Emeritus Professor of Marketing
The authors seek to question whether ‘e-business’ will ultimately represent a revolution in the way firms operate or whether it is a more normal evolution in the operations of some firms. Despite the bursting of the Internet stock bubble, it is important to answer this question.The Internet continues to grow in size and capability, many firms are implementing Web-based applications and Internet-derived economic change continues to occur. If this change is revolutionary, now or in the near future, then many managers will be required to rethink their firm strategies and managerial responses in a profound way. On the other hand, if the change is simply evolutionary it will apply more to some firms than to others and pre-Internet strategies and managerial responses will still be appropriate in many circumstances.In order to answer this question they first examine where this revolution (or evolution) is concentrated, and why this revolution (or evolution) is occurring as it is. They then examine the claims that “e-business” is different to previous forms of business. These claims include; (1) brands will die, (2) prices will fall, (3) middlemen will die, (4) scale is irrelevant, (5) being first is key and (6) the winner will take all. For each of these claims they find that there are countervailing arguments and, despite the espoused theories of IT ‘visionaries,’ e-business has not suspended the laws of economics. Finally, they evaluate whether e-business meets the criteria of pervasiveness and process orientation that have characterized previous industrial revolutions. They conclude that it is premature to categorize e-business as revolutionary. Overall, they argue that e-business is no silver bullet; rather it will be a useful tool for some firms and some tasks. Rather than listen to IT gurus or consultants, managers should put in place sense-making approaches that question its appropriateness to their firm and its circumstances. They provide some guidance on the key questions firms should ask in making sense of e-business.