Beating the E-Biz Odds - Page 2

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Closer Look at Spending

Not that fasttrack companies are ignoring the realities of the economic slowdown and remarkable global uncertainties facing all enterprises. Although most—56.5 percent, according to an exclusive survey of FastTrack companies—said theyre spending more this year on the IT infrastructure needed to execute on their ambitious e-business strategies, an even larger group—68.8 percent—said they attempted in some way to moderate IT spending during the year. Among companies attempting to keep a lid on spending, wireless infrastructure initiatives were, by a wide margin, the most likely to be cut. Server and network infrastructure were the least likely to be cut.

For many FastTrack companies, the shaky economy has forced an increased focus on initiatives that hold the promise of quick returns on investment and tangible, measurable efficiency gains. "This is work that is going on in the trenches. Its about fixing companies from the ground up," said Raffi Amit, director of the e-business initiative at the University of Pennsylvanias Wharton School of Business, in Philadelphia.

Consider the case of Gates Rubber Co., a Denver-based manufacturer of automotive parts and No. 23 on this years FastTrack 500. A year ago, responsibility for e-business initiatives was split among IT and various business units. Earlier this year, however, the company formed an e-business unit under Bob Jack, director of e-business. His job: rigorously cost-justify every e-business initiative, something that didnt always happen before.

"Its got to either add value to the customer, improve productivity and efficiency, or contribute to added revenue," said Jack, who reports directly to the companys CEO.

While the focus is becoming more pragmatic, e-business is no less important to most FastTrack companies. Not only do the overwhelming majority say both business-to-business and business-to-consumer e-business is more important to their companies now than it was a year ago, most report a slow but clear increase in revenues from e-commerce.