Companies Aren't Rushing to E-commerce

FRAMINGHAM (03/24/2000) - For all the hype surrounding e-commerce and digital marketplaces, a new study indicates that corporate industrial giants are lumbering, rather than sprinting, their way to the brave new world of Internet business.

While most have corporate Web sites listing their products and services, only 40 percent of large companies can receive orders online. And even fewer - 28 percent of companies - can accept electronic payments.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that one out of four companies have yet to take any significant action on the electronic-business front, even though they consider it important, according to a survey of senior executives at 78 industrial companies conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York.

"These are big companies that have a lot at stake with their brands, relationships with supply chain partners and customer reactions. They are being cautious about how they deal with this," said Ed Berryman, author of the PricewaterhouseCoopers study.

"Many of them are looking for examples of firms that are more like they are, rather than just dot-coms," Berryman said.

At the same time, Berryman said, companies are making preparations internally for an eventual huge leap into e-commerce and, potentially, an even bigger game of catch-up.

For example, 79 percent of respondents said e-commerce provides less than 5 percent of revenue. But they said they expect that figure to jump to more than 20 percent by 2003.

Another key indicator of companies' great electronic-business expectations is the widespread creation of full-time e-commerce teams, which are replacing part-time task forces and information technology project teams at many industrial companies.

Milwaukee-based Brady Corp., which makes industrial labels and signs, is a prime example. Since last August, the company has appointed four full-time electronic-business directors, implemented an Internet-based extranet ordering system for its U.S. distributors and set a corporate goal of doing 50 percent of all business online by 2003 - a big increase over the current figure of about 7 percent, said Steve Hasbrook, corporate e-commerce director.

"We pulled e-business out of IT, and now, all e-business resources report to vice presidents of the business groups," Hasbrook said. "We see it as a very strategic business initiative. Things are moving very fast," he added.

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