‘The dot.com boom has shown that although the internet makes a significant difference to business, the main beneficiaries are companies that find ways of doing things better or cheaper – new markets and processes are surprisingly rare.

The timber industry is no different – there are several ways or "levels" of using the internet for the sector, and they’re all aimed at optimising existing processes. They are:

  • Basic internet accessing; typified by use of e-mail for one-to-one communication.

  • Straightforward client communication; eg marketing websites, or "brochure-ware".

  • Business interaction, such as placing or receiving orders online.

  • Accepting financial payment; administering the transaction online, possibly supported by other business systems.

  • Managing the full process online; using the internet for the full trading process and managing the customer relationship.
  • As use of the internet matures, and especially as it becomes more secure, further integration into the industry will follow.

    For businesses wanting to make use of the internet, ironically the first thing to do is to ignore it until you have identified what you aim to achieve – it is a means to an end, not the end itself.

    The place to start is your business objectives and the question as to what you want to achieve from the internet should be answered from a business viewpoint, in a statement of business requirements.

    When it comes to evaluating the best and most cost-effective way to achieve these goals the internet could be a major or minor part of the solution. Once a company has reached this point, it can identify, in a more detailed statement of requirements:

  • the audiences it wishes to reach;

  • goals for relationships with each audience, for example, does it want people to just view, or interact with the internet operation?

  • the internet services needed to implement those relationships.
  • To implement services a company must identify the resources and management systems needed to maintain internet relationships. It also has to decide how it is going to monitor and develop those services and allot responsibility.

    We reach the final questions for ongoing management of the internet service:

  • Who is going to do it?

  • Who is going to be responsible for it?

  • How and when are we going to monitor the service and what are we going to measure?’