AMR: E-Business Renaissance?

Scottsdale, Ariz. -- With patches of green grass and cool ponds, the Phoenician Hotel stands out like an oasis in the sun-baked Arizona landscape. Indeed, the hotel was a fitting place for AMR Research to hold its executive conference and decree the resurgence of e-business. More than 800 attendees packed the auditorium, listening to Tony Friscia, president and CEO of AMR Research, spew out mostly rosy findings from a recent survey about the importance of enterprise application initiatives to business goals. Compared to recent quarters, Q1 2002 posted an overall higher rating across all enterprise e-business initiatives such as CRM, SCM, ERP, e-sourcing and private trading exchanges. "Consistent increases in importance ratings for Q1 may be the result of improved optimism in users thinking about recapturing market share," Friscia says. Spending on internal e-business process and new product development initiatives are up, surpassing trendy customer management initiatives. Of course, AMR tempers its enthusiasm with a warning: Trends over the past four quarters still indicate a cautious environment to invest in IT. Moreover, many companies reported plans to decrease or make no changes to their e-business budgets. But don't tell that to Albert Stroucken, chairman, president and CEO of H.B. Fuller Company, a 115-year-old manufacturer of specialty chemical products that posts $1.274 billion in annual revenues. E-enabling his company to simplify product ordering and customer support processes and cut material costs is a top priority, "and the time is ripe for information technology to take center stage," he says. In a sign of the changing times, Stroucken also warns companies not to sacrifice long-term e-business strategy for short-term ROI gains; delivering a fast ROI has been the mantra for selling technology in a parched market. E-business is a fundamental transformation, he says, adding that keeping track of costs is "hard to do and a waste of time. This doesn't mean that you throw caution out the window, but you don't have to make calculations on everything. You have to have a gut feeling that [e-enablement] is where you want to go, and then go do it." Pioneers of e-business stand to reap huge gains over competitors, and the time to move forward with e-business initiatives is now, agrees Mark Leposky, vice-president of global operations for TaylorMade-adidas Golf Company and a speaker at the conference. Once a laughing stock of the industry for its inability to deliver products to market in a timely fashion, TaylorMade-adidas spent 18 months to turn the problem into a competitive advantage. Adopting e-business holistically and working with supply chain-management software vendor i2 Technologies, TaylorMade-adidas now produces and delivers custom-made golf clubs in 24-hours from the time of fitting. The best part about e-business advantages, says Leposky, is that "competitors often can't see how you're doing it, which makes it a sustainable competitive advantage." As giant competitors weigh in, most notably Nike, TaylorMade-adidas hopes e-business can do exactly what AMR says is driving the e-business resurgence -- that is, recapturing market share. Tom Kaneshige also writes for
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