Competing for cooperation
Choice and competition
If any phrase could sum up the difference between the Industrial Age and the Information Age it would have to be "excessive competition and abundance of choice". Access to the Internet can provide an overwhelming range of options for information, entertainment, commodities, education, products, services, employment, employees, business contacts, friends or indeed anything else that one could conceivably want
Anyone, who has traded in commercial markets, knows that abundance of choice promotes intensive competition. Customers, clients and users have the upper hand because there is more than enough for them to use or consume. Suppliers have to compete with each other for clients' and customers' attention, time and money.
This will apply to every segment of e-business and e-commerce. Small enterprises and sole traders and artisans will be exposed to world wide competition. Technical specialists, writers, consultants, educators, trainers, marketers, graphic designers, programmers and almost every niche one can think of will find themselves offering their services in a highly competitive environment.
Larger group formations, such as, retailers, manufacturers, developers, wholesalers, marketing companies, educational and training establishments, solution providers, Web site builders, Web hosting companies, Internet service providers will all find competition in the Information Age much fiercer than any competition found in the Industrial Age. They will be in competition not only to find customers and clients, but, also in competition to find and obtain the services of the most competent and knowledgeable experts and specialists.
In this fast moving, highly competitive environment, to stand still will be to whither away and die. This will make it imperative for everyone, whatever part they play, small or large, to become skilled in the arts of communication and competitive game playing.
In the Industrial Age, geographic location, physical separation and lack of communication bandwidth, restricted most business and commerce activity to regional localities. Now, in the Information Age, these barriers are rapidly disappearing. It's now as easy to hire a team of programmers in the back street of Delhi in India as it is to have a local dedicated design team. Artwork and graphic design services are no longer restricted by the need to physically see content or have face to face discussion. Without this necessity, clients will find it just as easy to scout around the world to arrange suitable graphic design solutions at competitive prices.
In the Information Age, it may not even be necessary to engage experts for the technological work involved in much of e-business and e-commerce system design. There are numerous template solutions available, covering all kinds of technical needs. Many of these ready built solutions will require little more than point and click operations to set up, so, setting up Web sites and e-business solutions can be no more complicated than learning to use a word processor.
Thousands of different companies have created e-business solutions for themselves and then find they can parcel it up for others to use. This allows anyone, from entrepreneurs with small start up companies to managers in traditional Industrial Age corporations, to get into an e-business situation immediately and cheaply to start experimenting.
In the Industrial Age, it was an expensive and lengthy process to set up a retail trading operation. Today, in the Information Age, you can be set up an e-commerce retail Web site for free: complete with shopping carts; financial transaction facilities - all in a matter of minutes. Your own graphics and animations can be installed into a department in your own Web based store as easy as it is to put a picture into a word processor document. Any expertise or speciality knowledge that is required is usually only an email away if you have the right friends or contacts.
It is in the area of integrating existing Industrial Age businesses with the Internet where many important competitive battles will be fought. Internet communication strategies will need to be devised to enhance core businesses. The Internet and various forms of Web based interfaces will be used to get customer or client feedback. They will be used to attract new customers and enhance customer loyalty. New strategic alliances can be formed via Internet and Web communications; complementary operations and services can be integrated or merged.
Industrial Age companies will not necessarily treat the Internet as a way of creating completely new business operations. It can be used as an aid in the distribution process, checking and tracking order processing from customer order to order delivery. These communication processes can be displayed on the Web for customers and clients to see for themselves how their orders are being dealt with. This will enhance customer confidence and give more credibility to a company. How much more assured will customers be if they can readily inspect the flow of order processing? Not only theirs, but, others as well.
Email communication strategies and Web based information sources will be used to back up real world sales teams. There is no reason why this sales information flow shouldn't be open to public inspection. Why not let a customer or client see the information being channelled to sales teams? Isn't it designed to get to them anyway?
This is the Communication Shock of the Information Age. A new openness and transparency; a world where business deals and acts of co-operation and collaboration can be set up between different parties from all over the planet easily, quickly and cheaply. The implications of the removal of communication barriers are hard for the Industrial Age mind to grasp. Most managers and permanent employees will be replaced by communication specialists who will be dealing with complex networks of personal contacts, with layer upon layer of middlemen.
All businesses then, whether they like it or not will be forced to employ suitable Internet strategies. These will have to be based upon sound foundations: the ability to communicate with people and to both co-operate and compete with them.