[Disclaimer: I apologize in advance. This post will undoubtedly tip you-off to the fact we've been working on web-based software for a while...since 1994 actually...so, we may sound a little less idealistic and wide-eyed than you might expect.;)]
It is almost laughable to recall the breathlessness of the "pundits", "gurus" and "visionaries" predicting the rapid decline of traditional businesses in favour of new economy or .com enterprises (circa 2000). Strategies, business models, business practices and IT infrastructures all had to be thrown out because as the advertising assured us, "The Internet changes everything!"
Unfortunately, the rhetoric and heroic gestures of a revolution rarely keep their promises. And the e-business revolution was no exception. Notable and trustworthy experts have decisively debunked any support for theories that suggest strategy has changed forever (1), never-before-seen issues threaten our organizations (2), loyal employees aren't critical (3), or technology by itself is ever a primary root cause of either greatness or decline (4).
With the dot com boom and bust long behind us, we are now experiencing the next incarnation of the e-business wave, re-named enterprise 2.0 or web 2.0, and supported by a new army of fresh-faced, eager evangelists.
There are tons of great things happening this time around, as there were in the last cycle. In particular, the widespread adoption of broadband and web technologies has allowed levels of connectivity (people, systems, data, etc) that truly can bring about the creation of things that never existed. In the dot com era, there were very few instances of creating things that didn't exist before. Rather, the breakthroughs were more likely to be doing things we've always done in business, only more efficiently and with lower interaction costs.
That being said, there are many youthful voices that can't draw on the history of the past couple business cycles, to help temper their perspective; which is a great positive in many ways. The only potential downside is neglecting the parts of history that are still relevant.
We liken these to open manholes on the street. If you aren't careful, present and aware of your surroundings, you might just hurdle down one of these holes and not reappear for a while. We can say from first-hand experience that you're going to want to watch for these.
1. M. E. Porter, "Strategy and the Internet," Harvard Business Review, March 2001, pp.
2. C. Shapiro, H. Varian, Information Rules (Boston, Harvard Business School Press,
3. J. Pfeffer, Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First (Boston, Harvard
Business School Press, 1998)
4. J. Collins, Good to Great (NewYork, HarperBusiness, 2001)