More than half of the 260 executives surveyed expect the Internet to deliver significant cost savings within the same timeframe.
However, despite their underlying optimism about their Net investment, the CEOs surveyed indicated they held clear concerns that some of their e-business efforts might ultimately prove misdirected and that they had not yet seen substantial benefits.
The survey results supported the anecdotal evidence seen by Sydney-based XT3 that there is wide variance in the quality of electronic-business investments, XT3's Managing Director Hugh Morrow said in the report.
Many CEOs were very clear about their objectives and had established appropriate structures and alliances to achieve their goals, but some had not, Morrow said.
"Nevertheless, there is overwhelming evidence that CEOs see a long-term future in the Internet and that competitive pressures are driving their ongoing investment regardless of current levels of return," Morrow said. "There is no question that CEOs are feeling competitive pressure to invest in the Internet and that, ultimately, they believe that investment will deliver significant returns."
There was no single approach being taken by Australian companies to maximize their investment, he added. Almost 60 per cent of companies had nominated an e-business champion, but most of the key players within the companies remained involved in major decisions.
The survey found that larger companies were more focused on deriving revenue and cost reductions from their Internet investment, while smaller companies were moving more slowly, possibly reflecting their limited resources.
Morrow said the survey findings revealed that while Australian companies had clearly recognized the need for an e-strategy, most had not yet determined how best to leverage returns.
"What we find heartening is the willingness of Australian business to embrace the Internet," he said. "What we find concerning is the obvious difficulty being experienced by companies in directing their investments in ways that generate an appropriate return."