By Bob McElwain
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
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
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
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."
(Taken from "Your Path To Success," September, 2001)
* "Beyond the Information Revolution" by Peter F. Drucker, "The
Atlantic Monthly," Oct 1999, p47-57.