A Brisbane-based lawyer is predicting dire implications for the Australian IT industry if it fails to adhere to a set of industry-wide e-commerce guidelines recently proposed by the International Commission for Commercial Practices (ICCP).
According to Andrew Brown, Australia's representative and voting member of the ICCP and a lawyer at Brisbane firm Gateway Lawyers, the deliberations confirmed that Australian trade organisations can either prepare for the e-commerce revolution or perish at the hands of more competitive northern-hemisphere businesses.
Incorporating contributions from over 130 countries, Chambers of Commerce and major banks, the first international framework for an electronic commerce five-year project will culminate in June this year.
Brown asserted that the presence of an underlying legal and practical structure to electronic transactions will result in "a massive speed up of transactions".
He claimed that "the greatest advantage [of e-commerce] to industry will be in terms of cost where much of the expense involved in creating paperwork will be avoided".
This transformation will require a total reassessment of many local organisations' IT capabilities and could possibly involve updating systems integration and software links with internal ordering links, shipping companies, banks and customs agents in Australia and overseas.
This should create some excellent opportunities for resellers to enter into the increasingly popular e-commerce realm, both directly in terms of their own internal operational practices, and indirectly because businesses in general will need IT specialists to implement e-commerce strategies, hardware and software solutions.
However, according to Warren Macdonald, general manager of Sydney-based reseller Barmac, the scenario isn't quite so straightforward.
"There is a motivation from big businesses to drag all players up to a certain level of e-commerce ability and standards will impact on this. But people are ignorant about what is involved in e-commerce and guidelines are not going to be an incentive for people to spend money on systems."
Macdonald agreed with Brown to the extent that those not committed to providing an e-commerce solution for customers will be adversely affected.
"With the onset of the euro and the GST people are either desperate to get e-commerce up and running or waiting, which will cost them dearly in the long run."
Macdonald sees other problems affecting the establishment of e-commerce in Australia, one of the most influential being the shortage of people skilled in its implementation.
Additionally, the lack of interest that larger organisations have shown in e-commerce is creating, as Macdonald describes, a problem of "supply chain management".
"It is useless for a small company to set up an e-commerce system if the other companies it deals with don't operate with one." He added that impor-ters and exporters will see "significant benefits" from the implementation of e-commerce systems.