While e-business continues to mature and deliver direct benefits to companies there are some ongoing business challenges that need to be worked on if it is going to fully deliver the economy-wide productivity benefits on offer.
These challenges include ensuring that e-business does not develop in a series of silos in industry-specific supply chains, companies trading across industry sectors need to be able to exchange the documents which underpin common business processes. Ongoing efforts to reduce the cost and complexity of participation in e-business by small companies are also important.
The National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) is engaged in a range of projects to ensure that there is a high degree of interoperability between e-business solutions. In this sense interoperability is much more than a technical term, it provides the foundation upon which enterprises develop online trading relationships.
Standards that facilitate open and efficient document exchange will play an important role in interoperability. Australia needs to be engaged in the development of international e-business standards such as the ebXML and Web services movements. A trading economy such as Australia’s cannot afford to develop a platform for e-business in isolation from the rest of the world.
NOIE is working with Standards Australia and a number of interested parties from industry to pilot a public e-business registry. The registry will use the ebXML framework to manage variations and future convergence in standards. The objective is for a wide range of industries to access the registry to download electronic business documents such as the purchase order, consignment note and invoice, as well as electronic message envelopes to put those documents into and send between e-business solutions. IT managers who use the registry would avoid multiplication of cost and effort, reduce the risk of lock-in and encourage standardisation of business documents within supply chains.
Another project under way is the small business integration toolkit.
Interoperability is also crucial to government operations, as agencies look to the Internet to deliver integrated services. For these activities to be fully optimised, government agencies need to agree on e-business standards or frameworks. These frameworks also need to align with current industry trends.
Ashley Cross is general manager E-business, National Office for the Information Economy