E-business integration

Enterprises making slow progress in adopting ICT for e-business integration

Data extracted in November 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: June 2018.

This article presents recent statistics on the information and communication technologies (ICT) used by enterprises in the European Union (EU). ICT has fast become an integral part of enterprise functioning and its extensive and intensive use, combined with new ways of accessing and using the internet efficiently, characterise what we refer to as the digital economy (e-economy).

These driving forces are decisive for the way that enterprises run their business, organise internal communication, share information with business partners and communicate with customers. In this context, e-economy includes both electronic business (e-business) and electronic commerce (e-commerce).

The former refers to the use of ICT in business processes and is the subject of this article, while the latter refers to commercial transactions for either goods or services.


Figure 1: Adoption of e-business technologies in enterprises, EU-28, 2010 and 2015 (% enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_in_en2) and (isoc_ciweb) and (isoc_eb_ics) and (isoc_eb_iip)
Table 1: Enterprises adopting technologies for e-business, 2010 and 2015 (% enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_in_en2) and (isoc_ciweb) and (isoc_eb_ics) and (isoc_eb_iip)
Figure 2: Enterprises adopting technologies for e-business, by size class, EU-28, 2015 (% enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_in_en2) and (isoc_ciweb) and (isoc_eb_ics) and (isoc_eb_iip)
Figure 3: Enterprises with a website, 2015 (% enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ciweb)
Table 2: Persons using computers and accessing the Internet, by enterprise size class, EU-28, 2010 and 2015 (% persons employed)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_cm_pn2)
Figure 4: Enterprises using resource planning software applications (ERP), EU-28, 2010 and 2015 (% enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_eb_iip)
Figure 5: Sharing information on the Supply Chain Management, by economic activity, EU-28, 2010 and 2015 (% enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_eb_ics)
Table 3: Enterprises using Customer Relationship Management, by enterprise size class, EU-28, 2010 and 2015 (% enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_eb_iip)
Figure 6: Enterprises using Customer Relationship Management, 2015 (% enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_eb_iip)
Figure 7: Enterprises using Customer Relationship Management, by economic activity, EU-28, 2015 (% enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_eb_iip)

Main statistical findings

Adoption of e-business: highlights

  • The percentage of EU enterprises having a website (75 %) can be expected to grow.
  • The gap between small and large enterprises is reportedly bigger for those using more advanced ICT applications than for those with a website. The percentage of enterprises with a website ranged from 73 % for small enterprises to 94 % for large enterprises, but from 30 % to 80 % respectively for those using enterprise resource planning (ERP).
  • More enterprises used customer relationship management (CRM) for operational purposes (31 %) than for the analysis of information about customers for marketing purposes (21 %).
  • The percentage of EU enterprises using ERP software applications increased by 15 percentage points compared to 2010.

Internet access

Internet access reached saturation level while use of websites is still growing

Access to the internet is the cornerstone for e-business because of its limitless capacities for connecting persons and enterprises worldwide. The percentage of EU enterprises that used computers and had internet access seems to have reached saturation level. In 2015, 97 % of enterprises had access to the internet. The share of enterprises that had internet access was similar in most countries. In 20 out of 28 EU countries, 97 % or more of enterprises reported having internet access. Concerning staff employed in enterprises with 10 or more employees, 55 % used computers, and 49 % used computers with access to the internet. Compared with 2010, the latter category increased two times more (+6 percentage points).

Enterprises consider it important to be visible on the internet. Consequently, enterprises’ websites increasingly offer various functionalities, such as online ordering, product catalogues and information, order tracking, customisation of products, links to social media etc. Importantly, the use of a website involves a more active role than just having an internet connection. Some 75 % of enterprises reported having a website. An increase can be observed compared with 2010 (+8 percentage points).

The adoption of ICT can be represented by an S-shaped curve of cumulated adopters (Figure 3). Cumulative adoption rates (percentage of enterprises) progress slowly at first, then start accelerating and finally slow down and stabilise as they approach saturation point. In this article, the S-shaped figure is used for illustration purposes and refers to a theoretical course of evolution. In the theoretical adoption model represented by the S-shaped curve, the time dimension is not included, indicating that the respective countries may progress at different speeds.

