eBusiness – Integration Issues
Organisations spend large chunks of their IT budget in implementing solutions to automate their business processes. To some extent, they get some benefits but when they extend their business to other organisations or consumers to form strategic relationships, they face lot of integration problems, which proves to be a major hindrance towards a successful eBusiness. The objective of this research paper is to justify whether People, Processes, Data and Application are really major factors, which retards the growth of eBusiness, and if so, what are the possible solutions to overcome these kinds of limitations.
1. 0 INTRODUCTION Today, Internet has changed the way businesses used to operate traditionally. People have realised that it is an efficient and cost effective source for information exchange. Companies use it to market products, obtain supplies, provide customer service, and interact with business partners. This has led to the transition of commerce to eCommerce. Further, companies are trying to collaborate with their business partners and customers to get maximum advantage in terms of reduced inventory, faster time to market, greater process efficiency etc.
and call it as collaborative commerce or eBusines. Integration is the true key to convert this vision into reality. (Techguide. com) To facilitate the growth of eBusiness, companies are deploying numerous technologies and solutions. However, these initiatives are somewhat retarded due to lack of integration in regard to different business processes, multiple data formats, multidimensional applications and last but not the least heterogeneous human resources involved in the whole process.
This research paper discusses about eBusiness, different models of eBusiness and the products & services they offer. It also discusses about various aspects of integration issues and the available solutions to overcome these limitations and investigates the latest technologies, concepts and software’s available in the market to minimize the effect of these kinds of limitations. 2. 0 E-COMMERCE ; E-BUSINESS According to Turban et al (2002), Electronic Commerce (eCommerce) is a process of buying, selling or exchanging products, services and information via computer networks, including the Internet.
Wigand (2001) says that eCommerce is best described when a “brick-and-mortar” business decides to add a transaction-based Internet application to their business. Brick-and-mortar businesses become “click-and-mortar” businesses when they begin to process transactions and take orders over the Internet to supplement the existing way they conduct business. However, as per Turban et al (2002), eBusiness carries a broader definition, not just the buying and selling of goods and services, but servicing customers, collaborating with business partners, and conducting electronic transactions within an organisation.
Wigand (2001) explains eCommerce becomes eBusiness when business strategies, internal activities, and corporate practices are taken into consideration while making business processes that an individual company must undertake to participate in eCommerce. An eBusiness is one which is implementing, fundamentally reworked business processes internally and externally to take advantage of information to compete in the distal market space. He further explains that eBusiness is not necessarily about re-inventing business, although in some cases it could be.
It is about extending the business into an entirely new space. It is about streamlining current business processes to improve operating efficiencies, which in turn enhance the value to customers – value that cannot be generated by any other means, and value that gives a serious advantage over competition. eBusiness can be categorized on the basis of the nature of the parties involved in doing business electronically. If an organization does business direct with consumers or end-users through electronic means, it is called as Business to consumer (B2C).
On the other hand, if the other party involved is also a business type, it is termed as Business-to-Business (B2B). Both offer their products and services to their customers. Business to Consumer means that the primary focus is towards customers and not businesses even though a B2C company may sell to resellers or small businesses. The examples of products are apparels, automobiles, books, computers ; peripherals etc. The services offered by B2C companies are credit cars ; credit rating, directory assistance, insurance, loans, retirement benefits, search engines etc.
In the Business to Business environment, the definition of customer changes. Here the customers are other businesses and not the individuals. Building and maintaining loyal, trusting relationships with partners and vendors is a critical success factor. The examples of products are office equipments, packaging supplies, software products, used equipment ; machinery etc. Various services falls under this business model – collection services, freight ; shipping, Internet hosting ; Internet service providers, travel related services etc. 3. 0 eBUSINESS INTEGRATION ISSUES
Faragher (2001) states, “Organisations are under greater pressure than ever to streamline the integration of the disparate systems that make up their internal and external networks”. Due to financial difficulties as a result of recession in global economy and a raft of acquisitions and new technology developments, the integration landscape is extremely important for organisations that have tried to implement solutions for maintaining strategic alliances with their trading partners and customers to get maximum return on their investments.
Inconsistency in the ability of systems to communicate effectively with each other, sharing data and providing real time information to the right people at right time can prove to be a major retarding factor towards the growth of an enterprise as envisioned by the strategic planning and management of the organisation. The existence of disparate systems, differences in business processes, multiple data platforms and heterogeneous human resources involved within the industry has been the major factors that retard the efficient working of the integrated enterprises.
3. 1 People Integration According to Cohen (2002), the major reason for the failure of companies initiatives to implement changes in the business processes is “the lack of understanding of the reason for change and failure to identify the problems” by the employees. Sometimes companies can also face problems like indifferent attitude, fear, resentment, or apathy that might sabotage an initiative. Hurwitz Group, Inc. (2000) has published a report on “eBusiness portals and Integration”, which says that no business can be done alone with machines.
People are always required to do the tasks and there should be effective means of communication among the people in a company. Also the success of business often depends on relationships among the employees, customers, partners, and suppliers. The organization should equip these people with “cutting-edge tools to enable them to collaborate more effectively and efficiently. ” The experience and knowledge of people paired with the right information at the right time helps them make decisions, which are crucial for the success of the enterprise.
Blanchette (1994) acknowledges the survey report conducted by, Towers Perrin and the Hudson Institute and points out that three companies in four are concerned about the challenges of diversity in the workforce. Further, survey report concludes that more than 40 percent fear difficulties because of different values and cultural norms in their workplace. He points out that lack of planning about integration of technology and human resources in the organization leads to confusion, mistakes, loss of company resources, and loss of marketing/sales potential.
Without the support of management and systematic planning before integration, workforce diversity may clash with technology innovations and thereby remain as an organization’s unfulfilled dream. 3. 2 Process Integration Organisations desire to get edge over competition and the increasing demands on quality and effectiveness has led to the complex business processes. Business process integration helps to analyse, simulate and optimise processes in order to maximum benefits. Process Integration means design, operation and management of industrial processes with system-oriented models and methods.
Yee (2002) defines Business process integration as “BPI is actually about defining, enabling and managing the exchange of enterprise information through the semantics of a business process view”. It describes the flow of information in the context of business processes. According to Caldow (2001), process integration issues arise when “Cross boundary operations, organizational structures, and information technology systems are not integrated”. Also different technology platforms with ‘databases and applications’ or lack of ‘integration technology infrastructure’ can prove to be the major obstacles for the integration.
To achieve strategic advantage, enterprises need to collaborate ‘individual legacy systems, enterprise level applications and breakthrough Internet-based technologies’ and make them work for the organization. 3. 3 Data Integration Data collection and integration are rapidly becoming the most important issues in the information systems area. The basic problem is insuring that the vast amounts of data collected by various legacy systems can be used in a meaningful and integrated way.
Lawrence (1999) say’s “Most organizations use only a small fraction of the data gathered by their systems for a variety of reasons. These reasons include the difficulty of getting older systems to interoperate with each other, and the complexity of combining many different data sources into a coherent whole”. The integration problem refers to the problem associated with integrating the data from two or more different data sources. Integration is often required between applications or databases with widely differing views on the data and how it is organized.
Thus, integration is hard because conflicts at both the structural and semantic level must be addressed. Further complicating the problem is that most systems do not explicitly capture semantic information. The key to successful systems integration is to integrate, assimilate and manage the data that comes form various disparate systems. These systems include both databases and applications for strategic business operations such as customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, supply chain management and e-business.
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