On your masterclass, get set, go!

Ross Bentley announces the results of our e-business masterclass competition and attends the first of the Leadership and...

Ross Bentley announces the results of our e-business masterclass competition and attends the first of the Leadership and E-commerce courses

A fantastic response to our recent Leadership and E-commercecompetition caused much soul-searching at the Computer Weekly office last week, as we struggled to choose a deserving winner.

Eventually, Wendy Thorley, head of information systems at the RSPCA in Horsham, West Sussex, was chosen. Then, the Imperial College of Management, impressed with the quality of candidates, made another sponsored place available on the course. This went to Jacquetta Gregory, systems manager at the Bible Society in Swindon, Wiltshire.

Throughout the duration of the course, Computer Weekly will follow both candidates as they attend masterclasses and workshops designed to enable small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) managers and directors to create sustainable competitive benefits from e-commerce.

As the winners take their place alongside the other delegates, it is hoped that we will end up with a practical diary of the issues facing SMEs as they embrace e-commerce.

About the course

The programme comprises 10 masterclasses including one with well-known "troubleshooter" John Harvey-Jones. There will also be visits to e-business-based organisations. Among the topics covered are: developing winning e-commerce strategies, leadership skills for the new economy, management of IT in the 21st century, Web site design, marketing and selling on the Web, virtual working practices and and an overview of emerging trends and technologies.

The candidates

In her entry for the Leadership and E-commerce competition, Wendy Thorley wrote, "I am the head of information systems at the RSPCA. You are probably aware of the RSPCA's work as the leading animal welfare organisation in the world, but for further information, visit our Web site at www.rspca.org.uk.

"Hopefully, you will have taken my direction to our great Web site and will understand why I would dearly love to be considered for the place on the e-business masterclass. To explain further, I am troubled by a potential lack of convergence between our public Web presence and our potential to exploit our knowledge and information through a sound e-business infrastructure.

"I need to be able to direct the organisation knowledgably along a strategic route. By participating in the masterclasses, I feel I would be able to put substance and credibility behind my own thoughts and enable the RSPCA to move into the 21st century with an Internet strategy to guarantee its survival and continued supremacy as the world leader in animal welfare. I have recently completed an MBA via the Open University, which included knowledge management, so I have a good business grounding. I'm hoping the masterclass will give me more of a 'nuts and bolts' view of e-commerce without the distortion of sales hype."

Jacquetta Gregory, systems manager, Bible Society, Swindon, Wiltshire

Jacquetta Gregory wrote, "I work for one of the UK's major charities, the Bible Society, in the role of IT manager. We are a publisher with our own warehouse and a fundraising/ campaigning organisation rolled into one. This gives us a unique set of requirements (no other charity trades and fundraises as a single entity). In addition, we are linked to an international network of Bible societies with more than 140 working in over 220 countries.

"Generally, charities are very cautious in their adoption of IT strategies. We are always working to very tight budgets and we must be able to prove that a strategy will bring long-term benefits to the organisation.

"I strongly believe that the Internet as a means of communication, and e-commerce as a means of selling products and fundraising is not only cost-effective but will give us many benefits in terms of efficiency and relationship development.

"I am attending this course not only to increase my knowledge of the area but to develop my leadership skills to take the organisation forward.

"I would also like to support other charities to do the same in the future."

The tutors

Over the past 20 years Monica Seeley has successfully mentored and coached numerous board-level executives using her innovative Executive Lifestyle IT Fitness approach.

She is a visiting Fellow at Imperial College Management School where she has a grant from the Department for Education and Employment to work with SMEs to enable them to create winning e-commerce solutions. She is currently establishing a centre for leadership and e-commerce at the college.

Seeley formed the Mesmo Consultancy in 1989, and has held senior positions with NatWest, British Gas and several international software houses.

Her book, Using the PC to Boost Executive Performance, was published in March by Gower Ashgate.

The other speakers and instructors will include: Jim Norton, head of e-business policy, Institute of Directors, John Browning, co-founder of the First Tuesday Club, Ray Hinchcliffe, Department for Education and Employment , Alan Hooper from the Centre for Leadership Development, Exeter University, Colin Chandler of Vickers, Rolls-Royce and Steven Domb, business consultant.

Read more on E-commerce technology