Information technology executives, more than ever before, have turned their attention to the Internet.
IT executives, such as those participating in SN's Technology Roundtable, have many other concerns, to be sure. Front-end technologies represent a vibrant area of change. The challenge of mining the data from loyalty programs continues to be daunting. Systems integration issues pose many tough choices. And the shortage of labor, particularly skilled technical professions, is one big headache.
But when the conversation turns to the Internet, whether business-to-business, commonly known as B2B, or business-to-consumer, also known as B2C, the executives' enthusiasm perks up and a sense of what the future may bring starts to take hold.
B2C e-commerce initiatives have gotten many headlines because of the hype surrounding Internet startup grocers like Webvan and Peapod. The traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers think they can provide tough competition when they get their on-line initiatives under way.
"Click-and-mortar is probably going to be the biggest growth area of the business-to-consumer arena," said Mike Miller, director of information systems, Andronico's Market, Albany, Calif.
"The brick-and-mortar companies are the ones that are going to succeed," said Gary Butler, vice president of information technology, Brookshire Grocery Co., Tyler, Texas. "I don't think the pure-play Internet grocery retailers are going to make it."
Though somewhat less publicized, B2B represents the greater potential for increasing efficiencies in procurement, fostering relationships with old suppliers, and finding new sources of supply, many observers told SN. UCCnet said it will enhance the B2B experience of retailers, while scan-based trading will build on it.
"Using the exchanges and B2B is probably the highest priority project, at least right now," said Gary Herman, chief information officer, Unified Western Grocers, Los Angeles.
"I think UCCnet is one of the coolest ideas on the face of the planet," noted Ken Pink, vice president, information systems, Harmons, West Valley City, Utah.
While the Internet-related applications aren't the only thing going on in IT in late 2000, they do appear to be generating the most excitement. SN's Technology Roundtable presents a fuller picture of their opinions, predictions and accomplishments.