The Do’s and Don’ts of Online Business
What is an Online Business Infrastructure
Online business infrastructure, or e-business infrastructure, is the framework of hardware, software, and networks that facilitate the daily operations of a digital business. These technologies can include the servers a domain is hosted on, the PCs a client uses to access an organization’s webpage, and the network that connects them. In short, anything that helps an online business operate is part of the e-business infrastructure.
The location of these technologies and the way organizations interact with them can also be considered elements of an online business infrastructure. In fact, deciding which elements of a digital business’s infrastructure will be located within the company and which will be managed by a third party. For example, the structure and layout of a company’s website are most likely managed internally, but the server that the website is hosted on may be owned by a third party.
Key Aspects of Online Business Infrastructure
The size and shape of your online business infrastructure will have a major impact on the overall performance of your digital business. But regardless of what form your online business infrastructure takes, it needs to be effective in a few different key areas. Most importantly your digital business infrastructure needs to allow your business to be agile and create a positive user experience.
Business agility is the ability of a company to quickly respond to market changes, consumer trends, and new opportunities with digitally-enabled business solutions. An agile business will be able to more effectively compete with other online businesses. One method of understanding the current agility of your business is to speak with a change management consulting firm. These are firms that specialize in identifying and improving an organization’s level of business agility. Change management consultants can recommend changes to your company’s online business infrastructure that can improve the effectiveness of your organization.
Another crucial aspect that is directly impacted by your organization’s online business infrastructure is the user experience. An enjoyable user experience is absolutely vital to an online business’s effectiveness and overall performance. In the age of the internet, consumers have dozens of choices available to them with incredible ease. If clients and consumers struggle to interact with your business digitally, then it is unlikely that they will return or even complete a transaction. Ensure that your business’s online infrastructure allows consumers to interact with your company quickly and simply.
The different components of e-business infrastructure can be divided into five different layers. These layers are separated by the specific interface used to interact with each of the components. Here are the five different component layers followed by an example of how they might relate to a task completed by a user of the infrastructure.
1. E-business Services – Applications Layer
This layer includes customer relations management applications, supply chain management, data mining, and content management systems.
2. Systems Software Layer
Layer two is made up of web browsers, server software, networking software, and database management systems.
3. Transport or Network Layer
The physical network and transport standards related to that network belong in layer three.
4. Storage/Physical Layer
Layer four contains the permanent magnetic storage on web servers or temporary storage in memory (RAM).
5. Content and Data Layer
Layer five comprises web content for internet sites and any data relevant to those sites. This data can include customer information, transaction data, and clickstream data.
Let’s take the hypothetical example of an employee requesting time off to get a better idea of how these component layers relate to each other. This employee would begin by accessing a specific HR program that has been created specifically for scheduling holidays (level 1). To access this application the employee will use a web browser and operating system, which are both level two interfaces. The system will then transfer this information across a network (level 3). The holiday request is then stored either on a PC or on a server, which are both level four interfaces. The web pages the employee accessed and the information displayed on them are both level five interfaces.
- Consider How Consumers Will Interact With Your Online Business
Consumers are unlikely to interact with a digital business that has a poorly made website. This is why it is important to consider how consumers will interact with your online business. This includes thinking about where consumers are visiting your digital company from, what device they are using to interact with your business, and what content is most relevant to them. Furthermore, you should strive to anticipate a customer’s needs. For example, if shipping products is a common practice for your business then consider adding a USPS shipping calculator to meet customer needs.
- Define and Control Project Scope and Budgets
Every good project begins with a good plan. For online business infrastructure, this means clearly defining the scope and budget of a project before deciding on the best next steps. Ensure that everyone knows their individual role and how it fits into the overall project.
- Assume Your Infrastructure Will Remain The Same
As previously mentioned, business agility is important for online business infrastructure. In order for your business to successfully respond to market changes and consumer trends, it needs to be able to adapt quickly. This is why most online businesses operate with the assumption that they will be forced to change at some point and have plans for how to change when necessary.
- Ignore Security
There are a lot of nefarious people on the internet. Never assume that your business is immune to being tampered with by people with bad intentions. Invest heavily in security for your online business, especially if you deal with a great deal of customer data and personal information.