Q/A: Just (don't) do it
This is the last of a two-part series on the importance of formulating an e-business strategy. The interview was conducted with Chris Pickering, president of Systems Development Inc., an IT research and consulting firm. Pickering is also a senior consultant for the Cutter Consortium, where he has just completed a survey on the state of e-business today.
Q: What do you see as being the biggest barrier/deterrent to deploying an e-business strategy?
A: The rush to do e-business, to get on the Web-the "just do it" approach. This often comes from the "fear of being Amazoned" (as a colleague puts it), but it's always a mistake.
Also working against many established companies is a historically strained business-IT relationship. E-business requires good business-IT integration, but the fact is that integration is marginal at many companies. It's hard to leap from misalignment to alignment in one fell swoop. Nonetheless, good business-IT alignment, at least in the e-business arena, should be a major concern (to both business and IT).
I should note that business is pushing ahead with e-business regardless of whether IT is ready to go or not. When IT is not ready, the natural answer is outsourcing, and this factor is a major driver in the renewed interest in outsourcing.
Q: What sort of benefits can you reap by implementing an e-business strategy?
A: Improved business performance in the form of increased revenue, improved efficiency, or greater goodwill. Effective IT investment. Congruence between plans and actions. All kinds of good stuff!
Q: Name some examples of companies you feel have successful e-business strategies.
A: Cisco Systems, Dell Computers, Ford Motor Company, REI, Amazon.com, Priceline.com, Charles Schwab, eBay.
Q: Who in the organization should be responsible for creating the e-business strategy?
A: E-business is a business issue, so business should take the lead. But, ideally, IT should participate fully in the process. My research shows that business is in fact taking the lead: Respondents to our e-business survey said that business owns the e-business initiative in 49% of the companies, shares ownership with IT in 32% of the companies, and leaves it to IT in only 19% of the companies. E-business funding paints an even more dramatic picture: Business funds e-business in 59% of the companies, shares funding with IT in 30%, and leaves it to IT in only 11%.
Esther Shein is a contributing editor from Framingham, Mass.