Industry is in danger of falling into a state of terminal indecision when it comes to investing in e-business.
Last year, companies spent a fortune on millennium compliance testing. But since then, total spending on enterprise IT systems has slumped. Computacenter’s profit warning earlier this week was a typical example of the woes that have afflicted its peers and rivals.
Addressing how they need to respond to the new world of IT is overwhelming many companies. To some it appears that an ominously lengthy and expensive consultancy job will be required – business re-engineering which may not only threaten the jobs of senior management, but challenge accepted business models and require significant investment in back-office systems and integration.
In other companies, there is a feeling that until everyone understands the implications of e-business, it is too early to commit to invest.
True, the changes will be dramatic, but they are as much about information management and accountability as they are about technology. Middle management will have to supply information as they have never done before, opening up their departments to scrutiny of their work rate and, by implication, their cost structure. Systems integrators will wade in and connect this all together.
In theory, networks can be built that will enable seamless data flow from a customer’s customer to a supplier’s supplier. Broken deadlines or inefficiencies will be instantly pinned on the company at fault. Lies about `the part’s in the post’ will be consigned to history.
To many, the vision of `total transparency’ is a nightmare to be avoided at all costs. Small wonder some firms are worried.
However, there is little time to lose sleep over all this. The truth is, consultants will be required, as indeed will systems integrators. And investment will have to start this year, not next.
Supply chain relationships will have to be renegotiated. The endgame is simple enough: cut costs, boost value added. And if we don’t do it, someone else will.
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