Chapter 1. There's No Business Like E-Business
The Internet and the World Wide Web have provided a wealth of new opportunities for companies
to do business
Electronic Business XML
) provides an
standard to help make those opportunities possible. This book discusses the ebXML initiative, but to understand the reasons for ebXML and why it has attracted support from such a wide variety of industry groups, we need to first look at the basic and dramatic changes in business environment brought about by the Internet and the web.
When companies begin sharing information to improve service and product quality, they are truly conducting electronic business. This concept of electronic business, with its benefits in improved business processes and lower costs, is the goal of ebXML.
Relationships among business
have changed, and now go beyond the common idea of just buying and selling. A few
ago, one of the authors established a database to track paper inventories in the publishing industry ”known for
among its companies. After about 18 months of rumored but nonexistent paper shortages resulting from hoarding, and wild gyrations in price levels that hurt both suppliers and customers,
in the industry agreed that they needed to share information on inventory levels to prevent further destructive swings. Printing companies agreed to furnish their inventory data in electronic form to a central database that would generate monthly summary statistics so everyone would be working from the same base of solid data on inventories.
Companies need to use their information systems as strategic assets to move with speed and agility in this changing business environment.
Is this an example of electronic business? You bet it is.Were any goods bought or sold as part of this project? None whatsoever.
This example also shows how businesses in recent years have found business climates becoming much more complex. They need to respond more quickly to changes in business conditions, a more fickle customer base, and demands by customers and
to jump on new opportunities, even in new lines of business, as they become available. Companies have
that they need to use their information systems as strategic assets to move with more speed and agility in this environment. ebXML's specifications
the development of systems that address these kinds of business scenarios.
The ebXML technology (explained more fully later in the book) is built
for meeting these conditions:
Because ebXML organizes business content around business processes rather than fixed documents, and interchangeable
rather than hard-coded, predefined data elements, companies can relate their current practices and terminology more easily to changing conditions.
Because ebXML automates many aspects of business trading agreements, companies can engage in new and innovative relationships with partners ”even
Because ebXML lists industry processes, messages, core components, and other business objects needed to conduct e-business in distributed registries and repositories, rather than in either a central store or in each
's system, the software needed to run ebXML applications can be made less complex and less expensive.
Because ebXML takes advantage of existing Internet technical standards to develop its message structure and electronic envelopes, almost any means of Internet transport, such as the web or email, can carry ebXML messages. Thus, even the smallest companies already have much of the technology needed to begin running ebXML.
So what is this thing we call
? The popular concept of electronic business is retail sales over the web ”with Amazon.com perhaps the most well-known example. In the late 1990s, the success of these "
" triggered a headlong charge by established brands to secure their own web presence.
But any businessperson can tell you that doing business between companies is more than just selling consumer goods. It covers the entire panoply of interactions with suppliers,
, investors, staff, and customers ”all of the entities that have a stake in the performance of the company. ebXML is designed to extend the benefits of e-business to a much wider audience than ever before, covering the entire potential spectrum of this panoply of interactions.
Of course, a good deal of important business activity goes on inside a company, not just between business partners. Because ebXML concentrates on the interactions among companies, this chapter discusses those kinds of business conditions.
This chapter reviews electronic business in business terms. E-business indeed depends on technology, but until very recently the "business" side of e-business has gotten less attention than the highly visible technology that has mesmerized normally skeptical businesspeople.The ebXML initiative addresses these business issues, which are the focus of this chapter. The chapter also explores how ebXML encourages development of real business solutions by making technology a simple