Rich Becks

In the nascent world of electronic commerce, no one's sure what will happen.

Vice President of eBusiness and Collaboration, Seagate Technology

Age: 47

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Materials Management from the University of Phoenix

Car: Audi A6 TT

Stress reliever: Making digital videos

In the nascent world of electronic commerce, no ones sure what will happen. Thats why Seagate Technology, the worlds largest manufacturer of hard disk drives, initially planned to become a member of two leading marketplaces being developed for the electronics industry: e2open and Converge. To date, however, Seagate has forged ahead with only one of the ventures, e2open, and has yet to formally throw its weight behind Converge. Senior Writer Mike Cleary spoke with Becks about that decision and the future of product collaboration.

How did Seagate become involved in e2open?

Seagate was slated to become a founding member of Converge. Like [electronics manufacturer] Solectron, we had decided it made sense to be part of both of them. As time went on, we became more comfortable with e2opens form of governance, which was more venture capital-driven than pure consortium-based.


Because of being able to drive accountability to a management team, as opposed to a consortium committee. Having witnessed standards committees, we know how quickly they can move. We may still become a member of Converge.

Why get involved with competitors in a consortium at all?

In the very beginning, a lot of the founding members got together because they sensed the industry was changing and they wanted to participate, rather than have those changes dictated to them. The real value was in allowing companies to collaborate. Seagate began urging design collaboration, but now they changed it to product collaboration. That has a little bit wider scope.

Whats the benefit?

Getting all the stakeholders to collaborate together on the state of product design. Most companies tend to use e-mail as a document management system. The problem with e-mail is its very ambiguous. It has a tendency to create as much confusion as it solves. You cant tell if anyones taken action on it, if people know the latest version. We call that one version of the truth. Theres a lot of value in getting everybody on the same page. Its a collaborative computing strategy. We believe that this whole notion of computing strategy is changing. The value is going to be added on the desktop in a distributed way. But the documents you want to share with team members will be stored centrally. Its a little bit like going back to the mainframe. This has huge implications for computing.

For example?

Faster reaction time. Say an engineer prepares a large file for comment. He often has to replicate these files to local servers. When it arrives in the manufacturing location, that file is eight to 12 hours old. If you have some guy in the middle and he missed that cutoff, youve just lost a day. Those things are happening all the time. Information just isnt keeping pace with innovation.