Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure

Old money and the new economy is a recipe for growth.

It's one of those jacaranda days that Sydney does so well: the sky an intense blue barely pausing at the horizon to meet the sea. Renowned marketing and business strategy expert Dr Peter Wilton, matching the day's mood in a jacaranda hued T-shirt, is holed up in a cliff-top eyrie perched high above one of the city's northern beaches.

It's a suburb built on old money (that is, established corporate money), a mecca of bleached blond floorboards and glazing, far from the urban grunge landscape of the dotcoms. Yet the savvier inhabitants of this privileged postcode are equally in thrall to the Internet and e-business strategies as are their urban, new-economy counterparts. Even more so perhaps, because it is the old successful companies which are presently reaping most reward from the new business paradigm that is e-commerce.

Wilton, a faculty member of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and a member of the marketing faculty at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, believes that in these older corporations the fundamental business premise has been refined and proven, and the business processes that support that premise well established. For these corporations, the application of e-business techniques can dramatically improve profitability and reach; it's the equivalent of a turbocharger. [CIO last spoke with Dr Wilton two years ago. See "Customer-Coloured Glasses", CIO August 1999. - Ed]Wilton expects the task of applying e-business techniques and technology in these established corporations will continue to fall to CIOs rather than imported e-commerce "specialists". But he swiftly warns that CIOs can only promise a return on their corporations' investment in e-commerce technologies and techniques if they have a solid grasp of the fundamental business strategy and the processes that add value to the business. If not, a business would be better offloading e-business responsibility to technology-savvy business unit managers, Wilton says.

Wilton fears that in spite of the opportunities to deliver significant benefits, too few CIOs will accept the e-challenge that lies ahead for established corporations and, when faced with infrastructure requirements demanding peer-to-peer solutions, that they will bunker down, try to maintain control over all the information resources and hence fail to fully exploit the e-business opportunity.

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