Electronic Commerce for Everyone

New Statesman (1996), November 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Electronic Commerce for Everyone


Bill Gates says the UK is a pivotal place in the growth of e-business and urges business leaders to be aware of the dangers of inertia

Andy Grove, Intel Chairman, recently predicted that in five years' time there won't be any specialist Internet companies all companies will be Internet companies or they will be dead!

"The good news is that the United Kingdom is better off in Europe to do business electronically," Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft assured delegates at 'Competitive Agility- Breakthrough Electronic Commerce Strategies,' a talk held recently with the Confederation of British Industry. "Britain was always one of the great trading nations in the world economy and Tony Blair has set out a clear strategy to promote a digital economy in order to maintain that position."

Mr Gates believes that the Electronic Communications Bill and the appointment of Alex Allan as e-envoy are clear evidence of the Prime Minister's commitment.

The United Kingdom has long been at the forefront of electronic commerce by helping to pioneer electronic data interchange. As a result partnerships have become an established way of trading and we have the skills and knowledge. This is evidenced by Microsoft's own partnerships with consultancies like KPMG and businesses like W H Smith and Royal Bank of Scotland (see below). Microsoft has produced a booklet setting out profiles of more than 50 British companies who are successfully trading electronically, (to order: www.microsoft.com/uk/business)_technology/dns/ecommerce/order_guide.htm).

Many British business leaders can now clearly see the need to develop winning electronic commerce strategies, but many of them are unsure of how to start. Mr Gates advised delegates that in order to succeed in the digital age, their organisations need to embrace the internet by establishing their brand and commerce presence.

Gates further advised delegates to re-think their business models to facilitate the information flow between and within organisations. Thus enabling businesses to act, react and adapt to customer or market demands, faster and better than their competitors.

Gates outlined Microsoft's e-commerce model as providing a comprehensive and integrated strategy, making it easier for businesses and consumers to conduct business over the Internet. Gates identified three building blocks from Microsoft to facilitate this: a technical platform for both business to consumer and business to business applications, integration with existing internal and external applications and the ability to promote one's online presence effectively to customers and trading partners. Gates cited BizTalk, an initiative which facilitates the electronic exchange of business documents such as purchase orders and invoices irrespective of their source, and the availability of e-commerce applications through its network of partners as examples of these.

Paul Baker, lead partner for Electronic Commerce at KPMG Consulting advises clients to look for areas where they can achieve quick wins through electronic commerce, such as significantly reducing costs or enhancing customer relationships. "There are three main areas to focus on," he says. "These are online marketing sales and service, supply chain integration, and employee self-service."

Online marketing, sales and service allows organisations to present their products and services to the outside world in new and innovative ways. This allows them to extend their reach and win new customers. …

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