E-business to get more of Aussie IT pie

Australian IT managers will increase spending on e-business initiatives this year although budget size remains static.

IT managers who responded to a Computerworld survey, said 2001 is the year most of the spend will be directed toward e-business initiatives, shifting the focus away from infrastructure.

This is in contrast to an AMR Research Survey of 100 companies in the US that found IT budgets shrinking after increases of up to 15 per cent in the previous two years.

Mirvac IT manager Stephen Taylor said the company's IT budget has been readjusted to accommodate e-commerce.

"Our budget hasn't shrunk or increased, we are just spending more on e-commerce initiatives this year; the IT budget did go up for a couple of years in 1999 and 2000 because we had to upgrade our infrastructure but it has remained the same this year," Taylor said.

Federal Court of Australia technology services director, Graham Harrison said the IT budget remains the same but the focus is on developing its "e-court strategy".

"Our IT infrastructure is strong so there is a greater emphasis on court case and document management systems and the ability to transfer information via the Internet," Harrison said.

"The development portion of our IT budget this year is concentrating on the E arena to improve work flow and to examine the value-added aspect; our strategy is not just Internet focused, it's anything to do with electronic data as well as videoconferencing."

SC Johnson & Sons network manager, Jose Perez said the company's IT expenditure has actually decreased in recent years but his intention is to turn that around this year.

"We are just beginning our e-commerce initiatives so my goal is to increase the IT budget to accommodate this, taking into account the spend has to be based on a percentage of the company's net sales. Indications are the company is looking to increase the IT budget throughout the region and I will be focusing that spend on Web-based technology," Perez said.

IS manager for one of Australia's largest retail food chains, who chose not to be named, believes organisations are starting to "pull expenditure in a bit" but money for IT investment in Australia is "definitely still there".

But despite static budgets, he said e-commerce spending is definitely increasing.

"It's basically a strategic business decision; I don't see IT investment overall decreasing in this climate," he said.

This trend was confirmed by IDC end user program manager Peter Hind who believes Australian IT budgets will not increase this year.

"I have no formal evidence of this as my current IT investment research is still in the field; it's an anecdotal feel that it's time to cut back; IT had a good spend in 1999 and 2000 with Y2K and the GST," Hind said.

"E-business spending is increasing significantly but it is not simply a case of displacing other activities; e-business as a concept is getting wider and IS managers are looking at the Net for greater functionality within their organisations."

Hind said an example of this is use of the intranet and Web-enabling help desks.

"It is not just about e-commerce; investment in IT at the moment is looking at ways to harness the Net as a service delivery mechanism," he said.

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