IT not to blame for B2B diasters

As the rose-coloured glasses fall away from B2B, companies realise that project success lies with business managers and IT should not be blamed for stuff ups.

While it is widely acknowledged that more than 80 per cent of IS-related projects end up late, over budget, lacking in functionality or never getting off the ground the 'good news' about IT projects that fail, according to Gartner, is that most are management-related rather than technical issues.

In the case of B2B projects this is definitely the case, John Roberts, Gartner vice president and director of research for Australasia, said.

He said IT's role is to deliver projects, not be the driver of B2B projects.

"The failure rate [of B2B projects] is due to not finding the right business model for all companies involved … [so IT] has a clearly defined project that can be delivered quickly. It is more often at the conceptual level that mistakes are made.

"A B2B project is slow to implement. It is like implementing internal projects such as ERP. It can take about two years and then there is the complex inter-enterprise integration between multiple companies, each with its own ERP system. This is never going to be easy."

Nevertheless, it appears IT prefers to be involved in B2B projects from conception to birth.

Greg Carvouni, CIO with the New South Wales Roads and Transport Authority, said in theory the business ought to be pushing for B2B. "In reality the IT department is failing in its task if it does not seek to at least educate, persuade, motivate and elevate to the CEO the benefits foregone through inactivity".

Ally Thorne, IT manager with The Wine Society, agrees. "My belief is that B2B is one of the few projects that are cost-effective when it comes to Internet and intranet projects."

However, Thorne said few operational managers understand the concepts or benefits of B2B and it is IT's responsibility to teach and demonstrate.

Roberts said that, according to recent Gartner research, about a third of e-business solutions are driven by an "e-business czar -- a strong business manager in a leadership position. This sort of person is required to drive the project through the roadblocks as a B2B project is about collaboration, [so] a company is never in total control of the situation".

"The first thing to remember about these projects is that good B2B relations [between companies] is vital. If it was left for one IT department to talk to another it would be a recipe for disaster as they would debate standards, not the business proposition."

B2B specialist Aseem Prakash said it is hard to identify the chief culprit of B2B "screw ups", but if he were to pick one it would be "e-sensibility" being dropped and "knee-jerk reactions" taking place.

B2B provides real payback dollars

Australian companies are missing out on e-business payback periods of less than a year and five-year returns of up to 1000 per cent on B2B applications.

Local companies have not caught on to possibilities of business-to-business (B2B) applications via wireless technology, according to Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

While these deployments deliver real returns to companies in the US and Europe by increasing productivity, improving cash flow and strengthening customer satisfaction, Australian companies need to smarten up to the idea.

According to Deloitte's report Mobilising for Margin, while B2C applications of mobile and wireless technology proliferate in Australia, global companies are focusing on deploying B2B wireless solutions.

Deloitte management solutions partner Brian Gillespie said Australian companies are using wireless as an interactive marketing tool, and have not yet caught onto the real value in using wireless devices as a tool to improve performance and efficiency.

"While B2C wireless applications like SMS alerts and SMS polling have been popular in Australia, with some excellent results, the B2B applications haven't quite got onto the radar screen," Gillespie said.

"With Australian cities so geographically dispersed, local companies can reduce costs by simply putting wireless devices in the palms of regional sales forces, field engineers or on the shop floor to speed the transmission of information back to head office and eliminate time-consuming paper work."

Gillespie said Australian businesses need to get "smart" about wireless and start thinking about how it can be deployed in day-to-day operations to improve the bottom line.

The report found that foreign companies such as Sears, RAC, Volkswagen and other manufacturers that had deployed wireless solutions showed payback periods of less than one year, and were forecasting five-year returns of up to 1000 per cent.

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