Plug Into E-Commerce Trends

Many would argue that the telephone and television are two of the greatest items ever invented. However, they are only stepping stones to what has become the greatest communication device known to humans, so far: the Internet.

Used for everything from information to entertainment, the Internet has become so enmeshed in our daily lives that some would place it behind water and food as the third essential need to sustain survival.

So, what does the Internet mean for the environmental industry? Or better yet, what does the environmental industry mean to do with the power of the Internet?

We at Environmental Protection asked Susan Acker ( Blue292.com), Gary Curtis (GoTrain.net) and Steve Walters (MarketPing.com ), all leaders of companies forging ahead in the ever-widening field of environmental e-commerce, for a view of the Internet's future role in the environmental industry. All three agree that it is here to stay, though a company needs to find its own unique niche within it in order to survive. As for the Internet, ignorance is not bliss.


The Internet and EHS The Internet and EHS

E-commerce and environmental Web-based learning
By Gary Curtis, president and founder of
GoTrain.net

2001 executive forecast
By Steve Walters, P.E., Esq., president and CEO of MarketPing.com

The Internet and EHS
By Susan Acker, president and CEO, Blue292.com

The Internet, when used for procurement of applications, products, and services, as well as for information management, can provide significant benefits for organizations of all sizes. Environmental, health and safety organizations must embrace the advantages offered by the Internet to stay competitive in this time of greater demand for sustained growth and development.

An industry in need of new solutions

The global environmental market is estimated to be a $483 billion industry, of which the U.S. accounts for $183 billion, or about 37 percent. These figures include not only pollution control and remediation, but also municipal services, such as waste collection and sewage treatment, as well as resources, such as water utilities and water rights. Within the context of e-commerce and Internet technology, the global environmental market is estimated at $126.2 billion.

Advancements in technology have led to significant improvements in integrated environmental management information systems (EMIS). Currently, demand for such solutions is growing by 35 percent each year. Several factors are driving this growth, including new economy pressures to increase productivity and streamline corporate EHS programs.

Forrester Research reports that "the average purchasing cycle is reduced from seven days to three days when purchasing departments change to an e-commerce system." In addition, environmental, health and safety industry benchmarks show that up to 20 percent of annual spending can be saved through implementation of a well-integrated e-commerce system and procurement process.

However, most environmental software solutions to date have been produced with a narrow focus on one particular environmental application. They tend to ignore the broader, related need within an organization for health and safety management, as validated by EHS managers at various Fortune 500 organizations. A more comprehensive approach to EHS management is necessary - one that enables EHS managers to administer information within their division, coordinate with business units throughout their organization and collaborate with the larger EHS community outside their organization.

Old economy factors will not disappear

The EHS industry is fundamentally driven by tens of thousands of federal, state and local environmental regulations. Additionally, stricter enforcement of these regulations is on the rise, requiring greater need for detailed project tracking and data management.

The highly detailed nature of "old economy" regulatory compliance and the fast-changing business climate of the new economy require a different approach to environmental information management. In order to adapt to this ever-changing landscape, Internet technology has expanded beyond the procurement of products and services to incorporate comprehensive information management tools.

Using the internet to meet changing business needs

To date, EMISs have been limited primarily to packaged software products that require extensive additional installation, customization, integration, maintenance and upgrade costs. However, new systems are being introduced that offer comprehensive, multi-faceted solutions and require nothing more than a standard browser. The application service provider (ASP) model greatly increases access to existing management tools, where Internet-enabled software applications are hosted by an outside vendor and accessed by many users across the Internet. This model reduces the cost of installation, maintenance and upgrades. Users pay a relatively small annual license fee for access to the applications plus per-user fees. This also allows customer costs to scale according to the size of their organization. Furthermore, these costs shift from being a capital expenditure to an operating cost, which makes the application of Web-based EHS management tools more widely available to organizations of all sizes. Other significant benefits of the ASP model include faster implementation, the ability to access needed information regardless of location and the ability for companies to focus IT resources on their core business.

Integration for efficiency is key

A recent survey by BTI Consulting found that 43 percent of environmental managers considered integration of environmental management with their business units as the driver for their information management strategy. This increased organizational integration is fueled by the desire to utilize EHS performance as an additional metric of managerial effectiveness, rapid growth in demand for sustainable development and the movement toward fully integrating EHS practices within a company's operations.

In order to leverage the benefits of Internet technology, EHS managers will need to obtain "buy in" from other business units in their organization to foster cooperation. Also, EHS managers with smaller, mid-tier organizations may experience pushback because their superiors may not be convinced the organization will benefit from the power of the Web as greatly as large organizations. It is important to make clear that the Web can efficiently and cost-effectively benefit any organization without the need for heavy capital investment. It is especially well suited for small and mid-tier organizations that may not have the capital or IT resources needed to maintain conventional solutions.

