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Research paper topic: B2b In Smes: Perspectives And Future Challenges, - 1928 words
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B2b In SmeS: Perspectives And Future Challenges, Chapter 1 Introduction 1.1 Purpose and Content The Forrester report (Feb. 2000) in an article entitled eMarketplaces Boost B2B Trade. Predicts that B2B (business to business) e-Commerce will reach $2.7 trillion in 2004. While Internet trade between individual partners will continue to flourish, eMarketplaces will fuel most of the growth reaching 53% of all online business trade in five years. These figures would suggest that it is imperative that SMEs embrace the e-commerce world that is unfolding around them, to ignore it, could be the business equivalent of hara-kiri.
In this dissertation entitled B2B in SMEs: Perspectives and Future Challenges, The opportunities and challenges faced by SMEs in the B2B environment will be examined in detail. Disruptive technologies and repeating patterns in retailing will be reviewed and the new developing strategies and business models available using the Internet will be discussed and the benefits they bring to both buyers and sellers will be investigated as part of the research study. Primary research will be conducted, analysed, reviewed and presented to illustrate the way in which SME managers view B2B commerce. The research questions guiding the reported work will be detailed later. 1.2 E-Commerce: An Introduction Electronic Commerce (e-commerce) is a means of using the power of computers, the Internet and shared software to send and receive product specifications and drawings; bids, purchase orders and invoices; and any other type of data that needs to be communicated to customers, suppliers, employees or the public. (xxx) E-commerce is the new, profitable way to conduct business which goes beyond the simple movement of information and expands electronic transactions from point-of-sale requirements, determination and production scheduling, right through to invoicing, payment and receipt. E-commerce uses key standards and technologies including Electronic Data Interchange, Technical Data Interchange, Hypertext Mark-up Language, eXtensible Mark-up Language, and the Standard for Exchange of Product model data. E-commerce is made possible through the expanded technologies of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and Value-Added Networks.
The Internet is creating unprecedented and seemingly infinite opportunities for both its businesses and customers. Yet it is changing so fast that the speed of change and the sheer number of choices available to companies often overwhelm managers and customers alike. In addition to this the rules of the Web are slightly different to those of traditional businesses. E-commerce is not constrained by the rules that have restricted companies historically in the normal codes of business conduct. Companies can now set new standards in profitability and efficiency. This is turn leads to the consumer, in either the business to business (B2B) sector or business to customer (B2C) sector, getting the right product, in the right time, to the right place for the right price, this will be referred to as the retailers mission.
(XXX) An additional attribute of the Internet is that it lacks a central authority, in other words, there is no Internet, Inc. which controls the Internet. Beyond the various governing boards that work to establish policies and standards, the Internet is bound by few rules and answers to no single organisation. 1.3 Disruptive Technologies A disruptive technology enables innovative companies to create new business models that alter the economics of their industry. (Christensen and Bower 1995) In retailing the Internet is not the first such disruption that came with the emergence of the department store and was closely followed by the mail order catalogue.
Then followed discount department stores and finally, in the early 1990s came the Internet, the fourth disrupter. Internet companies such as Amazon.com are changing the way things are bought and sold. These Internet companies pose powerful threats to competitors with more conventional business models. As with earlier disruptions, Internet retailing has initially focused on simple merchandise. The question is how fast will e-tailers move upmarket? Evans and Wurster (1999) 1.4 Retailing Patterns The Past may not tell us everything about the future of electronic commerce but it reveals more than we expect Christensen and Tedlow (2000). Retailing since its inception has been all about profitability.
Profitability is largely determined by two factors: margins and the frequency at which stocks can be turned over. However, while such disruptions change the economics if an industry they do not necessarily have to effect profitability. Department stores in the early 1900s were earning a gross margin of 40% this coupled with an average inventory turnover of three times per annum, gave an annual return on capital invested of 120%. The discount department stores then operated with gross margins of 23% with annual inventory turnover of five, giving 115%, a figure quite similar to their predecessors. The fourth retailing disruption is now underway, instituted by the Internet, a company like Amazon.com can turn their inventory over a staggering 25 times a year, a simple multiplication now determines that a gross margin of 5% is only necessary to compete with their traditional rivals. It is clearly visible that the Internet is delivering remarkably well on three out of four points of the retailers mission, with the exception being time.
1.5 Implications for SMEs in Ireland The reported work seeks to examine such changes in an Irish context and evaluate the implications of Internet changes for the SME sector in Ireland. Specifically, the project will examine managerial attitudes and opinions towards B2B commerce and the challenges faced by such companies in the evolving Internet economy. The following research questions are of significance to the study: Is there an understanding of e-commerce, the Internet and B2B amongst SME managers? Are they familiar with the ways of fully utilising B2B? What are the opportunities for involvement in B2B? What are the benefits for involvement in B2B? Are there effects if not? What investments are necessary in training and development? What way will it effect existing business relationships? Chapter 2 The Evolving E-commerce Economy 2.1 Introduction This dissertation will examine B2B transactions in an SME context and will seek to determine the nature and extent of B2B among small businesses in the Southeast region. The change the Internet offers, is the improved efficiency in exchanging information. The transaction costs have declined and it is easier and cheaper for a company to exchange information with other companies. Enormous information technology investments are no longer needed to interact with supply chain partners electronically.
