E-commerce hiccups stymie study

It's hard to study successful e-commerce implementations when they keep falling over on you.

Waikato University professor Ted Zorn wanted to review in some depth the e-commerce implementations of three organisations as part of a comprehensive three-year study of information and communications technology in New Zealand.

Other aspects of the project include more wide-ranging surveys, but Zorn wanted to do "fine grain analysis" on a small number of organisations. However, his part of the project was curtailed somewhat by the fact two of the three organisations' e-commerce plans never got to the implementation stage.

"I didn't set out to study failures," Zorn says, adding that he's looking for some more successful case studies.

Three organisations - a large company and two non-profit organisations that he wouldn't name - aren't a huge sample, but Zorn believes they provide some indication of the wider picture of e-commerce implementation in New Zealand.

"Uptake has been quite slow - there's been a lot of uptake at the lower end, ie websites, but adoption of online transactions has been low." Creating a sophisticated system is a huge challenge, he says.

"The private company was implementing a knowledge management initiative, not just one application."

All three organisations spent "hundreds of hours" on their respective projects, he says.

In many cases, e-commerce applications and packages don't result in immediate efficiency gains, despite pitches from vendors that indicate such gains, Zorn says.

"In the short term, they're often more time consuming - efficiency gains aren't seen immediately."

The one successful implementation of the three Zorn studied was at a non-profit organisation. He was particularly impressed because just a year ago the organisation didn't even have email. "They had a few un-networked PCs."

The non-profit sector could really benefit from ICT, he says. "ICT is over-hyped, but the non-profit sector has great potential for improvement [from it]."

The work of the Waikato e-commerce and ICT research project, funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology to the tune of $800,000, can be viewed here.

The project is halfway through its three-year term, Zorn says.

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