CIM 2000: Small firms must take internet plunge or risk being sidelined

How to get small and medium-sized enterprises on board the internet bandwagon was a major theme at CIM 2000.

While larger corporations forge ahead with their e-business strategies, how to get small and medium-sized enterprises on board the internet bandwagon was a major theme at CIM 2000.

Surveys of the take-up of e-business and other IT-based enterprise applications suggest smaller companies are lagging behind the giants of their sectors.

The reasons are not hard to find — lack of capital and internal IT expertise, and a fear that making the wrong choice could be disastrous all play their part.

However, as supply chains increasingly gear themselves up for e-business, smaller players risk being sidelined if they do nothing. Enterprise solutions specialist Made2Manage ran a series of workshops at CIM aiming to demystify e-business for smaller companies. Tracy Chandler, managing director for Europe, said many businesses are already using the internet as a marketing tool, but are hesitant to make the next step.

‘I think people find it a bit scary,’ said Chandler. ‘They’re fine using the web to develop awareness of their company, but when they start thinking about transactions they get nervous. Security is definitely a big issue.’ Expense, on the other hand, need not be. Chandler said the cost of some applications was no more than a few pounds per month.Amid the clamour surrounding e-business, Chandler said traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) issues were still to the front of small and medium-sized companies’ minds. ‘A lot of the things they were looking to sort out were inside their own four walls, fundamental ERP stuff about integrating a manufacturing business,’ she said.

Made2Manage showcased a range of enterprise solutions for smaller companies, including M2M Express. The ASP-style hosted service allows organisations to begin with basic functions and add extra features as their business grows.

Also at CIM was McGuffie Brunton, a specialist ERP provider which launched mb-online, a package which gives smaller companies access to key e-business services.The application has a range of features from basic internet access to full e-commerce infrastructures, integrated with IMPACT Encore, McGuffie Brunton’s ERP system. The company also demonstrated e-exchange, a solution allowing smaller companies low cost electronic trading from a web-based platform. Needing only a PC with internet connection, e-exchange handles the daily flow of business transactions between companies such as purchase, sales and invoice details.

McGuffie Brunton claims the ability of e-exchange to translate data into a number of formats eliminates the need to re-key in data that frequently occurs when different businesses’ systems try to deal with each other.