The Nine Deadly Sins of e-Business

Although e-business doesn't have the traditional "deadly sins " of Islam or Christianity, Viewlocity's experience reveals that e-business has nine "sins" all its own that plague the virtual marketplace.

Although e-business doesn't have the traditional "deadly sins " of Islam or Christianity, Viewlocity's experience reveals that e-business has nine "sins" all its own that plague the virtual marketplace.

1. Underestimating Complexity

2. Ignoring the Power of Legacy

3. Lulled by Standards

4. Technology before Business Strategy

5. Planning for a Perfect World

6. Getting High from Quick Fixes

7. Biting off More Than You can Chew

8. Enjoying Enterprise Vanity

9. Ignoring the Bottom Line

1. Underestimating Complexity

Organizations need to strike a constant balance between business strategy, organizational readiness and emerging technologies. Today's companies must be aware of the changing landscape, conditions and business requirements. Supply chains are morphing and becoming much more complex with an exploding constituency. The expanding supply chain is opening up traditional business and technical vaults to new customers, suppliers and trading partners. Correspondingly, advances in technology have created a shrinking shelf life for enabling technologies.

2. Ignoring the Power of Legacy

Supply chain and legacy go hand in hand. Just because a system is old doesn't mean it should be ignored or thrown away. Companies will not write-off previous technology investments in the absence of a significant value proposition -- a guaranteed return on investment. Even if you don't have legacy issues, your trading partners will.

3. Lulled by Standards

Today there are as many standards as there are acronyms -- it's an alphabet soup out there. Like opinions, everyone has a favorite standard. Lately the hot one has been XML- eXtensible Markup Language -- the "universal" format for structured documents or data on the web. While we believe that XML will revolutionize the industry over time, it does have shortcomings that must be considered. Companies should consider XML as a rapidly evolving requirement, not an immediate solution. You still have to deal with EDI, legacy, ERP and other applications -- and will for a considerable period of time. The focus should be on the process of integration not the event. XML doesn't yet have a set of recognized standards and until there are standards, there will be the issue of dealing with other interfaces (EDI, legacy, ERP, CRM, etc.). However, generally, XML does offer more flexibility and extensibility than traditional messaging or middleware communications, so it's definitely an option to consider for the future.

4. Technology before Business Strategy

In your rush to integrate don't forget the true purpose of integration -- business value. Technology is fickle; companies can't afford to be. Make sure that your IT is an enabler not an inhibitor. Look for an integration solution that covers all the steps across the integration spectrum from simple to complex -- one that allows a company to expand its B2B relationships while leveraging and integrating its current IT infrastructures. The bottom line is that inter- and intra-enterprise application integration and management is a critical factor for success.

5. Planning for a Perfect World

Ivory tower designs never function in the real world. If training means learning the rules, then experience means learning the exceptions. We all know that change is the only constant. Since you can't force everyone to speak your "language," implementations must be able to manage and handle exceptions. You can't control everything single-handedly. To succeed in the real world you have to share control with your trading partners.

6. Getting High from Quick Fixes

Integration is no longer something to be tinkered with in a company's spare time. It's mission critical for establishing a firm e-business foundation. The temptations for a quick IT fix are very strong, the patch-the-hole-as-you-go approach. Short-term solutions can lead to short term disasters. The absence of a well-thought out strategy will give rise to IT anarchy and "spaghetti IT" -- a set of isolated, non-integrated application islands supported by a spaghetti infrastructure of point-to-point custom integration linkages that are expensive, fragile, non-maintainable and non-extensible. This type of technology is a barrier to communication and connectivity. Companies need a flexible integration framework to quickly adapt to their trading partners' demands.

7. Biting off More Than You can Chew

Think big, but also think smart. Begin a project with a definite end in mind. Choose a reasonable start time and a reasonable project deadline. Plan carefully and define the process's complexity. Have a road map. Make sure every step is a foundation for the next. Maintain an organizational dashboard and a scorecard for success. Understand that there are usually several challenges to the project's completion: misunderstanding details, change in management, technology feature and solution scalability limitations, incomplete or poor information, limited compliance and corporate buy-in and cost overruns.

8. Enjoying Enterprise Vanity

Participation in e-marketplaces is fundamental to a company's success. Organizational silos and serialized business processes will adversely affect existing business. Technology benchmarks are being broken every day and clinging to outmoded technology, just because you've always done it that way, lessens a company's growth and success potential. Today a company's power and influence is measure by its ability to communicate and collaborate with its trading partners. The goal is to optimize the trading community, not the individual business. Companies must monitor and manage actual events in real time rather than identify, interpret and react to event exceptions after they happen.

And the biggest sin of all --

9. Ignoring the Bottom Line

E-business integration is about value creation; it's not an investment for technology's sake. The goal of every company is to increase the bottom line by: increasing revenue, decreasing COGS, decreasing operating costs, reducing working capital and reducing fixed costs. The strategies of e-business integration for maximizing value are: reducing inventories, reducing time-to-market, improving asset utilization, reducing costs of people, process and technology, reducing cost of input, improving customer satisfaction and increasing fill rate. The key to a company's competitive success will be the ability to handle the demands of customers, partners, suppliers and internal demands. The company of the future will act in conjunction with its trading partners in a collaborative e-business network, or it won't be in business.

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