What do we know about e-business? Can we consider a corporate site a form e-business? And what about an internet-store? Try a search by any of the popular engines and you will learn a lot about e-business centers but much less about e-business as such. Most web-developers still fail to offer anything beyond the very conventional solutions: official web-site, catalogue, online store, etc. But is that really enough to develop effective e-business solutions?
First of all, let’s look at e-business target audience. According to one of the existing classifications an internet-based solutions can target consumers (B2C), the company’s own personnel (B2E), other companies (B2B), transactions between companies and governmental organizations (B2A/B2G) and business transactions between clients (C2C). In theory, there could also be a C2A category denoting transactions between consumers and government. E-business can be further categorized into internal business systems, corporate communication and interaction as well as e-commerce.
As a rule, e-commerce makes use of such solutions as online stores, logistics management system, online marketing and others. It can target either consumers (B2C) or other companies (B2B). In case of the former there are three basic models: the first is based on advertising, the second – on community and the third – on incentives. Current e-commerce solutions incorporate international UN/EDIFACT standards, which make it possible to “track” products, unify item listings, synchronies databases and so on.
Communication needs of the companies involved in e-business are served by such technologies as voice telephone lines, voice mail, e-mail, web-conferences and content-oriented web solutions.
Internal business systems are based on applications of several types: CRM (Client Rations Management), ERP (Enterprises Resource Management), EDM (Electronic Document Management) and HRM (Human Resource Management). E-business now also often makes use of Knowledge Management and e-Learning systems.
As you can see, fully-fledged e-business requires more from a company than having a couple of internet-solutions that are probably not even integrated with the corporate information system. It would seem that to be effective large and medium-sized companies need to operate Web-based corporate information systems.
Is it really so? Let’s have a look at the global web-developer market’s latest tendencies, aptly dubbed Web 2.0 by Tim O’Reily. First of all, the Internet is now increasingly regarded as a single platform. It is some kind of a global operating system, and web sites are its applications. The important point is that any applications within this all-embracing platform are accessed on a common set of principles – through web-browser. Besides, the platform’s users need not concern themselves with such issues as what hardware is used to support the applications or their actual geographical location.
Thus it becomes apparent that the company’s e-business information space can also be regarded as a platform, which includes not only e-commerce applications and interaction systems but also internal business systems applications. In other words, user of a Web-based corporate information system should be able to access the system’s applications notwithstanding his or her actual location, be it a remote office, a different country, home or an airplane. Moreover, the access device is of little importance as well - as long as it has a browser and internet connection. This approach may still seem to be too idealistic, yet given the growing popularity of SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) technology, the above described model becomes not only realistic but a standard solution for the nearest future. More and more companies choose to work in such area as web-integration. They are actually developing software links between web-applications and business-applications working in the company’s and its partners’ LANs. This way the existing local network applications become Internet applications, with Internet functioning as a global platform.
Augmented by Web 2.0 technologies, e-business tendencies introduced significant changes into corporate interaction principles and, consequently, became known as Enterprise 2.0. These tendencies substantiate within e-business the idea of a user community, dominant notion of the last year. It is based on such Web 2.0 features as architecture of participation and personalization of application data.
All that’s left is to blend everything together, garnish generously with RIA (Rich Internet Applications) and voila – we have effective electronic business, e-business of a new generation.