Companies are classified by the following stages of development in ICT use:
0. no external data communication
1. external data communication, but no website, no on-line sales and no after-sales service
3. on-line sales
4. online after-sales service
5. order processing system linked to that of customers.
In stage 1 companies use facilities provided by others, but do not have any facilities on the Internet themselves. They can purchase on-line, however. In stage 2 companies provide information via a website on the Internet. Companies in stage 3 sell products on-line. In stage 4 companies provide after-sales service on-line and communicate with third parties via the Internet. In the final stage, stage 5, companies link their order processing systems to those of their customers. This results in an automated process between the company and another company or organisation.
Although each successive stage more or less leads to additional support of the business processes through external data communication, it is not necessary to complete, say, stages 0-3 successfully before implementing stage 4. For example: some companies sell products on-line, while they do not have a website.