Electronic commerce is one of the hottest topics in business circles today. It is expected to have a huge impact on business, consumers and government and revolutionise the way in which we live and work. But those organisations which imagine all they need to do is create a website for themselves are destined for future disappointment as they get overtaken by their competitors. Making effective use of e-commerce lies at the heart of the future competitiveness of most businesses.
Although popularly associated with businesses selling to the public, most e-commerce is business to business. Moreover, the inter- company trade of goods over the internet is expected to double every year over the next five years. The value is expected to reach $1,300bn by 2003.
There has already been a stampede of organisations setting up websites to reach their customers. This makes good commercial sense. They can provide information on their products and services which in the past would have required expensive advertising or printed brochures. The information can be immediately updated and is accessible worldwide.
However, many organisations have as yet failed to put in place the necessary systems to back up what is potentially a global type of business requiring an immediate response to customer demands. Businesses need to integrate all aspects of their operations such as customer databases, accounting and banking, procurement and purchasing. And they will not gain the full benefits of e-commerce unless their system enables information to flow from customers to everybody in their supply chain.
Unfortunately, few organisations have the necessary in-house expertise to develop an effective e-commerce strategy. The demand for expertise in this field vastly outstrips supply. However, training providers are now working to close this gap.
The University of Plymouth's School of Computing is launching a postgraduate programme in e-commerce to begin this autumn. Dr Peter Jagodzinski, reader in human-centred systems design and designer of the new programme, explains why. He points out the level of activity in the United States and the interest being generated by here the media and the Government. He says that job adverts show the huge demand for e-commerce skills. Moreover, salaries are around 50 per cent higher than other computer staff.
"This seemed to us an area ripe for a highly focused form of postgraduate course. The aim of the course is to appeal to a number of different sectors. We do expect to get people who've had experience of the computer industry who need to be re-trained in the skills that are needed by the new technology and the new way of doing business over the internet.
"We see e-commerce as a new type of system development based on the re- usability of existing code. …