E-commerce waits for no one

To get down to the business of e-business, there’s one thing start-ups should keep in mind – business.

A recent panel discussion at SMART Toronto reviewed the best way to go about setting up an e-commerce site.

David Cvet, CTO of Telias Inc., a remote system monitoring company, urged start-ups to concentrate on a business model.

“Often you have the IT driving the business solution, but technology is simply a media for delivering solutions,” Cvet said. “Have a business model and use technology to further that.”

He noted that, in an e-commerce environment, companies will ultimately have to talk technology, but if they follow the business model it should be “easy” to get on the Web.

Joe DiSilva, vice-president of business development for Charon Systems, an e-business solutions provider, agreed with Cvet that e-commerce site owners need to think like business people.

“You need to put your house in order. Make sure your warehouse applications can handle service, calls and orders,” DiSilva said.

He added that start-ups can get caught up in the flash of the Web.

“People don’t want to come for a look at cool technology, they want to come for a service,” he said.

He cited Cisco Systems as a successful Web business and stated that it makes 87 per cent of its revenue through their Web site.

“They have a great service, great customer service and a great product. And I would not do business with them if they made it difficult to order on-line.”

If you are a start-up and do not yet have a business strategy, then your e-business is your strategy, he said.

Gene Amdur, vice-president of research and development for Nevex Inc., a network security product developer, suggested people build their infrastructure to be very flexible and easy to build on.

“Better to make it a building block approach versus a customized one at first,” he said. “Customized is hard to change and you are going to want to change it.”

The three panellists agreed that new companies should look to outsourcing some of their infrastructure needs if possible.

Cvet said people will want to build it all, but a partnership can get you on-line more quickly.

“I don’t have to worry about building this part because these guys have that specialty already. So, time-to-market keeps shrinking,” he advised. “What you build is a core company that has a core competency. If you can leverage existing companies, existing knowledge, then you can get out there more quickly.”

Cvet noted that many people will want to spend a lot of time building a huge infrastructure, but he stressed that the time to market is now.

They also urged people to spend the time and money on a good security strategy.

Amdur noted solutions are expensive and their design can take a long time, but the return on investment is that the right security solution can save a company.

According to DiSilva, companies who treat their e-commerce sites as part-time or unimportant will be the losers in the new economy.

“Some people don’t take it seriously enough. If they say, ‘We have some people who could look at it part time’ or hire a temp to be in charge of their site, that’s not the right strategy,” DiSilva said.