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Convergence & Integration
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Overview Transcript Case Study Video
One place, one earth, one people
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It is about becoming omnipresent and omniscient.
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Grasping the magnanimity of it all
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Key Ideas of this episode
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Key Idea #1: Begin to grasp the power of becoming an E- Business.
It is coming, like a category-5 hurricane, like a tsunami, like a magnitude-8 earthquake,
whether we like it or not.

We have no choice but to become an e-minded company because we now know there are no degrees of separation. There is no hiding any more.

We saw something in 1994 when we first examined the Internet and then put up a few web pages. We were so moved by it that we began telling our viewers as early as 1995, "Get email and a web site." That something, the it, collapsed the six degrees of spearation to no degrees of separation. In an e-culture, every person in the company uses the Internet purposefully to do some part of their job.

Topic for Discussion: Why isn't every company creating an e-culture?

Answer: First, we are quick to point out that some industries are low tech and we understand that reality. For example, our friend who manufactures expensive sweaters that are sold in high-end boutiques tells us that these boutique owners don't even have computers in their stores! This is hard for most of us to imagine. The construction business has hung on tight to the fax machine and most legal documents are still being moved around in hard copy. Therefore, we argue that some aren't where they could be because they are part of the late adoption group.

Second, thousands of companies today are being lead by men and women who are getting ready to retire. They just don't want to think about the expense and headache associated with a revolution.

Third, some small business owners don't see the fun they could have exploring the connected world. It might take hiring some high school or college students to help bring the ideas into a firm that may have grown stale.

Fourth, some people are afraid of the openess required by an e-culture. In this new world, everyone can know everything.

You think about it: Where do you stand now? Do you have a fully functioning e-culture with every employee using the Internet purposefully?

Key Idea #2: Make Every Employee E-responsible.
The net should become an extension of each person's work area.

Topic for Discussion: Some business owners and IT professionals might have nightmares if every employee had access to a page on the company's web site. What would happen? Would content management run crazy? Would grammar and spelling mistakes appear everywhere? Would bad ideas pop up? Would too many people be spending too much time with little return?

Answer: All of this is certainly possible. And with small businesses over 100 employees, that would involve many pages of content to monitor. Yet, if each of these pages were integral pages of a business plan as well as your web site, what might be the result?

In 1995 we said, "Get email and a web site." Now, we are saying, "Get everybody involved." Every person in a business has a public face and should be responsible for maintaining at least one page that reflects their work area and the relevancy of their contribution to the overall success of the business.

Aptrix is one of many businesses that have developed tools that make the interface to one's web site as easy as word processing. This is the extension of the participatory democracy that Carol Schroeder discusses in the episode about her and her company, Orange Tree Imports. The fundamental issue is trust and building your team.

You think about it: What would it take for you to give every employee access to web page creation?

Key Idea #3: Create E-places.
Think of an e-place as you might think of the main street in your city of town. On that street there are places open to the public, places for employees only, places for paying customers only and even places under lock and key such as a safe in a bank.

Topic for Discussion: What are the e-places every business needs to create?

Answer: Your business will be well served when you use the Web for an Internet site, an Intranet site, and an Extranet site. Most businesses have a web site. Even if it is simply a page with the name of the business and the contact information. This is called the Internet site. If you choose to, you can create an Intranet site and communication tools that are only accessible to employees. You can subscribe to a Virtual Private Network for yourself and any employees who need to work remotely. Then the Extranet is where your paying customers enter after they have paid and have been given login ids and passwords.

You think about it: How do you use the Web today? How would you like to be using it?

Key Idea #4: Conduct Business On Your Own Turf.
In an e-culture your virtual business is becoming more key to your success than your physical business because your business is 24-by-7-global; 9-to-5 is dead, and each of us now must decide when/where/how to conduct business.

In this segment of this episode of the show, we see John Stockbridge on the golf course checking an email message. He said, "I usually would not check messages on the course. I'll do this for television." But later, he admitted that that there were instances when he had played golf and left his pager on just in case he was needed to support a pending sale.

Topic for Discussion: This no degrees of spearation is beginning to wear thin, and we see many people pushed to the edge because they have implemented tools like Virtual Office. Where is this all taking us?

Answer: To a higher level of self-understanding -- we begin making judgments as to what is important and what is not -- or possibly to distraction and new depths of ineptitude -- we are unable to make a judgment without the consensus of many. There is a huge gulf between empowerment and frozen with indecision. And, if we stop and think about it, the tools of these technologies work best within small groups where people are already empowered to think on their feet and confidently make the judgment, "I'm out-of-pocket for the next hour, day, week or month."

A key to making all this begin working is to be migrating all the business operations -- mostly software programs to a local area network with a highly secure gateway -- an intranet access -- to all your business data. At that point, you can work when you want to work from any location in the world with Internet access.

