iSource: What else do companies need to do to reap the benefits of enabled technology?
Stegner: Internet years are like dog years speeded up. That means you have to constantly re-evaluate your strategies and be prepared to change. At the same time, much of this technology is very expensive. So, to get value on your investment, you have to implement quickly. After all, today's answer may be obsolete three years from now. You may have to look for returns many times greater than what a company might normally expect, because the chance of obsolescence is so great. And that calls for getting up and running as fast as possible.
iSource: What are your predictions for the future?
Stegner: We're at a very early stage, and there's a lot of confusion about the technology industry. There was the flurry of dot-com startups last year, followed by the demise of many of them. There probably will continue to be consolidation as those companies merge and work on delivering their long-term strategies. It's going to be an ongoing challenge for supply managers.
But, looking ahead, I think the connectivity between businesses and many levels of the supply chain will be much greater. Many companies are still struggling to implement EDI [electronic data interchange] with their tier-one suppliers. Five years from now, we'll be able to move well beyond that, connecting to multiple tiers in the supply chain, sharing information that will let us quickly react to customer demands, and executing orders. The electronic communication will go all the way through the supply chain, and the costs of implementation will go down, too.