The confluence of old economy and new economy factors creates daunting challenges for the EHS industry. In order to meet those challenges, the Internet must be viewed from a new perspective in which the management of information and data is as integral as the procurement of products and services. The new generation of solutions is now available to capitalize on the opportunities at hand. EHS professionals can seize these opportunities by recognizing the benefits of the latest in Web-based EHS technology.

Susan Acker can be reached via email at sacker@blue.com.


E-commerce and environmental Web-based learning
By Gary Curtis, president and founder of GoTrain.net

Environmental education is not what it used to be.

With the advent of the Internet, learning options have improved significantly beyond the conventional classroom. Web-based learning, a form of e-learning, is a dynamically growing, multi-billion dollar market, and it is projected to double annually over the next three years, according to International Data Corporation. E-commerce will play a progressive role in the growth of Web-based learning.

In its traditional definition, e-commerce is the buying and selling of products, services and information over the Internet. In contrast, e-business represents the transformation of an organization's business and functional processes by applying the technologies and computing paradigms of the Internet economy. Web-based learning is quickly becoming an integral part of corporate America's e-business strategies, with initiatives being driven top down from these organization's highest levels seeking the competitive advantages offered from the Internet.


Within the context of e-commerce and Internet technology, the global environmental market is estimated at $126.2 billion.

While e-business has been "revolutionizing" the globe, the environmental sector, which can be characterized as being under served in the relatively short life of the Internet, is now catching up. Corporate America is driving the change, particularly in EHS Web-based learning.

Competitive advantages, cost savings, 24-7 access and employee performance improvements have all been Web-based learning drivers. Why? Let's face it - forward-thinking corporations positioning themselves for growth in a global and/or a national economy must apply every performance enhancement technique available to increase the value of their human assets. In addition, training is expensive, when hundreds, if not thousands of employees require regulatory-driven training in multiple locations, with many of those locations being situated inconveniently. Regulatory compliance adds another layer of complexity - governmental requirements to maintain accurate record keeping and the fear of disaster and associated financial liability if employees are not properly trained.

Not all learning is conducive for Internet delivery, but then again, most is. Web-based learning is most effective when

* Content requires consistent delivery,

* Content changes are expected,

* Content is fact-based and

* Audience is large and/or geographically dispersed.

As an example, our environmental course, "Lead", provides general knowledge of the hazards associated with lead exposure as mandated by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.1025 and is perfectly suited for Web-based learning.

E-commerce is one means through which Web-based learning can be procured; however, I believe that buyers from large corporations will continue to conduct transactions with e-learning providers primarily through traditional methods. The size of the transactions - number of learners and number and type of training courses needed (e.g., off-the-shelf and/or custom-developed) - plays a key role in defining the successful selling and buying strategy. Small companies and individual consumers will benefit most from e-commerce, because the less complex nature of the typical sale and the simpler transactions are ideally suited for e-commerce.

Internet business-to-business and e-commerce selling and buying are rapidly transforming the electronic marketplace, enabling companies to streamline their commerce processes and to increase their competitive advantages by more easily linking buyers and sellers. Environmental Web-based learning is a great example of an environmental service that clients will purchase via e-commerce in increasing numbers.

Gary Curtis can be reached via email at gcurtis@tenera.com.


2001 executive forecast
By Steve Walters, P.E., Esq., president and CEO of MarketPing, Inc.

The Year 2000 was a year of discovery. In the winter of 1999, the Y2K phenomenon revealed our reliance on computers, as well as our vulnerability to over-hype. During spring of 2000, the bursting of the stock market bubble revealed that profits do matter, and that promises alone cannot sustain long-term economic growth. With the changing of leaves in fall, a shakeout of the business-to-business (B2B) sector revealed that even with the potential of the Internet, e-commerce is not going to take place over night. While it was business as usual in 2000 for the environmental industry, we discovered that this industry still has much to gain from e-commerce.


Competitive advantages, cost savings, 24-7 access and employee performance improvements have all been Web-based learning drivers.

Whether it is supply chain integration, environmental management, procurement, sales force automation or other business functions, technology investments in these areas provide substantial opportunity to lower costs and increase productivity. In the public markets, companies that are successful incorporating technologies into their business models are rewarded with greater valuations than their competitors, such as Dell Computers with its direct sales model and Cisco Systems with its integrated supply chain model. The Web-centric approach of successful companies provides a formula for success that will be followed by others. As we move into 2001, becoming Web-centric will no longer be a fanciful exercise, but rather a central strategy for long-term business growth. Four important trends will dominate the environmental e-commerce area in the new year.