As shown in Figure 3, the cumulative rates of enterprises having a website undergo a period of rapid acceleration, then deceleration and finally saturation, already reported to be more than 90 % in certain countries. More specifically the figure shows that although almost all countries appear to be in the progressing phase of having a website, the cumulative adoption rates grow at a slower pace as they approach a theoretical saturation point.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

More than one in three enterprises uses enterprise resource planning software applications

Enterprises’ internal e-business integration refers to sharing information electronically and automatically between different business functions within an enterprise as opposed to external integration, in which other business partners are involved. Internal integration potentially streamlines and boosts the efficiency of an enterprise.

Integration is implemented in various forms. One of them is data linking between various software applications, using a common database. The use of a single modular software application, enterprise resource planning (ERP), is another commonly-used alternative.

ERP software applications aim to facilitate the flow of information and the potential to integrate internal and external management information across several functions of an enterprise. A characteristic of ERP is that it is delivered in ‘modules’ that typically integrate processes relevant to planning, purchases, marketing, sales, customer relationship, finance and human resources.

The percentage of EU enterprises that used ERP software applications reached 36 % in 2015, that is an increase of 15 percentage points compared with 2010. Despite a considerable increase in the adoption of ERP applications, some progress can be expected, particularly among small enterprises (30 %).

In all countries, enterprises reported increases in the use of ERP. However, there may be differences in the understanding of ERP as the ‘enterprise wide information management system’, due to various country specific implementations and customisation of ERP packages. In 2015, respondents were asked to report on the usage of a software package capable of sharing information among different functional areas (e.g. accounting, planning, production, marketing).

In comparison to 2010, enterprises in all sectors reported substantial increases in the use of ERP. As shown in Figure 4, the highest increases were found in the Information and communication sector (+ 20 percentage points) and in the Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning sector (+19 percentage points), closely followed by enterprises in the industry of Professional, scientific and technical activities (+18 percentage points).

Supply chain management (SCM)

Sharing supply chain management information strongly depends on economic sector

Supply chain management (SCM) includes all activities concerning the exchange of information between an enterprise and its suppliers and customers. This information may concern, for example, inventory levels, production plans, demand and supply forecasts or progress of deliveries.

Accordingly, the use of SCM software applications aims to coordinate effectively the availability and delivery of products to final consumers, in the right quantity, at the right time, into the right hands at optimal cost.

SCM actively involves all resources — business functions — concerned with planning and forecasting, purchasing, product assembly, logistics, sales and customer service.

Depending on the industry served, SCM and ERP software applications may overlap to a certain extent. However, the former tends to focus on financial information and material flows along the complete value chain of suppliers, manufacturers, service providers, distributors and customers.

The extent to which SCM information is shared varies among economic sectors. As shown in Figure 5, some 26 % of enterprises in the distributive trade — the highest among enterprises in all economic sectors — shared SCM information with their suppliers or customers whereas 10 % or less did so in the construction and real estate sectors.

Overall, in comparison with 2010, the percentage of EU enterprises that shared SCM information electronically with their suppliers or customers, remained almost at the same level. At industry level however, the highest decreases were recorded for enterprises in the construction and information and communication.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

Almost one in three enterprises uses operational customer relationship management

Enterprises streamline their marketing efforts and target their customers to maximise business potential. For this specific purpose, they use software applications for managing information about their customers, customer relationship management (CRM) applications.

It is believed that the adoption of CRM improves marketing and sales performance by improving customer service and customer relationships. Improvements come, for instance, from providing user-friendly mechanisms for receiving complaints, identifying potential problems before they occur, in general, by facilitating communication with the customer and by anticipating customer preferences. These technology enabled improvements lead to long term customer satisfaction and can ensure increased customer loyalty, decreasing marketing costs and increasing sales. As shown in Figure 6, some 31 % of EU enterprises used operational CRM software applications to capture, store and make available information about the enterprise's customers to other business functions.

Furthermore, a CRM software application can be used to analyse customer information to identify patterns of customer preferences and behaviour (analytical CRM). This information is essentially used for marketing purposes, such as sales promotions that are effective in creating interest in a product or for optimising market penetration through the use of alternative distribution channels.

