Industry too slow on B2B

Two major studies have highlighted the patchy and hesitant response to e-business from the UK’s engineering and industrial sectors.

Separate surveys by business consultancy Ernst & Young and engineering services group EADS Matra Datavision both identified a similar gulf between actions and words when it comes to business-to-business e-commerce.

Ernst & Young spoke to chief executives and financial directors in manufacturing and related businesses with turnovers of more than £100m.

It says 80% of respondents attached a high importance to the potential of e-business, yet less than a fifth are now implementing any type of strategy.

Ernst & Young also claims industry has an unhealthy obsession with websites, probably caused by focusing too much on the high profile ups and downs of business-to-consumer dotcom firms.

Consequently, its report claims businesses are missing the key supply chain opportunities of e-business as an integrator with suppliers and customers.

Ernst & Young says one trend stands out from the general picture of indecision and inaction: of the small number of respondents operating an effective, well-balanced portfolio of e-business initiatives, many claim a positive impact on shareholder value as a result.

Matra Datavision’s survey of 157 UK engineering executives produced similar responses, with 85% of companies deeming e-business important, yet just one in eight has a strategy in place.

According to Tim Illingworth, Matra Datavision’s UK managing director, the ‘greatest area of failure’ concerns assigning responsibility for e-business development to a board-level individual. Just 6% of companies had done so.

Illingworth claimed: ‘While there does appear to be a reasonable level of awareness of the significance of e-business and associated opportunities, there seems to be a startling lack of action.’