MIS 571: E-Commerce: Business Uses of the Internet

Fall 2004

University of Illinois - Springfield

Instructor: Rassule Hadidi

Student: Marty Timm

 

Journal Article Reviews – Part 1

 

Topic: Business Plans for Web-based Businesses

 

Selected Article

 

Keyes, Jessica, “Developing the E-Business Plan” in Handbook of E-Business, ed. Jessica

Keyes, D8-1 – D8-15, Boston: Warren Gorham & Lamont (2000). 1

 

Introduction

 

With regard to the topic of “Business Plans for Web-based Businesses”, this article was selected as an example of one that directly addresses the creation of business plans for e-businesses.  There are several others relevant to this topic – of varying degrees of quality and depth – currently available on the Internet, in the popular business-oriented media, and in the domain of commercial publishing.  The selected article is not intended to represent all that exist.

 

Synopsis

 

According to this author, the business plan for the e-business should be similar in format to the traditional business plan.  However, the e-business plan should be specific to the functions of the e-business since the e-business should be considered as a separate entity from the main business.  Two audiences are to be considered when creating the plan: 1) management and staff – who will use it as a “road map” to achievement, 2) senior management, board of directors and outside investors – who will use it to gain funding.  More care must be taken when writing the plan for an external audience.

 

The article then recommends and discusses the following sections of the business plan:

 

1.      Executive Summary

2.      Management Team Description

3.      Company History

4.      Product Description

5.      Description of Business Opportunities

6.      Profile of the Competition

7.      Research and Development Factors

8.      Pricing Issues

9.      Marketing Plan

10.  Summary of Financial Data

 

In describing these sections of the business plan, the author provides suggestions for content of the document.  She also offers examples of what to include in both informal and formal versions of the business plan.

 

The article concludes by stressing the dual purposes of the business plan: 1) to create a guideline for success, 2) to secure funding.  The author contends that the second goal is most important since without funding it is difficult to achieve success.

 

Discussion


As an author and consultant most recently specializing in the area of e-business, Jessica Keyes brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from more general technology-related consulting areas to this topic.  However, when she states that the e-business is best considered as a separate entity from the main business of an organization, she betrays some bias toward considering the e-business as a special offshoot of the central business.  She also overlooks the possibility that an e-business might be a business in and of itself.

 

When considering the e-business as part of a larger organization, it might be healthier to synchronize the planning for all parts of the business.  It is true that the e-business – like any new business unit – will need special attention and some degree of independence from the more established areas of the organization, but this need not mean that this part of the business should operate with complete autonomy. 

 

Keyes states in the middle of the article that e-businesses often benefit from having some so-called “gray hairs” on the managerial staff.  These people are considered as capable of bringing proven administrative skills into the picture.  In that regard, it seems somewhat contradictory to divorce the e-business from the main business where such “gray hairs” may be readily available.

 

In general, this is a well-written article with plenty of information for the prospective business plan writer.  The writing style is straightforward and uncontrived, free from unnecessary jargon and nearly conversational.  The examples provided are lengthy enough to give a good idea of what should be included in the actual plan and the author is careful to clarify that these examples are not meant as templates.  Instead, she recommends that the writer be familiar with the intended audience and craft the plan with that audience in mind.

 

There are relatively few worthwhile articles available that cover the topic of creating a business plan specifically for an e-business.  This article is perhaps one of the few available that merits attention.  It provides a thorough discussion of the topic and does a fairly good job of educating the e-business entrepreneur regarding the importance of adequate planning and then capably, credibly communicating that plan.      

 

The article is also worth reading since it can stimulate ideas.  Business planners often need to look beyond their immediate view – especially in the world of e-business where it is much more likely to become focused on the enabling technology – and consider the issues important to their audience – not just those that occupy their own minds.  This author does attempt to provoke that shift in viewpoint so that the business plan developer can do the job well.

 

As for recommending this article, I would do so conditionally.  While it covers the topic rather well, it should not be the only source of information that an e-business plan writer relies upon.  It would be better for the plan writer to look for additional information regarding the topic and that search should include sources that cover the general topic of developing business plans – not just those for e-businesses.

 

With every day that passes, e-business becomes more a regular part of doing business.  How we plan for it should benefit from the wealth of experience and information available in the wider business world.  This does not mean losing sight of the factors that make an e-business special.  It simply means using every good insight available in order to make the e-business a success.    

 

Endnotes

 

1 Also available from:

 

Keyes, Jessica, “Developing the E-Business Plan”, (2000) [document online],

accessed 1 December 2004; available from

http://www.newarttech.com/eBusiness.htm