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Sapphire 2001: The seven imperatives to making your e-business successful

ORLANDO -- The software is important, but so are the processes behind the business. That was the message behind...

the keynote address here at Sapphire 2001, given by Chuck Martin, chairman and CEO of Net Future Institute, a research firm in North Hampton, N.H.

"E-business is not e-commerce," Martin said. He defines e-commerce as just the transaction, while e-business involves the entire value proposition, from the product's inception to customer service.

To truly succeed in what SAP calls the "New, New Economy," the landscape after the dot-com shakeout, companies must keep seven key imperatives in sight: data, merging products and services, customer contact, customer self-service, making the process the product, enhancing the customer experience and engaging the whole business in the effort, he said.

"Use what you know to drive what you do," Martin said of data. For example, by adding a Web survey to your site, customers can categorize themselves into marketing tiers.

Second, "erase the line between products and services," he said. The value shift dictates that companies should include services with their products. For example, Wal-Mart has begun selling real estate.

Companies should also make each relationship as different as each customer on the customer contact side, and put the customers to work with self-service, Martin said. But Martin cautioned not to take this advice too far and make the same mistake as Southern California Edison, which told people to go to its Web site to report power outages. It can be pretty tough to report a power outage via a Web site when your computer won't power up, he said.

Fifth, the process should become the product, as with Amazon.com's purchasing circles, where customers can view the best-selling products by geography or company. The sixth imperative relates by tying an enhanced experience to the brand. That can be seen when a person "Amazons" something. This refers to the experience of selecting, buying and receiving the book, which can be a very easy due to Amazon's Web store. In that case, the sale isn't about the actual book; it's about the experience of reliable vendors.

Lastly, the entire business needs to be responsible for efforts with the customers. Even IT and marketing need to partner, Martin said.

The New, New Economy "is about customers, it's about information, it's about leadership," Martin said.

Overall, attendees were interested in Martin's message. The data and trend information was useful, according to Anders Afsar, managing director at KPMG Mexico.

Martin's speech tied into the SAP vision of connecting with customers through a unified value chain, Afsar said.

Scott Noeth, a programmer at Borden Chemical, appreciated Martin's "different way of thinking and perspective." The conception of how everything in a business is linked from beginning to end was useful, Noeth said. It is important that everything is linked together, from business to customer service, which ties into SAP's vision.

Marie Miller plans to bring Martin's ideas of e-business back to her company, Walt Disney World, where she is a manager of financial systems. "It relates to all of mySAP and connecting to the Web," she said of Martin's keynote.

SAP's CRM modules seem to work with Martin's vision of the New, New Economy, since they have collaborative functionality for both inside and outside companies, Noeth said.

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