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eCommerce: Formulation of Strategy

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eCommerce: Formulation of Strategy


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  • Copyright 2000
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9-1/4"
  • Pages: 400
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-019844-7
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-019844-0

This is the first book about the formulation, development and execution of e-strategy written entirely for senior executives in the language of the boardroom. Leading eCommerce expert Robert Plant cuts through the "consultantese" and technobabble to present a comprehensive, balanced, integrated strategy for ECommerce leadership. Drawn from research and interviews with senior executives at more than 40 of the world's largest organizations, Plant's strategy addresses all four key drivers of eCommerce success: brand, technology, service, and market. Plant introduces detailed models for the creation of a high-level eCommerce strategy and each dimension of that strategy. He demystifies the technical issues, explaining the functions and roles of each key element of eCommerce infrastructure. Along the way, Plant answers questions such as: "Where does your ERP system fit in? What is the role of knowledge management and data warehousing? Should you outsource, develop internally, or partner? How will eCommerce change your supplier and customer relationships?" Using a scorecard methodology, Plant helps executives understand their eCommerce objectives, and define metrics and processes that help every team member stay on track. From start to finish, eCommerce: Formulation of Strategy gives executives the intellectual tools to compete effectively in the new e-conomy.

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Table of Contents



1. Formulating an Internet Strategy in a Networked World.

The Internet as a Business Solution or Pandora's Box. The Way Forward.

New Organizations: Born on the Net. Existing Organizations: Move to the Net. Move to the Net: Pillars of Success. Infomediaries and Business-to-Business Consortia. B2C, B2B, B2G, and G2B. Business-to-Government E-commerce. Government-to-Business E-commerce. Interorganizational Systems: B2C, Consortia, B2B, B2G, G2B.

2. Creating an Integrated E-commerce Strategy.

Seven Dimensions of an E-commerce Strategy.

The Bonds of an E-commerce Strategy. Four Positional E-strategic Directions.


3. Ownership Issues.

The E-centric Management Structure.

Senior Strategic Management Group. Content Owners.


Content May Be King, But it is Value Chain that is the Power Behind the Throne.


4. E-strategy Leadership Through a Technology Focus.

The Role of the Executive Technology Champion. Internal Technology Leadership: The Seven S Framework.

Strategy: The Alignment of Technology and Corporate Planning. Structure: Characteristics of a Flexible, Agile E-organization. Systems: The Nervous System Through Which the Organization Reacts to Its Environment. Staffing. Skills: Running Up a Down Escalator. Style and Shared Values: The Magic That Raises the Ordinary .com to Become a Great.com.


The Seven S Framework: Issues and Actions.

5. Developing a Market Focus: Sector Strategies in Segmenting Markets.

Manufacturing. Mixed Goods and Service Organizations. Service Organizations. Summary.

6. Service Leadership - Adding Value to the Customer at Every Point of Contact.

Bricks-and-Mortar to Clicks-and-Mortar Transition.


The Internet Service Value Chain - "Where the Rubber of E-commerce Meets the Road."

Customer Acquisition. Customer Purchase Support - A Helping Hand to Smooth the Transaction Process. Customer Fulfillment - Timely Delivery: A Key to Successful Service. Customer Continuance and Support - Maintaining That Customer Relationship Between Purchases. The Customer Service Channel.


Service Leadership: Rules of Internet Strategy.

7. E-branding - The Emergence of New Global Brands.

Brand Creation: First to Market Wins and Wins Big.

Amazon.com. Developing a Brand Creator Position.

Brand Follower: A Last-Mover Disadvantage or Recoverable Position? Brand Reinforcement - The Development of a Continuous Brand Model Across Media.

Fending Off Brand Dilution: To Be Seen Online but Not to Sell Online.

Brand Reposition: Core Brand Values Combined with a Modern.

Customer Experience.


Brand Leadership: Rules of Internet Strategy.

8. Formulating an Internet Rollout Strategy.

Development Options-Where to Develop an E-commerce System (Internal, External, or Partnering).

The Internal Development Route. The External Development Route - Outsourcing as an Approach to Systems Creation.

Summary: Development Issues.

Hosting Options - Hosting Websites, Maintaining Control, and Managing Flexibility. Application Design. Network Topology. Server Configuration.

9. Internet Strategy Effectiveness - A Scorecard Approach.

Forces Affecting Strategy Formulation - Understanding the Forces That That Impact You Is Half the Battle to Overcoming Them. Internet Strategy Effectiveness - The Creation of a Metrics Program.

Internet Effectiveness Scorecard.

The E-value Map.

Ownership Value Map. Ownership Levels. Process Value Map.


