Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Who's the e-commerce boss you'd want online?
Wednesday 11 August 1999
Global Director of E-Commerce
MY FAVOURITE part of this job is customer contact. Being Global Director means I meet clients and keep abreast of what they need, which is quite often not what they think they want. Stretching across market sectors and multiple geographies is hard work, but great fun, and means there is no nine-to-five regime. About a third of my job is internal, a third is speaking at conferences and a third is spent with clients, shaping their e-commerce solutions. A company needs to operate solutions it has designed and implemented. The insight gained from working alongside a client makes one far more aware of the dynamics of consulting. An individual needs to be business-focused first, technically-savvy second. It is important to be aware of what technology can and cannot do, but that's mainly down to the experts; what matters is whether an idea is going to fly.
There is no single authority in e-commerce. It has evolved into such a broad tapestry that it is difficult for one company, let alone one individual, to know enough overall to be called a market leader. You also have to work with somebody and build a strategy together before you can really know them, which makes it impossible for me to choose a market leader. I think that says a lot about this industry. Competition isn't going to come from the traditional players. That's something we're going to have to contend with. Having conducted a straw poll of my colleagues at Cap Gemini, I find they are all of the same opinion.
E-COMMERCE IS the centre of the universe, a moment in history. To be participating in a revolution of the same magnitude as the telephone or printing press is unmissable. It will transform life as we know it. That's a kick. As well as surviving on four hours sleep, one needs to assimilate the technological aspects of the job and the central business issues. Daily (or rather nightly) I run KPMG's UK e-commerce practice. I develop business solutions, sell and deliver services. It is very difficult to know who one's peers are, those I know by name, I don't admire. I do respect John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems in the US, for the vision which has made Cisco the epitome of e-business; it shows how the Internet is going to change everything. In e-business as a whole, he does it better than anyone.
Vice President of E-Business
Computer Science Corporation (CSC)
I AM one of three global e-business vice-presidents responsible for representing CSC, a provider of IT services, in new business opportunities. We help clients make the leap into e-business. It's like being an evangelist or agent provocateur, it's creating new things, which, as an ex-engineer, I love. We can create a solution in nine months, the time it takes to create a human being, it's magical. Creativity is important in the inception and generation of a big idea, as is ability to ground it and get a return. We should be entrepreneurial and visionary, with the mindset of venture capitalists and the ability to translate innovation into new business. Mark Hoffman, CEO of Commerce One, which does business-to-business electronic procurement solutions, is at the crest of one of e-commerce's biggest waves - the creation of large scale Internet trading places. He is certainly a visionary.
European E-Business Partner
PriceWaterhouse Coopers management consultants
WHAT I love about e-commerce is the pace of change. It is intellectually stimulating and very rewarding. We're not just leading clients, we are having to change and evolve too. What is important is the ability to understand, strategically, how e-business will transform clients and industries. It is vital to understand the basic technology, in order to know what packages will help, and to balance the visionary and the technological. For these qualities I admire Hugh Jagger, a partner in Ernst & Young, and Nick Spooner of Entranet, a company which creates online commerce for blue chips.
E-Commerce leader for Europe
Ernst & Young
DEEP BUSINESS focus is needed in e-commerce. An interest in business, rather than technologies, is important to help and understand clients' needs on their own terms. Keenness to break old rules and find new solutions is an advantage, as is focus on organisational challenges which arise as e-commerce pushes forwards. I love the job's uncertainty; not knowing what developments may take place or having definitive answers. There are always lessons to be learnt as ideas are shared with clients about how business can keep up with and benefit from e-commerce. I keep in touch with associates both within and outside Ernst & Young. Although I don't know any of my counterparts in other companies, I very much admire Michael Dell of Dell for the way he has built up his company to help others change theirs. Stan Davis, the American management guru and author of Blur, has challenged the way people think about what e-commerce should be doing and its possibilities.
IBM Global Internet Division
AS GENERAL Manager of the Internet division, I am responsible for communicating IBM's Internet business strategy. I spend most of my time with customers discussing strategies. I also spend time in our labs, forming a coherent market strategy and working on systems integration. It is important for an e-business advisor to convey clearly where a client needs to be going, knowing what works and what is hype. One needs to be extremely open to change, showing clients that change is an opportunity, not a threat. What I love is that I work at a time of such profound and historical change. This revolution will be viewed as one of the biggest ever changes to business and society. I love being in the middle of it, influencing the future. I admire Eric Schmidt, who was Chief Technology Officer at Sun Microsystems and is now CEO at Novell. He played a major leadership role, making things happen by pushing new technologies.
Head of Interactive Solutions,
Cambridge Technology Partners
AS DIRECTOR of Marketing for Western Europe I cover every aspect of the business. I am most clients' first contact with Cambridge. I communicate the big picture and put the appropriate teams and consultants together. No two days are the same; there are always new challenges. Agility, flexibility and reliability are paramount. One needs a focused view of an organisation's business requirements. It is also important to appreciate the lightning speed of the industry and understand that the customer is king. This is why I respect Pehong Chen, CEO of Broadvision, who created the concept of one-to-one relationship management, and Jeet Singh, CEO of Art Technology Group, who has developed some groundbreaking products.
WHEN I meet clients I try to find out who they are and what they are about. Every business is different and there are no established solutions. I isolate the elements of a business, if there are any, that can benefit most from the Internet. Honesty and the ability to cut through jargon are important. You can't talk to people as if they're morons just because they're not technically sussed. If you can't describe something in plain English, perhaps it's not appropriate. Solid, hands-on industry experience and passion are vital. What I love is that I never know what I'll be doing from day to day, but I'm doing exactly what I want to do. I enjoy making a positive difference to other people's companies. I admire Ross Sleight, formerly of BMP Interaction and now a brilliant independent consultant. It's difficult to explain, I just think he gets it. Graeme Higginson, Chairman of BritNet, which consults on and builds solutions is also to be admired.
UK Marketing Campaigns Manager and temporary UK Head of E-Commerce for Western Europe, Sun Microsystems.
EVERY DAY is different when you're helping people get started and providing expertise and advice on products and solutions. In order to put together coalitions to identify needs you need to be able to second guess a customer's requirements pro-actively, not re-actively. You have to be available to people at all times, and to get the infrastructure and key partners right. What's important for the industry is that everybody has a different perspective, and new players emerge daily. For that reason I couldn't single out one person as being better than the others.
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