The Internet has the potential to radically change the way people live and work. Corporate Internet Strategy, written by Brian Paxton and Trish Baker of MBendi Information Services, provides a framework, together with case studies and examples, which companies can use to identify and plan their strategic Internet applications. This electronic publication is a dynamic primer which is constantly being expanded as new technologies, ideas and case studies are encountered.
A few years ago, many company executives dismissed the Internet as a fringe technology with limited business potential. They started to change their minds with increasing evidence that individuals and businesses world-wide were racing each other to get connected and establish an Internet presence. The accompanying media hype led to enormous pressure to join the rush, and many companies now have electronic mail links and have set up home pages, thus creating isolated billboards on the electronic highway. This has been a relatively cheap and easy process, given the fierce competition between the proliferation of Internet service providers.
Today, the mood is changing. The hype around the Internet is subsiding and company business managers are beginning to expect Internet projects to provide the same real return expected of their traditional business investments. Companies are using the lessons learned to develop second generation web sites. This time round, the aim is getting value out of what could be a significant investment rather than simply putting up a site at the lowest possible cost. The top priority is not always a marketing site: now, there is also emphasis on building customer or supplier loyalty; reducing the costs of doing business; providing new virtual products; or running a virtual global organisation. Even marketing sites are now becoming more focused, either on customers (and sometimes a particular group of customers), the investment community or potential employees each of whom has different information needs, uses different discourses and is attracted by different magnet mechanisms.
Meanwhile, the technological goal posts are moving. The face of the Internet is changing as players jockey for position in a new, exciting industry. New technology continues to provide business opportunities, and, in some cases, the potential to revolutionise whole industries. A few years ago, Internet technology enabled users to exchange messages and access files on computers, wherever they were in the world. The advent of web browsers made it possible for web sites to use hypertext and display graphics in a standard, user-friendly way. Internet technology now allows interactive transaction-based applications and the use of multimedia. In 1997, we can expect to see software enabling the secure exchange of confidential information and payments.
The other important change in the Internet is the gradual information overload that is taking place. Today if you go to the Hot Bot search engine, for instance, and type “Africa”, you will be presented with a list of over 500,000 web pages to sift through! This is giving rise to a host of alternatives such as Regional Search engines, manually edited search engines, sophisticated search agents and sites, such as MBendi’s web site, where users can be assured of finding current, well-organised information on a major topic in one place.
Companies don’t develop strategic Internet applications by accident or by delegating their Internet responsibilities to a programmer in the IT department. Instead, astute business executives go through the formal steps of understanding the potential of the Internet; analysing its potential impact on their industry and company; reviewing company strategies; and developing Internet strategies and implementation plans expected to deliver a real return on investment and give competitive advantage.
The challenge for companies is formidable: to choose the appropriate Internet web site applications and to implement them successfully, against a background of kaleidoscopic change. Corporate Internet Strategies aims to help you meet that challenge in a structured, methodical way!
We encourage users to return to these pages on a regular basis in order to stay abreast of our thinking. This month, for instance, we included an important new section on formally identifying your Internet applications in a methodical way.