A couple of years ago, e-commerce was just knocking at the door of the IT marketplace. Today, companies have shoved that door open and are walking through to discover new opportunities and new ways of doing business more profitably and more efficiently. If the industry prophets are to be believed, those companies will be joined by many others as customer demand drives e-commerce from an option to a necessity for success.
What does that mean to companies that are just now considering e-commerce or who have taken the first steps with a web page and e-mail? It means that you should view this as the opportunity it is, but you should also do your homework and make good, solid business-based decisions as you move into the electronic arena.
Outsourcing is expected to play a major role in e-commerce. Stan Lepeak, an analyst with Meta Group, predicts that virtually all organizations will be outsourcing some component of e-commerce. Many organizations will outsource the entire operation. What you, as a company, need to decide is what part of your e-commerce operation is suitable for outsourcing and what part, if any, you want to save.
Then you face another set of questions. What vendors have skills that meet your needs? Do you want to use one full service vendor or multiple vendors? If you go the multiple vendor route, do you want to manage the relationships or outsource the management? Consider those questions carefully, because the answers can determine whether or not your e-commerce experience is a success.
Business practices is a hot topic in outsourcing these days, and it is relevant in the discussion of e-commerce. Businesses need to be aware that business practices will change, and part of that change will be dictated by the demands of e-commerce. This evolution of the industry presents an excellent opportunity to take a new look at those practices. This new way of doing business may not only change, but improve the traditional practices.
Apart from selling directly to customers, e-commerce also offers the opportunity for firms to transact business with one another more efficiently and economically. The internet technology is enabling companies for whom EDI had been out of reach to take advantages of the benefits of trading electronically.
Those smaller players now have the opportunity, through e-commerce, to participate in the global marketplace. They can, through creativity and harnessing the power of the internet, move far beyond their potential of just a few years past.
Overall, the picture for e-commerce is rosy, although companies may stumble a bit in the beginning. The key to success in e-commerce, as in any other business relationship, is know your vendor well. And communicate, communicate, communicate.
As a note of caution, remember that typically it is unwise to to outsource any process or service that is undefined. E-commerce is in its infancy and just coalescing into the kind of definition and structure that can support an outsourcing contrct. Companies rushing to outsourcing should be wary of outsourcing any area where they cannot define the services and measure the performance of the relationship.
Finally, remember the truth that transcends every business relationship. In order for a relationship to be successful, all parties involved must win. Contracts must be structured with enough flexibility and mutual respect to accomodate the dictates of a constantly changing environment.
To look at the future of e-commerce and the role outsourcing is expected to play is to understand the excitement in a sky’s-the-limit environment. E-commerce and outsourcing are natural partners in exploring the promise of tomorrow.