The hype around e-business is amazing. Every vendor is an expert. Just ask them. One of the ways you can bring a little reality to this situation is by getting a fix on the degree to which your organization is ready, willing and able to run an Internet business.
Here’s the core of a little survey you can use (with further local elaboration) to help your management team to gauge the company’s capacity to succeed at e-business and to identify what needs attention to make that success happen.
• Has the business strategy placed the customers and their preferences as a principal driver of change in the company’s organization and operations?
• Have customer-focused metrics on e-business operations and traditional ones proliferated to support this new strategy?
• Are performance bonuses (for managers and staff) tied directly to customer service and satisfaction metrics in support of the strategy?
• Are corporate leaders knowledgeable about the opportunities and risks of e-business?
• Are they committed to the development and communication of a clear vision?
• Are they focused on creating strategic value with Internet-based technology?
• Do they understand the need to integrate e-business initiatives into the organization’s overall business strategy?
• Does senior management understand – and have they approved – an IT strategy for the company that will support both traditional and e-business revenue streams?
• Does senior management understand the information management implications of moving into e-business (e.g., security, privacy, data management issues, customer management opportunities)?
• Does senior management understand the need to create service standards for the company and its partners, and to install performance measures for all of the important hand-off points in its value chains?
• Is senior management committed to required changes in company recruitment profiles, management and staff training, and a competitive recruitment and retention strategy?
• Is senior management actively seeking answers to question about how e-business operations are to be integrated into traditional company operations?
• Do they understand that e-business is essential to the company’s success?
• Have they been seeking to take on new responsibilities related to e-business?
• Are they and their unions prepared to accept the introduction of multitasking, matrix management and team-based work into the workplace?
• Have decision structures and processes in the company been modified to incorporate e-business requirements? For example, is the business plan reviewed every quarter, not annually as before?
• Have management roles and responsibilities for the implementation and ongoing management of e-business been clearly defined?
• Can e-business technology and IM issues be quickly identified and brought forward for resolution?
• Have the vision and strategy for the company’s e-business objectives been drafted and communicated throughout the organization through awareness sessions and workshops for staff and management?
• Has employee feedback been solicited and analysed for the design of business processes?
• Are e-business activities shared throughout the company on a continuous basis, and are events highlighting the achievement of e-business milestones celebrated?
• Is a constant assessment of e-business results being tabulated and evaluated?
Once you get back the results of the survey, suggest that they be tabled for discussion at the next senior management meeting. To keep the discussion focused, get yourself a consultant that can command the respect of your colleagues. Have her draw her conclusions from the survey and share her analysis with the Committee.
Build into the consultant’s contract a second session (you’ll need time for some tempers to cool down) for the following week where the Committee will be responsible for approving a high-level plan of action to address the shortfalls that the survey identified. Have the Committee agree to send the plan forward to the Executive Committee for approval.
The success of a company’s e-business doesn’t begin and end with management’s commitment to stand in line for 20 big Web servers. All that means is that they’re willing to spend money. Succeeding in e-business requires a significant transformation of many of the company’s fundamentals. Knowing where the company is on the readiness curve is the first step in that transformation.
Chuck Belford is president of Management Smarts Inc., a Nepean, Ont.-based management consulting and training company. He can be reached at email@example.com