Many people equate e-commerce with selling and buying on the Internet. However, although a company’s success is clearly dependent on finding and retaining customers, its success may be far more dependent on what is behind the Web page rather than on what is on the Web page. In other words, the company’s internal operations (the back end) and the company’s relationships with suppliers and other business partners are as critical, and frequently much more complex, than customer-facing applications such as taking an order online. In many cases, these noncustomer-facing applications are related to the company’s supply chain. It has been well-known for generations that the success of many organizations— private, public, and military—depends on their ability to manage the flow of materials, information, and money into, within, and out of the organization. Such a flow is referred to as a supply chain. Croza (2008) regards the supply chain as the competitive differentiator. Because supply chains may be long and complex and may involve many different business partners, we frequently see problems in supply chain operation. These problems may result in delays, products not being where they are required at the right time, customer dissatisfaction, lost sales, and high expenses that result from fixing the problems once they occur. World-class companies such as Walmart, Dell, and Toyota and successful e-tailers such as Amazon.com and Zappos.com attribute much of their success to effective supply chain management (SCM), which is largely supported by IT and e-commerce technologies.
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