Half of the US' fastest growing companies give part of the credit to IT, claiming their business has an IT edge over rivals, according to a survey of chief executives released last week by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The consultancy's 'Trendsetter Barometer' interviewed CEOs of 436 product and services companies that had been identified in the media as the fastest growing US business over the past five years. Companies surveyed range in size from $1 million to $50 million in annual revenue and, according to their CEOs, half could be termed 'hi-tech' firms.
Of the CEOs surveyed, 52 per cent claim to have an IT advantage over their competition.
"'Trendsetter' companies with an IT advantage are reaping the benefits," said Jim Atwell, global private equity leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
"Their composite revenues have grown 20-fold over the past five years - 45 per cent faster growth than their counterparts without an IT edge. And they also tend to be larger - with 58 per cent higher revenues and 56 per cent more employees."
More service companies than product companies (58 per cent to 46 per cent) claim an IT advantage.
There are other characteristics of the fast growing companies with the IT advantage. Of those, 57 per cent report having financial analysis/cash management systems; 52 per cent have sales information systems; 37 per cent have sales/customer service systems; 28 per cent have marketing information systems; and 24 per cent have customer end user systems, according to the survey. In addition, 47 per cent report the Internet is very important to their business.
Almost every CEO surveyed (97 per cent) said that IT was important to the growth of their company's profits in the past two years and 80 per cent said it was "extremely" or "very" important. That latter group has seen their companies grow faster than the others.
"Companies that rated IT as extremely or very important to their business have grown their revenues 19-fold over the past five years, or 72 per cent faster than those who did not rate it as highly," Atwell noted.
Nearly all of the CEOs (96 per cent) said that computers and IT have generally met expectations for increased productivity and 60 per cent said that their IT performed "extremely well" or "very well" compared to what they anticipated.
Trendsetter companies are becoming more adept at using IT. In the latest survey, 26 per cent said they have staff who are inadequately trained in IT functions, a 22-point drop since last measured in 1996. Only 11 per cent feel uncomfortable with new systems, an 18-point improvement, and nine per cent say their company lacks the knowledge to plan IT systems, a 13-point improvement.
"These are companies with extraordinary potential, and they have become more sophisticated in planning and use of their information technology assets," Atwell said.
In the next 12 months, 32 per cent of Trendsetter companies are planning to increase their levels of investment in computers and information technology, while only 11 per cent are cutting back. The majority (55 per cent) expect to continue with current IT spending levels, and two per cent are uncertain.
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