Finding an e-business director

How do you find the skill set you need for the new job of e-business director? Some recruitment experts give their opinion

How do you find the skill set you need for the new job of e-business director? Some recruitment experts give their opinion

Recruiting an e-business director

The job title of e-business director is cropping up more and more often and we're thinking about creating this post to develop the company's Web site. What sort of person should be in charge of developing Internet business - should I just promote the IT manager, or is another set of skills required? If I advertise, how can I avoid getting hoodwinked by a charlatan - there are so many people out there claiming to have Internet and e-business experience, but I know a lot of projects have failed?

Get an expert all-rounder

Nick Maxwell


When looking to appoint someone to head up e-business you should look for someone who mirrors the skills that are necessary to build a successful e-business. Those skills are technology, marketing and business vision. Rather than pick an expert in any one of these skills, you should be looking for an expert in all three. Failing that, an all rounder with a good appreciation of all three skills comes a close second. There are many companies out there with no or very poor e-business vision and great implementation skills and many more companies out there with a great vision which just happens to be impossible to execute given the constraints - usually time and money - they have imposed on themselves. An obvious given should be that the individual is Web-savvy and not only understands but uses the Internet. The word director can conjure up the wrong impression. Two things I definitely wouldn't do:

  • Promote the IT manager because you think the Web is a technology issue. It emphatically is not - if you need to be convinced, call any CEO of a successful Web start-up and ask them if they are technologists.

  • Reject candidates who have been there before but messed up. At least they have had the opportunity to learn. Provided they can show that they have learnt, I would choose them over a Net virgin any day.

    They will need a track record

    Peter de Groot

    Andersen Consulting

    Developing a Web site is a good start to e-commerce, but it is only the start. The electronic marketplace works on new business models and your organisation may need to go through wrenching change to compete effectively. In such an environment, the e-business director should be the driving force behind transformational change for the whole company. The e-business director needs to have a track record of implementing major business change and be credible from the start with the rest of the board. He or she will also need a good understanding of your markets and business processes as well as what it takes to be successful in the e-economy. When hiring an e-business director, normal rules for recruiting senior people apply. Look for a track record in launching an e-business or in transforming a company to take advantage of e-business.

    It's a boardroom issue

    Roger Till

    eCentre UK

    E-business is most certainly a boardroom issue, which should be treated like any major business development.

    It needs a strategy, a plan of action and, as important, a senior business champion within the company - someone who owns it, believes in it and has the time and budget to devote to it.

    The e-business director should be able to deliver the following:

  • Business experience and knowledge

  • An understanding of the particular supply chain and internal business processes

  • The ability to talk meaningfully to customers and suppliers, in order to make the whole supply chain electronic

  • Talk to the users in the business

  • Agree the use of standard business data - keep it simple, speedy and certain

  • Look at existing legacy systems, to connect front and back-office systems to keep data flowing electronically throughout

  • Set clear business objectives to change the way things are done and deliver business benefits

  • Be an evangelist.

    Obviously this paragon of virtue needs support, combined with help and advice from marketing people who understand the Internet environment and from the information systems people who are the servants of the business requirements.

    Definitely not an IT manager

    David Grimshaw

    Cranfield School of Management

    Developing a successful e-business depends on having a coherent strategy and business plan. This is clearly a job for a business person rather than the IT manager. Ideally there should be a dialogue between the business and IT. Look for a track record. Although e-business is relatively new - some of the underpinning ideas have been around for a while.

    How it works

    Each month E-business Review prints a problem submitted by readers. Our panel of experts draws on their specialist knowledge to explain how best to solve it.

    E-mail your questions or your own personal solutions to this or next week's problem to [email protected]

    Our panel of experts

    This week's replies drawn to:

    Andrew Rigby from law firm Tarlo Lyons

    Roger Till, e-business user group ecenter UK

    Nick Maxwell, from e-business consultancy Quidnunc

    David Grimshaw, Cranfield School of Management

    Peter De Groot, Anderson Consulting

    Neil Barrett, from IT security consultancy IRM

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