Phase two of e-commerce on its way

E-commerce is about to enter a new phase - one based more on common business sense than on 'dot com' smoke and mirrors, says Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.

E-commerce is about to enter a new phase - one based more on common business sense than on "dot com" smoke and mirrors, says Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (CGE&Y).

New Zealand companies, it says, are right up there with the rest of the world.

CGE&Y conducted a survey of 1000 top Australian and New Zealand CEOs in March of this year and achieved a 16% response rate, which is double what they would normally expect.

"We've had a great turn-out of CEOs here in New Zealand - more CEOs answered our questions here than in Australia," says CGE&Y vice president Alan Sinclair, who presented the findings in Auckland yesterday to the CEOs involved.

"What our findings show is that there are three levels of involvement in e-commerce and nearly every business has at least got a website."

While 51% companies are at the first stage - simply having a web presence with a "brochureware" style site or perhaps an intranet - many are moving rapidly to the more complex levels above.

"The next level involves introducing more specific e-commerce solutions to address business issues - things like online billing or training," says CGE&Y manager David Thompson, who helped run the survey. He says 41% of companies are at this stage while the final 8% have moved beyond it to a more unified, all-encompassing approach to e-commerce.

"These companies are involved in more than one project at a time, have a strategy that includes the entire company and e-commerce pervades the whole organisation."

Interestingly, the industry that leads the way in moving towards this more mature e-commerce platform is the public sector.

"We were quite surprised by that result - it does include a number of tertiary institutes which may skew the results somewhat but at the same time it's good to see them out there," says Sinclair. Twenty-four percent of public sector respondents were at the mature level compared with only 8% of the business services sector. Thompson believes this points to a maturing of the e-commerce market in general.

"We've moved beyond the dot com model to phase two if you like - companies are only implementing e-commerce solutions if there is a solid business case - it's a business driven solution rather than a technology one and that's good to see."

He says many companies are taking stock of what they've done so far before moving forward with any new projects and that's a good thing.

"It may be that projects put in place a year ago are no longer relevant to the business or even that they aren't going to cope with unforeseen demand. Companies are planning their move up the food chain and the next 12 to 18 months should see a lot of development in this area."

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