Staff shortages to delay e-business projects

Companies that delay their e-commerce projects until next year risk locking themselves out of the market for 12 months due to a shortage of skilled staff, a senior Compaq executive has warned.

Stephen Kirchoff, vice president of strategic marketing for Compaq's enterprise solutions and services group, claimed that very few people understand e-business as a medium.

"In 2000, we are going to see a major shortage of these skilled people," he said.

"This is a critical thing for people to understand; if they wait for the year 2000 to go into e-commerce, they are going to fall behind. If they miss out then, they could be locked out of the market for up to a year."

Kirchoff said many companies were already "locking away" the e-commerce skills they anticipated needing.

Kirchoff also warned the greatest danger to any business rolling out an e-commerce initiative was maintaining the volume of traffic.

He claimed most Websites are not prepared to operate as 24x7 businesses, with systems and call centres rarely designed to operate around the clock.

Kirchoff added most sites are more successful than people anticipate, so often do not scale as required.

"Sites built for 100,000 hits that receive one million hits produce 900,000 dissatisfied customers which just creates demand for your competition," he said.

Kirchoff also described what he called 'the eight-second rule'.

"If your site takes more than 30 seconds to download, we now know that 30 per cent of your customers will leave," he said.

"It's not just enough to be up, you have to have a quality access site."

Kirchoff also said Compaq predicts 98 per cent of all systems that will be in use by 2002 or 2003 have not yet been built. He claimed: "There's an enormous amount of opportunity to be in the right place at the right time and we believe we are very well positioned."

A key response has been to reorganise Compaq from a structure of 120 country-based units to one with three virtual operating divisions based around customers: enterprise solutions, corporate PCs and consumer PCs.

After integrating its Tandem and Digital acquisitions over the past couple of years, Compaq now generates more than half its revenues from the enterprise solutions area, Kirchoff said.

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