Canadian executives still committed to e-business

Canadian executives have such enthusiasm for e-business that neither a disappointing rate of investment returns, nor a dodgy economy has tempered their zeal, a new survey has found.

The report, released by Toronto consulting firm Accenture, found more than three-quarters of the 300 officials surveyed are “actively pursuing” an e-business strategy. This represents an increase of 15 per cent over the results of a similar Accenture study performed in 1999.

Rather than just talking about e-business, said Jerry Garcia a Toronto-based partner with Accenture, these numbers indicate businesses have made a real commitment of money and resources to e-commerce projects.

However, the study also found organizations are realizing only an 18.4 per cent return on their e-business investments – significantly lower that the average projected return of 42 per cent.

“The biggest issue is that there is over-optimism at times, as there has been in the past with the Web,” Garcia said. “Not that anybody does it with the intention to deceive – they get caught up in the very ambitious, and perhaps overly ambitious plans on expected returns.”

With over two-thirds of the businesses that employ a customer relationship management (CRM) plan characterizing this strategy as “important”, Garcia said, CRM is finally starting to get the respect it deserves. It is even possible that, in a roundabout way, grassroots customer complaints are reaching the ears of executives, he added.

“With the slowing economy, companies are even more interested in doing anything that helps them increase revenue – even by one or two percentage points. They can do that by better customer retention, through better customer management, or cross selling and up selling to existing customers. [CRM strategies] become a very attractive proposition now to executives who are looking for even a small improvement in revenue.”

The survey, which targeted senior-level corporate executives, also cited application integration as a major roadblock on the information and e-business superhighway. This interest in circuits, wires and platforms is a positive sign to Garcia. As well, he said there are many more front-office personnel involved in making IT decisions than ever before.

“What we’re seeing is a lot more executives from the marketing groups, sales groups, and customer service, really getting behind e-business and the CRM initiatives – which is exactly right. It’s what you want to do to get real integration with the business. But it does also mean sometimes that you need a better and stronger linkage with the IS/IT professionals.”

Despite the current economic hiccups, and the discrepancy between the projected and actual flow of e-commerce dollars, Garcia said Canadian executives are finding their footing in the wired world.

“People are realizing that the only way to generate strategic value from all the technology is to tightly integrate it with the business processes and all the business group … you can see that the trends are positive.”

Accenture can be reached at