E-Business Missing from Most UK Firms

Slightly more than half of the largest companies in the UK have systems that allow for either B2B to B2C transactions online, according to a survey by ICM for Rubus.

Only 52 percent of the Times Top 1000 companies have systems that allow them to conduct online transactions. Ninety percent of the respondents to the survey acknowledged the importance of an effective online presence or using Internet technology to their business objectives and success, but only 15 percent have developed a formalized e-business strategy for 2001 to help them achieve it. Thirty-five percent admitted the biggest challenge to successfully implementing their online plans could be other business matters taking a priority.

The research found a marked contrast between business intention and the ability to execute. For example, only half of those surveyed employed either a dedicated head of e-commerce or e-business, despite the fact that 80 percent stated their intention to exploit new interactive channels, such as interactive TV and mobile applications, in the coming year. Despite high acceptance in all sectors of the continuing importance of e-business initiatives in 2001, lack of strategic planning, as well as inadequate in-house skills and Board-level support were all cited as reasons that could impact the success of these ventures.

“The results are certainly surprising,” said Michael Walton, CEO of Rubus. It seems that whilst companies recognize the potential that e-business will bring to their commercial operations, and are keen to invest in it, they are failing to properly plan for it.”

Poor planning and decision-making about online strategies may ultimately lead to investments that do not give the returns companies expect.

“The success of interactive projects lies in commitment at all levels of the organization, as well as proper planning and correct execution,” Walton said. “Incorporating e-business into company initiatives is critical for ongoing success in what is now a global economy. If the UK is to maintain its strong market position, companies cannot afford to be complacent about how they go about running these initiatives.”

The study also found strong contrasts across industry sectors and regions. The media and publishing sector leads with their adoption of formalized e-business plans, but the financial services industry has the largest number of organizations using the Internet as part of business operations at 77 percent. The manufacturing/industrial sector has just 33 percent of firms using using the Internet as part of business operations. A North-South divide also exists among UK businesses, with 72 percent of firms in the North admitting that other business matters could get in the way of successful implementation of e-business plans, compared to 33 percent in the South.

“Whilst it is clear that enterprise-wide e-business is still yet to take off, it is clearly an objective for the New Year,” Walton said. “Companies just need to ensure they do not accept half measures.”

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