields.

The entire 240-page report is written in plain English--one does not have to be a 'techie' to understand any of the information contained in the twenty two chapters. For the real novice there is a glossary of e-commerce and Internet terms.

I spoke to Caryn Vedane, managing editor of CTR, who gave me a quick background on her organization. "Edward R. Wagner, who continues as the publisher/president, founded CTR in 1979. The company moved to Charleston, S.C. in the early 1990s. CTR employs a pool of writers, many of whom are consultants and experts in their respective fields." Vedane went on to explain that their reports target upper-level executives who are responsible for making technology decisions for their organizations.

She also stated that "future topics for CTR include the convergence of wireless technologies, next-generation e-business strategies, implementing ERP, Internet portals and how they are changing the face of the Internet, and security threats to the enterprise and the necessary countermeasures."

Their Internet home page is well organized, and allows the browser to select the category of information they are interested in, and all reports relative to that subject are displayed. In addition, CTR offers a monthly subscription newsletter.

Having purchased several of their previous publications, including such titles as "Electronic Commerce: The New Business Platform for the Internet," and "Extranets and Intranets: E-commerce Business Strategies for the Future," I can attest to the help they provided in avoiding 'design land mines', as we ventured into the fast changing world of 'e-commerce land'.

Business Research Group of Newton, Mass., reported that 42 percent of companies have implemented or plan to introduce e-commerce within the next two years. A recent Gartner Group survey of 100 e-commerce sites indicated companies spend an average of $750,000 just for the basic setup technology. With these kind of dollars at risk, the $185 investment for a well prepared 'traveler's guide' seems to me to be a good investment.

Bob Lewis is VP of IT at the FoodService Purchasing Cooperative Inc. (Louisville, Ky.). He can be reached at bob_lewis@fspc.com.