E-business: Not if, but when

At the Gartner Spring Symposium/ITxpo 2000 yesterday, three Gartner analysts discussed the future of e-business and strategies that companies must embrace to make e-business a success. Here's what they had to say.

How will your enterprise foster e-business? What technology will you need to make it work? What have successful e-businesses done that you can emulate?

Jeff Schulman, Daryl Plummer, and Al Lill, analysts with Stamford, CT-based Gartner Group, Inc ., tried to answer those questions during a presentation at Gartner’s Spring Symposium/ITxpo 2000 in San Diego yesterday.

The panel, moderated by David Whitten, Gartner’s senior vice president and general manager for research, presented strategies and projections for e-business during a presentation titled “E-Business 2001: Three Strategic Imperatives.”

Each analyst covered different aspects of e-business, but all agreed that bricks-and-mortar businesses must have an online presence to survive.

Echoing calculations made by Gartner CEO and president Michael Fleisher on Monday, Schulman said that companies that survive in the e-marketplace will be “hybrids” that mix traditional and Internet businesses.

He also predicted that a Fortune 500 company will promote an e-business manager to chairman and chief executive officer by 2001 and that the promotion might come from the thousands attending this week’s symposium.

“If that’s true…then this group here is the group that is best-positioned to become those future CEOs,” he said. “So congratulations.”

Schulman also outlined ways companies can approach e-business, based on how much they’re able to spend on establishing an online presence. For example, a company that has what Schulman described as “partial funding” for its e-business initiative might test the waters by establishing a committee to lay out an e-business plan.

In a discussion on the technological approaches that companies must consider for e-business to thrive, Plummer emphasized the importance of applications integration in e-business.

He also stressed that IT workers need to have a greater understanding of their companies’ business functions as well as the technologies that support these functions, but acknowledged that many businesses are leaning toward outsourcing their IT needs.

Also crucial to the success of e-business is the adoption of e-business platforms, which Plummer describes as “a technology-based solution to support the rapidity of change and the flexibility we need for e-business.

“If we don’t put this in place, we’ll be struggling with systems that aren’t flexible enough to change to fit the business need.”

Finally, Lill offered 10 common characteristics that Gartner has found in successful e-businesses. However, he tempered his advice with a caveat:

“These are easy to say, very very difficult in some cases to accomplish.”

Though Lill didn’t rank them in terms of importance, the first characteristic he listed for successful e-businesses is that they never extend a strategic business plan more than 24 (and in some cases 36) months ahead.

“When it comes to e-business…you have to bring the time frame in much closer,” Lill said. “The most successful companies that have made that transition to e-business, they have this ruthless, absolutely brutal focus on the 24- and some cases 36-month window for strategic planning.”

As part of that characteristic, Lill advised that companies must complete their e-business projects within 12 months. “If you can’t get the project done in 12 months, don’t bother.”

He also stressed that companies must meet deadlines every 90 days for such projects to work.

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