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It became clear after researching the e-commerce strategies of more than 40 companies, over half of which had revenues in excess of a billion dollars, that, in order to be successful in the creation of an e-commerce strategy, the strategic positional focuses of technology, brand, service, and market leadership require careful consideration in order to achieve a balanced strategy. In order to support a balanced strategy, at least three further drivers, some quite traditional in nature, were required to bond the organizational strategy and the IT strategy together. Most important among them are:

  • The necessity for a senior management champion, preferably the chief executive.

  • The basis of a strong and flexible IT infrastructure upon which to deploy the organization's e-strategy.

  • Active support by the organization's content owners (that is, groups and individuals that have a direct stake in the positional e-strategy mix-leaders in the corporation's technology, marketing, service, and branding groups).

  • The ability to climb the learning curve quickly. The companies that make the best use of e-commerce are identifiable by the speed at which they developed online projects and the wealth of future online options that they considered.

  • Belief that R&D for online activities is a strategic investment. The research for this book found that funding for net projects sparked no serious return-on-investment questions in leading online companies.

  • Adoption of a sourcing option that reflects the mission-critical nature of the Internet. Often companies start with an in-house group thrown together quickly (often dubbed a "skunk works") or opts for complete outsourcing. Then as the importance of the Internet and the technology becomes recognized, other options are considered. This includes partnering-working with a set of specialist providers. Partnering differs from traditional outsourcing in the sense of the relationship being developed. Traditionally outsourcing has been a useful mechanism to more effectively use internal resources while maximizing the efficiency of vendors. Partnering on the Internet, however, is focused upon developing working relationships. This stems from the fact that the technologies being incorporated into corporations' e-commerce systems are new and continually being updated. The vendors are also often new and they wish to build relationships, place their software in successful companies, and go through learning curves with their customers. Corporations are also constantly adjusting their e-commerce sites and strategies, making a partnering relationship preferable to long-term outsourcing options.

The issues surrounding ownership, technology leadership, market, brand, service, and development of corporate e-commerce strategies are discussed more fully in subsequent chapters.

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