The E-Dilemma

Published in April 2000

Over the last several years we have learned a new vocabulary. The “E” vocabulary. e-Business, e-Commence, e-Solutions, e-Economy, e-mail, and my personal favorite “business at
the speed of e”. I would like to coin a new term: e-Dilemma. The e-Dilemma is the situation that many companies experience when building their e-Business solutions. Companies that experience the
e-Dilemma spend considerable amounts of development dollars to create an e-Business solution that accomplishes absolutely nothing expect to alienate existing and potential customers, and become the
central themes of “what-not-to-do” articles. In this column I will discuss some of the key issues that corporations need to address when building an e-Business solution and avoid the e-Dilemma.

Understanding What e-Business Is

Too often corporations believe that e-Busiess is a cure-all to their selling issues. Build a website, market it on,, and AOL and wait for the money to roll in. Unfortunately
reality offers a vastly different picture. e-Business is nothing more than a new distribution channel/customer touchpoint (the internet) that serves a new, but familiar customer segment (web
surfers). Keep in mind that typically many of these web surfers are not new customers but existing customers that have internet access and are inclined to make purchases through the internet. If
these customers have a negative experience on your website then this can directly impact sales in your other distribution channels (store, catalog, etc.). As a result, your company’s website,
if incorrectly built has the capacity to reduce your current customer base.

Implementing an e-Business Solution Without Reexamining Your Business Model

Before you race off and build your e-Business solution take the time to examine your business model to make sure that your e-initiative fits your model. After examining your model you may decide
that you need to significantly change it, which would initiate many changes within your firm. I’ll use my own company as an example. We are a consulting firm so our product is a service that
aids corporations in building their systems. In that vein no one is going to go to our website, and engage us on a project directly. They may find our site and then realize that they need to
contact us. As a result, we have to make sure that our contact information is easy to locate (email, address, and phone numbers). In addition, since we are a consulting firm we need to have a web
presence. People want to be able to visit our site and become familiar with what we do. When they visit our site they need to be able to quickly understand if we are a strategic partner or a “body
shop” consulting firm. So while our website will not generate a single on-line order it can create leads and can differentiate us from the competition.

Non-Integrated Systems

We have heard many stories on the various web problems that corporations have encountered. We have all read about companies that could not fulfill all the orders that they received during the
Christmas holiday. There is an old marketing rule that “A customer will tell 2 – 4 people when they are happy with a product/service you’ve given them. These same customers will tell 12
– 20 other potential customers when they are dissatisfied with your product/service.” I have a client that looked to purchase a winter coat (a fellow Chicagoan) from his favorite coat maker
this past year. It was during the Christmas holiday and this person did not want to battle the holiday shoppers so he figured that he could go to this company’s website and find the coat he
wanted. Upon going to this website he has successful in locating the exact coat that he wanted, unfortunately when he tried to place this order on-line he was told that the coat was out-of-stock.
Undaunted he then called the corporation’s toll-free phone number and was also told that they were out-of-stock on this coat. However, a couple of days later he was in his local mall and
walked past one of their stores. On a whim he entered this store and discovered a rack full of the exact same coats he saw on the web. However these coats were priced at $40 less than the website.
What happened is that this corporation in their rush to build a corporate website did not take the time to integrate their e-Business system into their existing legacy order entry systems. It is
important to note that most of the web debacles that we’ve read about have occurred with the well-know Global 2000 corporations and not with the new “dot com” startups. This has occurred
because the established companies have to reengineer their existing systems to work with their e-Solutions. On the other hand, the “dot com” startups took the “re” out of reengineering as these
companies didn’t have any existing systems to be integrated.

I do not want to leave you with a negative impression on e-Business. e-Business is a critical initiative for the vast majority of companies if not for all of the major ones. Make sure to follow
these guidelines and you will not experience the e-Dilemma and avoid becoming the theme of the “what-not-to-do” articles.

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David Marco

David Marco

Mr. Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise architecture, data warehousing and business intelligence, and is the world’s foremost authority on metadata.  Mr. Marco is the author of several widely acclaimed books including “Universal Meta Data Models” and “Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide”.  Mr. Marco has taught at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain’s Chicago Business "Top 40 Under 40". He is the founder and President of EWSolutions, a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class business intelligence solutions using data warehousing, enterprise architecture and managed metadata environment technologies (

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