Foreword for

September 25, 2000

By Alfred Chuang, Founder, President, and Chief Operations Officer, BEA Systems, Inc.

If we learned anything from the NASDAQ meltdown in spring, and if we take anything to heart from the dot-com shakeout that continues in its wake, it should be this:

  1. Giving your brick-and-mortar company a face-lift with a pretty Web site does not make an e-business.
  2. Customers are king, yes, but if you spent all your pennies on flashy marketing and Super Bowl ads to bring them in, but neglected to build a reliable and scalable infrastructure that could give them - all of them - the service they demanded when they came, then you dethroned not only your customers but also pauperized your company in the process. It's not enough to get customers to come, at any cost. You must give them what they want when they come, or say goodbye forever.
  3. While you can't predict change, you must be prepared for it. Whether it's the next Napster popping out of nowhere, a gorilla company deciding to knock on the door of your industry from the industry next door, or a 500-point plunge in the stock market the day after tomorrow, you must quickly adapt to these changes, any changes, whether they come from your internal or external environment. And if you can't - well, hey…maybe we'll see you in the next revolution.

Because Mitchell Levy has it right in the title of this new book: The Internet is an incredible opportunity for all of us, but it is also an unforgiving place if you're not ready for prime time. Because of its global reach and instantaneous communication, customers, partners, competitors, investors, distributors, and employees all know at the same instant that your systems failed, or that your business model was reported unsound, or that you failed to make your numbers this quarter, or that you angered a customer who is eager to tell the world through his own tailor-made I-HATE-YOUR-COMPANY Web site. Harsh? You bet it is. Depressed? Not if you learned the lessons listed above.

In this book, Mitchell Levy addresses these lessons and more, in his own inimitable style borne of a rare combination of experience and vision. He knows that the Internet requires fundamental changes in the way business is done and the way businesses are built. It's not enough to throw up a Web site and think your job is done. In Part One of this book, Mitchell stresses the need to move beyond legacy thinking. Only by thinking out of the brick-and-mortar box can we develop new strategies and business models that are in tune with the global instantaneity that the Internet has created.

In Parts Two and Three, Mitchell turns to a discussion of how to successfully deploy e-commerce applications, and how to maintain momentum after your initial deployment. He rightly focuses on the primacy of the customer in these two sections because, no matter what else you may do well, if you don't win and retain customers, it's all for naught.

Our customers have always been our #1 focus at BEA, and that is why 6,500 of the most successful companies in the world have trusted their business to BEA, in just five years of operation.

It may be that Part Four of Mitchell's book, "E-Volving the Future," is the most important. At BEA, we certainly are focusing on enabling companies, with our e-business infrastructure, not only to adapt to change, but to leverage change as a competitive advantage.

If your business is built on proprietary technology, it is set in cement. If your business is built on point products that you've wired and superglued together, then you are trusting to numerous vendors to update their diverse products in synchronicity (and we wish you loads of luck - you'll need it). If your business is built on a patchwork platform that requires hand-coded integration, then you are racing in a rickety vehicle that may be unsafe at any speed.

What you need, in order to flexibly and nimbly adapt to change, is an e-business platform that provides the essential infrastructure for building an integrated e-business that can reliably service customers, scale to handle unpredictable levels of growth across the entire chain of commerce, personalize services for customers to capture their loyalty, collaborate flexibly with partners, suppliers and customers, and adapt nimbly to an increasing rate of change.

That's what we believe as a company. I personally believe that Mitchell's book is an essential primer for the Internet age. And one that comes at a critical time. The dot-com hype has been brought down to earth, and e-business has finally gotten serious. What should you focus your business on? How can you refine your strategy so it works? What stages should you follow as you plan your e-commerce initiatives? How can you provide the level of service e-generation customers demand, to give your e-business a real chance to succeed? Are you ready for life on the global stage? What outsourcing issues should you consider? How can you best manage legacy people, processes and systems? And what steps must you take to "future-proof" - as we say at BEA - your business? Mitchell addresses these important questions and more in this compelling read. Enjoy, learn, and evolve. It's a whole lot better than the alternative.