Foreword for

September 8, 2000

By Alan Naumann, President and CEO, Calico Commerce, Inc.

The next wave is coming. And it will no doubt carry some to the promised land of success while others will drown in its wake. The Internet, we know, is not a tsunami, and e-commerce was no flash flood. Rather, the Web is a series of waves that continue to roll in, fundamentally changing the velocity and experience of business.

In this book, Mitchell Levy has captured a pattern in motion and gives us both the strategic underpinnings and practical tools we need to ride the wave of e-business success. While it's easy to become overwhelmed by the sea of information about the Internet today, Levy has sifted through the clutter. He gives us the insightful analysis necessary to anticipate what to think about next and how to implement strategies that will beat the competition.

More than ever before in business, competition is fierce. Continuous improvement is no longer merely an advantage - it is a requirement. Only those companies that evolve will survive, and evolution now happens in real time. The most successful corporations today are those that evolve through experimentation - they make bold moves quickly, they aggressively seek feedback from all directions, and they reinvent and adjust constantly. The most successful corporations of tomorrow will refine this process and will strike a balance between staying focused on a vision for the future and unceasingly seeking new paths by which to realize it.

The path of e-business success is shared, and companies who win in the Internet economy can't do it alone. Increasingly, customer and partner relationships are a critical element in compelling business plans, and this cooperation will continue to build momentum. While e-business does significantly shift several of the previously accepted fundamentals, one key business principle remains steady: there has to be something in it for everyone.

In e-business, this means that buyers and sellers alike must reap tangible benefits from their participation in online marketplaces and Web-based commerce channels. In the early days of e-commerce, the focus was on the buyer. Indeed, one of the most dramatic changes the Internet has to date effected is the transfer of power to buyers, in the form of information, choices and value. The next wave, though, is empowering sellers alike. Technology now enables sellers to better know their customers, their competition and themselves.

Whether selling in Net Markets, direct over the Web or through existing channels, corporations engaged in e-business today can - more than ever - control the key factors of their own success. As technology itself has shifted from being internally to externally focused, so have the businesses who use it. Customer-facing applications are defining the next generation of software, and customer-focused organizations are those that will be most successful in e-business.

The ultimate goal, obviously, is to increase sales and grow profit margins. The means to this end, though, has more to do with creating a personalized experience for the buyer and customizing products, promotions and pricing to meet the unique needs of each individual customer. The Web is the driver for this new approach - both to buying and selling - and the infrastructure and applications that enable it are the building blocks for the strongest business models currently under construction.

Levy has recognized this reality, and he helps readers maximize the opportunity. The opportunity is abundant. E-business is still very much in its infancy. In 1999, only 1 percent of business transactions were conducted online. By 2004, though, industry analysts expect this number to increase to 25 percent. And it certainly won't stop there. The companies who move the fastest and work the smartest right now are the companies that will reap the wealth the Internet offers.

During the next five years, we will experience the greatest degree of change in business that our economy has seen since the days of the Industrial Revolution - a transformation that spanned 30 years. This time, the change is happening globally. Indeed, international e-business opportunities will fuel many of the coming waves of change. By definition, Web-based selling channels are - to a degree - open to the world. But the same sites and the same strategies that have worked in the U.S. market do not directly translate internationally.

Again, companies looking to globalize their e-business efforts will survive only if they focus clearly on specific customer segments and incorporate real-time feedback in the effort to continuously improve. The principle behind this is simple: businesses have to sell what, how, when and where buyers want. Fortunately for sellers, technology now gives them the capability to achieve their own goals within the buyer-centric world.

Fortunately for all of us, there are visionaries like Mitchell Levy who can gather, digest and relay the principles, opportunities and strategies most critical to evolving with the Internet. E-Volve or Die is a must-read for anyone compelled to succeed in the e-conomy. It is the first book I've found that so closely aligns itself with my own convictions about content, customers and change in e-business as we'll come to know it.