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The Corporate Hierarchy on the Web

Cramer outlines the Web viewpoint from each level of the corporate food chain. Guess where the problems start?
Author:

Where are we on Web adoption? Here's a question with an answer that seems to change by the month. I have a generalization that has stood up through most of the S&P 500 companies I spoke to in the past few days. Here is the corporate hierarchy of the average large firm in this great nation.

The Boss

Not on. At all. Uses printouts from Web and thinks he is using the Web. Gets on the Web, if ever, at home, because he is shamed onto it by children or grandchildren. Hates pulling plug out of phone to hook up desktop PC and forgets to put it back. Gets yelled at by wife for forgetting. (If he is in New York, he reads my column, but only in the hard copy of

The New York Observer

that comes out two days after I wrote the article on the Web.) Still wonders constantly why his company isn't "like

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

." Will get on the Web when it talks to you, like through a phone, an electronic tool he has mastered. Doesn't like the fact that he has to "do it himself" with the Web and feels unprotected by the Web's subversive nature.

Keeps computer in office, but not on. Loves magazines. Tells other CEOs at Sun Valley-like gatherings that he is really into online fantasy baseball at

sandlot.com

, but really knows nothing about it, except what his Web-savvy grandson told him. Yet demands that e-commerce be Job One and wants a consultant brought in to find out why the company has been so slow to adopt the Web. Heavy U.S.

Postal Service

user. Still dashes off handsome handwritten notes to drive the point home, just like

Lincoln

.

Hopeless.

The Boss' Administrative Assistant

Total telephone person. Likes to joke with boss about how Web thing is big fad. Protects boss by making sure people "fax" things. Also prays that boss doesn't get on Web as she will be cut out of the loop by it and it will make job tougher. Waiting for the whole Net dot-com thing to go away. Fears loss of job. Tells boss she'll be his Web eyes and ears, but doesn't have access to a data phone line so is not actually on the Web.

The CFO

Facile with the Web because she is facile with computers. Views Web as an extension of the computer. Wishes Web were on HP 12c. Wishes boss were more into Web. Afraid to tell boss, though. Wants to do a really bad dot-com to keep virtual competitors locked out of chief capital markets.

Regrets how hard it is to raise capital without a dot-com.

The COO

Knows Web is killer and would love to have ad campaigns built on Web and to take Web world by storm as she sees others saving money big-time with Web as a business tool. Knows she could be the Yahoo! of her industry.

Takes PC everywhere. Would rather leave right arm home than PC and can't think without it. Organizes whole day on Web and has three ISPs in case one is down. Would love to instant-message CEO. Would love to email CEO. But knows that when she sends email to the boss, he doesn't read it and she can't just go up to him and say, "Get on the $&^$#^ Web already and accept it -- you are killing this &*%$&$&^ company."

The Investor Relations Officer

Comfortable with Web and trying to figure out how to make job easier with the Web. Open-minded. Wishes boss were more into Web. Afraid to tell boss, though. Continues to use fax charade to please boss. But has a Web site that no one has ever been to and doesn't have any dollars to promote it.

General Counsel

Soviet-style political commissar who thinks Web is subversive and average Web user in organization has a tongue ring. Mostly worried about being sure all email is destroyed after three months or about people breaking in to email or firewall. Wants to smash Web, bring back handwriting. Chief ally of boss, and the symbiotic Web bashing gets the "I would love to do it but the lawyers say no" kiss of death. Privately jokes with boss about how real Web heads wear tongue-rings. Aside: do Yahoo! and

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report

have general counsels, or did they simply delete the position or, perhaps, have them liquidated?

The Salesperson

Addicted to Web. Thinks it is the greatest thing since cell phone. Thinks his firm hates the Web because CEO doesn't even have email on his business card. Laments that he does not work at

TheStreet Recommends

E-Trade

(EGRP)

or Cisco, as those places "get it." Has already given up having boss on Web. Wants to go work elsewhere but doesn't know of any other boss who is on Web except at E-Trade and Cisco.

Yep, it is the person at the top who is the problem. That person thinks that nothing has changed except the buzz words, "b-to-b" and "bandwidth." My advice: Show him this piece. Yeah, print it out -- don't send him the URL or email it to him; that just assures that it is history. Heck, send it to his home address with a handwritten note. Do it anonymously. Heck, blame me. Just don't let his ignorance destroy the company.

Random musings:

Lou Dobbs'

departure sounds interesting to me. I see he is getting the same reaction about

space.com

as I got from the world when I started

TheStreet.com

: kind of a daffy guy, midlife crisis. Whatever.

Because ratings are important, I am sure that one of these media companies will give him money so he can get the numbers up for its sagging network. Whole thing's pretty amusing, I must say.

Semiconductor

lovefest continues.

I always know when these rallies end, when I prevail on my partner,

Jeff Berkowitz

, to take down 25,000

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Applied Materials, Inc. Report

or

Novellus

(NVLS)

. That's the sure sign of a top in the group.

It hasn't happened yet, but I am still in there battling him over the right to put some Novellus on the sheets. I will let you know when I prevail so you can short them.

Took the morning off to go to youngest daughter's last-day pageant. Why was she the only one sticking her tongue out at her daddy? And why did everyone know she was mine? All I can say is what a difference a generation makes. First, there were other dads there. Second, nobody yelled at my daughter!

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Cisco and Yahoo! His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at

jjcletters@thestreet.com.