A few months ago at the IAEM Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, I led an educational session about developing e-business strategies in theindustry. I've tried to summarize a few of the key notions from that session here.
First, what's the difference between e-commerce and e-business? Although many people use these terms interchangeably, I'd like to define e-commerce as any monetary transaction conducted online, whereas e-business is defined as any online transaction, monetary or not, that a business conducts with any of its constituents (i.e., customers, suppliers, partners, etc.).
Secondly, what's a value chain? This is another slippery concept, but let's define it as everyone with whom you do business, i.e., your suppliers, your on-site show suppliers, attendees, booth purchasers, speakers, and your own employees.
I believe that the key to developing a successful e-business (not just e-commerce) strategy lies in beginning the process by looking at your entire value chain--and looking for the opportunities that arise from that perspective. Taking the value-chain perspective allows you to see a much wider range of possible interactions with your constituents that could be made available electronically. And by thinking of your proposed e-business strategy as covering any possible interaction, you can open yourself up to thinking about new types of interactions with your constituents that might not have been possible before the advent of online communications.
Doing Your Homework The next step is to do some basic homework. There are four essential areas of business that must be thoroughly understood before building your e-business strategy.
First, know your current process costs. Second, know who makes up your entire value chain, both current and potential. Third, know your system's capabilities--how automated are you today? And fourth, know your revenue and profit generators--what's making money today?
Assessing the Opportunities If you know those four areas well--and by this I mean you've actually gone back and reevaluated them thoroughly, not just referred back to your four-year-old mission statement--then here are the areas where an e-business strategy should focus.
First, look at automating your current operations. What procedures today can be moved to an online model? Be forewarned: this isn't a small task. Assessing your automation level and your constituents' needs and evaluating your internal processes for their suitability to online automation is time-consuming and frustrating, but you have to do it before you can begin to deliver real value via your e-business.
After you've successfully identified every process you can automate (viewing it from the value-chain perspective), you can look to where I believe the real opportunities lie: in creating new products and services that are only feasible in an online model (for example, online auctions). If you've really done your homework, then you should be able to see new opportunities to deliver products and services to your constituency.
Finally, you need to look at the last challenge: protecting your home turf. If you can conceive of any online model that allows you to reach your constituents better, cheaper, faster, or with more desirable products, then, rest assured, someone else will think of it too.
Remember, e-business is still business, and the traditional fundamentals still apply. The creative act in developing a successful e-business strategy lies in your ability to unders