Article: Will e-Business Force Change?


The goals of reducing costs, speeding time to market and improving customer satisfaction must be at the core of any business today. Customers demand lower prices, greater options and customization, higher levels of service, and more personalization. To meet those needs, most executives are reconsidering all aspects of their enterprise’s operations in light of e-Business opportunities.

We should understand that the key to e-Business is innovation and speed by being ahead of competitors in moving online or launching a ground-breaking service or way of delivering that service. Yet many Canadian companies are still clinging to the traditional rules of business, making them slower at decision-making and more risk-averse than their US counterparts. Too many Canadian businesses may be losing competitive advantage because their planning processes are often unclear and too lengthy.

Why? In part this is due to management rather than technical issues. Successful e-business projects must have a clearly identified e-commerce reason to exist and a compelling business reason that motivates people and processes to change. Unfortunately most e-business efforts fail for lack of vision and leadership. It is therefore important that the proper level of executive sponsorship is present to complete the project. It’s mandatory to have agreement and alignment at the top. Management is then able to establish and identify the scope, time, appropriate funding and objectives parameters of the process and then lead the teams towards success.

This obviously raises the question of the current management’s abilities. How effective is the current management? Do they have the appropriate experience, confidence in their abilities and skills to embark on an e-business adventure? Perhaps you or your corporate executives never admit there’s anything wrong and perhaps it may be that your organization’s competencies are no longer competitive and you need to rethink, reorganize and consider implementing e-Business as a locus of change?

Its amazing how many organizations assume they are geared toward doing what the market wants, no matter how painfully obvious customer buying trends and competitive offerings have irreversibly changed their market. It’s easier for management to convince their inner circle of corporate sycophants everything’s fine than to face the awful truth of the real-world marketplace.

One should also be observant of a fairly pervasive indicator of ineffective management that has flourished in the last decade and that is “Management by Fear”. This abusive and politicized style of management will most certainly inhibit your cost effective transition to e-business and is likely impacting your current operations.

It’s easily recognized. Does your management hire and fire people based on their willingness to agree with their position? Do they not tolerate open and honest communications, especially from anyone who questions or offers a differing opinion of their or the company’s strategy and organizational design? Are people promoted, demoted or transferred according to their skills and abilities or by management politics, whims and mood swings? This helps foster a fear-based “every person for themselves,” corporate culture. It prevents any potential for teamwork, mutual respect, trust, honesty, integrity, or discipline that is necessary for e-business or other organizational changes.

Because e-Business means change, and change scares most people. As such, inexperienced management forgets basic human nature as it seeks to conceal its weaknesses and plans strategies and changes amongst itself without fear of criticism or input from employees. Therefore when implemented, rivalries between departments, demotions, promotions, budget turf wars, and protected customer and supplier relationships are some of the reasons that people may be reluctant to cooperate with a new e-business process.

A strong management team is always proactive and will ensure that the people most affected by the e-business model and reorganization will be involved in defining their new roles and responsibilities. They are willing to delegate responsibilities, discuss issues and communicate. They will lead your company through change and onwards to a successful e-business by example rather than fear. Check out your management team style. Will your e-Business requirements force change in your organization? – John Shenton – February, 2003