CXOs eye e-comm projects as defensive tool

E-commerce initiatives remain a high priority for C-level executives from Australia and New Zealand's top companies, with most committed to ongoing investments in the sector for defensive reasons - like the need to protect market share instead of growing new revenues.

Cap Gemini Ernst & Young's e-Commerce Transformation Survey, which interviewed 166 CEOs and CIOs from Australia and New Zealand's top 1000 large companies, found that large businesses were best-positioned to launch successful e-commerce ventures as they approached these projects from the offence, rather than defence.

David Thomson, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young's Asia Pacific manager of strategy and transformation, said, "So much is happening at the ready, aim, fire level where everyone was so [eager] to get into e-commerce." Thomson said a typical defensive e-commerce project would be e-procurement - aimed purely at achieving business efficiencies.

On the other hand, an offensive strategy would be expansionist, targeting existing and new markets with a new product offering or value proposition, David Blomfield, Cap Gemini Australia/New Zealand's group leader of strategy and transformation, said.

The survey indicated most companies had an e-commerce strategy, most of which supported corporate strategy or focused on competitive advantage.

Also, more than half of the companies had established an e-commerce platform (intranet or Web site), and about 40 per cent of respondents had one or more solutions to address specific business issues as well as the platform.

Some 15 per cent of respondents said they had implemented a CRM solution, whilst 53 per cent said they were considering or had selected CRM solutions.

Other hot areas of growth in the "e-commerce evolution" were B2B e-marketplaces with 59 per cent predicted uptake, B2B e-procurement with 53 per cent and e-fulfilment with 41 per cent.

Thomson concluded from the study that the key to successful e-commerce projects was an understanding of a company's e-commerce opportunities, and of change management processes, and building solid business cases.

"Companies really need to know about the value proposition of an e-commerce project before they can expect to see any returns," he said.

Blomfield said companies must make very deliberate choices around e-commerce initiatives as they are dealing with a far more sceptical consumer market and constrained financial climate in the plateauing-out after last year's dotcom crash.

"Projects must be more about substance than form," he said.

"For CIOs and the custodians of e-commerce projects, it's a great time to take stock of what their business has and integrate some of its legacy systems. It's all about thinking creatively across your markets and then across your technical systems and data capabilities.

"Start making some astute investments in this cooler economy like using this time as a mobilising opportunity rather than a cost reduction phase."

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