The solutions should be within reach for all companies independent of size. 2.2 Definitions of E-commerce E-commerce is the ability to perform transactions involving the exchange or use of goods or services between two or more parties using electronic tools and techniques. Treese and Stewart (1998) Some main technologies have made e-commerce viable www, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) and E-mail. EDI is the inter-organisational, computer-to-computer exchange of business documentation in a standard, machine-processable format. EFT was designed to optimise electronic payments with electronically provided remittance information.
Kalakota and Whinston (1997) E-commerce provides the capability of buying and selling products and information via telephone lines, computer networks, and other electronic means. The Internet, the largest network of computer networks, is the medium usually favoured for electronic commerce because it allows an organisation to cut service costs while increasing the speed of service delivery. E-commerce is considered a primary means by which organisations may expand rapidly into the high growth emerging markets of the world. This is possible because, firstly as transnational companies become skilled in their use of the Internet, they will be able to pursue global electronic commerce more efficiently, saving important advertising, communication, and administrative costs. Secondly, the Internet can increase responsiveness by notifying individual customers when new products in their areas of interest become available and by creating customised products and services. Thirdly and finally, transnational companies using the Internet can increase their knowledge about consumer habits, be able to define trends, and turn consumer statistics into long-term customer relationships.
Boudreau et al (1998) 2.3 B2B E-Commerce Forrester Research defines business-to-business e-commerce as inter-company trade in which the final order is placed over the Internet. The definition is constricted, since the order is only one of the transactions needed between trading partners. It is Information and telecommunication enabled collaboration across horizontal and vertical value chains. (Eloranta 2000) E-business creates a platform for co-ordinating demand/supply chains and wider business networks. Another aspect at micro level is that e-business makes it possible to capture a vast number of one-to-one relationships. E-business models are all the business models using the Internet as a means of information delivery (Huttunen 2000).
This definition is encompassing, since it includes all kinds of relationships. B2B e-commerce was born out of an attempt to solve an administrative problem. It developed a new computer standard to handle these needs, which became known as EDI, Electronic Data Interchange. Today its descendant, XML, a lighter, simpler data interchange standard is used by B2B sites. Simple e-commerce sites first appeared in 1992.
The early e-commerce sites were virtual catalogues, simply listing products for sale. Ordering was off-line, through e-mail, phone or fax. By 1996 the technology had advanced greatly to produce virtual stores with shopping carts, client accounts and, with the development of protocols such as Secure Socket Layer, enabled customers to order and pay for their purchase on-line directly by credit card. (www. Shelron.com E-commerce: A Brief History. 2000) B2B e-commerce quickly became popular with consumers and suppliers.
For customers, it was fast, easy and efficient, allowing them to compare products, price and service before purchase. For suppliers, it allowed them to reach an unlimited international audience, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at reduced costs. Today e-commerce is widely used and growing fast. B2B is the largest, fastest growing and most profitable market. According to the Internet Development Company (IDC), this year, it is expected to account for two thirds of world wide e-commerce.
B2C is also expected to grow, boosted by Broadband (high-speed) Internet access to more on-line households. Future advances include digital money and e-wallets, and 'personal agents' that help users find what they are looking for and of course WAP phones. Sites can work with fulfilment centres providing customers with excellent service and suppliers with information, and can support the newest trend for human interaction in e-commerce customer service. 2.4 The Importance of the Internet in B2B trade In an AT Kearney Report (AT Kearney, 1999) possible channel strategies that the Internet offers are outlined as follows: a) Selling b) Electronic marketing, advertising and promotion c) Digital distribution of goods and services d) After-market products and customer support In the area of operations, the following uses of the Internet have been listed (AT Kearney, 1999): a) Online publications and communications b) Procurement and sourcing c) Digital co-operatives d) Transportation and logistics e) Digital supply chain f) Digital configuration g) Global communication and production h) Integrated enterprise resource planning systems i) Variable pricing 2.5 Some Impacts of the Internet on Business-to-Business (B2B) E-commerce It has already been suggested that the Internet will revolutionise the traditional ways of doing business; and it will also bring changes for the B2B sector. These may be detailed as follows: - a) Access to more partners, customers or suppliers If within consumer businesses there exists an opportunity to reach a wide group of consumers, in the B2B area there also exists an opportunity to reach more suppliers, even globally.
It is not a problem to share sales and inventory information with more suppliers with company benefits through lower purchasing prices. b) Outsourcing and specialisation Manufacturers and distributors are in a more difficult situation. While requirements have grown, speed, accuracy, service level and customisation requirements are high. While specialisation is needed, outsourcing ...
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