Thursday, March 21, 2002

How to Succeed in E-Business Without Really Knowing...

The well-heeled men and women, decked out in their dark, pressed suits pressed the flesh as they moved gracefully around the room. It was networking at its best at Business 2.0's Live! event on Thursday, March 21st at the AOL/TW headquarters on 6th Avenue in New York. Martinis with Chopin vodka and whiskies by Makers Mark eased the whole process and by the time I got around the room the quotes people threw at me for this little newsletter were getting wilder.

However, I did meet a few noteworthy folks, like's Dennis Cantalupo and Jarrett Crowell who told me about their financial consulting practice targeted towards vendor-manufacturers. David Schantz, who just received his certificate in e-commerce from FIT, was chatting with Hilbert, Peers & Young managing director Rick Templeton. Consultant extraordinaire Howard Lipan told me a bit about his business. Sales training BGGroup's Peter O'Donnell explained why he was wearing a post-it note with a smiley face on his name tag. (The light-spirited B2 check-in women had put smiley faces on post-its to indicate the first nametag of each alphabet letter. He was the first "O".) Business 2.0
deputy managing editor Eric Schurenberg and Trylon Communications' Laura Goldberg were friendly and chatted as we were being ushered in to hear the panel discussion.

Business 2.0 editor and president Ned Desmond warmly greeted the 200 guests in the conference-theater room. He beamed as he announced that last Tuesday the website had reached 1 million page views, which as he said, "suggests we're learning something." After a few other introductory pleasantries he introduced the speakers for this evening's discussion, "How to Succeed at E-Business (Without Going Insane)." Our esteemed panelists were Net Attitude author and former VP of Technology John Patrick, Deloitte Consulting's Cathleen Benko, Meta Group's David Cearley and AOL Time Warner's William Raduchel.

If you were to ask people on the street, according to Ned, their viewpoint of e-business would not be so good. Yet, "that's wrong!" he was able to joyfully boast. He justified this counterpoint with a few statistics and then launched into his first of several questions posed to the panelists: "How big is e-business."

The consensus? No one knows. John thinks "we're 3% in. We're only in the very beginning and can only do very little." His big example was how you can book a hotel reservation online, and you can check online how many frequent flyer miles you have with a particular hotel or airline, but you cannot pay for the hotel with your miles yet (no integration). However, "we're about to see an explosion" in e-businesses. Picking up on his comment, Cathy pointed out that e-businesses will continue, but this is not something that's separate from traditional businesses. E-business is the electronic aspect and the new way of doing business for existing and new businesses. This was also precisely David's point as well, "people that have forgotten that business and e-business are different are mistaken. It's about the integration of technologies." David went on to say that businesses now must consider critical areas including, reducing cost and driving revenue, to succeed. "What's happening now is a new business pragmatism."

Speaking of pragmatism, retaining customer loyalty is another important element of staying in business. At this point I began noticing the Business 2.0 logo-the running 'ant-man'-and wondered about how and why Business 2.0 came up with this image. Originally created before the magazine merged with Time Warner and AOL, the magazine kept the little guy to retain the all-important branding cache with its massive subscriber base. This image, slightly silly, does seem to adequately express Business 2.0's brand--business racing forward but with a bit of tongue-in-cheek attitude. The little guy's got a cell phone and briefcase, but he looks like he's smiling or laughing.

Anyway, at this point I return to the discussion. I didn't miss much--building on David's pragmatism, William launched into the importance of IT guys. Did you know that CIO stands for "career is over?" That's because IT guys are always installing systems that make everyone mad at them so by the time the project is over, so is their time at that job. William has miraculously served as CIO three times at AOL, so he's obviously doing something right. He also stated we're only about halfway through Moore's Law* (* definition)

David brought the conversation back to (other) real numbers with citing that 60% - 70% of American's are online, to which John retorted that the amount of commerce actually done online is still small.

Ned deftly rounded up their initial comments and threw the $26,000 question at them: "what's the biggest trend?" And, lovely readers, just to keep you in painful suspense, I left to get on to my next event. However, I will leave you with three thoughts: (a) integration (b) portals and (c) check out: for more thorough analysis of what they think about upcoming trends.