Promoting a fancy e-business Web interface is little more than putting lipstick on the pig.
E-business requires close integration of the front- and back office with a complex fulfilment infrastructure. Supply chain systems based on standard pallets and regular patterns must now cope economically with irregular shapes, sizes and demand flows.
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Despite huge hype there is very little real business-to-business activity yet, and the basic models for achieving e-fulfilment still offer little pay-back. Corporate users tell me the quest for business value from B2B e-commerce is a chimera. They see only the Emperor's new clothes.
They see no clearly workable vision beyond achieving a few economies on routine purchases like paper clips. Well run companies with efficient electronic data interchange systems have little slack.
Take the options. Building your own integrated set-up is very expensive. IT suppliers are very fragmented in the e-fulfilment market so there is no complete solution. Outsourcing all or part is an option. But to whom? At what margin? With what flexibility? Especially for an international operation.
And e-exchanges are over hyped, over valued and hardly used. They focus on cost savings, not overall business value.
So think twice about B2B e-business. You can slap the lipstick on, but the pig should be too well sweated to allow real extra business value.