Maria Tucker is information systems (IS) director for BCA, the UK's number one direct seller of books and part of Bertelsmann, one of the world's largest media publishing companies.
DT: As one of the largest booksellers in the world, how easily is BCA adapting to the e-world?
MT: Easier than most. With 30 years' experience in direct marketing we are able to treat e-commerce as an exciting new channel which enables us to interact with our consumers.
We have a very determined strategy in place, with capital investment provided by our owner Bertelsmann and global co-operation with our sister clubs in Europe, Australasia and the US.
We have a fantastic database from which we can segment the market, track behaviour and deliver personalised customer service - we leverage this capability over the traditional channels to market of direct mail, direct response TV, telemarketing and now Internet and e-mail. No doubt wireless application protocol will follow shortly.
Our 26 book clubs (including Worldbooks, ComputerBooksDirect, Home Software World, QPD, Fantasy & Science Fiction) have "clicks-and-mortar" facilities allowing new club members to enrol via the Web and club members to transact their accounts online and offline.
The imminent introduction of a new back-office business system - a hybrid of customer relationship management and SAP enterprise resource planning tools - endorses our commitment to using cutting-edge technologies to enhance our interaction with customers.
DT: In more general terms, many people believe the Titanic sank because of the size of its rudder, ie its inability to turn in time: do you think many big companies are facing this issue?
MT: For "big" one can often read inflexible. Size provides protection against financial risks and so long as the organisation is structured in such a way that there is flexibility in the areas where change is happening you don't have to be a Titanic.
Bertelsmann is organised on the basis that its 350-plus business units are independent and entrepreneurial. It uses the advantages of its size and financial stability to support research and development in target areas. Its objective of becoming the world's largest content provider requires continuous innovation and a structure and ethos to support this.
DT: Do you believe the skills of a board will change in the new business world?
MT: The development of skills on the board will have to grow with the development of the business.
In the case of BCA, our core competencies of product selection, negotiation, direct marketing and customer service remain the same. The opportunities for improving these are an ongoing part of the business.
BCA recognised the importance of technology in this new business world. IS is represented on the board and is considered as important a competence as any other.
I firmly believe that companies which fail to see IT as a key competitive advantage will be left behind.
David Taylor's Inside Track, a provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is out now. It is published by ButterworthHeinemann Tel: 01865-88180