eBusiness

Facts & Fantasies
(for specific information on offshore e-business see separate article)

The newest innovations, which we label information technologies, have begun to alter the manner in which we do business and create value, often in ways not readily foreseeable even five years ago

Alan Greenspan, Chairman US Federal Reserve, 6 May 1999

Dreams of vast fortunes have imbued the Internet with a mystique and excitement, no one wants to miss this boat!  But recent stock collapses are instilling a realism that is to be welcomed.  What now remains is a legitimate excitement driven partly by the expectation that these enabling technologies will make radical changes in the commercial landscape and partly by the recognition that the sheer pace at which this change is taking place will leave many organisations behind.  The possibilities opened up by the technology are allowing new competitors to displace existing businesses, new businesses to emerge and the balance of power to alter along value chains.  As the technology has become familiar to the general population  new expectations and behaviours are emerging among customers, citizens in their interactions with government and among businesses.

These changes that arise out of the adoption of new technologies are not new in themselves and their effects are well known.  The distinguishing features for the Internet has been:

  • pace and scale of the take up,
  • widespread encouragement by governments intent of establishing a lead in this new order, and
  • general conditions that favour, more than ever before, the globalisation of business.  (This is not to say that international trade is not fraught with difficulties, not least among which are the maze of trade barriers that businesses face).

No organisation can afford to ignore this constellation of factors.

Although the full range of shifts in the business landscape that will emerge are not all understood today it is certain that a significant part of the world's $25 trillion economy will be deeply impacted.  Tourism, financial services and the public sector are among those that are most likely to see sweeping change.

Centres such as Jersey have developed niches within financial services and tourism are operating in sectors that will be reshaped.  (For a discussion of the facilities that Jersey can offer for eBusiness see separate article).

Down to Business

The honeymoon period for business on the Internet has now passed.  It is no longer enough for an organisation to commission the development of a web site that merely sets out its stall.  The landscape is changing and whether your organisation supplies a niche service to a select local market or competes on a global scale, now is the time to explore the ways in which these technologies may expand your business (or threaten its future).  Questions to ask include:

  • What are my traditional competitors doing?
  • What new players are emerging that pose a threat?
  • How far will the loss of geographic boundaries open up new competition?
  • What new market segments are now potentially within reach of my business?
  • What new products or services can I create using this technology?
  • How can I change the nature of existing services, increase their value to customers?
  • Can I lock out competitors by creating links with my customers that enhance the service convenience?
  • How will these technologies alter the channels by which I reach customers?
  • What will customer expectations be next year and can I exceed them?
  • How will the relationships with my suppliers change?
  • Can I add more value by working more closely with suppliers enabled by technology?
  • Can I create new businesses and if so, where should these be located
  • Can I create a virtual organisation freed from geographic barriers that have hitherto existed?
  • What are the direct tax implications of choice of location?
  • What are the indirect tax implications of choice of location?
  • What legal uncertainties will the business face?
  • Do I have the capabilities to take advantage of these opportunities or respond to the threats I identify?

Your answers to these questions may take you down a path that leads to significant changes in some of you core business processes or organisation. These changes may include the way way in which you relate to customers or suppliers and how knowledge is managed within the business.  It may be that a new business is required to achieve these changes.  Changes of this nature need to be introduced in a well-managed and effective way whilst maintaining a pace that ceases the opportunities or at least remains with the pack.  A further, easily overlooked question to consider is  how you will achieve the organisational changes you may be contemplating.

Recommended Resources

A plethora of general material on eBusiness is easily available, much of it of good quality.  Less guidance is readily available on the niche businesses that would have significant advantages in operating in offshore centres. For information on e-business offshore, including links to useful sites see the page on this site eJersey

A selection of sites to visit for further information on e-business generally include:

  • Jupiter Communications provide strategic analysis. Some of their analysis is posted on this site.
  • The Small Business Service, formed in May 2000 to support UK businesses, has useful material on e-business (for the smaller business!)
  • The DTI also provide useful information for smaller business at their site UK Online for Business
  • In addition to coverage in the business press, a number of magazines emerged specifically covering the sector including Redherring and Business 2.  Some of these provide an email news feed also.
  • Ecommerce Times provides a comprehensive, news service albeit with a preponderance of technology coverage.
  • The Ecommerce Commission established by the US Congress, provides some useful material and links in the library section, some of which can be downloaded.
  • The OECD provides some useful information on emerging policy and trends as does the European Union
  • Internet.com is an IBM sponsored site providing a wealth of non technical material.
  • Internet Tax: An Overview for Business Taxpayers" issued by International Federation of Accountants Information Technology Committee provides an overview of the international taxation landscape as it affects e-commerce. The paper can be downloaded (for $22) at the IFAC web site.