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The disconnect between legacy and online systems

May 7, 2001

By Sandra Gittlen
Network World E-Commerce Newsletter, 05/07/2001

Last week, a team of editors from Network World visited IBM’s offices in Cambridge, Mass., where we met the heads of teams that are pushing IBM into the next phase of the company’s e-business strategy. That strategy is focused squarely on enhancing how people use the Web.
Before we heard specifics from each team, we listened to a brief presentation from John Patrick, vice president of Internet technology. He is well known as an industry luminary and is the author of the recently published “Net Attitude,” a book about making your company Web-savvy.
While Patrick is banking heavily on the future of the Web, he is quite clear about its downfalls today. Rather than jumping right into the new stuff, I wanted to share with you what he thinks is currently lacking.
One of the most interesting things Patrick said was we are experiencing less than 5% of the impact the Web is going to eventually have. He says bandwidth, applications and the whole experience has not ramped up to even half capacity yet. “The expectations of the Web are expanding more rapidly than they’re being met,” he said.
Patrick’s biggest frustration lies in the connection between legacy business systems and Web business systems. For instance, if you experience difficulties when trying to make flight reservations online you are given a phone number to call. Patrick says you should be able to call up a chat box right there to ask your question.
“The integration of online and legacy modes of communication are shoddy,” he said. Another bone of contention: why frequent flyer programs do not interact seamlessly with online reservation systems. “Why do I have to dial a number to use my mileage awards?” he asked.
He gave us some real-world examples of this disconnect with customer service sites and phone calls:

Patrick said there should be no such thing as “that’s not my department” in a truly integrated e-business world because the customer shouldn’t know that there are departments behind the curtain. Everything should appear as one, cohesive unit.
He believes that one of the big changes we’ll see is less of a dependency on the browser as the mode for accessing the Internet. Today, 95% of the Web is viewed on a traditional browser; that will drop to 30%, he predicts.
And what’s going to drive us to give up our No. 1 application, the traditional browser? He says wireless and advanced Web services will be the key.
I’ll talk more about these services in the next newsletter.

Sandra Gittlen is events editor for Network World’s Seminars and Events Group. Previously, she was managing editor of Network World Fusion and senior reporter covering Internet research and standards for Network World magazine. She can be reached at [email][email protected][/email].