Gartner: Get over the e-biz hype

The hype over e-business is leading organisations astray from forming crucial integrated teams of IT and business specialists, a Gartner analyst has warned.

According to Geoff Johnson, research director with Gartner, integrated IT and business teams are an essential combination for getting an e-business plan off the ground. "E-business success is more to do with whiteboards and smart people in the industry than the technology," Johnson said.

Organisations need a balance of robust IT infrastructure, and strong business and marketing heads to execute a successful e-business strategy, he said.

This meant creative "tiger teams" and "skunk groups" -- which Johnson labelled the "pony-tailed, ear-ringed, T-shirted and sandalled set" -- should be outsourced by businesses to allow for specialisation in an e-business project.

"These creative people should be able to go off and do whatever they want, innovate and implement the processes to get (the plan) to market," he said.

On the flipside, the challenge for business specialists was to educate their organisation as to what their core business was about, Johnson said.

He also said that aspiring e-businesses should not define their market too narrowly, otherwise they risked not being identified as possible sales targets in the burgeoning e-commerce market.

Organisations also needed a "sanity check" or sufficient "latitude" before contracting e-business teams, Johnson said. "There's a lot of stress and anxiety that comes with change," Johnson said. "CIOs need to brief their peer group thoroughly about the possibilities of technology. Governance is the glue."

Freedom to innovate would also flow by forming an informal "e-business council", embracing members from all business areas to hammer out strategies and identify problems with the e-business plan before they became critical.

He also advised businesses to develop a culture focused on education and learning in a short, intense time period, and one that could bounce back after making mistakes in the planning process.

Yet despite all of his prescriptions, Johnson claimed e-business was no longer a "big deal" to the corporate sector. Instead, he predicted the year 2000 was the year to focus on developing e-business strategies. 2001 would see the industry hone in on implementation, he said.

Painting a domestic picture, Johnson said that Australia was at the trough of the "e-business hype cycle", due to the recent media focus on e-commerce as the "new economy".

The IT industry has been flooded with e-commerce information, peddled by vendors in particular, he said. "Vendor communities promote the technology, and the press (eventually) starts to question the hype.

"Now we're in a trough of disillusionment where the technology does not meet the vendor hype."

The industry was therefore in "recovery" mode in the cycle, according to Johnson. Organisations were realising that e-business boiled down to pure strategy, while e-commerce was about the machinery and platform for delivery.

"E-business is the wallpaper. It will be conventional business by 2006," he said.

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