EDITORIAL: The death of e-commerce?

E-commerce, and all its spin-off variations, arguably has the potential to transform the way in which you deal with your customers and they, in turn, with their partners.

But all the backslapping and "love your work" talk by vendors, integrators and customers will mean diddly if my hunch about shoddy Internet access and/or misfiring infrastructure is proved correct. We're already seeing it if you haven't noticed!

Sure, it's all well and good to develop and install state-of-the-art applications that allow customers to buy and sell goods and services over the Net. That's where the industry is inevitably heading, and those integrators and VARs that can get in front of the wave will reap grand rewards.

But as they say, "You're only as good as the team around you." And I know right at this point in time I wouldn't want to put my name to a crash-hot e-commerce installation when I couldn't guarantee 100 per cent uptime from either the ISP in question or any hardware or software supplier.

You may have read in the press recently the debacle that US Internet auction site eBay landed in (through no fault of its own, I might add) when its auctions were halted for almost 22 consecutive hours.

Thanks to a so-called corrupted database from its vendor partner, Sun Microsystems, eBay lost about 10 per cent, or between $US3 to $US5 million in second-quarter sales. Not a bad effort for just 22 hours downtime!

And no, we're not talking chicken feed here either. There aren't too many Australian organisations that could claim to have an e-commerce operation running at that heady pace.

So I wonder, as you all contemplate your strategies for e-commerce solutions domination, how much of a detrimental impact does Internet downtime and faulty infrastructure have on existing implementations and future sales?

If your customers are like most out there it probably doesn't rate much a mention on the Richter scale of interest considering they all want to be first with the latest and greatest. And, of course, you're not going to be the party-pooper who turns around and says, "Oh, by the way, you do realise that if your Internet connection goes down for any length of time your dreams of running a mission-critical electronic business will come crashing down just as fast?"

Well that's a distinct possibility, folks. On the local scene, imagine if Harris Technology, that online trading doyen recently swallowed by Coles Myer, were to fall offline for 22 hours? The retailer may have picked up about $500,000 worth of online business in February this year, but if it lost almost one day of trading that would equate to around $20,000 in revenue down the toilet.

You could imagine that Harris' value as a blue chip e-commerce reference site would nosedive if this catastrophe ever occurred.

So how can you, as integrators, expect to redress such predicaments and ensure that your customers can confidently implement your e-commerce solution in the knowledge that it will work - no matter what?

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be many courses of action available.

And while this ever-present threat continues, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a growing number of customers baulk at the chance to completely e-commerce enable their businesses. Why in the world would your customers put their futures on the line if they knew their links to the global economy could vanish in an instant?

Building momentum

The May/June issue of ARN Integrator received rave reviews. Our feature on the Clayton's service providers sparked tremendous interest, while our feature on doing business with government impressed a number of readers.

So just to whet your appetites for the September issue, ARN Integrator will expose the booming interest in virtual private networks, and estimate the impact the GST is having on ERP financial software developers.

We'll also be hosting the inaugural ARN Integrator roundtable, featuring the innovative minds behind the industry's most successful integration outfits.

So stay tuned!

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