UW project brings university, business together to foster e-business activity

When UW-Madison invited business executives to the campus to discuss if and how UW could help businesses get involved in electronic commerce, the university heard a plea for help.
While realizing that e-business is the way of the future, business leaders expressed frustration trying to understand what e-commerce means for their firms, noted a shortage of the people-power needed to lead companies into an e-business economy, and related their desire for a collaborative learning environment which takes a holistic approach to e-business by analyzing it from technology, business and organizational perspectives.
As a result of that meeting, held last June, UW decided to put together a consortium designed to address those needs and concerns, says Dr. Raj Veeramani, director of the Consortium for Global Economic Commerce and member of the UW faculty. The consortium, which officially was founded last December, is designed to facilitate interaction between companies interested in learning how e-commerce can benefit their business, companies that develop e-commerce technology and UW students and faculty, Veeramani said.
“No group has all the answers,” Veeramani said. “Industry leaders want collaboration because they understand that that’s the way for e-commerce to work for business.”
Since its inception, the consortium has hosted four seminars on various e-business issues from e-commerce fundamentals to cost-benefit justifications for e-commerce. Most of the seminars are open to the public, Veeramani said, and for non-members typically cost approximately $155 for a day-long seminar.
The consortium offers a three-tier membership structure, with memberships costing $5,000; $10,000 and $25,000 per year per company depending on the company’s yearly revenue. Memberships include attendance at all consortium seminars, access to the consortium Web site and the opportunity to work with UW faculty and students.
This fall, Veeramani will teach the course “Electronic Commerce: Technology, Strategy, and Application,” in which teams of students will work with member companies to develop e-commerce project proposals based on each company’s individual e-business needs.
Veeramani says the consortium plans to offer a weekly personalized newsletter which essentially would be a compilation of e-business information of interest to an individual company.
“There’s too much e-commerce information out there for a company to sift through to find what’s relevant,” Veeramani said. “The newsletter will provide the information pertinent to each company.”
Veeramani believes the consortium is as valuable to the UW students as it is to business owners. “The students are the future of business and of the e-commerce economy,” Veeramani said. “Working with businesses is a wonderful learning experience for them.”
The consortium currently focuses on three industries: manufacturing, retailing, and distribution and logistics. Veeramani says that’s because of the business relationships among the three industries and because UW historically has had relationships with them. The consortium will expand its focus to other industries, Veeramani says, but because the consortium is still quite new, it didn’t want to spread its resources too thin trying to cover every industry right away.
Currently, fifteen companies are members of the consortium. More information about the consortium is available on its Web site,http://web-tech.ie.wisc. edu/consortium.

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