We are living in the era of the electronic communications. The era when building a virtual home in the form of a Website is often perceived as a necessity rather than an option. The business community is suddenly undergoing dramatic changes. There is a division between those who have been quick to embrace the Internet to turn it into an essential element of their business process and those who are not yet sure whether they need to go online or not. As far as the latter are concerned, I doubt if they are going to derive any benefits from sitting on the fence and watching others get online and develop new generation of business networks and models – the networks and models that are by far more efficient that their predecessors.
However, this article is not aimed at companies that are willing to turn the wheel of history back to the “Stone Age” and ignore the Internet and business opportunities it has to offer completely. I am addressing the so-called “smarties” – companies that rushed to embrace electronic commerce without fully realizing the issues involved in running their virtual branches.
It is very unfortunate, but when visiting some of the commercial Websites I am finding it difficult to understand how the sites are adding value to their respective companies. If this is really the case, then the issue of the site’s purposefulness is something that the companies need to address. After all, there is no logic in pouring time and money into keeping a Website up and running if it does not deliver clear-cut benefits to the company.
As an e-business consultant, I get to work with a lot of small and medium-sized enterprises that have just found their way to the Net. The first question that I usually get them to answer is “Why have you decided to get your company on the Web?”. While some of the entrepreneurs have done their homework and can at least spell-out their hopes and expectations, a substantial number of the business managers is finding this question too difficult to tackle.
It is a pity that they do not realize that e-business is a business like any other! While the delivery mode for products and services is different, there is still a need to plan prior to commencement of the business operations. It makes no sense to build a Website, upload it on the Web and… start looking for a suitable operational framework and a business model. First things should always come first! It is important for companies to establish credible online presence but is very difficult to accomplish it successfully if the right intentions are being justified by the wrong reasons!
I have put together a short check-list for entrepreneurs intending to establish online presence:
1. Outline main operational objectives of the proposed Website
2. Identify the issues you will need to address in order to fulfill the operational objectives you have listed above.
3. List the key benefits your Website is going to deliver both to you and your customers (Be honest with yourself! Do acknowledge the limitations if the are any.).
4. List the costs of building, and maintaining the site (Make sure you include not only the initial const of establishing the site but also the ongoing operational costs).
5. Now match the expected benefits against the expected costs. Are the benefits going to provide you with good ROI (Return on Investment) on your Website?
If you have trouble completing the check-list (e.g. you are not sure how much it is going to cost you to build and maintain your site) it is best that you find out all the necessary information first. Once all the doubts are cleared and you are feeling confident that the benefits will outweigh the costs associated with the move, you can go ahead and get your business a virtual embassy!