By Foo Yueh Peng, ITSingapore
April 2000 - The second wave of e-business is underway and it centres on customer satisfaction, said Jim Vogt,
president of Small Business Solutions at Nortel Networks at the recent World Summit of Small Business 2000.
While the Internet can level the playing field for SMEs wishing to embrace e-business, there are several challenges facing them. According to Vogt, with customers becoming more knowledgeable and larger distributors encroaching the SMEs' traditional market space, SMEs must develop online business models with viable value propositions instead of forming mere Websites.
"Companies that succeed in the second wave of e-business will focus on delivering a total customer experience by unifying Web sales, e-mail, phone, fax, retail storefronts or sales representative contact,"said Vogt.
E-business these days is about 'return on relationship' based on personal touch and giving customers a unified
experience by tying in the various communication channels, said Vogt.
As the voice and data markets for small and medium business market is estimated to be worth US$14 billion in 2000, coupled with a CAGR of 28 percent in the next two years, Nortel has introduced a slew of solutions for the five key sub-segments of small businesses, which in- clude Home office, Family-owned business, Efficiency experts, Revenue generators and Independent franchises.
While the Home office and Family-owned business require basic e-mail and Internet access and some level of office automation, Efficiency experts need LAN access, bandwidth optimisation and mobility. Products for this group encompass BayStack switches, hubs and wireless LAN products. The solutions for Revenue generators looking at expanding their reach through e-commerce include the 820 ISDN routers and 810 Web cache servers.
On the other hand, independent franchises can deploy Nortel's ARN router for data sharing in a WAN environment. Mobile entrepreneurs can utilise Nortel's Unified Messaging Application to deliver voice and e-mail messages in an e-mail inbox for convenient downloading and its IP Telecommuter to access the features of the main office telephone system while working online. They can also make use of Nortel's suite of network infrastructure to facilitate e-business and its communication applications will be able to meet customers' needs.
Vogt narrowed down the networking arena race to Nortel versus Cisco Systems. While he gives credit to Cisco for its marketing prowess, Vogt states that functionalities of the two companies' products are on par. "The battle for small business has not been won [and] if we cultivate correctly in the next 18 months, we will be 3 years ahead," said Vogt.