It's 2 a.m., and I'm wide awake in my hotel room. This trade show Shangri-la has everything but decent cable television. As such, I find myself watching a Don Lapre infomercial about making money through 900 numbers and classified ads. From where I sit, the fatal flaw with this plan — and almost every get-rich-quick plan — is that, by the time you see the infomercial, it's too late. I know someone who has made big money through 900 numbers, but he was in on the ground floor. A business based on classified ads might have worked at one time, but not now. By the time you hear, see, or read about a good business strategy, you are probably one step behind.
Now, within a week of each other, both Time and Newsweek dedicate covers to the "dot-com" and e-commerce phenomena. Here are two mainstream publications outlining a force that will profoundly change every business in the next millennium. If you don't have an e-commerce plan in place right now, your business could be in serious jeopardy. Face it, you'd better have more vision than the general-interest magazines that sit in a doctor's waiting room. Like 900 numbers, the time is coming when it will be too late to initiate an e-commerce strategy at your company. If your competitors aren't swiping your customers now, it will happen soon.
A Total E-Commerce Solution
Your company is not looking to move merchandise over the Internet like amazon.com. So what. Business-to-consumer transactions are only a small part of e-commerce. According to Forrester research, the much larger portion of e-commerce will be business-to-business transactions — more than $1 trillion by 2003. It's in this area where your company needs to have a comprehensive strategy that incorporates ordering, shipping, production, billing, and customer relationship management.
I recently served as a judge for the Microsoft Industry Solution Awards for Knowledge Management. The three finalists in each of the five categories offered 20-minute presentations. The eventual winner of the "Best Workflow and Tracking Solution" was an application developed by JetForm Corporation for Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services. Using electronic forms and workflow, Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services allows customers to find a new home, acquire a mortgage, and relocate their belongings through electronic transactions. It's a big change from pushing paper and mailing documents.
The implementation has significantly changed the way Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services does business. And, it's forced competitors to play catch-up. It's a story that is relevant to all of our readers.
A Business Revolution
All aspects of business are moving to the Internet. In the last issue of Integrated Solutions, Darryl Dobin of INSCI Corporation said, "E-commerce is one of those business revolutions that comes along very infrequently." He's right. Every self-respecting software company offers some type of Web-enabled product. The manufacturing processes of some companies are completely centered around electronic transactions.
The time is now. There is no tomorrow. Choose your cliché, but move forward with an e-commerce strategy. On the other hand, if you ignore e-commerce, you can always make a million through 900 numbers.
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