Technology Trends: Xplor Directions Survey
The 1998 Technology Directions Survey, conducted by Xplor International, the worldwide association representing more than 2,700 organizations that develop and use the technology of the U.S. $110.1-billion document systems industry, clearly shows that the Internet is changing the way companies do business in 1998.
The Web Has Its Advantages
According to 93 percent of Xplor member user companies, doing business will be faster, less expensive and better in terms of customer access because of Internet use. That is the percentage of user companies with an Internet or Internet pilot program already in place - up 6 percent from last year. Xplor user companies rank the top three benefits of Internet use as follows:
- Information Access
- "Online Commerce"
- Better Customer Access
Over half of Xplor members are already taking orders over the Internet and nearly three quarters believe the Internet will help them sell more. Enhanced marketing communications is another big benefit, along with savings derived from printing and mailing cost reductions.
To further demonstrate the role of the Internet with these advanced users of high technology, it is important to note that 81 percent of user organizations provide Web access for staff. This statistic includes those organizations with pilot programs in place. And, 54 percent of user companies now take orders over the Internet.
It’s About E-Commerce
When user organizations were asked if they believed sales would increase because of Internet use, 77 percent responded in the affirmative. This percentage figure is up 8 percent from 1997. In terms of savings, there is agreement among 84 percent of user companies that the Internet will help them save money.
While 86 percent of Internet/intranet user companies expressed the view that Web page information is easier to maintain and keep current than hard copy, will save money and contribute to sales, they also shared the following concerns:
- 84 percent of organizations surveyed are concerned that intranet paces conform to design standards.
- 69 percent say that more should be done to ensure intranet pages are kept up to date.
- 43 percent believe that information on Web sites is not current enough
Even though the World Wide Web incorporates a new set of technologies within a new communication medium that must be integrated with conventional practices, problems are being overcome and skeptics are being converted.
In 1998, just 24 percent of survey respondents questioned the value of the information received through the Internet. That figure represents a rate of pessimism about half that of 1997. While pessimism decreases, optimism increases, especially in regard to e-commerce issues. For example, user company respondents cite Internet pluses such as the ability to facilitate connecting to partners/suppliers, acting as a sales tool for lead generation, and facilitator of external and internal collaboration.
Internet benefits cited as being among the top three by user companies in 1998 surpass 1997 figures from as little as 2 percent to as great as 16 percent. Inward benefits, such as obtaining information, show an 8 percent increase with 48 percent in 1998. Outward benefits, such as being a sales tool for marketing communications and a sales tool for lead generation, is up a combined total of 20 percent over last year. Interactive benefits, such as facilitating connecting to customers, partners and suppliers, along with online commerce, show a steady increase from today’s respondents.
According to Xplor member user companies, there are conflicting beliefs regarding the long term effects of Internet/Intranet use on printing and mailing. The consensus is, however, that how the Internet impacts mailing will be far greater than its impact on printing.
- 52 percent of respondents believe printing will be reduced.
- 77 percent see a reduction in mailing.
- 20 percent look for an increase in printing.
- 5 percent anticipate increased mailings.
- 28 percent see no effect on printing.
- 16 percent believe there will be no effect on mailing.
How the Internet Impacts Printing and Mailing
Long term Internet expectations regarding print reductions show a steady upswing from 37 percent in 1996, to 43 percent in 1997, and the current 50 percent in 1998. The same upswing can be seen in reduced mailings, moving from 56 percent in 1996, to 65 percent in 1997, and 72 percent in 1998. Respondents expect an even greater decline in both printing and mailing in the future.
The majority of Internet Web Page users, 53%, look to the centralized information services team consisting of administrative, management, or marketing groups, to be responsible for their organization’s Web page. The issue of Web content maintenance responsibilities reveals 48% of user company respondents believe the administrative, management, or marketing centralized information services are an important consideration.
The Big Picture
Overall, the Xplor International 1998 Technology Directions Survey paints a highly positive portrait of the Internet, especially within the Xplor user membership. And while it is true that all Fortune 1000 companies have Web sites, it is also true that the Internet is still not universally accessible.
In summary, it seems that the primary Internet benefits still revolve around gathering information and driving sales, as opposed to being an interactive tool. It also goes without saying that the high degree of Internet participation by Xplor members is really not surprising, considering the trailblazing nature of Xplor end-user companies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Keith T. Davidson, Ph.D., EDPP, is President of Xplor International (Torrance, Calif.). He can be reached at (310) 791-9523 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.