How to win business in the e-economy
The market behaves like a spoilt child – have you noticed? It always demands more than you gave it last time. Nothing is constant in business any longer, and it’s all down to those damned computers.
They speed up the business cycle with automated business processes and instant messaging. And things are bound to get worse as computers get faster and more powerful. Do you ever wonder if you’re in the right job? You might do better as a brain surgeon. When we first started at work, we expected an orderly hierarchy, in
which managers held meetings, worked to budgets, planned strategies
and then executed them efficiently to make a profit. But what we find now often seems like barely contained chaos: no time to do anything properly, missed targets, crises looming at every turn . . . So what went wrong? The problem lies in a business mythology left over from times when the pace of business was more leisurely. Until the 1980s, many big companies had ten or more levels in their organization chart, and everyone had a job description. There was a chain of command and at each level, a span of control. People had one boss, and performed specialist functions in separate departments. Corporate plans looked five years ahead, and customers stood meekly in line, waiting to be served with often mediocre goods or services. During the 1980s and 1990s, the developed world left behind the
industrial age, and moved into the information age. Factory machinery was automated, markets became global, and for the first time ever, markets for most standard products became over-supplied. Customers started complaining about quality, and began shopping around for better value. Business competition intensified. The rules changed: meticulous planning no longer worked. It was more important to be fast and flexible. So what’s the situation at the start of the new century? A mixed
picture, I guess. As the pace accelerated, some organizations pulled ahead, stretching out the pack. The leaders are now flat, lean, agile organizations, making full use of technology to deliver high quality goods and services on demand at low prices. Two examples spring to mind: Dell Computers, and Ryanair. Meanwhile, other organizations are trailing the field and seem not to have changed. For instance, some business schools and some book publishers (who both deal in information) have scarcely begun to use technology to deliver a better, faster, cheaper service. And what can we expect in this first decade? As we shall discuss
shortly, further developments are in the pipeline and the pace will accelerate. Technology will eventually penetrate most sectors, some first movers will win huge advantage and some laggards will cease to be competitive. But in the end, technology is just a tool. It is groups of people in your enterprise who must collaborate to achieve goals, and groups of people, your customers, who will judge how well you
achieve those goals. The trick is to get people using the tools to automate, to communicate and to collaborate.