Doing_Business_Electronically
Revenues from business-to-business Internet transactions are expected to rise dramatically within the next few years, from less than $100 billion in 1999 to more than $500 billion by 2002. Over the past few years, Wigand says, businesses have spent millions to prepare for the Y2K problem, choosing to hold off on any e-commerce investments until the new year. Now, he says, consulting firms are pushing what they call e-business, a broader term intended to get companies thinking bigger. “Some companies think electronic commerce may be viewed as just an individual application somewhere in the company,” Wigand says, “whereas the e-business perspective looks at the whole picture; in essence, an integrated perspective. It permeates everything we do.”
      One business area that e-commerce penetrates is procurement. General Electric has announced that, by 2005, it will do all its purchasing online. “That’s $25 billion worth of products and services per year,” Wigand says. “If you’re a GE supplier right now, you’d better make sure you can interact with the company electronically. Similarly, if you want to become a supplier to GE in five years or so, GE probably doesn’t even want to talk to you unless you are set up to do things electronically.”
      When says online procurement offers businesses new links on the supply chain. “Traditionally I would sign a contract with a supplier, maybe for five years,” he says. “Now with all this information technology, all the convenience of information exchange and update, more companies will take bids through many suppliers and see who beats the cost. They can do it because they know where the suppliers are. That’s healthy competition and will eventually benefit the consumer.”
      An interesting development has been the creation of web portals targeted toward specific industries, such as Plasticsnet.com and e-Steel.com, which serve the plastics and steel-buying markets, respectively. “Plasticsnet.com has become the de facto place you go to buy plastics now,” Wigand says. “You find what trends are happening in the plastics industry, search for jobs, and learn about new items. And then there are buttons for 8 or 10 different types of plastics. You click on a button, and can buy and sell the kind of plastics you want. In essence it has become like an auction, where you submit a request and then the product suppliers submit bids.”

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