Ensure your fingers are in the e-pie

Have you noticed that everyone is involved in a major, hush-hush e-commerce initiative, one that will change the way they do...

Have you noticed that everyone is involved in a major, hush-hush e-commerce initiative, one that will change the way they do business forever, transform their organisation's future and, of course, their own careers?

This is great news for IT leaders, who should be at the heart of any and every such project. Y2K ensured IT directors were listened to at board level - e-commerce offers the chance to keep us there. Yet too many organisations are not even involving their IT people in these new plans. Their argument is that the traditional IT department is fine for traditional IT work, but they do not have the skills and mindset for e-commerce.

Such an attitude sounds the death knell for IT, and must not be allowed to happen. IT people are outstandingly placed to make new technology initiatives succeed. They can bring in third parties as and when needed, work closely with marketing and other areas of their company, and effectively translate all industry hype into commercial reality.

It is not simply enough, however, to moan and shout that IT should, or has an automatic right to be leading the way - IT leaders and their teams have to earn that acceptance.

There are many ways of doing this. If you are being bypassed in discussions and planning on e-commerce, you must act quickly.

The window of opportunity for e-commerce to succeed in any organisation is small, possibly six months, which basically makes the timescale available for IT departments to get in on the act even shorter.

There are proven ways to achieve this:

  • Come up with the answers yourselves - make a presentation to the board on the possibilities that e-commerce holds for the organisation. Include real bottom-line benefits in the areas of increased revenue, improved information and knowledge and/or closer alignment with your customers
  • Become a champion of change inside your company. This will allow you to both reduce illogical change initiatives being foisted on you, while taking control of the change agenda. Go to your CEO and argue that there is simply not enough change going on in your company, and propose a raft of new ideas that includes e-commerce technology
  • Schedule an external speaker on e-commerce, to ignite your board's interest in its possibilities
  • Find out what your competitors are doing, and tell your board -- make them paranoid
  • Change your departmental title, instead of being the IT department, become the new media, or knowledge department - change of label, change of image.
  • There will be many people in your organisation that want to own an e-commerce project. After all, it promises far more glory than any other major IT development.

    E-commerce technology and the virtual world will, in many ways, replace the need for traditional IT services and departments.

    If you are not at the heart of your organisation's thinking, planning and delivery, you are at the heart of nothing, and may just as well go home.

    David Taylor is president of association of IT directors, Certus

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