By Susan Ibarra

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Stage I:   The Paleolithic Era

During the mid 1990's Internet communities, portals and virtual experiences were being planned and developed.  It was recognized that the Internet was a venue for broadcasting and doing business, and the Internet and websites were the utilities to use.

Interactivity and usability to stimulate the senses, mind and pocketbook are only some components of a good website.  Then and now, care to incorporate good design plans is essential as poor designs  send the wrong message.  The way information is conveyed can have very profound consequences.  Success on the Internet requires a sound business model in place, as the website is only a facet to your existing business and the Internet a tool to deliver your business.

As companies embraced the web, they developed extensions of existing customer applications with slick interfaces to foster customer satisfaction, buying convenience, better service and new selling opportunities through an expanded sales channel.  Ultimately the goals were to brand the website.  It was thought that brand recognition of a site would lead to profitability for a company.  Marketing strategies and creative PR were developed.  The race to explore undiscovered niches paved the way for websensations, troughs of funding, venture capital and overnight IPO’s.  The Goldrush was on with no end in site.

Stage II:   The Mesolithic Error

Stage II reflected an overly cluttered Internet with good and not so good sites.  Sites with good business plans and others without.  For the viewer, information overload became a reality while trying to sift through and locate accurate data. (Viewers beware).

Difficulties presented themselves all to soon as some major sites did not have planned revenue streams.  Ineffective planning, poor management and an immature understanding of the Internet, believing that a high visibility site alone produces income, morphed many a dotcom into a dotbomb.   Some of the services being offered, ‘eyeballs’ to a site, online selling, bidding and banner ads do not generate sufficient income to keep a site in the black, keep a company from becoming extinct or justify having a site.

It is necessary for a site to integrate the full range of business processes, (sales, inventory management, tracking, order fulfillment, delivery, logistics, financials, customer intelligence, feedback to marketing, service and product development), using Internet technology as a tool, not a stage, to impact the core of business.

Stage III:   The Neolithic Era

The phenomenal financing of a dotcom for the sake of it being a dotcom and yesterday’s webstars crashing hard were a chaos that reflected how E-business was still in its early phases of development.  With all the hype and forecasting, distinctions between ‘Big E’ and ‘little e’ were not being made clear.

Simply, ‘little e’ refers to the transaction sector in customer service, known as e-commerce.  ‘Big E’, however, proves to be a greater challenge, as ‘Big E’ involves the redesigning of existing business models (enterprisewide re-thinking).

Apparently not enough money was being spent on e-nitiatives to re-engineer the wheel of business.  This could also be interpreted that business was not planning or budgeting effectively to embrace the current and upcoming technologies.

As the wheel is reinvented, high tech companies will be in a better position to fit into the new business models of tomorrow.

Strategies for ‘Big E’ and ‘little e’ must be designed and tested as business plans with clear business goals.  Where you want to be positioned to keep with the trends and shifts in industry, plans designed must also fit the need, NOT the forecast.  Success on the web is inherent as a business facet or a dotcom—but only if there is due diligence.

Echoing what I told businesses back in 1997  , if you have a sound business plan, a website will complement it.  The success and profits of business are NOT the result of a high visibility site alone.  There must be avenues of planned revenue, not just one path because the platforms of today’s technology and new business cannot otherwise be supported.  Finally, business plans should be grounded with some time worn principles: 

Know your business; understand your market, climate and medium in which you operate; communicate value.  

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