10. Waves of the Future - Issues That Will Shape the Formulation of Strategy.

The Agile E-commerce Organization. Technology Change - A Rising Tide Does Not Lift All Boats Equally. Brand Changes - Brand Equity, the Currency of the Global Leaders.

Leadership. Stability. Market. International Scope. Trend. Support. Protection.

Service Changes - Evolving to Meet the Changing Expectations of the Customer.

Customer Acquisition. Customer Support - During Purchase. Customer Fulfillment - Purchase Dispatch. Customer Continuance and Support.

Market Changes - The Rapid Evolution of Global, Segmented Systems-based Markets.

Market Segmentation. Global Markets. Market Hubs. Future Directions: Agile and E-organization Confluence.

Change in External Relationships - It Is the Company We Keep That Determines Who We Are.

The Battle for Information Supremacy: The Information Hub.

Government and Political Change-The Visible and Invisible Hands That Influence Commerce.

The United States of America. Global Issues. The Eighth Principle.

Commentary on the Road Ahead.

11. Views from the Edge - Conversations with Executives.

Executive Interview # 1: Travel Related Services. Executive Interview #2: Financial Services. Executive Interview #3: Power Utility. Executive Interview #4: Telecommunications. Executive Interview #5: Healthcare Services. Future Steps: Epilogue. So, What of the Future?

Appendix A. United States Department of Commerce.

Appendix B. Featured IBM Technology in Charles Schwab Case Study.




Even the Super Bowl, the most sacred and most watched sporting event in the United States had succumbed to the Internet and its influence. Victoria's Secret, the lingerie company, was the first to take the initiative with a 15-second slot promoting a live supermodel fashion show on the Internet—an event probably more memorable than the game itself. By Super Bowl XXXIV only two years later in January 2000, with an estimated 130 million viewers the excitement and conversation was centered as much around the "dot-com" advertisements airing during the game as the game itself, each company paying out a record $2.2 million for each 30-second slot.

The message is clear: the Internet is here to stay. But beyond the start-up legends, the intermediaries, infomediaries, and service providers, the Internet is challenging established corporations' relationships with customers. The question they face is: "What will be the impact of the Internet on our business, our competitive strategy, and our information systems strategy?"

In researching this book, I interviewed senior executives at more than 40 major corporations in the United States and Europe. These in-depth interviews revealed diverse approaches to how this question is being approached.

  • Most companies have recognized that they need to create and execute an e-commerce strategy; however, as they look for strategy models to follow, they realize that there are none available, especially for manufacturers in traditional industries. To blindly follow the strategy of the new Internet stars such as Amazon is impossible.
  • Some companies still feel that they can largely ignore the Internet and that they can offer a token Website with a basic product offering. To executives at these companies, my response is "How quickly could you respond if your strongest competitor came out with a powerful e-commerce strategy tomorrow?"
  • Other companies, however, have recognized some of the drivers in e-commerce and have adopted one of them to the exclusion of the others-for example, positioning themselves to have a low-cost Internet customer service position. However, this lack of balance between service, branding, technology, and marketing can be extremely detrimental.
  • Clearly, some organizations are winning in the battle for the Internet marketspace and are creating adaptive, intelligent solutions that will keep them ahead of the competition, build successful barriers to entry against insurgents, and allow them to create new empires as the slow giants of the old economy fight to change course and pick up steam.

Thus, in the face of a barrage of new rules for the information economy, business is finding that the boundaries of strategic thinking, and of competition, have vastly expanded. The challenge is to keep up with the rapid growth in converging technologies and to translate the potential of these technologies into business vision and dynamic competitive strategy.

So, what exactly is corporate strategy in the face of e-commerce? We can define corporate strategy as the formulation of a set of directives that, when effectively executed, fulfill the competitive vision set by executive management. In light of that, my consistent finding has been that, to be effective, an e-commerce strategy has to be integrated with the strategic vision of the company as a whole. As an executive from American Express put it, "The Net has to integrate into your core business." However, the approach to the creation of an effective e-commerce strategy is not always clear. True, many classic examples now exist and are very visible—Amazon.com, AOL.com, eBay.com—but these are new organizations, born on the Web. What if you're an industrial manufacturer of cyclical products, how do you proceed? What if you are a supplier of information-based services and wish to develop an Internet strategy, again, how do you proceed? Executives can study the successes of the Amazons of the world, but does an Amazon-type strategy translate to other industries or organizations? Probably not. A sample of one type of Internet strategy, even if derived from the best of pure dot-com companies, has severe limitations.

