AMS's Foster Blends Bricks and Clicks

BOSTON (05/24/2000) - Last month, American Management Systems Corp. (AMS) promoted Reginald S. Foster from his slot as chief e-commerce officer to the newly created post of chief electronic-business officer. He supervises all internal and client e-commerce activity at the Fairfax, Virginia-based systems integrator, which says such activity made up 40 percent of its US$1.4 billion in revenue last year.

In a recent interview with Computerworld's Julia King, Foster discussed his new role and what he sees on the electronic-business horizon at traditional brick-and-mortar companies.

CW: What does a chief electronic-business officer do?

Foster: The responsibilities range from business development support to project execution. It extends to deal-making and alliances.

CW: What's the difference between a chief e-business officer and a chief e-commerce officer?

Foster: I have been using the terms pretty much synonymously. Most people do.

But e-commerce is just transactions being executed online. E-business has a much broader definition. The true issue du jour isn't e-commerce, but how to establish and maintain true competitive advantage.

CW: What does it take to be a successful e-business officer?

Foster: We have seen a direct correlation between the success of the e-business officer and how closely they report to the CEO. The reason is that the issues that need to be tackled are CEO-level issues.

CW: Does that mean the CIO?

Foster: CIOs and CTOs aren't well-positioned to drive the change that's required. I don't know of a CIO who has gone to a strategic business unit head and said, "Guess what? You're out of business."

CW: Do you foresee others dismantling traditional businesses?

Foster: I see a phenomenon I call the revenge of the dinosaur. At major corporations, people in the executive suite see that real business is going to be taken away from them [online].

But when you analyze the situation, they have a lot to work with. They have money and aren't subject to the fickle whims of venture capitalists and the stock market. They also have enormous brick-and-mortar assets that can be leveraged to their advantage. So what I think you're going to see this year is legacy organizations fighting their way back into the game, and in 2001, we will see some interesting situations where they win in overtime.

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