One of my rants is that too many people live in little boxes. They never put their tiny snouts outside to sniff the fresh air. I have applied this, in particular, to the compartmentalised world of electronic commerce, where the anoraked Web traders have never believed they have anything to learn from grey-suited EDI-men. The strapline in 12 May's PC Week read: "EDI is like a dead animal just lying there but, with XML, you have a live, interactive animal doing whizz-bang things".
Meanwhile, the EDI-men celebrate the failure of the Web-traders much-hyped E-Christmas when millions were spent to effect just 850 sales. For at least four years, it has seemed glaringly obvious that the two communities should get out of their little boxes.
Other technologies, like smart cards or bar codes, should also be recognised as part of the Ecommerce soup. Ignore these strands and you end up with either a techy, impractical and unbusinesslike solution, or a fail-safe, unintegrated, 1980s system.
Well, folks, that's my philosophy, but I've a nasty feeling that I may be just a dangerous idealist. Look at the collapse of the only monthly UK magazine to promote Ecommerce. Its publishers blamed the traditional EDI advertisers for deserting because the magazine was trying to open up (or dilute) the readership to other strands of Ecommerce - and this is happening at a time when electronic commerce is supposed to be taking-off exponentially. Let's face it, they failed because they were following my grandiose ideas.
The moral seems to be: don't listen to me and go for the narrow, vested interest. I was horrified that a security exhibition last month filled the large National Hall at Olympia, where last year's Ecommerce exhibition could only fill Olympia 2. Security is a necessary thing and the show attracted a Minister of the Crown to open it. I don't knock it but it's not the same as actually doing the biz, which is what Ecommerce is all about.
If you work in an IT department and want advancement, don't go for the big picture or hope to create great new trading channels for your company.
Home in on digital signatures and encryption, this year's fashionable subjects, which are eminently suitable for tiny minds aiming to brown-nose their IS directors.
Security is in the spirit of the age. I recently listened to a talk on government.direct, or Better Government as it's now called, and contrasted it with the way it was presented in the Green Paper 18 months ago. Then, the emphasis was on providing a single user interface for the forms produced by government departments so that citizens could easily fill them in.
Now, the emphasis seems to be on producing a single security environment for all transactions with the government. Ease of use has gone out the window.
What really worries me is that the guys who are imposing this hacker-proof regime are the CESG, alias the spymasters from GCHQ in Cheltenham, who don't know much about business. So, I fear for any company seeking government business in the future. They will be asked to use absurdly stringent security protocols that are incompatible with their transactions within the private sector. They may refuse, and the whole idea that Better Government will aid business to deal electronically with government will go down the pan.
Another triumph for the tiny minds in their little boxes.
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