An earthquake of huge proportions is about to hit most organizations throughout the world. I am referring to the Y2K problem, of course. But those who have not yet begun to deal with the problem will find that they have waited too long. They may not survive. And the growth industry immediately following January 1, 2000? The legal profession! The millennium earthquake will be large. But we will look back on it as insignificant, when we later compare it with the next earthquake ­ coming soon afterward. For that next quake will be orders of magnitude greater than the Y2K problem!

The pressure is building; the earth is starting to move. But in this case we do not know exactly when and where it will hit. The date and the location may be different for each organization and industry. What is it? We can already hear the rumbling. We already are becoming aware of its impact.

I refer of course to the Internet and its impact on business. Whether you call it electronic commerce or i-commerce or e-business ­ its impact will be enormous: far, far worse than the millennium bug.

Most organizations have developed their business processes and systems through the years on the assumption that communication with customers and suppliers takes days or weeks.

With the Internet, intranets and extranets that connect an organization directly with its customers, suppliers and business partners, this communication is immediate. And it changes these processes fundamentally. The earlier processes will no longer be effective.

Customers can visit an organization anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse. But they will leave it to go to its competitors just as fast ­ also with the click of a mouse ­ if they cannot locate the products they need or receive the customer service they require.

Organizations will find that many business processes and systems that have evolved over the years to serve their customers and suppliers will not be able to respond in time in this new environment. They will have to be redesigned and redeveloped. This is the real problem, for this redevelopment will take many years, and there is little time to waste.

Already most industries have examples of organizations that have already made (or are making) the transition to this new way of doing business. For others, the resulting devastation will be enormous. Many organizations will not survive. The Y2K problem will be seen as a minor tremor in comparison.

This corporate earthquake will hit only a few short years after the turn of the century. Five to 10 years from today, we will look back and wonder, "Whatever happened to ...?" We will laugh when we compare business then with the way we do business today ­ which will be seen as horse and buggy technology compared to the transformation of business brought about by the Internet.

IBM has already seen the signs. It has also seen the opportunities. Its "e-business" advertisements are starting to generate awareness. This is not hype. It is a warning of impending disaster for those who ignore the message.

The problem is ­ how can you communicate the seriousness of this competitive threat to senior management? They have reluctantly funded Y2K projects; they see these as survival investments and to avoid future litigation. "But," they say, "now you want us to fund more change projects?"

There is a difference. While Y2K projects rarely deliver bottom-line benefits but focus on survival, in contrast Internet projects do benefit organizations either through dramatically reduced costs or new revenues. Senior managers see the advertisements and news articles about electronic commerce, but competitive threats presented by e-business may not be as apparent.

To help you communicate this message to senior business managers and IT managers and staff, a white paper may assist. It is "The Competitive Armageddon: Survival and Prosperity in the Connected World of the Internet." This can be read on-line or downloaded, printed and distributed freely throughout your organization to people who should hear the message. This non-technical paper has been written for CEOs, COOs and CIOs. It is two pages in length, with two sidebars describing immediate actions that can be taken by senior managers. It describes how a strategic technology plan, expressed as a strategic information systems plan (SISP), can be developed in three short weeks to identify areas for immediate action, together with project plans for early delivery of priority systems to support these areas.

This paper (and many others) can be read on-line or downloaded from the IES Web site by clicking on the papers link at http://www.ies.aust.com/~ieinfo/.

The competitive opportunities and threats that are presented by the Internet are major. This paper and others will help you determine the most appropriate actions for your organization. Use these as communication resources to lift the level of understanding in your organization. E-mail me examples of enterprises you know who are moving successfully to the Internet.

Next month we will examine how business processes can be reengineered to survive the Competitive Armageddon and prosper on the Internet.

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