Boots e-business chief urges top-level buy-in

On the eve of a major Web launch, the head of Boot's Internet ventures division has warned that e-business initiatives are likely...

On the eve of a major Web launch, the head of Boot's Internet ventures division has warned that e-business initiatives are likely to fail unless top-level management fully backs the venture.

Hazel Ward

"Unless the CEO supports you and shares the vision, you may as well get another job because there are too many uncertainties," said Richard Holmes, managing director of Boots Internet ventures, speaking at last week's Internet and e-business conference hosted by Gartner.

Holmes is in charge of the development of Digital Wellbeing, an e-business joint venture from Boots and Granada Media, due to be launched on 14 March.

It will allow customers to access an information and transactional Web site offering a range of products and services, including a 24-hour pharmaceutical service.

The new venture will also offer an interactive digital television channel through which customers will be able to talk to experts in a studio via e-mail and phone.

Holmes said the company had recognised five years ago that Boots was much more than just a retail company. Even so, he still had to spend "a huge amount of time" with board-level directors, describing market trends in technology, healthcare and the digital economy, to gain their support.

"There are some very profound technological developments in the pharmaceutical industry. Not only is the cost of healthcare is coming down, but demographics are changing," he said.

"We don't think of ourselves as an e-business but as a company leveraging technology to provide a service," Holmes said. "We think of ourselves as a company with business processes and e-enabling the business process is just one way of doing business."

Another significant challenge was getting suppliers to talk about what could be delivered. Holmes said, "There's a lot of bullshit in the industry about what is and isn't possible.

"One of my constant frustrations is getting technologists to talk about what we can do robustly in a short period of time. They're always interested in the Next Big Thing and not what's going on now."

Holmes added that although the company expects to generate revenues from the venture, the principal concern was to get the site up and running.

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