Canada still warming up to enterprise e-commerce

Canadian enterprises may have been slow out of the e-commerce gate, but IDC Canada Ltd. data released Tuesday suggests they’re catching up to the U.S.

In a study commissioned by Sun

Microsystems of Canada Inc., Toronto-based IDC polled 153 IT and business executives working in Canadian enterprise companies. Seventy-six per cent of respondents said they were familiar with the concept of Web services and 43 per cent said they are considering or already planning to implement Web services within their organizations.

There is actually more interest in Web services in Canada than in the U.S., said IDC’s director of Internet research Phil Cohen. He postulated that this current wave of interest is an opportune time for Canada to “”leapfrog”” the U.S. in the number of Web services used and deployed, albeit on a proportional basis. Furthermore, “”if a Canadian executive is not familiar with the term ‘Web services’ they owe it to themselves to learn more,”” said Cohen. “”Keeping competitive means at least understanding what areas of their business can benefit from Web services.””

IT sales over this decade are expected to total $15 trillion globally — almost three times the amount spent on IT in the last 40 years. The primary drivers for this sharp increase in spending are e-commerce, enterprise portals and Web services, said Cohen.

According to Gord Sissons, vice-president of technology for Markham, Ont.-based Sun Canada, we’re still at the earliest stages of Web services adoption, and there are still a host of concerns surrounding the technology. “”In this model, the number of constituents and users of your service is unknowable,”” he said, which can lead to problems like scalability and security issues. “”But from a sales and marketing point of view, we’re certainly seeing a lot of interest,”” he added.

Canada is practically on par with the U.S. in terms of application integration within the enterprise, according to IDC’s most recent data, and may actually be slightly ahead. Canada is also leading the U.S. in corporate portal adoption, which IDC defines as a means to alleviate work within the enterprise, filter information and act as a single point of access for the entire company. Fifty-six per cent of Canadian respondents have, or intend to have a corporate portal, compared to roughly half of American enterprises.

However, Canadians still lag behind Americans in terms of online business sales. Only 1.5 per cent of total business sales are conducted online in Canada compared to about 4 per cent in the U.S. Seventy-seven per cent of respondents to IDC’s survey said that none of their business is currently done online, but that may change in the years to come. By 2007, that number is expected to drop to 44 per cent.

Cohen said Canada is making headway in the e-commerce arena, but really the ulimate goal should be maintaining the status quo. IDC predicts that Canada’s ownership of the global e-commerce economy will drop from the current level of five per cent to three per cent by 2005. But that slippage is due to other countries entering the e-commerce arena, particularly in Europe and Asia-Pacific. “”Overall,”” said Cohen, “”Canada still looks pretty good.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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