Onwards & upwards

UK companies are increasing spend on e-business projects, but the government could be doing more to help them, writes Karl...

UK companies are increasing spend on e-business projects, but the government could be doing more to help them, writes Karl Cushing

European companies are still planning on launching new e-commerce projects despite the economic downturn. This is the picture presented by Accenture's eEurope 2001 study published in October, and based on interviews with more than 800 board-level executives across 25 countries in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Sixty per cent of the European executives polled said they expected expenditure on e-commerce initiatives to rise next year, with only 4% expecting it to fall. However, from the UK's perspective, one of the most striking things to come out of the research was that only 29% of the respondents in this country thought the government was "an exemplar of e-commerce". This figure compared with outright leader Ireland, whose government was viewed as an e-commerce exemplar by 65% of respondents.

However the good news is that, now that the smoke has cleared and the hype died down, the effects and benefits of adopting e-business - whether real or perceived - are becoming clearer. This was, to some extent, borne out by the results of the Accenture survey. Over 60% of the respondents felt that, due to the impact of e-business over the last two to three years, their business was more likely to encourage entrepreneurial activity; adopt flexible organisational structures; outsource business activities; collaborate on forming alliances; and network with other industry participants.

Conversely, companies also appear to have downsized their expectations of what they expect to achieve through e-business. While the percentage of respondents who expect it to help in areas such as entering new geographic areas and providing a lower-cost customer channel is higher than in 2000, the number who expect it to transform the way they do business has fallen by around 20%.

The use of e-business was still at its highest in sales and marketing. But significant growth was reported in other areas such as purchasing, logistics and HR. Logistics was especially notable as it had remained almost stagnant in 2000 but grew by around 10% in 2001.

Contrary to the idea that first mover advantage is a hindrance in e-commerce, the highest percentage of companies who felt their e-business strategies had been an "unmitigated success" (around 20%) was in this first movers or "innovative leaders" group, with a further 60% feeling their strategies had been "quite successful". This compares with around 75% of "slow movers" who were either "undecided" or felt their e-commerce strategies had been unsuccessful.

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