Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2003
Peter Drucker believes ecommerce will be to the Information Revolution what the railroads were to the Industrial Revolution.* To oversimplify, the Industrial Revolution was a time in which tools were produced that replaced people in the manufacture of goods. In the first thirty years, all was devoted to producing known products with machines.
While there were drastic social changes with the massive shift from rural to urban living, there was little change in the products produced and purchased. They only became more readily available at ever more modest cost.
Only later did the Industrial Revolution produce something new - the railroads. For the first time in history, people could readily move great distances inexpensively. (Hauling freight came much later.) Railroads brought a thirty year boom in Europe, and an even longer one in the United States. While many other parts of the world got started somewhat later, the boom did not end for them until the outbreak of World War I.
What Will Arise From The Information Revolution?
The parallels between the Industrial and Information Revolutions are astonishing. Thus far computers, the Web, and information technology have created nothing dramatically new. They have merely changed the ways in which information is gathered, managed and reported. And to some extent, the way in which consumers purchase goods.
Computers themselves have changed the way in which products are manufactured, including their design. And a few new spinoffs have come to the fore. But there has not been anything revolutionary in any of this. Nothing yet has had the impact of railroads on the whole of the social fabric.
If Drucker is correct, ecommerce will have an impact equivalent to that of the railroads earlier. Thus far the Web has produced less change in the way business is done than ore cars running on steel rails effected mining. In short, the real drama and excitement is yet to be revealed.
Given easy access to the Web, you and I have been invited to join in. For myself, I don't want to miss a beat.
A Radical Shift Is Upon Us
There appears to be an awesome and exciting shift emerging in the way business is done. There are those who feel that if it's good for business, it's good. Period. I hold a different view: If it's not good for people, it's not good.
Many with a business orientation are likely to abandon my thinking here. Those convinced people are sheep born to be shorn certainly will. But whatever your view, enormous changes in the way in which business is done are rushing down upon us. Companies who do not embrace them, will be swept away into history.
What Will Customer Service Come To Mean?
For example, automated telephone systems and elevator music will fade away, as will the companies that cling to such barriers. People will not be content much longer, with clutching a phone to their ear, trying to accomplish some other task, while waiting for the answer they need right now.
"The customer comes first" will remain the driving force behind all successful businesses. Today, such phrases mumbled by all are generally mere tokenism. Tomorrow they will come to have an entirely new meaning.
Contemporary companies provide such services at their convenience. The endless round of voice mail and recordings in which busy people respond only to leave yet another message will come to a screeching halt. Successful companies will provide support when a customer requests it. And they will do so quickly.
Conglomerates May Become Extinct
People have had enough of businesses concerned about their bottom line. They are becoming increasingly concerned about their own needs. They are even now turning away from those who fail to recognize this. Business success in the future will depend heavily upon effective customer support provided immediately upon request.
Conglomerates may be dinosaurs, so huge, so driven by their own inertia, they will disintegrate back into the smaller parts from which they were created. Such companies talk of customer relationships, but often do all possible to avoid any semblance of one-on-one customer support. Smaller firms can be responsive. Those who are, will outperform those who are not.
I am excited about the future for Cyberpreneurs. They will understand they need their customers more than the customer needs them. Untroubled by the constraints of contemporary business practices, they will see responsiveness to customers as an essential fundamental of their business. This characteristic of itself will give them a competitive edge over large businesses that do not.
The Future Is Yours For The Taking
One by one, creative people will consider ways in which conglomerates produce and deliver products. They will then discover a way in which they can do so more effectively. The much larger company will hardly be aware of the tiny loss in revenue. But given many such losses, the bottom line will begin to erode.
Completely new business models will emerge. They will seem so right, so perfectly attuned to both the needs of businesses and consumers, we will wonder why they did not appear much sooner.
There will be a return to a "Rural," rather than an "Urban," pattern of living, one independent of where you choose to live. In this "reversal," there will be a return to individuals being valued. Once again, as was so prior to the Industrial Revolution, people will be both producer and consumer, making a significant contribution in both roles.
The Real "New World"
I continue to hear the Web is not real. That it is nothing more than herds of impulses stampeding about on copper or optical cables. What is reality? I will leave this to the philosophers. But there is no question in my mind; the Web is real. A new reality, at that.
You can feel the awesome power and unlimited resources surging from the collective dynamic of millions and millions of people the world over. People who are real. Our interaction with each other is real, and now unlimited by national boundaries. The Web itself is but a tool. Not unlike the telephone, but magnitudes more powerful. It facilitates the ability to interrelate, to communicate one-on-one. And we will do so in ways not yet imagined.
Welcome to today's "New World."