US-UK divide ends

The report puts paid to the myth that there is a transatlantic gulf between the UK and USA for adopting e-business strategies, but reveals that lack of enthusiasm among British staff risks bringing a halt to progress.

Indeed, the survey concludes the most limiting factor to setting business services is not the well touted security fear, but staff inertia.

Called ‘Manufacturing with a small e’ and produced by Deloitte & Touche, the report showed 29% of UK firms surveyed were using websites for marketing while the figure was 27% in the USA. For selling, the web was used by 24% of UK companies against 21% in the USA.

David Fletcher, a partner at Deloittes, said: ‘The popular view that there is an e-business gulf is wrong; Britain does not lag behind the US in terms of e-business strategy, preparation for change or the volume of business conducted through the e-channels.

‘Even where US manufacturers lead, the extent of their advantage is small and in the short term in areas such as procurement and supply chain management, there is a growing perception that Britain will overtake the US.’

However, differences emerged between SMEs and large firms. Small and medium-sized companies have adopted a wait and see policy or initiated an e-business strategy because of customer demand.

But large outfits have launched e-business programmes as a means to achieve competitive advantage and they have moved quickly from thinking about e-business to doing it.

‘Manufacturers are aware that they need to make a leap of faith. CEOs and board members must see through the hypes surrounding e-business and implement appropriate change across their organisations.

‘The cost/benefit analysis of e-business is weak and poorly formalised, but all manufacturers understand that financial justification, even after implementation, will happen,’ said Fletcher.

He added that board members down to middle managements saw themselves as more aware in terms of e-business than font-line and staff grades.

Although e-business is understood at the senior level, the survey reveals that it has not, in most cases, been raised to the ‘strategic agenda’.

‘If British firms are to increase their competitive position on a global stage, then the e-business message is “stop talking and start doing”,’ Fletcher said.

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