The Time to Strike Is Now

For most of this year, the conventional wisdom held that corporations were slashing Internet and IT budgets and pulling back from Net and IT business initiatives.

Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue. — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

For most of this year, the conventional wisdom held that corporations were slashing Internet and IT budgets and pulling back from Net and IT business initiatives. It seemed logical. The economy was foundering, the dot-com sector was imploding, and the computer and communications industries were reeling. But, as is true on most fields of battle, the master usually waits for an opponent to show indecisiveness — or, better yet, weakness — and then presses an attack.

While many companies have hesitated on Net and IT systems deployments, many of Americas most admired companies are arming themselves for an expansion of cybercapitalism.

Last week, Gartner found that 56 percent of the companies it polled said they were planning to spend more on IT. This follows an Interactive Week survey at the end of May that found the majority of those surveyed planning to increase Net spending. An informal spot check last week of the same Interactive Week sample again found more than half the respondents planning to boost Net spending — some anticipating doubling or tripling their budgets. This should shake up companies that have put IT and Net initiatives on hold. A simple rule of business: Winners exploit opportunity.

Indeed, last week saw Barry Diller plunk down $1.3 billion to take control of online travel company Expedia. Korean Air pushed out an online scheduling system based on Linux, and Royal Ahold bought the piece of online grocer Peapod it didnt already own — a bold move in a market "the experts" say is dead.

Last week we also reported that Volkswagen was embracing online auctions and that the nations largest railways — including The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway and Norfolk Southern Railway — were rolling out a variety of Web initiatives.

Earlier in the month, General Electric, one of the countrys most admired companies and an Internet pioneer, continued to push e-commerce initiatives through its business-to-business division, GE Global eXchange Services, and started testing the waters of the application service provider market. The Home Depot named its first vice president of e-business.

And, in the past couple of months, General Motors continued to enhance its OnStar wireless communications systems, launched new Web promotions and opened an online shopping site in China. Citigroup partnered with Microsoft on a huge online payment system. Bank of America launched a number of online and wireless banking initiatives. And Boeing continued to push out its Connexion by Boeing high-speed Internet services.

This is no time to hold off e-business initiatives. Prices for any number of IT products and services are down. Great people are available. Bold companies with vision are on the offensive. Companies that fail to act will be left to face the consequences that must ensue.