Here's a simple profit equation: Give customers what they want, and they'll do business with you. While this is simple to say, it is difficult to do. There is no demographic certainty anymore. Fifty-year-olds buy rock music CDs, and 18- year-olds have credit cards to finance sophisticated tastes. Customers want instant satisfaction coupled with highly personalized service. It's not enough to manage customer relationships in a vacuum without looking at the value chain as a whole. It's also not enough to have static relationships with any trading partner customer or vendor. There's a new (forgive the cliché) paradigm operating in today's information technology environment collaboration. The trendy name is collaborative commerce (c-commerce).
Gartner defines c-commerce as "... a business strategy that motivates value- chain partners with a common business interest to generate value through sharing information at all phases of the business cycle (from product development to distribution). The goal is to enhance profitability while satisfying ever-increasing customer demands. All members of the value chain benefit by combining their core competencies to create a new product or service that is of higher value than the sum of its components."1 Organizations that want to realize the synergies created by the highly lucrative c-commerce marketplace should have three goals: current information to enable efficient, accurate, timely decision making; the ability to get current, customized information to the right people at the right time for analysis and trending; and communication links that cross intra- and inter- organizational boundaries and enable organizations to build close-knit partnerships.
One way to achieve these goals is to construct the extended intelligent enterprise (XIE) information architecture. Three core components of the XIE architecture a zero-latency operational data store (ODS), an enterprise portal as an access mechanism and extensive integration capabilities are must-haves to meet c-commerce goals.
The zero- latency ODS that forms the heart of the XIE supports real-time analysis and action on time-sensitive information. All partners in the value chain can identify issues as they occur enabling an immediate and appropriate response. With access to non-latent information, all value-chain partners can monitor the activities of the business, link processes and systems together when necessary to solve problems and disengage them quickly when no longer needed. Customers are served more quickly and successfully, and value-chain partners get the information they need, when they need it.
The enterprise (and extraprise) portals and executive dashboards that serve as the gateway to the XIE also facilitate c-commerce. Portals and digital dashboards enable users to consolidate personal, team, corporate and external information. The best-of- breed portal products offer:
- Personalization services that develop user profiles based on cached clickstream information and filter content for each portal user based on rules stored in the profile.
- Collaboration services such as Web chat, instant messaging, etc., that allow portal users to communicate with each other.
- Repository, legacy and extraprise application integration services.
- Security features that enforce security rules of the organization for external and internal users.
- A download center that manages the transmission of business content and messages for active subscribers.
- Workflow services with offline support to enable interaction with workflow products such as e-mail, voice mail, etc., to allow users to work offline and cache information for future connections.
The third goal of collaborative commerce that of opening more effective communication links is met by the XIE's extensive enterprise application integration (EAI) structure. The XIE's use of new-breed EAI tools with their robust messaging and exchange capabilities enables trading partners to share data and turn it into useful information to coordinate logistics planning, product development and customer service.
The XIE's EAI capabilities allow partners involved in large-scale value- chain relationships to create economies of scale and take advantage of increased efficiencies and lower costs of doing business. Partners form, in effect, one virtual organization. Smaller value-chain collaborative partners can benefit as well. EAI creates a synergetic communications relationship between partners that enables them to leverage each other's shared information systems when necessary.
C- commerce works best when all partners have the information they need when they need it, in the format most appropriate to each partner. The XIE, with its real-time centralized information access and integration capabilities, enables all value-chain partners to participate in productive c-commerce relationships. With XIE enabled c-commerce, all value- chain partners have access to the critical information that enables them to collaborate and meet the needs of the marketplace. That's a winning and profitable combination.
1. Browning, James and Anderson, Robert. "Attention SMB's: Prepare for C-Commerce Now." Gartner Research Note. 12 October 2001.
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