B2E Whatever Next?
Winning Business Magazine, March 2001
B2B, B2C and now B2E (as in 'employee'). Soon will we have B2P(artner), B2P(ub) and B2S(auna)? With twenty-six letters in the alphabet there is plenty of scope for this fad to keep on running.
Thank goodness that we now out of the internet hysteria that seemed to dominate us only a few months ago. The trade press, the general media and of course corporate events seemed to be completely obsessed with it. How many PowerPoint presentations have we all sat through, listening to one guru after another fantasizing about how the internet was going to have a greater impact upon our lives than even the industrial revolution? That shopping, working, doing business and even going to the loo (yes, the loo) was never going to be the same again. Incidently, I never fully understood how the design of a piece of clever software was going to transform people's shopping habits of a lifetime. Didn't anyone tell the Swedish model and her partner poet (what great business credentials) when they sat up the now bankrupt Boo.com that shopping for most people is not a chore but a shared, family social activity?
What many of the gurus failed to tell us in their hyped-up speeches was that they themselves had invested money in internet start-up ventures and that they were out to make personal financial killings. And they did (on paper) until the bubble burst. So for them, it has all ended in tears.
But don't let us fall into the luddite trap of going over the top the other way. Without doubt the internet is playing an increasing role in the way we do business. It is allowing us to work more efficiently with our business partners. Relations between suppliers, manufacturers and retailers can be improved to create big cost savings in inventory management, payment systems and shared databases. B2B is here to stay and it can only become more important as the percentage of large businesses that have shared information systems with their business partners increases from the present 30 per cent low level.
So, too, with B2E. The internet and WAP technologies will bring huge cost savings and efficiency gains to corporate selling and marketing functions. Sales personnel are always on the move, negotiating with one client after another. But they need constant access to real time corporate data that gives them the ability to clinch deals there and then. They often need to get up-to-the-minute prices from the office and equally, to get authorization from bosses before agreeing terms with customers.
B2E means that the sales professional can get the best of both worlds. Access to data as though they were in the office but while they are on the road. In fact, information is no longer office based. Instead, it is on-line. This is being encouraged by a new generation of laptop and internet technologies. As a MORI study commissioned by Toshiba has recently revealed, remote employees, and sales professionals among them, are more productive than their office tied colleagues. They work longer hours but they are less stressed. This New World is going to be great for the state-of -the-art techies among us. They should be able to clinch better sales deals and with these, get bigger bonuses. But for the rest of us, more time in motorway service stations, sitting in cars trying to access the vital data that we need before our next client meeting in a couple of hour's time?
© Professor Richard Scase