I'm not usually a great fan of mantras being concocted to prepare companies for the e-transition. But a few thoughts from the recent summit held in the US by analyst firm The Delphi Group struck a chord.
According to James Champy, president of service provider Perot Systems and one of the key figures in the Metalsite business-to-business venture, there are four Ps on which to base progress.
The first, fundamental P is 'Proposition' - what is your value proposition to the customer? Or from the customer's point of view, "Why should I visit your site above anyone else's?"
The second concerns 'Participation' - what are your choices about participating in a business-to-business marketplace? In other words, will you form an exchange, partner with a competitor, or shun both until the business model shakes out more?
'Process' is about understanding and controlling the kinds of processes that construct the e-economy. There are three of these: identity processes, which are those performed to create uniqueness; co-operating processes - those you perform jointly with others; and commodity processes - those that others perform for you.
The last P stands for 'Preparedness': how do you create an organisation nimble enough to respond to current issues, that can act on its instincts and do the right thing?
And what do all these mean? That companies have to get back to basics and ensure a sound, desirable value proposition for the business. They must develop more discipline around the way they think about process and, if necessary, give up total control of those processes.
The more enlightened companies will be thinking about what makes them unique in what they deliver, while outsourcing the commodity processes.
Delphi believes the most difficult of all, however, is preparedness. That involves building a team with the flexibility to respond to today's market demands, while being in a position to take advantage of future opportunities. So far, it is a task with which few companies have effectively come to terms.
The other week I wrote about the problems for companies of getting to grips with double-order entry - the business of having to repeat the process into your own internal systems, when inputting data via the Web into a company's systems.
A number of companies contacted me with their solutions. I offer no endorsement of any of them, just details of who they are and what they claim to do.
MNP Media - mnp-media.com - says it has produced a software-based solution called WebRelay, which dials up or in real-time processes the order through to completion by receiving the data packet exported by an e-commerce site, without the need to make a double-order entry.
ITIM - itim.com - says it has two alternatives: a Web-based electronic data interchange (EDI) initiative; and a common Web-based ledger, where all of the documentation supporting the relationships from order through to delivery notes, invoices and payments, can be held in one common ledger and its progress driven through the Web.
US company Pixel - pixel-group.com - says it has been developing a solution for two years, and has already implemented it with a healthcare company that needed to ensure data was collected and updated in two disparate systems.
According to Tony Oliver of Finance Systems Development at the University of Salford - salford.ac.uk - the university is hosting an e-procurement pilot project that aims to develop a system to use Web-based "shopping basket" facilities, while integrating the back-office finance and logistics processing system of the university and its suppliers, via standard file formats.
GE's Global Exchange Services - www. gegxs.com - has introduced its EC Breakthrough initiative, which extends EDI to the smallest suppliers, even the local butcher.