IBM: E-commerce users face 'value chasm'

Australian companies are still crossing the e-commerce "security chasm" between having a simple Web presence and running basic e-commerce applications, according to an IBM official.

The most advanced corporate users of the internet are approaching a "value chasm" - a necessary period of investment that will launch them into an era where they can fully exploit electronic commerce for competitive advantage, said Tom Kendra, IBM vice president of software, Asia-Pacific.

These e-commerce leaders are to be found mainly in the US, Canada, Germany and Scandinavia, Kendra said.

Companies in Asian countries such as Japan, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia are still crossing the "security chasm" between having a simple Web presence and running basic e-commerce applications, according to Kendra.

"It will be a big breakthrough when companies can achieve cross-process integration," he said. "That will deliver the true value of the technology."

The internet and intranets are rapidly changing how separate processes - purchase orders, CRM (customer relationship management) or inventory control - are handled, Kendra said. Creating a workflow which can automate information delivery between these processes is a difficult but necessary step for companies to take, he added.

Areas that need to be addressed include security management, leveraging information with business intelligence software, integrating transactions and collaboration throughout an organisation, Kendra said.

"The power of IT is in the ability to share information and distribute learning," he said.

Crucial technologies for the near future include Java, HTML and particularly XML, Kendra said.

"XML is the technology that brings data to the Web," he said. "Some analysts think that XML will be as common by 2001 as relational databases are today."

Another feature that will emerge quickly is the use of EIP (enterprise information portal) products which are designed to do the same for intranet users as information portals do for Web surfers, according to Kendra. IBM will release its EIP product for corporate customers at the end of this month, he added.

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