Dazed and confused in e-comm land

Despite the hype and increasing investment in Internet technology, CEOs are still confused about e-business, demonstrating the elusive nature of the digital revolution, a study by global management consultant AT Kearney has revealed.

Based on interviews with 251 CEOs in 26 countries across 10 industry segments, the study revealed that nearly 75 per cent of executives said their companies are actively involved in creating an e-business strategy and 57 per cent said the Internet has changed the way they conduct business.

However, only 1 per cent viewed e-business as a critical success factor and only 5 per cent said it was critical in the next three years.

CEOs viewed their most significant e-business impediment as internal - integrating existing business processes and lack of properly trained personnel.

Despite the rapid rise of B2B trading exchanges, fewer than half of those surveyed said they are serious about participating in such ventures.

AT Kearney vice president Doug Aldrich said while "chaos at the top" may be too strong a phrase, the survey shows confusion reigns in the boardroom when it comes to e-business and its relevance to strategy, products and services.

"Almost overnight, the Internet has changed the rules of engagement that previously guided the interaction of businesses with their customers, suppliers and alliance partners; it's not surprising that the e-revolution is causing confusion in the business community, but what is startling is the extent of it," Aldrich said.

Perceptions of the current and future impact of e-business varied greatly between North America, Europe, Asia and South America.

Nearly 80 per cent of the CEOs interviewed said the role of technology is extremely important to the future success of their companies and 77 per cent said their company's IT investment will increase over the next three years.

Although an increase in IT investment was expected, Aldrich said the amount was surprising with respondents foreseeing a 53 per cent rise on average.

A third said investments will increase by more than 100 per cent between now and 2003.

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