Survival Guide: Mitchell Levy, president and CEO of ECnow.com

Who is ECnow?

An e-commerce management consultancy based in Cupertino, Calif., ECnow.com advises startup, midsized and large enterprises on how to use the Internet to market their organizations' products and services. The advice may sound counterintuitive: "Give away something of value on your site." But it keeps your audience coming back, an ECnow.com analyst said.

The company also offers training and guest speakers, content management services and strategic consulting. Director Mitchell Levy and other ECnow.com consultants often sit on the advisory boards of startups to provide "instant advice."

Mitchell Levy, president and CEO of ECnow.com

ECnow.com

As president and chief executive officer of the Cupertino, Calif.-based management consulting firm ECnow.com, Mitchell Levy helps companies use the Internet to improve operations and boost sales. For six years, Levy has published business-related predictions for the upcoming year based on feedback from readers as well as insight from his speaker database. Levy spoke with Washington Technology staff writer William Welsh about his "2004 Top 10 Trends," including the expansion of all things WiFi and the backlash against offshore outsourcing.

WT: Will 2004 be good or bad for IT companies?

Levy: Business in 2004 will be on the upswing. I am hearing from people that we are at the bottom and on the way up. There still is a tremendous amount of money and opportunity out there, and from the information technology side, we are looking at antiquated equipment that was put into place to deal with Y2K. It's now four years later, and it needs to be replaced.

We aren't going to have the same spending we had in the go-go years, but we will have increased expenditures in those lines -- if not just to replace equipment, it will be to provide similar functionality that peer-based companies already have in place.

WT: You predict viruses and spamming will get worse in 2004? Why?

Levy: We are still at the beginning of how bad this is. On the virus side, all the viruses so far have been known systems errors. Microsoft Corp. knew what was going to happen and was already working on the patches. We will have two days in 2004 where business is brought to a halt by an unknown flaw. On the spam side, we are putting legislation into place. After lawsuits are [filed] and arrests occur, companies will become more respectful.

WT: You predict a backlash against offshore outsourcing. Can we expect legislation to prohibit this from happening?

Levy: Yes, although I'm not sure that is always the right answer. The better response is to figure out ways to compensate companies for using U.S.-based resources. That is a more appropriate way to go.

The Internet is a great equalizer in terms of [spreading] democracy around the world. It can make that happen far greater than any other policy the U.S. government has put into place. As the great equalizer, the laws of supply and demand will continue to balance.

In countries where the infrastructure costs of doing business are so significantly less than the United States, companies have a hard time not jumping at that solution.

WT: Why do you believe WiFi will get bigger?

Levy: Over the next several years, everyone will buy either laptop or Internet-connected watches or phones, and we won't have to worry about how it works or happens. For consumers of these products, [WiFi] will be as natural as having an extension that plugs into the wall for electricity. The first mall that says, "We have free WiFi connectivity, come here all day and do your Internet work," is going to get a lot of press.

From the retail side, it's going to be another tool. I believe we'll see more ubiquitous connectivity, and WiFi appears to be the way to make that happen.

WT: Why do you think the term "e-commerce" will come back into vogue?

Levy: There's been a coupling of the word e-commerce with the negative economy that exists today. This has been largely brought about the press and analysts.

But look at the wild predictions that groups, such as Jupiter, Gartner and others made in 1999-2000 about what would happen in 2003. They said on the retail side, we would do $100 million online, and on the business-to-business side, we would do $1.3 trillion dollars online. In 2003, we are going to meet or exceed those expectations. So as for pure online transactional capabilities, we are exceeding the expectations we set in the go-go years.

However, when you mention the word e-commerce or e-business, a large segment of the population looks at that as a negative, because they associate that with the dot-com era. So in 2004, my expectation is that the press and analysts will start looking favorably once again on how the Internet positively affects business and society.

For Levy's "2004 Top 10 Predictions" go to http://ceonetworking.com/businesstrends/2004Top10withQuotes.pdf

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