E-business: new faces in the looking glass

Opinion

E-business: new faces in the looking glass



David Bicknell

As the Mad Hatter might have said to the White Rabbit, "I'm going to talk to the director of consumer delight and loyalty, and I'll get her to send an e-mail to the culture czar. Perhaps he'll also have a word with the sultan of sound bites and the chief troubleshooter to convene a video-meeting ...".

The world of e-business has not only led companies to question where their next competition is coming from, forced employees to work out how to digitise their jobs, and questioned the entire make-up of the way corporations do business, it has also created a whole new culture of job titles.

Apart from the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter, all those titles above are credible suggestions in a rival business magazine for new job functions in the e-aware organisation.

Following on closely from the concepts of heads of content and community, it is now in vogue for some dotcom companies to have titles that really do seem to have sprung straight off the pages of Alice in Wonderland.

It is probably not even stretching it too much to suggest that in an organisation somewhere, there actually is a White Rabbit and a Mad Hatter.

So here's a guide to what these odd-sounding titles actually mean:

  • Culture czar - effectively the company's director of morale, with a job task of keeping everyone's mood up.

  • Sultan of sound bites - responsible for controlling the company's image around the world. Call it "PR with attitude...".

  • Director of consumer delight and loyalty - taking customer-centric business to the nth degree, or out-Amazoning even Amazon's legendary customer-service. The idea of this title is to make customers so happy that they become spokesmen and women for the company.

  • Chief troubleshooter - anytime, anyhow, anywhere solving problems the e-world throws up.

    It's all a little bit far removed from the old IT director.

    Even the old e-commerce director has been superseded in some organisations. Instead, they have become e-czars, responsible for investments in dotcoms and for the way the organisation turns itself into a digitised company with the Internet at the heart of all its processes.

    If you've still got the title of e-commerce manager, it either means you may not have much clout, or the company so far hasn't taken e-business seriously.

    Maybe, it's time to make a scene - or to move to a company that is on the case. There are plenty of people that do. But as an article in Business Week suggested recently, for every new title that has been created, there are some that no longer mean much. Chief operating officer is very much a favourite to be consigned to history, viewed by many now as just an extra layer of bureaucracy.

    In contrast, others on the up include chief knowledge officer, chief web officer (that incorporates the IT and the e-business side) and chief financial officer.

    Some of the leading e-business exponents still have "chief information officers" tags - General Electric's Gary Reiner, Charles Schwab's Dawn Lepore and Cisco's Peter Solvik, are obvious examples.

    But what is definitely not in doubt is that all of them have a direct link to the ear of the chief executive, and have a say in every key business decision.

    The moral of the story seems to be that if you can re-engineer your job title to reflect some of these e-culture issues, you're probably on the up, and at an organisation that gets it.

    If you're looked at askance in your current place of work, then it may well be time to move on and become a Chief Bigwig elsewhere.

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    This was first published in August 2000

     

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