The aim of this book therefore is twofold:

  1. To enable CEOs, senior executives, and managers to understand the competitive ramifications of e-commerce within their arenas of corporate competition
  2. Through the methodologies presented, to enable executives to take effective action in developing a strong, unique, and effective strategy for their own organizations

Companies and Case Studies

The methodologies presented in this book are based on a series of in-depth interviews and studies with executives and managers at 33 North American and European companies and, through use of public data and case studies, information for 10 additional organizations (see the table). This approach allowed us to get inside the thinking and philosophy of these global marketplace leaders, 16 of which were in their industries' top 10 as defined by Fortune. The in-depth interviews, examination of case situations, and discussions with leading practitioners have been distilled into a comprehensive set of frameworks. From these, you will get a clear picture of the dynamics involved in the creation of an Internet strategy and its deployment.

Research Organizations

CompanyIndustry Categories
Interview Case Studies
1 IBM Comps.Hard
2 Citigroup Banks-M.C.
3 UPS Transptn. Services
4 American Express Fin'l Div
5 Nortel Comm. Equip
6 Entergy Elec.Cos
7 Sun Microsystems Comps.Hard
8 UTC (Pratt & Whitney) Transport. Equip.
9 Office Depot Retail-Spec
10 USMedicalSystems Medical
11 Motorola Telecommunications
12 FPL Elec.Cos
13 Ryder Truckers
14 Dow Jones Publishing
15 Royal Caribbean Lodging-Hotels
16 Lennar Homebuilding
17 ABIG Insurance-M Line
18 W.R. Grace Chem.-Spec
19 CSR Rinker Nonmetallic Minerals
20 Chemical Biotec
21 Millipore Manf. Specialized
22 Sony Entertainment
23 Priceline.com Online Retail
Private Companies or Companies That Are Part of a Conglomerate
24 Rover Group Automobiles
25 BMW Automobiles
26 Alamo Svcs.Comm
27 Burger King Restaurants
28 Holberg (Ameriserve) Logistics
29 VisualCom.com Internet Services
30 FAR&WIDE.com Travel
31 manage.MD Healthcare Services
32 LightPort.com Finance
Companies—Public Data and Case Study Information Sources
33 Swiss RE Insurance Carriers
34 Charles Schwab Finance
35 Schlumberger Oil
36 Lockheed Defense
37 Edmunds Automotive & Publishing
38 Internet Securities Inc Finance
39 Ford Automotive
40 America Online Internet Service Provider
41 Virtual Vineyards Wine
42 Co-Op BookShop Australia Publishing & Distribution
43 GM Automotive

The book is organized in the following fashion.

Chapter 1: Formulating an Internet Strategy in a Networked World

The chapter discusses the dynamics of the e-commerce marketspace and the three market positions that organizations and their executives find themselves in-traditional established organizations, new online organizations, and hybrid organizations.

  • New organizations: born on the Net
  • Existing organizations: move to the Net
  • E-consortia: swarm to the Net

The ultimate success of the strategy created and adopted by an organization depends heavily upon early identification of the specific issues and options available in each of these sectors when applied to the individual circumstances of the organization.

Chapter 2: Creating an Integrated E-commerce Strategy

In this chapter we discuss the seven dimensions of an e-commerce strategy: The four positional characteristics—brand, technology, service, and market—and the three bonding factors—leadership, infrastructure, and organizational learning. Determination of the interrelationships among these factors is key to the creation of a strong yet adaptable e-commerce strategy.

Chapter 3: Ownership Issues

The creation of a successful e-commerce strategy is more than just the development of a conceptual product and plan. This chapter considers two critical factors internal to the organization—the organizational structure and the content owners.

Success in the online marketspace requires flexibility and adaptivity on the part of the organization. To facilitate this, new e-centric organizational and management structures need to be adopted. These are structures that have their roots in the world of mass customization where the concept of the networked cross-functional management group has been previously successfully deployed. This chapter considers how these structures can be utilized in the online organization and how content owners within the organization play a valuable role in that structure.

The chapter thus considers the key organizational issues that need to be effectively managed to successfully compete in the Internet marketspace, including:

  • E-centric management structures
  • Content ownership

Chapter 4: E-strategy Leadership Through a Technology Focus

Technology does not work in a vacuum to make an organization world class. In this chapter technology issues are considered in relation to other key drivers—corporate positioning and structure. The chapter describes how these factors, when carefully molded together, combine to create the dynamism found in the world's great companies.

