Lack of executive savvy stymies e-business uptake

Despite the hype surrounding e-business, senior executives still don't get what it is or how it should be adopted.

That's the finding of a new report conducted by packaged software vendor Compuware and Interactive Knowledge On-Line (IKO), a local e-commerce consulting company.

Of the 470 people surveyed for the report - entitled "Bricks to Clicks - recharging the enterprise" - 20 per cent identified a lack of management education and commitment as the biggest impediment to business-to-business e-commerce.

"Senior management is saying ‘yes, we're going to be an e-business' without even knowing what it is," Peter Pritchard, marketing director at Compuware, said. "And they're still saying it's an IT problem."

Pritchard warned IT professionals working in such an environment faced a hopeless situation.

"Unless a company has made a commitment to be an e-business within three to five years, the CIO is on a ‘hiding to nothing'," he said. "They've always been told to run the infrastructure but now they're also having to be change managers and [if there is a lack of CEO backing] they will get their butts kicked."

Pritchard told Computerworld that a metamorphosis into an e-business required more than just putting a Web front on existing systems to enable e-commerce.

Instead, a re-engineering of back-end systems, processes and staffing across the enterprise was necessary to make it a true e-business, he said.

This, it is essential senior management drive those changes because areas that IT professionals have no jurisdiction over, such as finance and logistics, are involved, Pritchard said.

However, while companies should have a broad strategy for becoming an e-business, Pritchard said changes to individual systems and processes could be made incrementally.

But to do so, he pointed out, a standardised approach to technology is essential.

Pritchard also warned the rise of B2B trading exchanges would expose inadequacies in back-end systems and processes.

Aseem Prakash, chief executive of IKO, agreed with Pritchard, adding the B2B marketplace sector would start to consolidate in three years' time.

He also said the increasingly competitive nature of the B2B exchange market would see e-businesses starting to rely on services rather than transaction volumes to generate revenues.

Pritchard and Prakash said Australia has the opportunity to assert itself as the dominant B2B exchange player in the Asia-Pacific market.

However, he said Australia could no longer be satisfied with trailing the US and Europe in technology adoption by 12-18 months. wHOW TO BECOME AN E-BUSINESSInteractive Knowledge On-Line, recommends companies follow these steps to become a true e-business:

* Articulate their e-business strategy

* Define the customer value proposition and how that will be achieved* Identify the people required to fulfil their e-business strategy* Identify the types of partnerships necessary to fulfil their e-business strategy

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