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Sort out your firm’s Net attitude

January 2002

by Ross Bentley
ComputerWorld 1/24/2002, p45

Net Attitude: what it is, how to get it, and why your company can’t survive without it. Ross Bentley talks to John Patrick about the future of life, business and the Internet

Net Attitude is the latest book from IBM’s chief Internet technology officer, John Patrick. He estimates that the Internet is being used to no more than 3%-5% of its potential capacity, and predicts that in the next 10 years we will see a dramatic evolution in its usage.

Patrick says grasping this opportunity is all about attitude. Our inability to harness the full power of the Internet has less to do with the technology than with the cultural and psychological barriers that straitjacket our thinking, he asserts. Patrick spoke to Computer Weekly:

How have e-companies changed traditional companies?

“The flood of Internet companies served as a wake-up call for existing companies. It forced many of them to get their Net acts together and become e-businesses.

However, becoming an e-business does not mean you “get it”. It just means you have been able to build a Web site. The proof comes when the e-business becomes totally integrated with the existing business – seamlessly. Buy on the Net and return at the store. Buy at the store and get customer service on the Net.

You talk about the seven characteristics of the next generation of the Internet. What are they?

Fast; always on; everywhere; natural; intelligent; easy; and trusted. The cumulative effect of these characteristics results is not just a new medium but “the” new medium. The next generation of the Internet (NGI) will provide a different experience which will enable us to connect to vast information resources to learn, buy, communicate, collaborate, and be entertained. It has no arrival date but each day we get a step closer as today’s Internet morphs itself into the NGI.

You have helped IBM to develop a Net attitude. What is your advice for other companies?

First, think outside-in. Outside is where the people are. They have the power. Walk in their shoes. Listen hard to what they want and exceed their expectations. Think big but start simple and grow fast. Iterate often to improve your e-business and integrate it completely with your bricks-and-mortar business.

How do you get a “Net attitude” if you do not already have it?

Spend time with teenagers. Ask them what they do on the Net and what they think things will be like in five years. Spend an hour a week, minimum, on the Net.

Explore new sites. Pick a product or a service or a subject of interest to you. Use search engines to enter a query. