A software tool designed to help manufacturers’ and engineering companies’ senior management and their project teams quickly clarify their e-business opportunities and barriers, decide how best to take advantage and set priorities – given their market, industry and IT environment – has been released by the UK Council for Electronic Business (UKCeB). e-BAT, the e-business assessment tool, was developed with funding from the DTI, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Marconi, with help from PA Consulting. It’s designed to review and simulate ‘extended manufacturing enterprises’, covering web-connected collaborative business, including e-supply chain working, collaborative forecasting, design, product management and so on. Dr Norman Schofield, UKCeB director, says it’s a strategic assessment tool that enables companies to “focus on those elements of an e-business strategy which will match its primary business drivers, and the gaps which need to be closed.” Briefly, it provides a detailed structure, data collection and business checks to allow a multi-disciplinary team to work on its strategy, all in a single day with the help of a UKCeB accredited facilitator. While it doesn’t deal explicitly with cost and return on investment (ROI) issues, it does help expose business drivers and logic, and its developers say this leads to a realistic idea of possible performance improvements and the like, which can be used to estimate ROI. One company that has already benefited from using the tool is Eaton Aerospace, which designs and manufacturers components for civil and military aircraft. Says Colin Hunt, general manager: “In a very short space of time, the e-business assessment has provided our management team with the awareness, understanding, and confidence to proceed with our business strategy. “By highlighting the opportunities and limitations inherent within our existing business, it has enabled us to stop debating and take action. We now have an independently endorsed strategy. We are now implementing that strategy against agreed timescales and performance criteria.” Says Schofield: “Successful e-business can transform the cost models and lead times for large companies and transform the international competitiveness … of small businesses. Everybody who grasps the opportunity will gain.” UKCeB says e-BAT is essential for exactly this, but it’s not standing still. Current plans for development include generalisation into vertical markets, with appropriate language and logic, as well as expansion for use at a higher level to enable “facilitated discussion about business strategy and business drivers”. There are also plans to develop e-BAT downstream to help with user deployment, and to gather a database of knowledge for benchmarking purposes.