Canadian business is not paying attention: survey

The results from Deloitte and Touche’s e-business readiness survey don’t exactly instill confidence in the state of Canadian e-commerce readiness. In fact, a few chills might be felt after perusing them.

According to the survey, 69 per cent of respondents said Internet-based services will have a major impact on or transform their company. This is the good news. Now for the bad: the survey also found that only 19 per cent of companies have fully adopted these services. It is this sort of statistic which might leave some readers with chills.

With the Internet doing its very best to cloud traditional national borders, the need to be at the front of e-business development is paramount if companies are to survive the increase in global competition.

Tom Dagenais, FCA and partner of management solutions at Deloitte&Touche Canada in Toronto, said, “In three years [Canadians] are going to be where American companies were three years ago.”

He continued, “Canadian business is not paying attention, is not investing and really hasn’t gotten far at all.”

The survey’s statistics back up this line of thought. The 81 per cent of companies who have not fully adopted Internet-based services fall into various categories. More than a third (38 per cent) of those surveyed said their company is in the development stage, plan to consider a policy or agreed to a development plan for Internet based services. Seven per cent said their company has no plans to consider Internet based services.

According to Dagenais, even the 35 per cent of companies who have implemented some Internet-based services are not doing as well as they might think. “Most people think that e-mail is a big piece of [Internet based services],” he said, adding, “if that is what they think is a really hot e-commerce or e-business technology, holy smokes are we in trouble,” he said.

He is not alone in his conclusions.

“The adaptation of e-business technologies is slow in Canada,” said John Reid, president of the CATAAlliance in Ottawa. Reid added, “you have a contradiction here – awareness is quite high [yet] absorption is quite low.”

Part of the reason for this discrepancy is the culture of Canadian businesses, according to Dagenais. He said Canadians, as technology buyers, tend to be rather conservative and are more likely to be late adopters than their American brethren. While American companies may be a little more likely to try a new technology, Dagenais said Canadian executives tend to want out-of-the-box solutions that are already proven in their industry.

“It is the way we buy,” he said.

Reid said e-commerce is a fundamental change in how business transactions are being conducted and that it will be the wise executives who will be an early adopter. “It is a whole learning curve that people have to adopt to,” he said.

George Rafael, a Calgary-based senior solution architect for, divides industries into three types.

One group is what he calls the dot-coms. These companies are extremely active in the move to e-commerce and are, for the most part, doing well transitioning their business for the new economy.

The dot-corps are Fortune 5000-type companies. They fit into all levels of success and, for the most part, are doing fairly well in B2C but lacking in B2B success. “The business to business side of things is not making as much headway as one would like,” he said. Agreeing with Dagenais, he said, “I don’t think there is a state of readiness culturally.”

Among the dot-corps who are way behind the curve he included the upstream oil and gas industry (those who take the product out of the ground). “It is a cultural thing. For them technology is a pain in the butski rather than an enabler,” he said.

Cal Fairbanks, executive director for CATA, mentioned the time he spent with oil executives in Calgary who were still a little jaded after spending millions of dollars on Y2K and then seeing nothing happen. “Before they throw a billion dollars at it they want to know what they are throwing it at.”

The overall consensus was that Canadian business are not doing too badly but it has to start walking the walk.

The data for the survey was collected from Feb. 9 to 25, 2000. A total of 899 respondents completed the survey. The overall statistical error rate is +/- 3.3 per cent.

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