I just read a great little article by W. James Fischer, Andersen Consulting,
Technology Organization. He provides a simple framework to understand where
technology is going and why. Here's my summary: Four factors movitave
businesses to look to new technology: a desire to be direct, flat, quick,
The relationship between companies and their customers-external or
internal-will be more direct. The middleman will fade into obscurity.
Progressive companies will "hire their customers" to define and even create
* The retailer will be replaced by a virtual mall. Customers shop from home.
* Employers, through employee access systems, put information and services
directly into the hands of their employees; human resource professionals can
really be professional and focus on providing strategic consulting services.
* Nissan Motor Company developed a system to track its customer base. Data
are accessible to all local dealers. When customers move, any dealer will
still know the date of the last service or repair, their finance
arrangements, or even the preferred car color. Dealers can use the database
to create a customized, targeted marketing plan. For example, they can offer
a free oil change to any buyer who has not visited the dealership in one
Many large companies value their extended reach and economies of scale
afforded by their size and long to be as nimble as their smaller competitors.
They don't want to be small, but act small-to be responsive to customers,
have the information they want when they need it, and make decisions quickly
because of limited organizational hurdles. Technology enables them to
flatten their organization and empower their people.
* British Petroleum uses technology to flatten its decision-making
capability. To respond to emergencies in a streamlined and consistent way,
it implemented a response system built atop Lotus Notes, linking all its
European offices. If an oil leak occurs, BP staff across Europe have access
to site plans, technical diagrams, and up-to-the-minute response strategies.
Our "need for speed" is resulting in reinvention of many processes and
industries. The trends are shorter design cycles, improved global
communications, and liquid markets where customers can buy custom-made
products and buy them late. Ubiquitous information access saves time, keeps
business moving, and allows companies to adjust to ever-changing economic
* At Norwest Mortgage, a slight drop in interest rates results in a
tremendous increase in mortgage applications that can triple its business in
days. To smoothly handle such a rush, Norwest installed wireless connections
linking several corporate networks and corporate databases. Norwest can
immediately create or dismantle work groups to place them where needed.
Staff get immediate access to relevant documents.
In the book, The Virtual Community, visionary Howard Rheingold describes the
tendency of groups of people connected by computers to create worlds that
model the workings of real-life communities. Virtual communities pop up on
the Internet and on private email or bulletin boards everywhere-participants
share a unique sense of community and purpose.
* Andersen Consulting has constructed a global knowledge-sharing application
to bring its consultants closer together. Knowledge Xchange, a knowledge
management system, bridges the distance between geographically dispersed
people and provides a common ground for employees of all ages, titles, and
experience levels to come together and share information. Comprised of
discussion databases (Lotus Notes), electronic mail, knowledge repositories,
and productivity tools, the system encourages people to contribute their
ideas and to work together to solve problems. New hires ask questions of
senior partners. A project team in Kuala Lumpur gains valuable insights from
the research library in Chicago.
So, rather than attempting to evaluate technologies on their own
technological merit, weigh each technology and proposed opportunity with a
simple set of criteria:
Will this opportunity take our company where we want to go? Will it enable
us to interact more directly with our customers and our employees?
Will it enable us to flatten our organizational structure?
Will it enable us to operate with greater speed?
Will it create an environment where people share knowledge and ideas and are
able to manifest shared purpose and community?
Alexia (Lexy) Martin
12950 Saratoga Avenue
Saratoga, CA 95030
408 366-0474 fax