We consider:

  • The role of the executive champion
  • The McKinsey Seven S Framework
    • Strategy
    • Skills
    • Staff
    • Style
    • Systems
    • Structure
    • Shared values
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • Data warehousing
  • Knowledge management

Chapter 5: Developing a Market Focus

This chapter considers the issues facing industry types and develops the issues pertaining to the four major segments through case studies of leading organizations in e-commerce strategy and deployment. The chapter also considers the role of partnering in developing a successful online market position and outlines the strengths associated with the e-consortia e-business model.

We look at:

  • Manufacturing: CA-Chemical
  • Mixed service and goods: Sony
  • Mixed service and goods (B2B): USMedicalSystems
  • Service organization: Charles Schwab

Chapter 6: Service Leadership Through the Internet Service Value Chain

The ability to create a meaningful customer relationship at all points of contact is central to doing business on the Internet. However the first generation of models that organizations followed were too simplistic both in their view of the customers' behavior and the metrics that they used. This chapter considers the interaction of customer relationship management through three drivers-content, format, and access-and discusses e-commerce metrics from a perspective that combines research from the area of knowledge-based systems verification and validation with that of market research analysis. At the end of the day, corporate strategists must know that what they are measuring is both valid and useful!

We consider:

  • Customer acquisition: prepurchase support
  • Customer support: during purchase
  • Customer fulfillment: purchase dispatch
  • Customer continuance: postpurchase support

Chapter 7: E-branding—the Emergence of New Global Brands

The power of branding on the Internet cannot be underplayed; the strength of the new online organizations has created significant brand equity very quickly. For traditional organizations moving to the Net, their challenge is to leverage existing brands effectively and move forward in their new chosen marketspaces. This chapter discusses the four major positions that can be adopted:

  • Brand reinforcement
  • Brand creation
  • Brand reposition
  • Brand follower

Chapter 8: Formulating an Internet Rollout Strategy

This chapter discusses the issues surrounding developmental choices available to executives-whether to develop the systems internally, externally, or some combination. The issues surrounding development and Web hosting are also explained and discussed through the Charles Schwab case study. The case illustrates at an executive level the major technical issues chief information officers and technologists face regarding server configuration, network topology, and application designs.

We look at:

  • The internal development route
  • The external development route
  • Partnering models
  • Web hosting options
  • Case study: Charles Schwab

Chapter 9: Internet Strategy Effectiveness-A Scorecard Approach

This chapter develops a set of frameworks that executives and managers can work from in order to gain an understanding of the forces in strategy formulation pertaining to their own individual circumstances. The frameworks contain over 50 questions covering the seven dimensions of strategy formulation. The aim of the chapter is to help executives answer two fundamental questions: What are the strengths and weaknesses of my strategy or proposed strategy? What will I get out of this technology investment?

We consider:

  • The creation of a metrics program
  • The Internet effectiveness scorecard
  • The e-value map: an ownership/manager level analysis

Chapter 10: Waves of the Future

This chapter discusses the six major areas in which change will emanate as the environment of e-commerce goes forward in time. The ability to stay ahead in all of these areas is vital to e-commerce strategies, and the chapter highlights critical issues in each: patents, e-consortia, wireless technologies, brand equity valuation models, the threat from the "old economy" industrial giants as they recreate themselves, jurisdiction, copyright, pricing models, the home services station, global markets, market hubs, market segmentation, emerging markets, Latin America, China, the information hub, the visible and invisible hand, the White House, cyber crime, the Eighth Principle.

The areas are:

  • Technology changes
  • Branding changes
  • Market changes
  • Service changes
  • Government and political changes
  • External relationship changes

Chapter 11: Views from the Edge

This chapter contains five interviews from executives on the leading edge of strategy and vision. The executives were chosen for their fresh views and their insight into particular industry segments. They reveal issues that are both far reaching yet pragmatic as they run their operations in a day-to-day environment. These interviews may help real-world managers and executives cope with their mainstream environments and organizations more effectively. Not all companies are Fortune 100 companies or situated in Silicon Valley as portrayed in most other interviews and texts. The interviews include two dot-com start-ups, a software company transitioning to the Net, a multinational telecommunications company, and a power utility.

The interviewees:

  • Born on the Net
    • FAR&WIDE Travel Corporation—$125 million in start-up funding
    • LightPort.com—develops and manages sites for 165,000 clients; $125 billion in assets
  • Move to the Net
    • SoftAid—medical billing goes Internet
    • Motorola—telecommunications giant goes online
    • Florida Power & Light—a Demming Award holder develops its online strategy

The models are created, based on the research collected for this book, to maximize the strategy potential of all organizations that adopt and adapt them for their own individual circumstances. The book's intent is to help executives in all stages of growth and positioning and for executives globally. All organizations have the opportunity to transform themselves through the Internet and the potential it offers.


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