It's easy to describe e-commerce and the benefits resulting from its implementation. It's not so easy to develop and deploy e-commerce systems. Companies have faced significant hurdles in these efforts:
Cost. E-commerce requires sophisticated, distributed systems based on new technologies that can touch many of a company's core business processes. As with all major business systems, e-commerce systems require significant investments in hardware, software, staffing, and training. Businesses need comprehensive solutions that are easy to use and thus help enable cost-effective deployment.
Value. Businesses want to know that their investments in e-commerce systems will produce a return. They deploy e-commerce systems to achieve business objectives such as lead generation, business process automation, and cost reduction. They want to ensure that these objectives are met. Businesses also need flexible solutions so that they can easily adapt a system to meet changing business conditions.
Security. Because the Internet provides almost universal access, a company's assets must be protected against misuse, whether accidental or malicious. At the same time, that protection should not compromise a site's usability or performance nor make its development too complex. There is an additional security issue: Because e-commerce systems enable the collection and usage of sensitive information about individual customers, companies also need to protect the privacy of their customers.
Existing Systems. Companies need to be able to harness the functionality of existing applications into e-commerce systems. Most companies new to e-commerce already use information technology to conduct business in non-Internet environments— in existing marketing, order management, billing, inventory, distribution, and customer service systems. The Internet represents an alternative and complementary way to do business. It's imperative that Internet e-commerce systems integrate existing systems in a manner that avoids duplicate function and maintains usability, performance, and reliability.
Interoperability. Interoperability here means the linking of trading partners' applications in order to exchange business documents. These systems must work together well in order to achieve business objectives. For example, the order-management application of a business partner must interoperate with the inventory applications of its suppliers. Interoperation between businesses reduces costs and improves performance. It enables the implementation of more dynamic value chains.