In 2015, some 21 % of EU enterprises used CRM for such sophisticated analysis. Overall, adoption levels of analytical CRM are much lower than those of operational CRM, except for enterprises in the Accommodation sector, which reported using both types of CRM to a similar extent (34 and 39 % respectively, see Figure 7).

Compared with 2010, the use of CRM increased for both types of CRM regardless of the size of the enterprise. Overall, for many countries, further progress can still be expected as regards adopting both operational and analytical CRM in view of the potential benefits that customer centric marketing practices may bring to enterprises. In particular, the integration of CRM with social media is expected to boost the use of CRM applications.

Data sources and availability

The data in this article are based on the results of the 2010 and 2015 surveys on ICT usage and e-commerce in enterprises. The statistics were obtained from enterprise surveys conducted by national statistical authorities in 2015.

In 2015, 148 800 out of 1.5 million enterprises in the EU-28 were surveyed. Of the 1.5 million enterprises, approximately 83 % were enterprises with 10-49 persons employed (small), 14 % with 50-249 (medium) and 3 % with 250 or more (large).

Data in some tables are shown as ‘:’ and refer to data that are unavailable, unreliable, confidential or not applicable. Unreliable data are included in the calculation of European aggregates.

The observation statistical unit is the enterprise, as defined in Council Regulation 696/93 of 15 March 1993. The survey covered enterprises with at least 10 persons employed. Economic activities correspond to the classification NACE Revision 2. The survey covered enterprises in the following economic sectors: manufacturing, electricity, gas and steam, water supply, construction, wholesale and retail trades, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, transportation and storage, accommodation and food service activities, information and communication, real estate, professional, scientific and technical activities, administrative and support activities and repair of computers and communication equipment. Certain figures (by economic activity) refer to the following selected economic sectors: ‘Manufacturing’, ‘Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning; water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities’, ‘Construction’, ‘Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles’, ‘Transport and storage’, ‘Accommodation’, ‘Information and communication’, ‘Real estate activities’, ‘Professional, scientific and technical activities’ and ‘Administrative and support service activities, excluding travel agency, etc’.

Enterprises are broken down by size: small (10-49 persons employed), medium (50-249) and large enterprises (250 or more).

The ICT adoption models (Figures with S-shaped curves) are for illustration purposes, to show the relative position of countries concerning the adoption of specific technologies in 2015. In the theoretical adoption model represented by the S-shaped curves, the time dimension is not included, indicating that the respective countries may progress at different speeds. The main characteristic of S-shaped curves is that cumulative ICT adoption rates (% enterprises) after a period of rapid acceleration follow a path of deceleration and finally saturation. The S-curve model is one of those frequently applied to studies and referenced in the literature concerning ICT adoption.

Data presented in this article could differ from the data in the database, due to updates made after the data extractions used for this article.

Context

ICT has fast become an integral part of enterprise functioning and its extensive and intensive use, combined with new ways of accessing and using the internet efficiently, characterise what we refer to as the electronic economy (e-economy).

These driving forces are decisive for the way that enterprises run their business, organise internal communication, share information with business partners and communicate with customers. In this context, e-economy includes both electronic business (e-business) and electronic commerce (e-commerce). The former refers to the use of ICT in business processes and is the subject of this article, while the latter refers to commercial transactions for either goods or services.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Database

ICT usage in enterprises (isoc_e)

Summary of EU aggregates (isoc_ci_eu_en2)
Websites and use of social media (isoc_cism)
Websites and functionalities (isoc_ciweb)
Connection to the internet (isoc_ci)
Internet access (isoc_ci_in_en2)
Use of computers and the internet by employees (isoc_ci_cm_pn2)
E-business (isoc_eb)
Integration of internal processes (isoc_eb_iip)
Integration with customers/suppliers, supply chain management (isoc_eb_ics)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

  • Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 of 21 April 2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EC) No 960/2008 of 30 September 2008 implementing Regulation 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EC) No 1023/2009 of 29 October 2009 implementing Regulation 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 821/2010 of 17 September 2010 implementing Regulation 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 937/2011 of 21 September 2011 implementing Regulation 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 1083/2012 of 19 November 2012 implementing Regulation 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 859/2013 of 5 September 2013 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 1196/2014 of 30 October 2014 implementing Regulation 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation 696/1993 of 15 March 1993 on the statistical units for the observation and analysis of the production system in the Community

External links