Project Management

Former Dell vice president encourages executives to nurture ?Web culture?

Former Dell vice president and current CEO of AvantGo challenges other executives to break the traditional mode and embrace the emerging corporate Web culture.

At ERP World West in Anaheim, CA, this week, former Dell Corp. vice president and current CEO of AvantGo Inc. , Richard Owen, said that executives charged with developing their company’s Web strategy must realize managing people and encouraging a more relaxed work environment, not technology, are their biggest challenges. “Oddly enough, technology is the easiest part of the equation to solve. The challenge is the discipline required to create a Web presence throughout an organization,” said Owen.

Executives must realize that support for initiatives must be uniform throughout a company, especially among senior management. “The Internet is so fundamentally disruptive of the business process of the company that it is going to cause a lot of internal friction. If the chief executive of the company is not wholly behind [the Web strategy], you will probably fail,” said Owen. “If the CEO has not been downright direct about the need for the transformation, it’s not going to happen. The most successful companies in the space today, like Dell and GE, are committed to this type of transformation.” In order to be successful in this transformation, corporate culture must lure top talent.

Corporate culture nurtures success
However, as in all areas of IT, attracting talented employees offers difficult challenges. "There’s no talent pool out there today. We’re all scrambling to find and retain the right people, and unless you have a pre-IPO company to balance the effects of stock price, you probably don’t have enough currency to attract the most talented Web people,” said Owen.

The difficulty in attracting a core group of skilled employees requires a change in mentality and corporate culture that often removes traditional barriers and challenges the status quo. “This has been a real lesson for me because I have never been a software engineer. So, I didn’t realize that software engineers like to show up at three in the afternoon and work until three in the morning. There are a whole bunch of rules and restrictions at most companies that prevent people from working those kind of hours.”

Owen said one of the adjustments that he had to make was allowing pets in the office, but he notes that having pets in the office is one of the things his Web team wanted most. And he added that although this new breed of employee may not care about having a large office with expensive furniture, they do want the latest technology. “If their desk is an upside down trestle table, they are pretty comfortable with it. But, they do want a big pipe into their computer for wide bandwidth, the latest technology, and to work on cool things.”

Creating a viable Web culture can help companies compete in the frantic and fiercely competitive race for employees who can deliver a sound Web-based business process. “At Dell, we moved our Web team into a different building so we could abuse the property policies. We could do things in the building to make it more fun for employees and run a more relaxed shop,” said Owen. “That’s the environment that you have to create to attract a good team.”

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