New e-envoy 'needs a grounding in industry'

4 October 2000
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05 October 2000 | Cathy Hayward

Alex Allan's replacement as e-envoy needs a thorough e-commerce grounding to give them enough clout within the business community, according to industry experts.

The person with the right vision and business skills to make the necessary changes is unlikely to be found within government, said Chris Phillips, director of marketing Europe, Middle East, Africa at e-procurement software company Commerce One. "The right candidate needs a strong track record of delivering cultural change in a large organisation," he said.

The call follows last month's announcement of the departure of the first e-envoy, Alex Allan, for personal reasons. He had been in the post for nine months.

Chris Binns, executive director of T scheme at the Federation of the Electronics Industry, said: "We need a key player who comes across well and can promote e-commerce strongly."

"Everyone agrees you need a figurehead, someone with industry clout," said Alex Trott, group Internet editor at Shell International. "But the Catch-22 is that these sort of people won't be interested in the job."

Questions have also been asked about the need for an e-envoy as well as an e-minister. Angus Gregory, chief executive of e-commerce software provider Biomni, said the e-envoy's job was a public relations role - the main work of target-setting and policy had been done already.

Ann Steward, director of the Cabinet Office IT Unit, has been hotly tipped as Allan's successor. But Jim Norton, head of e-commerce policy at the Institute of Directors, said that Richard Barrington, who is director of industry in the e-envoy's office, was ideal for the job. Barrington is well acquainted with the role and with government and has substantial e-commerce industrial experience, Norton said.

Norton himself, pipped to the post by Allan in 1998, is also in the running.

There have been calls for the role itself to change, however. According to Phillips, the post-holder must have the ability to make decisions and set the budget to implement them. "Allan was an internal evangelist, but that's not a quick way to get things done," said Phillips.

Norton claimed that the e-envoy should be "a facilitator, not a doer. The person needs to be able to get the right people in Whitehall to do the job, not go mad trying to do it themselves."

The government is using Allan's departure to re-organise the office. Journalist Lucian Hudson is to head the e-communications section, acting as government "webmaster general".


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