16 January 2003 | David Arminas
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that want to develop a business case for working online with their clients can now get hands-on experience without investing in expensive IT systems.
The new National B2B Centre at the University of Warwick is running demonstration workshops at which SMEs can use collaboration tools allowing several companies to link electronically, from basic e-mail communication to sharing information on processes.
Denis Pelych, director of the centre, which opened in December, said SMEs were not inherently afraid of the Internet but were unsure how it could improve their performance.
"The real issue for SMEs is not a fear of the medium or that it costs too much," he said. "If they understood the business case for it, they would find the time and money to invest in e-commerce for online collaboration with their clients."
Many SMEs need to have some sort of hands-on experience in order to see how it can help take their company forward, added Pelych, who was formerly a director of global supply chain for Marconi and an external supply chain consultant for IBM.
Brian Honeyford, purchasing manager at AFE Online, an online distributor of catering equipment from cutlery to large stoves, said that many SMEs did not have the money or the people to explore Internet working and put together a solid business case.
"The cost in time and resources is a problem for them," he said. "We'll be working with several of our potential customers to develop a demonstration online set-up for the National Centre. It should be running by March."
Pelych stressed that the centre is solely for research and knowledge transfer and does not sell products or systems.
More information is available at www.nb2bc.co.uk