Canadian CEOs are incorporating e-commerce into their businesses at a rate that rivals their American counterparts, according to management consulting firm Compass.

On Tuesday, Compass released the results The World IT Census Strategy 2001, conducted by London Business School on its behalf. The survey found CEOs the world over are making e-commerce a priority, led by CEOs from Canada.

LBS surveyed 201 companies in Canada, the United States, Australia and 11 European countries. Sixty-seven percent of responding CEOs internationally have developed an e-business strategy compared with 70 per cent of Canadian surveys surveyed. Jim Pearse, vice-president of business development with Compass Analysis Canada Ltd., said that figure puts Canadian CEOs in a dead heat with their southern neighbours.

“We were quite surprised that Canadians and Americans are at par with respect to e-business” adoption and understanding,” Jim Pearse.

Fifty-two per cent of the CEOs surveyed reported said they have a major personal involvement with their company’s e-business strategy and 23 per cent reported a minor involvement. (Country-by-country statistics were not made available).

“I think the thing that’s starting to emerge is (CEOs) want some way to measure the return on investment,” Pearse said. “E-business is becoming a more mainstream part of the business and has become subject to the same kind of questions as any part of the business.”

Despite the high e-commerce adoption rates, Pearse said the complete integration of e-commerce with the business at large remains elusive for CEOs the world over. He said companies are trying to discern how much the lower the costs of sales becomes when consumers engage in self-service learning about products over the Internet.”

“Take banking for instance,” Pearse said. “One of the things banks are struggling with is ‘How does having a good set of Internet banking services make the time I have to spend in the branch less,’ and therefore making the sale less costly from the bank’s perspective.”

But Pearse said thanks to the recent failure of so many dot-com companies, CEOs can take better care in integrating e-commerce into their business. More than half of the respondents to the compass survey said they develop e-business strategy plans for timeframes of longer than one year, while only 21 per cent said they operate on timeframes shorter than 12 months.

“In the days of dot-com mania, there was a tremendous amount of pressure to get online at any cost,” Pearse said. “Now they feel they’ve got breathing room to sit back and evaluate their investments a little more.”

But Pearse stressed the companies within longer business plans are still able to adapt to change.

“They have an e-business strategy that stretches out for more than a year, but at the same time, within the context of that strategy, they’re able to react to things like new technology.”

Forty-three per cent of responding companies claimed sales revenues of between $100 million and $1 billion. They covered more than eight industries, including manufacturing, financial services, retail, energy and media.

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