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Top U.K. Companies Still Reluctant to Use Online Transactions

[London, ENGLAND] According to a report from research firm ICM, only just over half of the Times Top 1000 companies in the U.K. have systems for either B2C or B2B online transactions.

ICM conducted the survey in December 2000 on behalf of interactive consultancy Rubus, and was surprised to find such a low usage level of electronic transactions by the biggest companies in the land.

Only 15 percent of the top 1000 companies have developed a formalized e-business strategy for 2001, according to the researchers, while 35 percent admitted to being distracted by other business matters deemed to have greater priority.

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

Walton said the research showed that the decision to get online is not being met with appropriate strategies to get it right. Inevitably, he said, this will mean that any investment in e-commerce may not give companies the returns they expect.

"In a broader sense, a lack of properly implemented online strategies will certainly damage U.K. plc," observed Walton.

Just half of the companies surveyed had a dedicated head of e-commerce or e-business on the payroll, even though 80 percent said they intended to exploit new interactive channels this year. This is surely a case of management by wishful thinking, as other techniques would appear to be ruled out if there is no one in charge.

The Government has expressed its desire to make the U.K. "the best place for e-commerce by 2002" -- but the latest ICM report will give it scant encouragement. Unless business responds there is little that the Government can do, other than lift any unnecessary restrictions that remain.

In the report, strong evidence is given to suggest a north-south divide -- with businesses in the north being more inclined to allow other things to interrupt their plans for e-business. 72 percent of northern businesses admitted being distracted, compared to 33 percent in the south.

In terms of industry sector, media and publishing leads the way by adopting formalized e-business plans, although the financial services sector has a higher percentage (77 percent) of companies using the Internet as an integral part of business operations.

But as for the general picture: enterprise wide e-business in the U.K. has yet to take off.



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