- Where does your physical product end and the surrounding bits begin? It may not be the most appealing way to describe how companies are adding information services to their goods, but useful content, delivered electronically, is becoming a crucial competitive weapon in e-business.
Increasingly sophisticated content management will encourage dramatic changes in the way companies collaborate online.
E-marketplaces, or B2B (business-to-business) exchanges, are putting a premium on content. To host more than catalogues and a directory of buyers and sellers, public exchanges are adding services, from customer sales data to collaborative product development.
The push for value-added services is aimed primarily at gaining liquidity, or participation, in public exchanges. But increasing online procurement will effectively commoditise products and bring down prices, making value-added services a priority for all businesses.
Some companies are beginning to put the notion of knowledge management into practice. They are creating knowledge bases and supplying technical information to partners to streamline collaboration and build tighter relationships.
The problem, however, is the relatively minor role that content management plays for most IT executives. Although content management vendors are trying to break into the B2B realm, the state of content management tools is certainly not what most people would like, particularly with the surging interest in XML.
The bigger fish to fry in the B2B world are secure access and the integration of partners' systems. But the payoff for structured collaboration is real. Analysts predict that collaborative design will allow companies to streamline development and create custom products. And a prerequisite for quality content services is collaboration between IT and a company's constituents.
Is your IT department involved in adding information services to goods and services?