Experts from academia are giving companies some lessons on business management, citing the ability to effectively integrate new technologies into enterprise products and services is key to doing business in the future.
Many businesses are still floundering in the Web 2.0 flurry and constant flux of technology, according to speakers at McMaster University’s World Congress on the Management of e-Business. The event highlighted the importance of a holistic and future-savvy business model.
Omar El Sawy, a professor of information systems and director of research at the Center for Telecom Management at the University of Southern California, said that society has reached a point where IT has become a part of the fabric of everyday life.
“It’s difficult to separate IT out from work now. Look at mobility, for example. It’s getting difficult to differentiate what is work and what is life. Or look at service-oriented architecture—which part is process, and which part is technology?” El Sawy said.
He pointed out that the last five years have seen the consumer providing innovation to the enterprise. “Social networking and wikis are making their way into the enterprise, rather than vice versa,” he said.
Said El Sawy, “As we go into this world, we need to think about how we talk about IT, information systems, digital platforms—we need to rethink how we go about doing this.”
Web 2.0, the mobile Web, and Web 3D all have the potential to be integrated into the products and services that the enterprise provides, according to El Sawy. A more evolved and integrated business model, however, is required to bring businesses into the future, he added.
El Sawy presented his VISOR Business Model Framework that aids in tying together the loose ends in many companies’ business models.
Targeting a particular customer segment is key, said El Sawy, especially in our tech-savvy age.
Revenue and cost model calculations need to take into account any partners that might be necessary to take on board.
Interfaces are very important these days, said El Sawy, as the competition for the many tech consumers out there is fierce.
Service platforms to enable delivery, and an organizational model to handle processes and relationships are the final two sections of the model.
Getting to such an evolved business model could prove a challenge, according to El Sawy. It requires a mindset change from information systems design to integrating IT with business processes to fashioning a business model that seamlessly integrates digital platforms.
One must also ensure that all the elements of the business model are working well together. This, he said, was more important than overly zeroing in on single elements.
Another change in mindset that has been occurring is a switch from products to services.
This is similar to the change in the IT workforce that is occurring simultaneously, El Sawy said. “Technologists are businesspeople and businesspeople are technologists.”
A company selling a product, whether it’s personal devices such as iPhones or a range of enterprise applications, needs to convey to the customer the benefits that product can offer them. The interface is also important, making it easy for the customer to use that product, said El Sawy.
El Sawy predicts the market will be moving towards providing a portfolio of products, rather than single solutions. He added enhanced partnerships between vendors could help facilitate this change.
New ideas were at the heart of the presentation of Harry Bouwman, an associate ICT professor from the University of Technology Delft. Bouwman spoke about his Freeband Business Blueprint Method.
Most businesses stagnate in the initial idea phase, and have trouble releasing a beta and rolling out a mature product, he said.
Even more troubling, said Bouwman, is the fact that companies that are able to release a solid product find it difficult to get established as they are constantly faced with emerging technologies and changing markets. Also often left out of the equation is the need to constantly monitor customers’ needs, he said. “You need to consider the user in context, and fit the product to their behaviours,” said Bouwman.
He said that many companies are failing to catch up with these user-centric times.
Poorly chosen partnerships can also erode a good business plan. Strategic partnerships are key, according to Bouwman.
“You need to consider why you’re choosing them, why they are relevant to your business, and what the entry and exit rules of the partnership are. It’s important that they understand what the implications are,” he said.