CHICAGO - Y2K Pros are Taking care of (e-) Business : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Title: No Longer Bugged

With worries of an electronic armageddon behind them, Y2K pros are taking care of (e-)business

By Dan Rafter Special to the Tribune (Chicago) April 28, 2000

For William Stocking, the fact that most computers made a problem-free transition from 1999 into 2000 means no more green beans and chicken breasts for lunch. This, he says, is good news.

The ubiquitous lunch entre had become a staple of his diet during the latter part of last year as he crisscrossed the Chicago area to speak at local chambers of commerce about the infamous Y2K computer glitch.

As a computer consultant and owner of Chicago's First Business Systems, Stocking last year found himself in great demand as business owners and local government officials scrambled to upgrade their computer software and hardware in preparation of Jan. 1, 2000. But despite the big business it brought him, Stocking is glad the Y2K rush has ended.

"It was good for business, but considering all the speeches we'd given, all the chicken-and-string-bean lunches at chambers of commerce we attended, I'm not sure how lucrative it really was for us," Stocking said. "We spent an enormous amount of time getting the word out."

Stocking isn't alone. Many computer consultants who grabbed big bucks during the Y2K scare say they're not disappointed that the computer crisis has passed. Like Stocking, they're looking forward to working in a field in which even bigger bucks await: e-business.

With technology improving every day, more business owners than ever want to use the Internet to make more money. They want Web sites that allow customers from around the world to instantly order their products, and communication systems that allow them to hook up with vendors and distributors without playing telephone tag. Those owners who already operate Web sites want to transform their Internet homes into profit-boosting, expense-slashing tools.

These merchants are looking for e-business guidance from the same consultants who helped them through the Y2K panic.

"E-commerce and e-business is the real future for us," Stocking said. "All the small-business owners out there feel they're being left out of the Internet revolution. Very often, they know they want a Web page, but they don't know what they want it for. They don't know how they should use it, or how much they should spend on it. Very often, they don't have a clue. That's where the consultants come in. We figure ways to put together something that does business owners some good."

Stocking's faith in the long-term prospects of serving the e-business industry doesn't appear to be misplaced. Although a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers said that as of February, 12 percent of the country's large technology businesses still had lingering Y2K-related projects or repairs underway, the year 2000 problem is largely a thing of the past. The U.S. Senate's Y2K Advisory Committee disbanded once Leap Day, Feb. 29, passed without major computer problems.

Businesses that placed so much attention on Y2K problems are now training their sights on the potential of e-commerce. Officials with Dataquest Inc., based in San Jose, Calif., estimate that business-to-consumer e-commerce will total $380 billion in the year 2003. In 1999, the company said, business-to-consumer e-commerce totaled just $31.2 billion.

By comparison, the U.S. Commerce Department estimates that businesses and government spent $100 billion to combat the Y2K problem. It's easy to see, when looking at these numbers, that e-commerce is where computer pros stand to make the most money.

"During the Y2K process, it became clear to everybody: The next step forward is to begin looking at e-commerce," said Donald Joseph, president of Northbrook Consulting Group, a company that provides computer consulting to business owners. "The next big thing for businesses is to use newly installed or upgraded information technology to slash the costs of doing business."

For Joseph, this is an exciting time. The Y2K consulting work, which at times became overwhelming, is over. Now he's concentrating on helping merchants use technology to improve their communications with salespeople and vendors.

Joseph sees the growth of e-commerce as a positive for almost everybody in the business world. But there will be some who suffer: those business people that resist new technology because they fear it or are too impatient to learn how to use it.

"I graduated from Harvard Business School in the mid-1960s," Jpseph said. "I began working in the technology business that summer, so I've been involved in technology my whole career. Very early on, I learned that last year's solution when it comes to technology probably won't be this year's. Things change, and you have to be willing to change, too," he said.

"I remember my first computer. It had 4K of memory, and we rented it for $1,700 a month. It was as big as a refrigerator. Now, my palm pilot has 2 megs and fits in my shirt pocket."

Andrew Pincon, chairman of strategic planning with the non-profit Chicagoland Computer Society, is another computer pro who won't miss the Y2K scramble. During the last two years, Pincon helped plan more than 100 events dedicated to helping computer users survive the year 2000 changeover. Like other Y2K consultants, he has now turned his attention to helping businesses reach their e-commerce goals. These days, the computer society holds at least one event every month on e-business topics.

"Right now, we're in the early stages of educating the general business community on e-commerce and e-business," Pincon said. "More companies want to run Web sites that are more than just catalogs."

Pincon can point to numbers that show just how interested Chicago-area businesses are in exploring e-commerce. In February, the society held an e-business seminar in conjunction with the Small Business Administration and Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. Pincon said about 300 people attended. And in March, the society held an E-Business Boot Camp at its headquarters. A week before the event, 40 people had already signed up.

Because these events are keeping him so busy, Pincon said, he hasn't had time to miss the hubbub of the Y2K preparation.

"The only thing about Y2K that surprises me is that they had no problems," he said. "It's hard for me now to reconcile the effort put into it throughout the world. I remember watching on TV and being amazed that in areas where there had been no efforts put into Y2K issues, places like Italy and Venezuela, they had no problems either. To see all the resources that went into it in the West, and to see that in places like Italy, where they did nothing, everything just went on as normal, that really surprised me."

For Stocking, the future seems bright. He sees a day when every merchant relies on e-business; something that thrills him.

"I can even see pizza restaurants using e-business," he said. "They'll assign a driver to you when you make your order and put that information into a palm pilot for the driver. You'll be able to call up and see exactly where your pizza is and how long before you'll have it.",2669,ART-44539,FF.html


-- (, April 28, 2000

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