Top execs seek bright spots in the downturn

More than half of the top executives at Fortune 1000 companies believe that eliminating poor business models is the "silver lining of the economic slowdown," according to a study released Wednesday by technology consultant Accenture.

In addition, many executives believe the slowdown will allow them to focus on cost reduction and enable them to gain more sector prominence as the marketplace shakeout eliminates competitors, according to the survey. IT projects around SCM (supply-chain management), ERP, and CRM are topping executives' priority lists during this period, the study said.

The study surveyed 150 C-level executives in June to gauge their outlook on the economic slowdown and their level of satisfaction with recent technology investments. More than half reported that eliminating poor business models is the bright spot of the current bleak economic climate. Thirty-nine percent of the executives believe the inability to get new capital is the most negative impact of the slowdown.

David B. Rich, global industry managing partner for the electronics and high tech industry group at Chicago-based Accenture Ltd., said that the survey results may indicate a renewed interest in e-business as senior executives seek to eliminate inefficiencies in their operations.

"The byproduct will be more highly educated C-level [executives] ... regarding new technologies, particularly the Internet," Rich said. "They will focus on using the Internet to eliminate inefficiencies. When they talk about poor business models, they mean moving toward a virtual enterprise."

Executives believe that the most beneficial new technology investments made in the past two years were in SCM, CRM, and ERP technology.

Views on technology investments cut along industry lines with investments in SCM impressing executives in the retail and manufacturing industries, whereas CRM investments are valued most by executives in financial services, insurance, and real estate companies.

Executives believe the "next big wave or killer application for the business world" will be CRM technologies, mobile and wireless applications, and SCM technologies.

SCM and ERP investments received high marks from executives because they are aimed squarely on streamlining operations, Rich said. As companies begin their annual planning process, these technologies are skirting the budget ax even in the trying economic environment, he said.

"When times are good, you overlook inefficiencies," Rich said. "When things get slow, you begin to ask yourself, 'Why do I have 150 order management systems? ...Why do I have 13 procurement systems?' "

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