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Within five years of time, all companies will be Internet Companies or they wont be any Companies at all.

~ (Groove 1999)

Conducting an eBusiness Strategy
The approach is driven by the needs of the business. The project is generally short-term and very focused. The first attempt at an eBusiness strategy project can take longer, because it requires that the company have an existing statement of goals and objectives. If the company’s goals and objectives are not clear, it will be difficult to formulate an appropriate strategy. The formulation of the strategy comes from a series of interviews. The initial focus is on the business community. Start with upper management and work down to analyst level.
  • Executive Management
  • Middle Management
  • Staff
It is also important to interview the IS department to understand how the company utilizes technology to support its current business processes. Executive management interviews need to be short with clearly stated, yet open-ended questions. During these interviews, document answers to the following:
  • What are the company’s strategic goals and objectives? financial (i.e. revenue increases, cost containment, etc.) objectives?
  • How is the company performing against those goals and objectives?
  • Which functions in the company are working well?
  • Which functions in the company are broken?
  • Where are the process gaps in the current organization?
After completion of the executive interviews, present the findings to the middle management level and solicit their reactions.
During these interviews, document answers to the following:
  • Is there agreement with executive management’s goals and objectives?
  • What is needed to support those goals and objectives?
  • Are there problems with current processes?
  • Are there gaps between business functions?
  • Are current systems enabling better business processes?
  • Are current systems crippling better business processes?
  • Where do process gaps occur within the specific business unit?
Next, interview the staff. These are the people who know the reality of the daily operational processes. Solicit and document answers to the following questions:
  • Do they have the skills/processes/systems to support the company goals?
  • How are current resources / processes/systems being utilized?
  • What is working?
  • What is not working?
  • What do they need to support the company goals and objectives?
This interview process is iterative. It is important to present findings across all levels of the organization. The company needs to be in agreement about current issues and challenges, in order to facilitate future eBusiness prioritization decisions.
The next round of interviews occurs within the Information Technology department. It is important to understand the systems in place and how they support the company’s business needs, and how those needs will change and evolve, sometimes internally and sometimes due to vendor and buyer expectations. Secondly, it is important to assess the readiness of the IT group to implement and support the technical infrastructure require to implement eBusiness.
The next step is to perform a Gap Analysis of the information gathered throughout the interview process. Typically gaps can be found between the:
  • company and its customers (i.e. problems in the customer service areas)
  • company and its partners/suppliers/distributors (i.e. problems w/ inventory)
  • company and its employees (i.e. employees unable to access information)
  • workforce and its technology (i.e. many manual processes or workarounds)
The Gap Analysis will help identify issues that may be resolved utilizing eBusiness automation.
Conducting an eBusiness Strategy:
Recommendations for improvements developed during Gap Analysis form the basis for the strategy. The next step is to evaluate how to fix broken processes before applying technology as the solution. For example, a simple update to an existing application is much more cost-effective than purchasing an eBusiness solution to remedy the problem. After evaluating these fixes, categorize remaining issues into the areas of focus:
  • Customer
  • Partners / Suppliers / Distributors
  • Employees
The categorization allows the issues to be lined up against areas of business focus. If the goal of the corporation is to improve customer relationships, look more closely at the customer issues to be resolved. Alternatively, if cost reduction is a major focus area, begin looking at the partners / suppliers / distributors area. The next step is to evaluate whether technology will help solve the issues. Often, the business community will need to be educated on recent technical advances. The eBusiness market is evolving rapidly, with many new product solutions emerging on a daily basis. It is important to understand what is available before determining the course of action. Based upon the issues and the available technology, develop a potential solution list. This is not a list of available software, but rather a list of business solutions (i.e. automation of internal procurement, automated call centers, EDI (B2B or B2C) capability, etc.). Develop high-level cost estimates and potential Return On Investment (ROI) calculations for each solution. Finally, prioritize the solution list based upon business needs, ROI analysis, organizational readiness, and technical readiness. This prioritization will be used to develop the roadmap. The roadmap illustrates Solutions Implementation schedules over a specific time period. Concentrate the detail on the top few priorities. Remember that the priorities may change during the next eBusiness planning cycle. Look at opportunities that can be achieved in a 3-6 month timeframe. It is important to start with a ‘win’. The key is to move quickly, while minimizing the business risk. Minimize risk by selecting proven solutions from proven vendors. Select companies who have successfully implemented the solution elsewhere.
Strategy Development:
eBusiness is evolving at a rapid pace. Business changes every day. Technology changes even faster. The resulting eBusiness strategy should be dynamic and flexible, while providing actionable recommendations. Key concepts to ensure a solid strategy:
  • Use business needs to drive the project
  • Match technology against business goals
  • Build the plan in phases (Re-evaluation, Re-prioritize, Re-plan)
Plan Implementation carries high business risk. The cost of business failure is high. If a company automates its storefront and the system is unavailable, the customers may not return. To minimize the risk:
  • Use proven solutions from proven vendors
  • Perform diligent selections for eBusiness software and services
It is critical to plan for your eBusiness future. Don’t rush blindly into the eBusiness hype. Instead, move quickly to develop your eBusiness Strategy and then follow the Implementation Plan. Your focused direction will provide the basis for your eBusiness presence, while your competition will be furiously trying to catch up. Only successful im plemetation of ebusiness strategy can ensure Ebusiness Success
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