And we apparently have an insatiable need to use the Web to connect "every which way but loose"! I can't count the number of times I have been in discussions with senior business leaders who are adamant about developing or improving their Web site and visibility online. They say, "We need to move quickly to be able to do business on the Web, our customers are demanding it and our competitors are moving fast, Wall Street is demanding it." "We need to be an e-business! And we need to be one quickly!" These poor folks are hell-bent for election to become an e-business and have no clue as to what an e-business is!
When I ask the question, "What is your definition of an e-business?" the number of answers I get is directly proportional to the number of people in the room, sometimes proportional to the square of the number of people! Most times, the answers focus on the Web interface components of an e-business: the buying and selling aspects, the e-commerce aspects of the total picture. Rarely do I get an answer that truly describes what constitutes an e-business.
So, what is an e-business? And what does one need to do to become a successful e-business? What is really behind a successful e-business? Let me start by defining e-business in this way:
"An e-business is an organization that connects critical business systems directly to their critical constituencies (e.g., customers, employees, vendors and suppliers, business partners, channel influencers) via intranets, extranets, and the World Wide Web."
So, the buying and selling aspects, the e-commerce aspects if you will, are only the tips of the e-business iceberg. A true e-business is broader than that. It covers the full range of business interactions between enterprises using the ever-evolving range of electronic technologies. A true e-business encompasses all of the key business management processes: supply chain management, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, as well as all of the e-commerce activities.
The term e-business also includes many other ways businesses gain value from the Internet, including the following:
• e-commerce—buying and selling across the supply
• e-care for customers—nurturing and caring for cus
• e-procurement—facilitating alliances with trading
partners and streamlining the procurement process
• e-care for employees—increasing productivity, effi
ciency, and skills of employees.
If a company begins to implement Web-focused elements of e-business, the tip of the iceberg, without considering all the process and systems aspects, that company is courting a disaster much like the Titanic. When a company decides to become an "e-business," it is opening itself up to intense scrutiny by its customers and suppliers alike. Placing orders, tracing orders, tracing shipments, getting information, collaboration, etc.— all these activities will increase in volume and increase the expectations of your customers for faster and accurate responses. Your planning, inventory, billing, and logistics systems better be able to handle the load! Your systems infrastructure better be ready! In the e-world, people intervention, phone calls, or faxes won't cut the mustard. You will disappoint existing customers, and certainly won't impress potential customers.
So, having said all that, what is really behind that glitzy e-business curtain? Behind the mural depicting the City of e? By now it should be no surprise. I've been alluding to it all through my discussion. How many of you think you know the answer? For those of you still in the dark, let me tell you that to be a successful business in this New World of "e," you have to have a solid S&OP! That's right, sales and operations planning is the heart and soul, the backbone, of a successful e-business. S&OP is "the process with which we bring together all the plans for the business (customer, sales, marketing, manufacturing, sourcing, and financial) into one integrated set of plans....Executed properly, the SOP process links the strategic plans for the business with its execution....). Starting with a solid SOP process, you can add the essential building blocks needed for a successful e-business. So, I believe the wizard behind that magic e-business curtain is really Ollie Wight, and what I call the Ollie Wight Plumbing Chart. Everything else is just
the add-on of the information technology advances that have occurred over the past few decades, especially the last one.
To Be Continued
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