By Lou Washington

Lou Washington

Many years ago, back when we all still wore animal skins, carried around large clubs and measured hard disk memory in megabytes, there was an ad on television promoting the wonders of a web-based enterprise.

The ad featured a CIO sitting at a desk listening to two competing pitches for upgrading the company’s website. In one pitch, the developer is proudly pushing the idea of spinning the company logo on its vertical axis and as a final triumphant feature, the logo is crowned with flames.

The fellow then looks the CIO in the eye and tells him that only he can give them a flaming logo!

So it was in the early days of commercializing the ‘net. Everybody liked the ‘net and almost everybody thought they should be doing something with it. Very few companies had a clue as to how they might exploit the thing in a monetized, business process kind of way.

It’s really too bad some one hasn’t developed a museum of web site history. A place where people could browse through pages from some of those early adopter websites. It would almost be like thumbing through a high school year book from the distant past. I can almost hear people exclaiming, “why did they do that?” or perhaps more aptly, “what were they thinking?

The earliest websites I can remember almost always had several things in common.

  • Picture of a big building – typically the corporate HQ or a building they wish was the corporate HQ – Optionally, the entire corporate staff would standing in front of the big building
  • A long wordy “welcome to our world” message that conveyed nothing of substance but containing a lot of words about how good the company was and how swell it was that the reader had found them on the web.
  • Message from the president – this was mainly aimed at congratulating the IT team on getting the company on the web and hoping that the reader would come back often.
  • Contact information – this always listed things like the physical address of the company, a phone number and fax number. It took a while for folks to think about putting a general info@xyz.com address in this space.
  • Very occasionally, you might have some reference to the actual business the company was engaged in.

There simply was no understanding of how this technology could be used to actually conduct business. It was essentially an electronic billboard. Actually I’ve seen better bill boards in terms of engaging the reader in a conversation.

Before we laugh too hard at the early eBusiness world, consider how new technology is adopted today.

Many companies are still jumping in too early, waiting loo long or simply allowing things to take their own course. There is no strategy, no evaluation or business process in place to guide the whole technology adoption activity within the enterprise.

Companies still run mission critical systems built around ancient releases of proprietary software running on hardware platforms that are only available from eBay. Conversely, you also read about companies that are forced to abandon implementation of new enterprise systems because they made the move to a new system without doing the upfront work in terms of evaluation of need, possible solutions and deployment processes.

Both of these scenarios are quite common and both can be devastating in terms of consequences. Both can potentially result in the failure and ultimate destruction of the enterprise itself.

More and more, end users are equipping themselves with new technology and not waiting on IT to do the job for them. We saw this first with PCs, then cell phones, the web itself and now with the rapidly expanding use of mobile devices such as tablets, net books and associated software.

Does your company have a technology policy? A strategy? Do you have teams in place to guide your enterprise through the bewildering, complex and not always ethical world of new technology?

May be it’s time to start giving some thought to how your company incorporates new technology into the everyday operation of the enterprise.

There is a train load of help available to you in this area. Technology as a strategy is how we all must think. Next week I’ll follow-up this post with a discussion of how the enterprise can climb on the back of the technology tiger without fear of being eaten!