Are Corporate eBusiness Managers a Dying Breed?

Written March 16th, 2010 by
Categories: CEO's Blog
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Back in the day, when the Internet and eCommerce first came on the scene in the late 90’s, corporate eBusiness Managers were springing up left and right.  They were the ones charged with defining and executing their corporation’s eCommerce strategies, which for the most part, was in defense of the well funded dot com threats in their individual markets.

Well, we all know what happened to many of those dot com era players.  However, even though they no longer exist as corporations, their memories do have residual value.  They educate us about the foibles of irrational exuberance and the importance of focusing on delivering real value to customers.

What a difference a day makes!

Over the last several weeks I’ve been reflecting on those eBusiness Managers.  Not so much about who they were and where they may be today (although I’ve done that as well), but on why I don’t meet many people with the eBusiness Manager title anymore.  Are they no longer needed today?  And if not, why not?  Has eCommerce finally gone mainstream?  Or, heaven forbid, are companies simply not embracing the Internet? (forget that last notion…we all know that that just isn’t so :-))

Here’s another piece of anecdotal evidence for the demise of the eBusiness title.  A quick Google search for Universities that offer eBusiness specialties reveals a very short list, of which many are outside of the US (ie Canada? are they that far behind the rest of the world????).  I was even shocked to learn that the University that I was an Adjunct Faculty member of a few years back, Capella University, (who I created a Master’s level eBusiness course for) is out of the eBusiness business and they are an 100% online University!

So who were these eBusiness Managers?

The successful ones were very senior people in their respective organizations with a broad and diverse set of skills and experiences.  They had:

  • a very strong grasp of the business that they were in,
  • developed strong internal ties within and across business units and departments,
  • weren’t afraid of technology,
  • both leadership and management skills,
  • earned the trust and respect of their organizations,
  • excellent communication skills.

Frankly, today, in the mid-market (manufacturers in the $200M to $1B range) that we mostly find ourselves engaged in, these people carry the title of CIO.  A decade ago, these companies had VPs of IT who were more concerned about infrastructure than they were about delivering business solutions.  They, in turn, appointed eBusiness Managers to oversee this “new technology” called the internet and to facilitate unleashing its potential value for the business.

Today, the internet is the business and the CIO has to lead the charge.  Besides, managing infrastructure is a thankless job and only gets noticed when systems aren’t available.  It is so much more fun to deploy solutions that customers, sales people and customer service managers get real business results from!

There are a few other interesting tidbits that I came across while surfing around the net for this post that I wanted to share with you.  Since “social networking” is all the rage nowadays, I spent a little time on LinkedIn researching the eBusiness title.  I now know why SAP invested in LinkedIn back in 2008.  While SAP has about 50,000 employees themselves, on LinkedIn (60 Million users), there are:

  1. almost 450,000 people who have the keyword “SAP” somewhere in their profile
  2. 140,000 registered as SAP consultants
  3. 685 who have SAP in their profile and also have “eBusiness” in their title (current or past)
  4. only 102 who have SAP in their profile and also have “eBusiness” in their current title
  5. over 12000 people who have “eBusiness” in their title (current or past)
  6. over 4000 people who have “eBusiness” in their current title

I’m not sure what all of this data is telling me, other than the fact that “eBusiness” is definitely on the decline as a title (so I’m not hallucinating).  eBusiness Managers are indeed a dying breed!

The reason?

eBusiness is now the Business.

But I could have told you that 10 years ago! 🙂

Sam