When you're a large, established, fast moving company running a 2% margin there's not much room for experimenting with Internet-based business. You keep with the EDI devil you know - at least until you can be certain Internet integration offers the level of guaranteed service, resilience and back-up your business needs.
But the signs are that the Internet is reaching industrial strength and will integrate more comfortably with existing processes.
This whole area is now under the spotlight as never before. Company boards are urgently re-assessing the way IT is used in the supply chain. That's why the term e-procurement (integrating Internet technologies into the supply chain) has recently jumped so high up the business agenda.
It's not a question of technology - it's about maximising supply chain efficiency, keeping control of customers, flexibility, and efficient service. The IT director has to ensure that the business moves in the right technical direction at the right time to achieve these goals. The tighter the margins, the tougher the job.
Most companies are groping their way tentatively in e-procurement. The enlightened ones have recognised that they have to maintain their learning curve, and are looking to learn new tricks from smaller, more flexible companies.