E-business – Comment – Looking beyond e-procurement.

B2B e-commerce is set to be worth $7.29bn by 2004.[QQ] And while e-procurement is perhaps the most talked about, it is only one aspect of the e-business revolution. Gartner sees a new business model emerging with far-reaching implications for all businesses. This is collaborative commerce, or c-commerce, which achieves dynamic collaboration among employees, business partners and customers throughout a trading community or market.

In c-commerce, enterprises harness the full power of the internet and e-marketplaces to gain revenue and profit improvement by going beyond rigid supply chain models and simple information sharing.

This model allows organisations to respond more quickly to changing customer needs, to enhance collaboration across multi-enterprise supply chains, and to become ‘virtual’. In short, it delivers competitive advantage over and above simple cost savings.

This will impact on finance professionals everywhere. Firstly, they must involve themselves in e-business projects to ensure that any projected ROI is built on solid business grounds and takes into account potential difficulties.

Secondly, and more importantly, finance professionals must review their own role and function in the light of c-commerce and change both their attitudes and systems.

As an example, in the world of c-commerce, financial information will be used to create competitive advantage: organisations that report results to web-based investment communities AHEAD of the competition will attract valuable capital at the expense of their competitors.

Many other areas will also be affected – management of working capital, budgeting and planning, performance management and more. Finance professionals should understand that e-business is more than just e-procurement and must ensure the e-business revolution does not pass them by.

– Nigel Rayner is research director at Gartner.

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