Webbery contents

Don't go near the 'Net

- if your company is already full of holes

Is your company ready for the Internet?

The Internet will change your company - at least, it will if you're doing it right.

Don't imagine that you can make use of the Internet's goodies without any effect on the way your company runs, or the way it thinks.

If you are afraid that your company isn't strong enough to face that challenge, perhaps you had better give the Internet a miss.

Why isn't Jones at his desk?

Geography has a different meaning on the Internet; there should be no reason for a geographically remote office to be electronically remote. Further, there is often no good reason for a particular member of staff to be sitting obediently at a desk in the company's office.

Most companies which have tried teleworking have discovered that they get more out of their staff than before, but that might not be true of your company.

Face it - do you actually know what Jones does when he is at his desk? You'd probably be better off hiring the jacket he leaves on his chair, to convince you that he turned up for work this morning.

Does the idea of sharing information frighten you?

Your attitude to information will be challenged by the Internet. Information is the stuff of the Internet - there's mega-tons of it, and some of it will be yours. There wouldn't be much point in being there otherwise.

If your company has traditionally kept its cards close to its chest, the Internet will be a frightful shock to its system.

One of the fundamental elements of Internet culture is the sharing of knowledge - you give what you've got in order to receive more in return. There are no laws about this - no one is going to ask what you have contributed to the pool before answering one of your questions - but if you aren't part of the culture, you won't get very much from it.

For one thing, you won't be able to tell good information from bad information - without the experience gained from diving into the information pool, and paddling about a bit. Of course, such concerns are academic for companies who work on the principle that you can't trust anyone.

Besides, you wouldn't give your staff their own telephones, would you? (Oh, you do? That's a bit risky, isn't it?)

Are you worried about staff wasting time on the Internet?

A company which works on the premise that their staff are a bunch of time-wasters will probably discover they are right, while a company which believes their staff can be trusted to get on with their jobs will also be proved correct.

There is a great potential for time-wasting on the Internet, but, let's face it, a talented time-waster can waste time anywhere. A well-managed company, with a well-motivated work-force will have nothing to fear from the Internet. But a badly-managed company with a disgruntled work-force may be taking a huge risk.

You may feel that you run a pretty tight ship, but are you sure? Perhaps you ought to have a chat about it with the Human Resources Director, when he gets back from the golf course.

Are your company procedures set in stone?

If your company follows a set of procedures laid down at a marathon board meeting in 1973, then the Internet (and its implications) will be difficult to handle. It's not just the fact that all those procedures will become obsolete overnight (in fact, you can make some preparations for the initial shock) - you will need to prepare your company for continual change.

Companies or organisations which need months of negotiation to agree the colour of a stock request form will be in trouble when it comes to implementing a piece of software which may be out of date by the time permission is given for its purchase.

The Internet isn't a one-off purchase; you're buying into a culture which is still developing, and will continue to develop for the foreseeable future. You'll be asked to make decision after decision - all much too important to be left to your IT department (wherever that is).

The proper channels?

A strictly hierarchical company (like yours?) will be shaken by the equal value the Internet (or an in-house intranet) gives to every contributor - a good idea is a good idea, wherever it comes from. A bad idea can be shot down in seconds, no matter who ran it up the flag-pole. The kind of board-room bullying on which many careers have been founded will cut no ice in an electronic forum (ring any bells?).

The internet (or intranet) favours a "flat" organisational structure. So, a chain of command which takes ten steps to get from board room to shop floor will be undermined by electronic communications which can skip all of these steps with one mouse-click. If that prospect terrifies you, go hide under the bed - the Internet is not for you.

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© 1998 David Craig Send me a message