The explosive growth that followed as a result of the 1990s internet revolution brought with it a sea change in business thinking that means that nothing will ever be quite the same again.
The early applications of the technologies drew heavily upon business to consumer (B2C) models, offering everything from holidays and sportswear to food and housewares, but the wider business community was slow to understand the relevance for businesses which would not traditionally wish to market directly to the end user. Dot Com millionaires became the new pop stars, vaulting effortlessly over incumbent retailers with established models, thrust forward by their financial backers for whom the 'exit strategy' was everything.
For a time, the world of established valuation models was turned completely on its head, as the investment market stampeded to grab a piece of the pie before it was too late. Many, but by no means all, of the Dot Coms which offered so much promise fell by the wayside as their cash burn rate quickly overtook their growth, and many pioneers in fields such as telecommunications suffered a similar fate while the survivors went on to enormous success.
As the internet has become much more than just an entertainment portal, intranets, extranets and corporate communications have transformed the way that industry operates, irrespective of sector. The internet has become part of the central nervous system of the global economy. The complex task of managing thousands of inter-connected strands of information in real-time presents a challenge to the modern organisation that would have been inconceivable for most businesses even seven years ago.
The globalisation of business has certainly been accelerated by the e-commerce revolution, but the internet is changing the way that we live our lives, the way that we are governed, and even the way that we communicate. For many organisations it will be necessary to develop online systems capable of appealing to a whole range of cultural environments. Languages and currencies will also require adapting to the localised markets, and the challenge of presenting multiple views of the same core information offers both new obstacles and new opportunities.
In today's organisations, it is possible to reduce cost, improve service and develop new markets simultaneously, but to achieve this, the application and focus of the technologies must be precise, robust, scaleable, user-friendly and adaptable, and the inability to develop effective business information systems that meet these criteria could result in potentially catastrophic failure. As the sophistication of the systems has evolved, information and content management has become a key objective within the ecommerce strategies of companies both large and small.
Now that the technologies have thrown up industry standards, trends, and 'tried and tested models,' it is imperative that those entering the industry (or seeking to develop their existing knowledgebase) be equipped with a thorough understanding of the technologies, the applications and the successful models. In applying internet technologies to a given business process, the weakness of the systems often lies in the integration of human resources and existing business processes with the new systems. The design of the next generation world class ecommerce architecture will require systems to be ergonomic in nature, outwardly simplistic but in actual fact sophisticated and intuitive.
Today's students see the world through different eyes, as the generation that has grown up with the internet look towards their own careers. Technology is seen as a tool, a workhorse to be harnessed to achieve the objectives, rather than the management and development of technology being set apart from the main business strategy. We are entering the brave new world of 'joined up business' where business processes, IT infrastructure and communications are indistinguishable.
If anything, as the world progresses from enabling technologies into pervasive technologies, the pace of change continues to accelerate. Britain, with an enormously strong presence in the development of these new products, and with a huge tradition of innovation in the field, is leading the world in many areas.