When product price and quality defined success, departmental systems that optimized productivity could create the competitive advantage. Then feature- rich, high-quality products became standard, making customer service mission- critical. Attracting and retaining customers – the underlying theme of customer relationship management (CRM) applications – differentiated the suppliers. Now, rapidly advancing business processes create new ways of doing business such as Internet auctions, trading exchanges, mobile communication and Web-based self- service. Serving customers better requires not only mobilizing all of an organization's processes, but collaborating within e-business communities as well. In the collaborative market, e-business systems become as much a core competency as the goods or services a company provides.

Participating in collaborative markets requires users to build upon successful legacy systems and use new business processes such as e-procurement, Web self-service and automated channel partner support. It also means exploiting emerging services such as trading exchanges and business process outsourcing. CRM, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems may wrestle for king-of-the-hill status, but they will not achieve it. These systems form the core of a company's e-business platform – to be embellished by analytic solutions that yield actionable information and supported by integration that intertwines and extends them for participation in external markets. If they are to thrive, companies must do more than leverage the information and processes contained within their systems; they must also reach out and adopt relevant new technologies and processes. It is important to manage internal operations, product life cycles, supply chains and customer relationships well; but successful participation in collaborative markets will require integration of these systems and the adoption of newly emerging processes and technologies.

In the Internet world, servicing customers takes much more than the functionality that customer-facing CRM applications offer. Enterprises will be judged on their ability to make business customers more competitive or on the way they influence a consumer's quality of life. E-business relationships reach well past the customer, embracing suppliers, trading exchanges and distribution partners as well. A company's e-business platform, the sum product of its information technology, will become a core competency that is just as important as the products or services it sells. Systems will continually evolve, giving users the freedom to align with a new customer, supplier or distribution partner to take advantage of a shift in the market or to back away cleanly from a relationship in decline. Leveraging CRM, ERP and SCM applications, e-business platforms must also integrate important new services and set up new relationships easily. When products are mostly the same, easy access to your system or the ability to use your e-business system as a platform can attract customers and partners.

At a high level, companies put ERP, SCM and CRM systems to work as the core of their e-business platforms; and they provide the transaction systems that customers, partners and employees need. Analytic applications are used to provide insight into functional and enterprise-wide performance. Integration binds applications together so that different parts of an organization can share information and processes. Integration also provides the means for participating in collaborative markets, providing for example, linkages to trading partners' systems. It is unlikely that large enterprises, especially those with independent divisions, will ever implement one all- encompassing set of core systems. The high-level blueprint fits many businesses, but many large companies have divisions which draw upon their own core CRM, ERP and SCM systems. On the supply side, the division may interact directly with the supplier. Whenever possible, however, divisions use the services of private trading exchanges (PTXs), which consolidate and prioritize requests and provide communication links to suppliers, independent trading exchanges (ITXs) and other supply-side collaborative market participants. On the demand side, flexible, customized communication channels allow companies to present a common front to customers, even though internal operations are independent. If separate divisions share common customers, customer information must be pulled together at one point if the full extent of the relationships is to be seen. A single platform for managing distribution partners and for extending products and services to the cyber-community simplifies transactions for buyers and saves the costs of multiple implementations. The collaborative market environment will reward companies that are quick to respond to market forces and penalize those that do not respond to shifting product preferences or do not have the e-business systems required to participate.

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