For centuries, the basic manner in which commerce transpired changed very little. In the past, a merchant would meet with a customer or another merchant and form an agreement to provide goods to customers in exchange for cash or other goods and services. The merchant would then record these exchanges in books of accounts, and periodically consolidate the entries recorded in the books to determine how much various individuals owed the merchant, how much the merchant owed other people, and the excess cash and assets that the merchant owned.
Over the past three decades, the relative change in business practice has been exponential. We have seen cottage industries springing up on the Internet where there are no personal contacts and face-to-face negotiations. We also see online catalogs that can be viewed through an Internet browser and where orders can immediately be placed and paid for over the Internet. Of course, the bookkeeping functions may be done much the same as the ancient merchant did them, but more likely the system will automatically trigger collection from the credit card company, automatically record the business event in the electronic database, and automatically update all of the related accounts. Indeed, many companies are using web development tools from their enterprise system vendors to build Web sites that from day one are linked into the enterprise system’s processing and database.
While it may sometimes appear that we have switched from an old way of doing commerce to a brand new way, both methods are actually used by many organizations. The evolution of information technology has simply provided for alternative channels supporting business processes and business event data processing that enable some organizations to become more efficient and effective by altering the traditional means by which they have done business. To understand fully how technology can enable an organization to reengineer its business processes and more effectively enter into commerce activities, you first must have a solid understanding of how business event data processing can be completed. Once you understand how processing is done, then the exploration of the technologies that enable improved efficiencies in business event data processing will be more meaningful.
In this chapter, we first examine the evolution of business event data processing. Doing so will help you to understand how we got where we are and to appreciate different stages of the e-business evolution—including many organizations that still operate using essentially the same processes used three or four decades ago! We might well view this latter method as a pre–e-business stage.