Muddling Through to a Disaster

FRAMINGHAM (04/18/2000) - In Brazil three weeks ago, 2,000 angry commuters set fire to a train after it broke down on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. I'm guessing it wasn't the first time that train was late.

If you've ever commuted in a big city, you've probably felt the same way. Under pressure, late, needing to get to work and to get things done. And the mechanism you rely on to get you to the job safely and on time just isn't making it. It's infuriating, whether it's the people, the infrastructure, the organization - something has stopped you dead in your tracks.

In the U.S., stalled e-commerce projects are causing a slower burn.

Management consulting firm Towers Perrin just released a study of more than 300 companies that showed that most just don't know how to make effectivee-commerce projects happen.

Survey respondents told Towers Perrin that they had some of the answers to vexing e-commerce problems but that their organizations were too fragmented to put them together.

A study The National Association of Manufacturers did of its 14,000 members found that 70 percent aren't launching e-commerce projects because of the cost and complexity involved. Thisin an industry that has yearsof evidence showing how much supply-chain automation can cut costs and improve customer service.

And what is business-to-business e-commerce but supply-chain management using XML instead of EDI?

Other non-e-commerce-using manufacturers recently told Computerworld that they're worried that trading online will force them to bargain more with customers or, God forbid, bid for business at auctions. Duh. That's what the Web is for: to put you nose-to-nose with your business partners. And if you don't get there, someone else will.

Stewart McCutchean, director of e-commerce technology at DuPont, put it bluntly in a recent Computerworld interview: "Somebody will step between you and your customer and [eventually] turn you into a commodity-based supplier."

That's where you come in. Or at least, it better be. Technology is what unites anye-commerce plan. That gives you - the technology people - the opportunity to play deal maker.

Identify key managers and executives and educate them. Don't sell them an IT project; make them knowledgeable enough to let them decide to move forward.

Identify win-win approaches. Internal politics can be nasty, but if you can show all your key players how they will either benefit directly or look good by cooperating, they're less likely to hold things up.

Become the driver of your firm's e-commerce projects. Someone has to do it.

If you don't get these projects back on track, the whole company may end up on the outskirts of dot-comville, frozen in place, smelling smoke.

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