IT Focus editorial opinion: Forethought key to e-commerce

IT Focus journalist at large Susan Maclean reports in her feature story, Finding your e-commerce formula, that more than half of Canada’s total business revenue comes from e-commerce. She quotes a Forrester Research Inc. analyst saying Canadian manufacturers are heavily involved in such digital transactions.

All the more reason for IT managers working at manufacturing firms to heed the advice of their peers and tech experts, many of whom suggest companies should be thinking ahead, and sometimes well into the future, when contemplating e-commerce endeavours.

CCL Custom Manufacturing, for instance, created an open data interchange platform to better connect with customers and suppliers. This Web-services-based system provides access to CCL’s production information, but clients and suppliers need not install hardware or software on their systems to click with CCL. In this case it seems the firm thought ahead and employed a relatively new communication concept with some success.

Forward thinking played into Ricoh Canada Inc.’s decision to implement an enterprise portal. Recognizing a growing interest among its customers in electronic correspondence, the company deployed an SAP AG solution that gives clients on-screen access to whatever Ricoh Canada information they seek.

Meanwhile 1-800-GOT-JUNK? LLC, a Vancouver-based waste removal company, employed forethought to decide it made more sense to build its own Internet commerce and communication system for customer- and partner-facing connectivity. The firm spent its time and money up front to develop the platform and now claims to have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.

South of the border, automakers General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG are also watching the road ahead. They see a crash looming as two standards-making organizations promote differing versions of XML, an important aspect of Web services. Car manufacturers are calling on standards bodies to agree to a single XML iteration, lest interoperability problems lock up the supply chain of the future.

On the other side of the coin, Ford Motor Co. might have benefited from a hint of restraint a few years ago when it decided to build an electronic procurement system around Oracle Corp. enterprise business software. Computerworld (U.S. online)’s Marc L. Songini reports the automaker recently decided to abandon the endeavour and return to its homegrown system. Ford reportedly sunk millions of dollars into the undertaking, dubbed Everest — perhaps a fitting name for a project that ultimately conquered the Ford team, just as the mountain from which it takes its name has claimed victory over many a climber.

Perhaps if Ford had thought further ahead, it might have realized the Oracle plan wouldn’t suit its future needs. As it stands, however, the firm has learned an expensive lesson: e-commerce success is as much a matter of prescience as it is a matter of efficient communication and potentially higher revenues. Plan ahead in your own e-commerce initiatives and perhaps your firm will reap the benefits this technology affords.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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