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Monday, August 26, 2002
Book Review

E-com must for business growth
B. S. Sandhawalia
Global Electronic Commerce by J. Christopher Westland and Theodore H.K. Clark Published by Universities Press. Pages 592, Price Rs. 565

E-commerce success stories tend not to come from the traditional commercial giants of the physical world. More often they are stories about outsiders who knew almost nothing about the markets they chose to enter. They succeeded because they understood the Internet and the way they could harness its potential. Success requires rethinking what the Web is about. Global Electronic Commerce Theory and Case Studies helps the reader understand many possibilities available to tap the expanding information-enabled revolution and improve the business performance of their organisations.

Increased competition and technology change require rapid adaption and innovation. Information technology is in demand because no business can react rapidly to new information about competitors and environment without it. The shift away from wealth creation through production of tangible goods to wealth creation by information processing has increased the volatility of the environment in which business operate. In future, technologies available for e-commerce will dictate a significant evolution of social, political and economic policy. Global markets can defy existing ways of regulating business and place power in the hands of customers, producers and distributors. These technologies also tend to redefine the concept of what constitutes value moving away from tangible possessions towards knowledge-based assets.

Technology has toppled the barriers of time and space creating a global marketplace where unique opportunities exist for organisations with an understanding of the technologies and a global mind-set. The book gives an insight into the theory of these opportunities and the case studies that follow, highlight the strategies adopted by the organisations that took advantage of these opportunities. After explaining the foundations of electronic commerce, the book provides a historical perspective of the innovations that arose from it.

The case studies give a clear understanding of the innovative use of Supply Chain Management and Information Alliances, Systems Integration and Business Re-engineering. Increasing use of electronic commerce and information technology for channel automation is accelerating this trend and has enabled the emergence of the global market space for information-based goods and services. Organisation require a competitive strategy that must continually re-evaluate marketing and supply channels to assure that the channel tasks are assigned to the best available technology. The book examines the infrastructure that provides the technology that enables the use of electronic commerce. This includes the wide area network (WAN) and the bandwidth provided by the global telecommunications networks.

The book also examines the issue of electronic markets. Most industries have successfully automated their product markets. While the book reviews these product markets through electronic auctions and intermediaries, it has a chapter dedicated on financial market automation which surveys issues and technologies required to implement an electronic market cost effectively, using appropriate technologies, to reach the widest cross section of buyers and sellers.

The book also analyses the concepts of digital retailing, secure digital payments and the issues on logistics and service opportunities.

The essence of the book is in the fact that electronic commerce can take, and has taken, a variety of routes to realise success. Commercial success requires an understanding of the unique character of global networks and information technology. Success will go to those who understand and use the information technologies of electronic commerce.