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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
E-commerce looks good
Akadius frock PA
E-Commerce: All about looking good?
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

A survey of British and German businesses has revealed that the majority of them have embarked on e-commerce strategies simply to make themselves appear modern and forward-looking.

But few of those questioned said that their adoption of e-commerce had generated big savings or made a big difference to how the company operated.

BT Ignite, which commissioned the survey, says that unless companies wholeheartedly embrace e-commerce and use it to change the way they do business, few will get any significant benefit from it.

Adopting an e-commerce strategy, said 71% of UK companies and 65% of German businesses questioned, made them look more progressive and up-to-date in the eyes of their customers.

E is for image

Danny Garvey, a spokesman for BT Ignite, said that many companies seemed to have jumped on the e-commerce bandwagon with little thought about what they were trying to achieve.

In the survey 25% of respondents in both countries said they had turned to e-commerce for short-term commercial gains, and 50% said there was no business plan to back up the move to more electronic ways of working.

The survey found that the real business benefits of adopting these e-commerce strategies were hard to pinpoint. Only 30% of UK businesses and 39% of German companies said the move to more net-based ways of working had cut operating costs.

It is crucial that businesses are guided by defined strategies and measurable goals rather than simply the feel good factor

Danny Garvey
BT Ignite
Improvements to profits were even harder to come by. About 63% of UK respondents and 68% of German companies surveyed said it was very difficult to show how profitability had been boosted by e-commerce.

The e-commerce that these companies were questioned about is not the type that the ill-fated embarked upon. Instead, this type of e-commerce involves replacing old-fashioned people and paper-based ways of working with electronic alternatives, and using the chance to change to examine the way a business runs and make significant changes to it.

Big risks

Mr Garvey said net-based technologies could help a company operate more efficiently by cutting overheads and helping to meet customer needs more quickly. He said that companies were taking big risks by not getting the best out of the technology they were buying.

"It is crucial that businesses are guided by defined strategies and measurable goals rather than simply the feel good factor," he said.

The survey also revealed significant differences in the way that British and Germany businesses managed the e-commerce projects.

Over 75% of German companies know what they want to get out of their e-commerce strategy and how it should change over the next two years. By contrast only 50% of UK businesses were found to have a detailed conception of where their strategy was going.

Market researchers Mori carried out the poll for BT Ignite and questioned senior managers and technology bosses at over 200 large companies engaged on e-commerce projects. BT Ignite is the managed service and consultancy arm of telecommunications giant BT.

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