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Prioritizing E-business Systems

When a business is faced with a number of different e-business system proposals, but has a limited budget, it is important to be able to prioritize those systems and determine which system will provide the maximum benefit.

A number of factors should determine the priority associated with any e-business system.

The first factor is which business stakeholders will obtain the benefits of the system, and whether or not these stakeholders are key stakeholders to the business. For example, a typical major retailer would prioritize its stakeholders as follows: Customers would always come first because customers are key to the revenue stream of the retailer; then would come shareholders because it is their perception of the success of the retailer that often determines public perception of the retailer (and therefore the perception of the customer); then would come the suppliers, who provide the products sold by the retailer.

The second factor is the extent to which the e-business system provides a new or increased revenue stream. It may allow the company to access a new market sector or even a new market (for example, Amazon.com was the first to really take advantage of the new market on the Web for buying books and CDS), or it may simply allow the company to improve its share within that market sector or market.

It may provide a new product or service altogether. For example, card companies such as Hallmark used e-business to provide electronic birthday cards and electronic gift certificates, and Yahoo used e-business to provide electronic party invitations. It may also provide a new way of providing existing products or services (for example, EasyRentACar.com provides car hire entirely over the Web). It may simply provide better post-sales support facilities for customers who have purchased products and services (for example, online order tracking is provided by Dell and Amazon, parcel-tracking facilities are provided by TNT and UPS, and "online advisers" have recently been provided on many Web sites to provide live advice to customers—see HumanClick.com).

The extent to which a business prioritizes a new product/service depends on how much of a risk-taking, innovative company it is. The extent to which a company invests in customer after-sales support and other CRM facilities depends on how important customers are in its list of stakeholders.

Of course, cost and time factors can also be significant when prioritizing systems. (Cost was dealt with previously.) The timeliness with which an e-business system can be implemented to take the best advantage of market conditions—for example, to beat a competitor at providing a similar product or service—can have a big effect on the priority given to that system.

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