E-commerce grows up

In time, most purchases will be initiated or completed over the Internet. However, it would be natural to think otherwise given last year's shakeout in the business to business (B2B) sector. For most e-commerce companies, this was a rude awakening to harsh business realities that pure technology alone would not be sufficient to succeed. To the survivors, this process of natural selection was a necessary step in the business cycle. The reality is that B2B e-commerce is here to stay. In spite of these recent events, market forecasters still predict trillions of dollars in B2B online spending in the upcoming years.

In many product and service categories, people currently use the Internet as a starting point when researching or evaluating a purchase, if not completing the purchase online. In the consumer world, the price point of items purchased online has steadily climbed from books to homes. In time, the online resources will be available to buy and sell nearly every type of environmental equipment or service, such as pollution control equipment, hazardous waste transportation services, source testing, engineering services and analytical services.

Last year, we saw the introduction of several innovative e-commerce models attempting to capture a portion of environmental spending such as reverse auctions, virtual distributors, online communities and e-markets. The appearance of these models in the environmental space paralleled those of other industries. However, as in other industries, not every e-commerce model will be as successful as others will. In most cases, a combination of factors will determine individual success, including market acceptance, technology performance, user experience and customer service. As in any other business, performance must follow promises. In the long run, success will be determined more by the company itself than by the particular model that it employs. In 2001, environmental e-commerce players will evolve their model to address market needs. Those companies in the market for e-commerce solutions should seek out companies with demonstrated technologies, domain expertise and value-added service offerings.

Rise of the ASP model

Most market forecasters believe that Application Service Providers (ASP) will be the dominant software model of the future. An ASP is a third-party company that remotely hosts software applications for other companies. The value proposition is that ASPs lower the total cost of ownership in buying and maintaining software applications by reducing or eliminating the hardware, software and other costs normally associated with self-hosting such applications. For example, Microsoft could theoretically be an ASP for its Microsoft Office applications to its user base. On a smaller scale, an Environmental Management Information Systems (EMIS) software vendor could offer ASP services to its customers.

ASP customers generally only need a small client-side application, usually a Web browser, and an Internet connection in order to gain access to its remotely hosted application. In 2001, many e-commerce, environmental and other software vendors will Web-enable their applications to provide a complete ASP solution, or ASP hosting service. However, the successful ASP software vendor will have to adequately address customer concerns regarding reliability, system performance, data confidentiality and security.

The private market

In the relationship oriented world of the environmental marketplace, is there a place for the Internet? The Internet will never fully replace relationships, but will be used to start new ones and complement existing ones. Through the use of "private market" e-commerce platforms, buyers and sellers can leverage Internet technologies to enhance their existing business relationships, while providing a platform to form new ones.


The Web-centric approach of successful companies provides a formula for success that will be followed by others...becoming Web-centric will no longer be a fandiful exercise, but rather a central strategy for long-term business growth.

In 2001, many companies will seek out e-commerce platforms that provide the ability to "privatize" their commercial transactions with only preferred customers or suppliers. For a supplier, customer ownership and brand awareness will be a principal driver. For a buyer, confidentiality and trust in preferred suppliers are paramount concerns. Ultimately, the private market will be a key business platform, which will eventually provide communication with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, e-marketplaces, mobile communication devices and other third party systems.

From e-commerce to e-collaboration

In the IT world, one speaks of the 3 "C"s when referring to a commercial Web site: content, community and commerce. Although this is generally used as a formula for success, it can also be viewed as a statement of technology evolution. As we begin 2001, a fourth "C" should be added to this list: collaboration. In its simplest form, e-collaboration consists of using technology to facilitate an existing business activity. Whether it is drafting a proposal, managing a project or integrating a supply chain, successful collaboration will be essential to reducing inefficiencies in existing business processes.

In 2001, we will see this trend occurring as more companies begin to build functions into their corporate Intranets and Internet sites to enhance their value to the corporation. In this manner, these functions will allow employees, customers, suppliers and partners to more efficiently communicate and work together. Examples of these collaborative business functions include document drafting, engineering designs, sales force automation, project management and customer service.

As we begin 2001, some of us remain cautious about technology, while others remain believers in the promise of the Internet. The environmental marketplace is no exception. These two camps have dominated our collective psyche for the better part of the past decade with the latter growing in numbers every year. No matter what camp you currently find yourself in, it is evident that computers and the Internet will continue to be a growing part of our everyday lives, at home, school and work. Consequently, as business managers and executives, figuring out where and how technology can help a business be more productive and efficient should be a priority in the new year. These types of investments are not only prudent, but also necessary given the highly competitive nature of today's marketplace.

Steve Walters can be reached via email at srwalter@marketping.com.

Jason Hensel is managing editor of Environmental Protection magazine. He can be reached via email at jhensel@stevenspublishing.com.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2001 issue of Environmental Protection.

comments powered by Disqus