Net is both threat and opportunity

Steve Hemsley writes about the benefits of developing and implementing an online Internet solution (MW November 26). He rightly mentions that it is a powerful marketing tool and the pressures presently being placed on marketing departments to deliver answers to the board about its potential is, in some instances, positively overwhelming.

Not only must the marketing executive deal with existing distribution channels, they are now required to understand the implications of the new electronic distribution opportunities. The spreading of distribution channels now presents both a threat and an opportunity. The opportunity for increased sales and reduced transaction costs are generally accepted and reasonably well understood. It is the issues that have more to do with business risk that are much less understood.

To successfully implement an e-commerce solution, considerable business modelling is required to get it right as the wrong solution will have disastrous effects. Issues such as change management, specific and measurable business benefits, systems integration and logistics are key. The user interface, at this stage is of no relevance whatsoever. Which is why I remain constantly concerned about the design creative focus of most e-commerce related articles.

Issues such as quantifiable and objective business benefits, the economic impact of an e-commerce strategy on employees and the existing technology infrastructure is the language of the chief executive and the finance director, not the downstream creative execution.

The potential impact of an e-commerce solution has profound ramifications for any business and is the primary reason why management consultancies own the high level corporate relationship. This of course used to be the domain of the advertising agency.This shift is due largely to the fact that rigorous business and financial training does not feature as necessary elements of the advertising practitioners skill-set because of their creative and media bias. Today it can be argued that management consultancies have little understanding of the creative process or know what “colour management” actually means. This will of course become an extremely minor differentiator in the very near future as flexible workflow systems and objective colour management technology become common place.

Due partly to considerable knowledge gaps, it is clear that marketing executives need support and sound business advice from advisors that understand the business issues from a holistic perspective. The answers to these business issues are not going to be found in new media businesses and nor will marketing directors find them in the major management consultancies as fee revenue opportunities are not large enough to justify investment in resources at present. In addition to this, large-scale implementations usually require global solutions that the larger management consultancies have problems delivering due to their federation style partnership structure.

The answers to such issues that have dogged widespread implementations of e-commerce solutions will be found in smaller management consultants with a global presence that regard technology as an enabler to deliver “order of magnitude” business benefits in a measured and practical way.

Michael O’Leary-Collins

Group chief executive

Digital Solutions Group

London W1

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