Visions of the e-enterprise

Visions of the e-enterprise

As BroadVision moves into Australia with its blend of e-commerce and knowledge management, Paul Montgomery talked to its CEO, Pehong Chen.

IDM: BroadVision's software focuses on the internal issue of knowledge management, and also customer-facing technologies like e-commerce. How are KM and e-commerce supposed to come together in an organisational sense?

PC: BroadVision's mission is to provide personalised relationship management applications that empower the "e-constituency" within the "e-enterprise". The e-constituency includes the company's employee base, its partners such as suppliers, distributors, dealers, and its customers (business customers or consumers).

These are all casual users and different user communities have different needs. Some of them require more knowledge to do their job better; some require direct access to transactions so that they can perform self service for e-commerce and customer care. None of this would have been possible, of course, if these things were not done in a personalised way, because otherwise it would simply be too complicated to do for a casual user.

So organisationally, the common thread between inward and outward facing e-business applications is "personalisation". If I know who you are, I'd be able to give you what you need.

Home improvement site uses the BroadVision platform to add personalisation, community and e-commerce functionality, and was built to accommodate 40,000 concurrent users.

IDM: Is software such as yours suited for a cautious department-by-department deployment, or do you expect Australian companies to embark on enterprise-wide projects all at once?

PC: The company, however big or small, must have an overall "e-strategy" that's totally bought in from the board, the CEO, and all the way down. It must then have an 'e-czar" who leads an "e-team" to carry this out. Finally, all this must be executed in "e-speed".

Here, the approach may be either breadth-first (across the whole enterprise if its business is rather integrated) or depth-first (division by division if the divisional businesses are quite discrete). Either way, try to deliver on a "time-boxed" basis, say around 100 days per implementation, so that the company can quickly learn from that process and either improve from it or add more features in the next cycle.

The only way to gain experience in e-business is to learn from actually doing it.

IDM: Your existing local customers, Telstra and ANZ, are representative of the large end of town. Is this your strength, or do you also think start-ups and smaller businesses can afford your solutions?

PC: Our installed base of some 400+ end-user customers as of 1/1/00 shows that 80 per cent of them are the dot.bams (brick-and-mortar) and 20 per cent are the dot.coms. In fact, the dot.coms are the fastest growing sector of our business. This shows that our products appeal to not just large brick-and-mortar companies, but to start-ups and small businesses even more.

E-business is not a privilege for a big company, or for that matter, something for a start-up per se - it's becoming a critical element of everybody's business. BroadVision intends to provide solutions for them all.

IDM: You told Internet World recently that e-commerce is now "mission-critical". Is e-commerce software like yours really the mission-critical part of the order fulfilment process, or are there other areas which need more work?

PC: E-business is about integrating the entire value-chain of an enterprise, all the way from suppliers to the consumers of your products and services - in one fell-swoop. In the past, these may all be discrete processes handled by separate teams or departments. Now, they must integrate tightly to gain the most value for both the enterprise and its constituencies.

BroadVision provides the "glue" applications to tie all this together. So we don't intend to do everything, but we do provide lots of hooks to easily tie into all the backend systems including order management, inventory, fulfilment, return, etc.

IDM: How important is content management to the building of an effective e-commerce Web site?

PC: Content management, along with personalisation, is probably the most critical part of producing and operating an effective e-commerce Web site. The one critical success factor for an e-commerce site is to blend compelling content with merchandises in a personalised way, rather than presenting a boring catalogue with just raw data.

Content management, and more specifically, the ability to create, maintain, and deliver personalised content, is probably what BroadVision does best in the market.

IDM: How is your acquisition of Interleaf going to affect your delivery of e-commerce infrastructure, if at all?

PC: Recently, we announced the acquisition of Interleaf, a leader in XML-based e-content management. This is a very strategic acquisition for us and one which would benefit the industry a great deal.

The technology would further enhance the value proposition for our customers because the combined technologies between BroadVision and Interleaf would allow our customers to author and store all content once (in XML) and target and deliver it to different user communities and with different devices (PC, PDA, mobile phone, TV, etc.)