British business on an e-brink

British business is on the brink of an e-commerce revolution, according to a recent report by the Confederation of British...

British business is on the brink of an e-commerce revolution, according to a recent report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and KPMG Consulting.

The study, conducted in conjunction with the London Business School and entitled 'The Quiet Revolution', reveals that 93 per cent of UK companies already include e-commerce in their corporate strategy in some way.

And while 76 per cent of firms currently derive less than 5 per cent of their revenue from on-line activities, more than half of the 1,000 companies surveyed expect this figure to double by 2003.

According to the CBI and KPMG, the findings dispel the notion that the internet revolution has "ground to a halt". They argue that despite the dismal performance of some dotcoms, traditional organisations are driving a 'second wave of e-commerce' activity in all sectors across the UK, and that all companies will "step up" their e-business involvement over the next two to three years.

"The first wave of e-business is emphatically over, but the rags-to-riches-to-rags stories of dotcom entrepreneurs that have dominated the headlines have disguised what has really been going on," comments Alan Buckle, chief executive of KPMG Consulting. "A quiet revolution has begun inside British business…companies have been embracing internet technology…to revolutionise the way they relate to their customers, suppliers and employees."

The telecoms, utilities and retail sectors are leading the way, reveals the report, followed by financial services firms, and those involved in transportation. Manufacturing has the lowest number of 'e-pioneers', however, despite what the report describes as the "significant potential" of internet technologies to transform the sector.

Also identified in the research are potential barriers to the uptake of e-commerce - such as internet security and the costs of technology - which CBI director general Digby Jones warns must not be allowed to leave 'e-laggards' and 'e-followers' behind. "Business and government must work closely together to harness the pioneering spirit of all UK businesses," he adds.

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