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Dickeson--Are You Ready for eB2B?

April 2000
First came Noosh, Collabria, Impresse, Printmarket and 58k—all Internet dotcoms seeking to interpose their facilities between print buyers and printers— brokers or auction floors made in the image of the New York Stock Exchange.

Now, here comes another dotcom: printCafe, which has merged Logic Associates, Hagen, Prograph, AHP Systems, Programmed Solutions, parts of Creo and perhaps others by the time this writing is on your desk. printCafe seeks to become a super-broker by guiding and supporting both buyers and printers in the administration of their businesses—and collecting a commission!

E-commerce mania is sweeping our industry—e-commerce of the B2B (business-to-business) variety rather than the e-tailing (Amazon, etc.) sort. What's really wonderful about it is this practice of putting an "e" before a word, doing an IPO and becoming instant paper billionaires, all the while losing money in great gobs.

We are on the threshold of the next phase of development for the six named contenders for the print e-procurement crown: the shakeout phase. Their contesting efforts to add economic value to justify their compensation promises us a demolition derby of mergers and acquisitions over the next 24 months.

Indeed, the Internet is reshaping the world economy in a matter of months, compared to the decades required of the agricultural, industrial and computer revolutions. And it's really just getting started. We have yet to feel the full impact of bandwidth and storewidth technology for e-commerce on the Internet. George Gilder calls it the Age of the Telecosm, as we leave the Age of the Microcosm.

Myths and Metaphors
Meanwhile, down here in the trenches, "don't quit your day job." Don't release your sales and customer service departments just yet. We've got a long way to go. We're still struggling with virtual reality statistical systems because most of us remain locked in quill-and-sandbox accounting from pre-Columbian times, plagued by antique assumptions of hourly chargeable and non-chargeable costs. If the myths and metaphors of those creaky concepts provide some measure of comfort for you, that's nice—Linus still has his comfort blanket in our memories of Charlie Brown.

The other day I asked the CEO of a print software company why he didn't promote customer use of pivot tables for the wonderful data his system collects. He responded, "We make sure they know the database is in an Access format and that it is open to them. About one in 25 to 30 customers ever calls to ask more, and only one asked us for our formulas/field names/tables so he could do more in-depth functions."



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