Next, although in reality many of these steps can be, and should be, concurrent, you must assess the readiness of your system infrastructure to support significantly higher volumes of e-business traffic. Customers will want to place orders and check the status of existing orders. They will make inquiries for product and technical information. Suppliers will want to interact with your system to exchange supply and demand information, to send and receive shipping and regulatory information. Your strategic suppliers and customers may want to collaborate on product development activity. Employees will connect to the system to interact withyour HR systems and to gain access to other company information. The public and the investment community will connect to obtain financial information. The list goes on and on, the bottom line being that your infrastructure must have the bandwidth and robustness to stand up to a significantly increased workload and to an ever-demanding constituent base. An action plan to
ensure an "e-ready" infrastructure must be part of the holistic strategy deployment.
A critical factor in the success of any project is to ensure that the group of people who will be impacted by the project and who will be involved in its implementation understand the what, why, and how of what is to be done. So, just as with the leadership team, it is important that your organization be educated and enlightened regarding e-business. Involvement of a crosscut of the organization during certain stages of the strategy development is often a very effective way of gaining buy-in and additional organizational insights.
The development of an e-business strategy is often done through the use of workshops. These workshops start at the top of the organization with an enlightened leadership team who can discuss and debate the attributes of e-business, and ultimately develop the framework for their company's e-business model. This framework is often fleshed out through another series of workshops, which involves a broader cut of the organization. The usual outcome of these workshops is a list, often a very long list, of possible e-business-related projects. This list must be prioritized. My recommendation is to develop a cost/benefits analysis for each project and assess each project versus the overall e-business strategy. The analysis should also be balanced with an assessment of the readiness of the organization and infrastructure to support each project.
This prioritized list of activities can be described as your company's "roadmap to e-business." Like a roadmap, it shows the point from which you are starting your journey and shows the critical landmarks and stopovers that eventually lead to your e-business model. In fact, using the "roadmap" concept can be a very effective communication tool to educate, enlighten, and energize the total organization to facilitate the journey.
Another key for success is to develop an action-oriented implementation team. This journey is not a part-time activity. It is a strategic imperative of the company and must be staffed with your best and brightest leaders and future leaders. This is not a technology issue. It is a business issue. In fact the technology issues are relatively straightforward compared to the business and organizational issues that will evolve. So, the team is best led by an executive from the business side of the organization. Of course, functional and geographic representation is also required, but the effort must be solidly business-focused. This group must participate in the prioritization process and help develop the roadmap. As the roadmap is developed, it should been done under the banner of "start small, think big, go fast."
"Start small" addresses the need to ensure that the initial steps on your journey are successful. Initial successes always go a long way in establishing credibility and generating additional momentum for the project. "Think big" ensures that your e-business strategy will evolve from broad-based, out-of-the-box thought processes. "Go fast" is self-explanatory! Companies need to have e-business strategies right now. Next year may be too late. The short-term push for speed may be coming from Wall Street and the investment community, but in the long term tremendous benefits and marketplace leverage will be realized by those companies that are first to market with e-enabled business models.
Last, but not least, all of the above can best be facilitated by choosing a strategic partner that can work well with your team and bring all of the skills and experience needed to ensure success. But I think I already mentioned that!
So at the end of the day, what's really behind a successful e-business? It is certainly not all the high-powered technology that we have today, and will have even better tomorrow. It's not rocket science! Quite simply, to be a successful business in the new world of "e," you have to have a solid S&OP! Unfortunately, many do not. Good luck to them!
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