UK businesses want to connect directly to their suppliers, customers and partners but web services should be sold to them as a non-technology project, a new report argues.
The Challenge of Change survey unveiled this week by researcher MyBusiness.Net found overwhelming support for the concept of the connected enterprise, with 94 per cent of the 660 respondents saying their business model was in need of change.
Jyoti Banerjee, chief executive of MyBusiness.Net, said thousands of UK companies would be plunged into crisis if they failed to move to a more connected way of doing business. But this could take most companies between five and 10 years to do, he said.
"The internet changed our expectations, and that's why being connected is the fundamental challenge that businesses will face," Banerjee said.
"Those that fail to rise to the challenge will find it increasingly difficult to control their costs and remain competitive. Unconnected organisations have no place in the business future of the UK," he added.
Transition should be managed within a strategic framework instead of by a piecemeal approach, said Banerjee: "The biggest problem is that it isn't a sequential process, it's a simultaneous, all-encompassing process.
"You need a chief connectedness officer - a thinking, strategic person who can see across the different dimensions of the business and how IT will modify its behaviour."
Banerjee said cultural issues and lack of funds are huge barriers to change: "Companies say they need to connect better with their customers and suppliers but many employees aren't geared up for that. Many won't even share information internally."
Paul Druckman, vice president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, said: "Unlike the dotcom phenomenon where companies were responding to external hype and pressures, these changes are being promoted from within organisations."
"Businesspeople - not management consultancies or IT people - now realise that their business needs to change, but without general management buy in there's a risk that any changes will not be seen as core to the business. It's essential that the transition to a connected model is not seen as an IT project."
But standards surrounding security, user profiles and transactions processing still need to be addressed for web services to take off.
Peter Robertshaw, UK marketing director at SAP, said "The research points to the fact that there are sound reasons now to collaborate, work with partners in the supply chain and find cost savings. But if we push web services as the new technology hype, it will go nowhere. We need to talk the language of business."
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