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  • Writer's picturePeter Smith

FRIDAY 5TH NOVEMBER 1999: Bigging up the Big E

I'm working at home, writing the draft press release to highlight our e-procurement activities. It's amazing how with a bit of effort you can make something that doesn't really have much substance sound impressive.

But I don't feel guilty- at the moment there are daily pieces in the FT with some company making a big deal of the fact they are doing something in the e-world. Usually I am sure there is little behind it, or like us, they are really at a very early stage of development. Many of these announcements are no more than statements of intent that someone is going to try and build an e­-portal, catalogue or exchange. It is 90% hype, 10% reality at the moment.

I also think about how we can introduce some competition into the Redgrave process. We don't want to just hand it to Andersens if we do go ahead, but we haven't got time to go through the usual full tendering and negotiation process that purchasing would normally recommend. I come up with a more pragmatic approach, but one I hope will still enable us to look properly at some alternatives to AC.

Bernard sends me a fax (for information) describing 30 "outstanding issues". One talks about "GHO (Group Head Office) phase two structure- relocation of service functions into Business Units".

I don't know what this means but I have my suspicions and I don't like it. Ron Sandler clearly thinks GHO is too big, and may want to cut it back to a smaller number of people focusing on strategy and governance. He would then put the parts of head office that are operational units (such as purchasing and property) into one of the businesses, probably Retail as it is the largest.

The problem with this philosophy is it is very difficult to play a true Group-wide role if you sit in one business- there is always mistrust from other businesses. You get inevitable conflicts of interest, and you can easily lose the leverage we have with suppliers when we can negotiate on behalf of the whole Group. I really don’t think I would want to stay at NW if this does happen.

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