e-Business Readiness

Readiness for e-business is defined as the capability to engage in electronic transactions (see Colecchia/Pattinson/Atrostic 2000). Again this has several features. It comprises appropriate network access (including sufficient bandwidth), internal hardware and software solutions as well as the procedural and managerial readiness to deal with online transactions from simple web presence through to fulfilment of customer orders and the relating after sales services. Hence, the term should be divided in two components, a technical and an organisational component. A company might have a perfect website with all the features to allow for online transactions, but not be able to handle online orders in the backoffice. Its readiness for e-business would therefore be rather poor. In a very broad sense, the technological infrastructure has, thus, to be accompanied by a generally positive attitude towards e-business and the existence of the necessary ICT skills. Thus, sufficient organisational and human resource capabilities have to be provided to create viable e-business solutions. Only if both are adequately supplied, a company can be called 'ready for e-business'. The different stages of e-business readiness can then be defined along a five-stages model (see table below).

Table: 5 process-stages in e-commerce (Source: ECaTT 2000)

Stage Description  
General Marketing
Presentation and marketing via Internet;
Offers of goods and services in form of static information on web pages;
No individual ordering or other services online;
Typical example: online brochure, information services
Increasing e-commerce complexity and integration
Stage 2:
Interactive Marketing
Presentation and marketing via Internet;
Interactive offers with dynamic feedback, individualised product information;
Typical examples: real time statistics, database search, product catalogues, e-mail interface
Stage 3:
Ordering and Contracting (sale/ purchase)
Presentation, marketing and sales via Internet;
Interactive offers with online ordering feature; payment with credit card number or invoice;
Typical examples: online shops, online markets (shop-in-shop, shopping malls); airline or theatre ticket sales;
Contracting and payment online, delivery offline
Stage 4:
Presentation, marketing and sales via Internet;
Interactive offers with online ordering feature;
Payment via internet payment device;
Typical examples: online shops, online markets (shop-in-shop, shopping malls);
With online sales and payment transactions, no online distribution
Stage 5:
Presentation, marketing, sales and delivery/ distribution via Internet;
Interactive offers with online transactions, payment with online payment device or by invoice (in case of long-term delivery contracts);
Typical examples: suppliers of music on demand, software distribution;
With online sales, transactions and distribution

© empirica 2000

These five stages should not be confounded with the components of transactions described above. The stages of e-business readiness are steps a company normally has to go through in order to be able to provide a fully interactive electronic service. When all these features are in place, transactions consisting of pre-purchase, purchase and after-purchase components can be effected, and it is the customer's or supplier's choice, which parts of the transaction are actually to be pursued online or offline.

Readiness can also be interpreted for the economy as a whole (see Mesenbourg 2001, OECD 1999). In this case, it refers to the availability of adequate telecommunications and education infrastructures in a country. In order to cover this dimension, it can be proposed to give a general overview of the state of internet access conditions in Europe. In addition, difficulties of companies to realise e-business technically and organisationally can be checked for causes in the infrastructure and in the education and qualification system (see EITO 2001 for an analysis of IT skills gaps in Europe).