Surviving in the Post E-business Era

While the first waves of the e-business era have crashed throughthe business world, many companies only begun to get their feet wet. Moste-business initiatives are still tepid pilot projects and scattershotapproaches, said Ian Hayes, president of Clarity Consulting.

At the recent Brainstorm Group e-Business Strategy conference inNew York, Hayes and other industry experts outlined the next big wave ofe-business initiatives and how companies should manage immersing themselves inthis movement.

More than any other technology initiative, the emergingapplication service provider (ASP) and e-sourcing models for applicationdevelopment and deployment may help advance the cause of e-business, Hayespointed out. The "initial market resistance to ASPs appears to be dyingdown," he stated.

Challenges still lie ahead. "Many companies are accustomed tooperating their own software, and the ASP model is just too foreign tocontemplate." In addition, he notes IT organizations are hostile to ASPefforts out of job security fears. Concern about data security also looms as anobstacle. Hayes also warns that not all applications are suitable for ASP delivery,and that "the market is overloaded with weak ASPs."

Add to this the fact that dealing with ASPs is new for manycompanies, particularly for large companies accustomed to having all processingunder one roof, said Stephanie Moore, analyst at Giga Information Group."The Fortune 1,000 have not done a lot of business with ASPs," shesaid.

Management of e-commerce and e-business initiatives is also sorelylacking, Moore added. When it comes to Web implementations, companies “do notpay as much attention to post-implementation support as they would to an SAPimplementation,” she warned. Plus, there’s too much reliance on Web designfirms for soup-to-nuts e-commerce deployments.

"Web design firms are not management consultants," Mooresaid. "All have gotten into the strategy business because that's a bigbusiness. Some Web design firms have gotten in over their heads. We've seen alot of firms without the right credentials getting into consulting."Another alarming trend, she added, is that "huge projects are startingwithout contracts these days."

The result has been a lot of incomplete e-business or e-commerceimplementations where companies are left scrambling to figure out how todevelop and maintain the systems. That's why its time for a deliberate methodologyto manage the post-implementation process, Moore said. "Legacy integrationand application development are very difficult to do. I know of companies thatstill manually enter Web orders."

Options include "dumb colos," or dumb co-locationproviders, which simply host whatever the client company sends over. A newbreed of service provider, managed service providers (MSPs), offer network andinfrastructure support. Still, other service providers go as far as deliveringapplication development and management services. Companies in this space,however, have been struggling, Moore notes.

Now that the dot-com frenzy seems to have run its course,companies may be in a better position to sit down and plan out e-businessdeployments more carefully. As part of the dot-com backlash, "people haveslowed down, to take a more deliberate approach to Internet services,"Moore said.

These deliberations will take into account factors such as returnon investment. But measuring e-business results is another set of unchartedchallenges. Mike May, research director and senior analyst at Jupiter Research,discussed the growing importance of metrics in e-business applicationdeployment. "Metrics are not objectives," he pointed out. "Theyare a means to evaluate how well you are executing against your real objectivesof increasing awareness, interest, trial, and loyalty." At this point, themost prevalent e-business metrics in use include number of customers, visitsresulting in a purchase, average order value, and number of registered visitorsto an e-commerce site.

Brenda Lewis, principal with Transactions Marketing, said a majorshift is imminent in the wireless computing world, which many companies areunprepared for. The current standard for most wireless applications is WAP,which runs in microbrowsers and translates HTML in WML. But Lewis pointed out,"the most successful wireless application to hit the planet" isI-Mode, a proprietary browser from NTT DoCoMo, Japan's successful data service.The browser uses a subset of native HTML to "feed a very thin client withlimited real estate." Lewis notes that I-Mode "is proprietary, butnonetheless, a more elegant solution. We'll start seeing solutions on themarket closer to I-Mode than to WAP."


Clarity Consulting Inc.,Marblehead, Mass.,

Brainstorm Group Inc.,Northboro, Mass.,

Giga Information Group,Cambridge, Mass.,

Jupiter Research, NewYork,

Transactions Marketing Inc.,Greenwich, Conn.,