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"Most European executives fail to understand the linkage between electronic commerce and current business issues," claims a study just released by Andersen Consulting at the IDC European Forum. Rather naively, Andersen suggests that this would "jeopardise the continent's long-term competitiveness" -- as though Europe were some ball game team that had to play to win. There's no doubt who is waiting on the touch line to be offered the job of coach. The study results were based on interviews with some 300 senior executives. It does not seem to have occurred to Paris-based Rosemary O'Mahony and her team, who undertook the study, that because of what may be simply called cultural differences, US executives are likely to respond differently to interview questions than European executives. Andersen says that there is not a great difference between the views of US and European executives so far as the future impact of e-commerce is concerned. However, around twice as many Americans thought that e-commerce was currently significant in their businesses, or represented a serious threat to their organisations. Two drawbacks to the report are that the interviews were conducted over the period December 1997 to July 1998 (a long time in the Internet age), and the sample size prevents meaningful breakdowns to be made by European country which is unfortunate because other evidence suggests that buying behaviour varies significantly from country to country. There is an underlying belief that the first mover will somehow win the e-commerce prize -- and that competitive pricing and delivery cost and speed will not cause businesses and consumers to switch suppliers by visiting a European competitor site that became available later than a US site. The conclusion that there are two possible scenarios -- eEurope" or "dead end" -- seems far fetched. ®

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