You think about it: Who in your organization might want to work when then want and from any place? Should you do a survey to discover the answer to this question? What would you have to do to provide them the tools to work 24 x 7? How would this help you? How would it help the business?

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Key Idea #5: Use E-meetings to Improve Quality.
In an e-culture people collaborate; most meetings and all video-conference calls will have given way to collaboration events; and these will become more like concerts where most peope are in the orchestra or the choir. There are seldom any observers, spectators, or audience.

In this segment, Nigel and Rosemary Skeffington, founders of Time Technology, are demonstrating a simple collaboration event. But in voiceover, we hear that space and time are derivative and relations are the primary real. Think about it; this is no longer a simple Newtonian logic; it goes right into the heart of longstanding discussions about the meaning of today's most advanced physics (from Einstein to Heisenberg to the many). Collaboration is one kind of experience that we can have that gives us an inutition about the meaning of the last century of research in physics. It is a very new universe and business will find it a brave new world.

Topic for Discussion: What does it mean to say, "Relations become the primary real?"

Answer: Possible answers: There are unanswered questions from an old philosophical discussion about subject- relation- object. Some say, "The only thing that is real is what I know." Others say, "The only thing that is real is physical reality, and I can really never know it completely." The experience of a collaborative event where people in many different spaces and many different times are all present within a given moment reopens the old questions, especially to now examine the primary importance of the relation.

The most successful businesses have focused on the importance of relations. Most on the customer. Some on the employees. And, some on the suppliers and business partners. If collaboration tools inherently lift up the centrality of the relation, and the quality of the relation profoundly effects the success potential of a business, we have uncovered an asset of huge proportions.

This tool works especially well for small business; we can inexpensively and quickly pull meetings together of the best of breed from around the world to focus on issues, products, and services. It is a tool we need to engage and begin to use effectively.

Topic for Discussion: What is collaboration?

Answer: Collaboration is an ordering tool and creates continuities. It is a relational tool that builds on inherent symmetries. In an e-culture collaboration is by definition dynamic, focused, and intentional, and takes business to a higher ground.

We go out into a forest preserve in Oregon where Greg Steckler and his team design log homes for people around the world. They collaborate with clients on the smallest of changes, both able to itemize the same page at the same time -- all online -- and he never physically meets most of his customers.

Topic for discussion: Next to food and clothing, our shelter is a precious commodity. To entrust a stranger with the design of your home is not trivial. The fact is, people do. Something is happening here in these collaborative events and that something may actually be impeded by physical meetings. What do you think?

Answer: We concluded that these collaboration tools focus our attention on problems and tasks as given, and limits the amount of positioning and posturing people normally do in physical meetings.

You think about it: Who in the world would you like engage to help you solve a problem? With whom should you be collaborating?

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Key Idea #6: Teach Customers to be E-efficient.
Greg Steckler started landing customers from around the world back in 1996! He posted a web site and soon orders from the web surpassed orders from his yellow page ad. Over the years he has adopted online tools so that any customer can view him at work from any computer connected to the Internet. Providing service to customers in multiple time zones was his initial motivation.

Topic for Discussion: Why is this so valuable to Greg's customers?

Answer: He is drawing custom log home plans for his customers. They are all dreaming about the home they are going to build with these plans. They are anxious to see what he does with their ideas and without excpeption, they are chomping at the bit for him to finish their project. By using the password he provides, each of Greg's customers can view their log plans in progress. Can you imagine how many phone calls this must save him everyday?

None of us want to stop talking to our customers on the phone. However, if we can give them more of what they want when they want it, everybody is happy.

You think about it: What can you get your customers to do online that would bring them closer to you?

Key Idea #7: Go Global with Language Translation.
In an e-culture people there are no language barriers. Although Small Business School is slowly moving in this direction, we have not yet enabled much in the way of language translations on this site. Once we thought of just three ubiquitous languages: English, Spanish, and French, and then their romantic roots, Latin and Greek. Today we are quick to recognize the three major-population languages -- Arabic, Chinese, and Hindi.

Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, and Russian are the national languages of regions of the world.

Then there are the national languages of soverign nations -- Afrikaans (South Africa), Armenian, Azeri (Azerbaijani), Bengali, Boholano (Filipino), Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan (Algeria, Spain, France, etc.), Cambodian, Cebuano ( Visayan, Filipino), Creole, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dari (Afghanistan), Dutch, Farsi (Persian), Finnish, Flemish (Belgian), Hmong (Southeast Asian), Hungarian, Indonesian, Lao, Malay (Malaysia / Singapore), Minangkabau (Sumatra, Indonesia), Moroccan, Norwegian, Papiamento (Aruba), Polish, Punjabi, Romanian, Sanskrit, Serbian, Slovak, Swedish, Tagalog (Filipino), Telugu (India, Mauritius, UAE, etc.), Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

It is all quite overwhelming. There are literally over 1000 languages on our tiny planet.

