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Sue Bostrom, senior vice president at Cisco Systems (CSCO, info)' Internet Business Solutions Group, has helped advise Ford Motor on how to embrace the Internet and was present at a two-day meeting between top management of the two companies last August.

When Jacques Nasser brought his management team out to California to meet with Cisco CEO John Chambers and other Cisco experts, what was the key message or messages you tried to get across?

No. 1 was our belief that the way to make Internet initiatives really happen is to have business executives be accountable for these efforts. What happens in many companies is that people talk about the Internet and ebusiness, but the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the chief information officer, or they hire an ebusiness chief. But it's very challenging for someone who doesn't have profit-and-loss responsibility to transform the way a company does business. Functional executives have to be involved.

What else?

The second thing was this focus on ruthless execution. It's such a complex business. Look at their supply chain, for example. We suggested they undertake specific projects that are targeting a significant goal. They should undertake waves of bite-sized applications that can deliver results quickly and then move forward. This is another concept for many large companies that's new. This is not like an ERP (enterprise resource planning) implementation.

So do you think Nasser is really serious about the Internet and not just toying with it like it's a fad?

He's been taking this whole initiative very seriously. He believes that ebusiness needs to become the business.

The cynics might say it's basically impossible for century-old industrial corporations to really "get" the Internet.

It is possible and Ford is well down the road to having made significant progress ... Ford is saying, "Let's grab some low-hanging fruit and get some results and then leverage those in more fundamental change."

So the crash of the dot-coms doesn't mean established companies are shying away from Internet initiatives?

At one end of the spectrum are skeptics who say this (the dot-com crash) is a good reason not to do anything. But many other executives understand that the Internet isn't just about dot-coms. Some aggressive operators like GE's Jack Welch are going to use this technology to gain market share. They're able to invest. Ford is definitely at this end of that spectrum.