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eBusiness or eCommerce?

eBusiness or eCommerce?


Application of Internet and World Wide Web technologies could lead to a radical revision of the business environment. This is widely claimed and much talked about, but what exactly is the revolutionary possibility of the Internet, beyond current applications? What are the barriers to achieving these changes? And how does one set about using the Internet to enable a whole new order?

Defining and implementing these fundamental changes is a challenge that lies ahead for all firms, but first they need to understand the technologies, their potential and the implications. Cheshire Henbury's aim is to help companies achieve this understanding.

At the moment the dominant use of the Internet is email, while the World Wide Web (part of the Internet) can be seen as a vast and ever growing source of information (for the most part highly disorganized and unstructured). These current applications are best described as e-communications and e-information respectively. Yet the buzzword of the moment is electronic commerce (also know as e-commerce).

The UK Department of trade and Industry's (DTI) definition of electronic commerce is "any form of business transaction carried out electronically over public telephone systems". The European Commission similarly has a broad definition of electronic commerce – "any form of business transaction in which the parties interact electronically rather than by physical exchanges or contacts". While both definitions cover the whole scope of business activities, in reality electronic commerce usually means buying and selling via the Internet and the Word Wide Web. And the topic is completely over hyped, raising unrealistic expectations and promises of futures that are unlikely to be realized.

What the DTI's and the European Commission's definitions really point to is what IBM refer to as electronic business (e-business). At the heart of this is the move away from analogue towards low-cost digital technology and the linking of individual pieces of technology (PCs, embedded microprocessor system devices such as set-top boxes) via networks such as the Internet. Both developments enable functionality, ways of operating, and opportunities that are either new or which hitherto have been uneconomic or too difficult to achieve.

This broader definition has more profound impacts than electronic commerce in the narrow sense of buying and selling via the Internet. E-business potentially impacts products, business processes, strategies, and relationships with customers, suppliers, distributors and competitors. It also has the potential to blur the boundaries between industries and create new industries and sectors.

Cheshire Henbury's interest and focus are on e-business, and not just this narrow concept of Internet-based buying and selling. Our concern is to examine the topic from the perspective of changes to products as well as methods of working that are enabled by computer and communications technologies. We believe that it is necessary to examine how convergence between embedded systems and Internet technologies will enable new products and services, for example, energy management, home automation and remote monitoring by manufacturers of their products once installed on customers premises. New methods of working such as virtual organizations and remote customer support for complex products also needed to be considered. And these are just a few of the issues raised by e-business. Moreover we believe that it is fundamental that consideration and analysis of the strategic, organizational, human resource and supply/distribution issues raised by e-business should be undertaken.

All businesses will be affected in someway by e-business. However, those that are most successful at applying the technologies will be ones that undertake effective technology management. This simply means developing the ability to identify and implement new strategies, and to handle the organizational, human, supply chain and distribution issues, and to redefine their products and services.


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