IT industry giants unite in bid to save businesses from ‘information overload’

Some of the world’s leading IT vendors have formed an e-business think-tank in a bid to make sense of ‘information overload’.

Some of the world’s leading IT vendors have formed an e-business think-tank in a bid to make sense of the ‘information overload’ swamping would-be users of web-based enterprise packages.

Industry giants including Intel, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Dell have become founding members of the Business Internet Consortium (BIC). The new group also includes key customers of e-business applications, with automotive giant Ford being one of the first to sign up.

The non-profit-making consortium will attempt to address some of the key issues facing companies as they implement internet-based applications in their business processes.

BIC’s mission statement admits that ‘limitations are quickly being exposed’ in the current generation of e-business applications due to the rapid growth in demand for newer and better services.

Lack of common standards, the overlap of competing initiatives, the complexity of current business-to-business solutions, and the information overload facing customers are all pinpointed as problems for the industry.

By uniting technology developers, vendors and customers, BIC plans to clear some of these hurdles to the global adoption of e-business. It will form working groups to consider a range of issues needing particularly urgent attention.

These include integration of e-business with existing business solutions, improved access to web-based information from multiple devices — for example mobile phones — and establishing secure systems that do not require users to continually log on.

Also targeted for early attention is the potential of technologies such as mark-up language XML to allow information and data to be shared across systems and formats.

The consortium will publish regular papers and pass its recommendations to technology developers and standards bodies. As well as those listed above, BIC’s participants include Commerce One, Bull, Unigraphics, Unisys and Fujitsu Siemens Computers.

However, there are also some prominent absentees — most notably Oracle and Sun Microsystems, both of which are prominent in the e-business arena. BIC said it hopes more technology providers and customers can be persuaded to join when the value of its work to the industry becomes apparent.

Larry Acord, director of strategic alliances for e-business software giant Computer Associates said: ‘The rapid evolution of e-business technology can be as much of a problem for customers as a blessing, unless the leading developers can bring some coherence to the market through collaboration and co-operation.’

BIC is one of the highest-profile attempts yet by the global internet and IT community to develop a common approach to e-business.

Other more specialised projects include the Universal description, discovery and integration (UDDI) initiative, which is working to develop ways of allowing businesses with different systems to share data.