Topic for discussion: What is realistic?

Answer: For us, English to Chinese was very radical. But the fact is, as computing power progresses, 1000 languages will be just as seamless, quick and easy. Then, real-time, person-to-person translators, will be the final barrier. It is all here and on the horizon (fiscally possible) for all of us.

For more, you might find these sites of interest:
» American Translators Association: Initial translations may be done by machine, but once real relations are engaged with people of other languages, you will want to engage language specialists to be sure all your key pages translate successfully.
» The Rosetta Project: This impressive site delivers on its promise to be "a meaningful survey and near permanent archive of 1,000 languages." This project simply opens our minds and hearts to the expansive nature of language.

You think about it: Words communicate and there are 1000 different words to communicate the same thing. Fascinating? We think so.

Key Idea #8: Create Online Learning for Employees and Customers.
In an e-culture there is no static history. The web becomes our work area to record the history of our business, and knowledge management tools give us ways to interpret and continually shape its meaning and depth while providing global access to it. Throughout school we are given the sense that the past is the past -- it is history -- and that history is static. Professional historians know that as events in time are recorded, they are then examined and understood by looking at the network of relations that touched the event, and as more knowledge is uncovered, our understanding of that history changes, and in fact, history changes.

Topic for discussion: Do you have a program through which the body of your business knowledge, the insights into products and people and processes, are recorded?

Answer: Our answer is both "Yes" and "No." We have a few pages on our site that are our reflections about our history, and the entire site is the unfoldment of every show we have ever produced. But, we are just on the edge of introducing real knowledge managemnent tools; all the information within this site is being parsed so people can get access to just the kind of information they would find useful.

Once we add the collaboration tools, and that history gets further examined by many, we might find more great stories being added to re-affirm a particular business point, and we undoubtedly will find that people inform us about businesses in ways that we did not discover while on location. We can have the wool pulled over our eyes. And if we did, the pages on this site will dynamically change by the new information that is presented.

You think about it: Do you think that creating a place for each employee to log their insights would be helpful to the company? What do you have to do to make that happen?

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Key Idea #9: Allow Customers to Order and Build Products Online.
In an e-culture the paperless office is in sight. Orders, accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory, order tracking, and customer support can be done online through extranets and intranets. Some companies like ModernPostcard teach customers to build products right on their web sites.

Topic for discussion: Through the years we have looked at companies who now have an e-culture. Tejas Office offered online ordering as early as 1998 and now most customers wouldn't order any other way. Texas Nameplate's customers have been tracking their orders online since 1999. International Wine Accessories Internet orders continue to skyrocket. David Arnold has been doing his accounts payble and accounts receivable online since 1998.

Go further: Review the study guides of those businesses we have visited earlier. All are early adopters of technology and all are winning in their respective industries:
» Tejas Office, Lupe Fraga
» Texas Nameplate, Dale Crownover
» International Wine Accessories, Bob Orenstein
» SII, The King Company, David Arnold

Each has a goal to minimize redunancy and mundance tasks and reduce the amount of paper that flows through their office. We love Lupe Fraga for his ebullience in recognizing that even as we minimize the use of paper, we are actually using more of it in rather new ways.

Topic for discussion: In an e-culture people are released from doing mundane tasks so they can begin doing one-to-one marketing, sales and support. Modern Postcard has been teaching their own people, their customers, and their vendors to use technology to minimize redundancy and mundane tasks. When was the last time you had a top to bottom review of all your business processes to see where new efficiencies could be introduced?

Answer: This is not a rhetorical question. There are several fundamental technologies that we touch upon and discussed in this show. All are as important to the future of your business as the Internet was to business in general back in 1995.

You think about it: What mundane tasks could be delegated to technology?

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Key Idea #10: Put Pen to Paper to Close Customers.
John WargoYou may remember the phrase, "high tech, high touch." This became popular when voice mail systems started taking over every switchboard in the country. Customers were frustrated and so often, they wanted to speak to a real person. Voice mail technology was patented in 1982. Since then, more and more hardware and software has crept into our lives. For this reason, we wanted to remind every business person out there: you don't close deals with e-mail.

Topic for discussion: Why is a handwritten note more powerful today than ever?

Your answer: Because almost no one does it. And the facts are that people do business with people. Big deals are done in a personal way with details and follow-up done with e-mail.

When was the last time you wrote a personal note? When was the last time you received one? How did you feel? You would never send a Valentine's card to a person you love with a computer generated signature. Maybe you would, but most of us would not. Just a step below that level of attention is the same attention you will give to the most important business relations in your life.

We are coming full circle. Candles are back. Romance is soon to follow. A quiet revolution has begun.

You think about it: Who should I write a note to today?

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We invite your comments, suggestions and questions. Go to this show's other pages: Overview / Profile, transcript, video or home page.

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