It takes all sizes

There are a few inside jokes and catch phrases you can’t use anymore. Let’s go over a few of them:

It is no longer funny to scream “”Wassssaap!”” to greet a colleague at Comdex or one of other trade shows–doubly so if you’re wearing a suit. It is not cool to mimic Mike Myer’s, “”Yeah, baby!””

when your application actually manages to boot up during a product demo (though it may be cool once Austin Powers: Goldmember, debuts next month). And finally, one can only wince when someone, be it a vendor, an analyst firm — or, in this case, Statistics Canada — asks, “”Does size matter?””

Though the innuendo here has become so stale that everyone seems to have forgotten the line refers to a penis, Statistics Canada nevertheless used it as the title of a report released this week examining businesses on the Internet. In “”Embracing E-Business: Does Size Matter?,”” the researchers at StatsCan have brought us the useful information that yes, it does.

According to the study, which was part of the annual Survey of Electronic Conference and Technology, only 68 per cent of small businesses had Internet access, while 94 and 91 per cent of large and medium firms did. At least 74 per cent of large firms have a Web site, compared with less than a quarter of small firms.

I’m not sure who this study is supposed to help, apart from grade-school children who are doing basic overviews of the Internet as part of a class project. Certainly most e-commerce product vendors are aware that large firms are the early adopters in this market, while smaller companies may not have the volume or global presence necessary to justify an investment in a Web strategy.

Even in the finer details, StatsCan has only managed to state the obvious. Small companies are mostly going for the low-hanging fruit — business-to-consumer e-commerce. Large firms, on the other hand, realize there is much greater opportunity within business-to-business markets. This is the same information you would have found in eBusiness Journal issues 1-20, and probably in most other mainstream technology publications.

There is hardly an executive in this business who has not observed that Canada is usually about 12 to 18 months behind the United States in the adoption of various technology products and strategies. That doesn’t mean Statistics Canada, one of the country’s primary sources of information, should take as long to realize the important questions that need to be asked.

Case in point: Businesses said the most common reason they stay off the Web is because their products and services don’t lend themselves to the medium. The second-most popular response indicated a resistance to changing their current business model. This suggests that many of the 21,000 enterprises StatsCan sampled fail to see the Internet as an extension of their business, but something which would require them to start over from scratch. This, in turn, could give us insight into attitudes that would influence technology purchases, and in the larger scheme of things, the potential barriers to an economic recovery for this sector.

Statistics never tell the full story, but in this case they barely amount to a preface. Perhaps it’s worth repeating the usual answer to the size question. No, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you do with it.

sschick@itbusiness.ca

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