Gearing up for success in B2B

Financial institutions are choosing from a variety of business models in their quest to emerge victorious in the eB2B marketplace, according to an Arthur Andersen research report on the financial services industry. The research showed that the market is so complex that no single model ensures success, and the path an organisation chooses depends on individual circumstances.

Variables that determine how an institution tackles a market include suitability of the model to the market, organisational or legal/regulatory factors, and the overall e-business maturity of the target market.

Almost three-quarters of North American respondents (compared to the total sample average of just more than one-half) feel that their Web model for clearing and settlement will be fundamentally the same as their existing model. However, key processing areas will need to change to ensure both operational and cost efficiencies. And it is not enough for institutions simply to focus on market-facing areas, such as marketing and distribution. To maximise the benefits of e-business, they need to embrace straight-through processing and other elements of straight-through business, including management information and reporting.

Rust-e-Research

Despite common misconceptions, most of the affluent in North America - those with investable assets of at least $US1 million -- use the Internet more than other consumer groups. According to a report from Forrester Research, millionaires research and buy everything from books and jewelry to airline tickets and groceries online. With a focus on value and self-direction, they are more likely than other investors to maintain accounts with discount and Internet-only brokerages. Retailers and manufacturers that target the affluent often adopt a defensive tone about the Internet. The research uncovered four oft-cited misconceptions about affluent consumers -- that they don't like technology, don't go online, don't shop online, and don't use the Net to manage their finances. Almost two-thirds of the affluent are technology optimists -- versus slightly more than half of the nonaffluent -- dispelling the myth that millionaires don't like technology. The affluent own more technology products than other consumers, including fax machines, projection TVs, DVD players, digital cameras and writeable CD drives, with the average affluent household owing two PCs. They also use their PCs more often than other users, with two-thirds turning on their machines every day versus half of the nonaffluent.

Regional job woes

Around 20 per cent of full-time IT jobs in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries cannot be filled because of a lack of skilled staff, and this proportion will grow to 25 per cent within a few years, according to IDC. The second wave of e-business adoption in the region will require heavy-duty back office enhancements and cause even greater demand for IT professionals. A survey of Asia-Pacific end users showed that about 75 per cent of companies had experienced delays in implementing new technology directly because of skills shortages, with many of those delays stretching beyond one month. The skills shortage in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) is causing a boom in IT training revenues, which are expected to rise from $US981 million in 1999 to $US2.58 billion in 2004, according to IDC figures. This represents year-on-year revenue growth of 21 per cent for this sector.

The skills shortage worldwide is causing additional headaches for the Asian region, but increased opportunities for individuals, as developed countries such as the US, Australia, the UK and Germany seek IT staff from this region. Malaysia is emerging as a strong IT base with its generally high level of education, available English-language skills and low labour costs. Several countries have elected to site call centres there. India, in particular, with its strong emphasis on education, is preparing an almost limitless pool of IT talent. But as competition for scarce global IT skills gets stronger, countries looking to import IT staff from overseas will have to market themselves as attractive career destinations.

And e-volatility too

In the next five years organisations creating an e-business infrastructure must deal with unprecedented business and technology volatility according to Meta Group. While business models are rapidly evolving through new forms of B2C, B2B, trading communities, and Net markets,, technologies and standards (such as HTTP, HTML, XML, Java, LDAP, and digital certificates) are evolving with extraordinary speed and partitioning infrastructure into more complex groupings with specialised components (more than 80 such components have been identified in comprehensive e-business infrastructures, including for example Web, app, integration and directory server; search engine; SSL accelerator; network load balance). Infrastructure developers must embrace such componentisation to ensure they have the agility to incrementally adapt to new business models and technologies. The bottom line is that users must minimise the complexity inherent in infrastructure agility by understanding the key components that most constrain other choices, as well as by organising component sets into reusable infrastructure design patterns.

Switched on doctors

The American Medical Association (AMA) released findings from its Physicians' Use of the Internet study revealing a 200 per cent growth in physicians' use of e-mail to communicate directly with patients in less than one year. Ten per cent of physicians are using e-mail on a daily or weekly basis to communicate with their patients, refuting the widely held perception that physicians are not Internet-savvy. Empowering the way physicians and patients communicate begins by providing them with the most authoritative healthcare information available, and extends to e-mail interactions and beyond. The study also found that the number of physicians building Web sites for their practices has doubled to more than 50 per cent in the last nine months, and currently half of all physicians who responded are using the Internet in their offices on a daily basis. This reflects substantial growth from less than a year ago, when a study by the American Medical Association showed that only 37 per cent of physicians were using the Web.

Variety the spice of contracting life

More than 60 per cent of long-term contractors signing up with Deloitte's specialist financial contracting unit, Deloitte Re:sources, do so because they are bored with permanent roles and are seeking variety. A Re:sources Contracting survey indicated that avoiding routine is a key motivator even for senior financial executives. Nearly half (48 per cent) of all respondents saw contracting as providing the necessary opportunities for gaining relevant experience, or as a way to "see what is out there". Of these 48 per cent, 28 per cent were relocating from overseas and used contracting to gain local market experience; and 20 per cent were wishing to transition into a new industry. A case study in the survey highlights a senior banking executive who wanted to pursue his desire to work in the IT industry, and rather than dive into a full-time position, he used contracting as a way of trialling the industry and employers. A two-month contract with a growing Internet company developed his industry skills and he has subsequently won a permanent role with the firm as a director and chief operating officer. The survey indicated that the chance to develop permanent positions out of contracting arrangements was regarded by 10 per cent of respondents as their primary reason for contracting.

Don't lose the remote

Rumours of the death of the remote control/remote access software market have been greatly exaggerated. While the market will experience another shakeout, it will survive -- if not flourish, according to IDC, which expects worldwide shipments to more than triple from 19,400 in 1999 to 60,000 in 2004. During this same time, revenues will increase from under $US350 million to almost $US640 million. As this growth occurs, however, the market will undergo another transition. The remote control/remote access software market continues to grow despite warnings of commoditisation and consolidation. The market is by no means dead, and future opportunities on the horizon mark another fundamental shift that will ensure the life of remote control players for many years to come. Remote control has already undergone several evolutions. These products originated as remote access software and soon became complementary components of enterprise management and help desk software solutions.

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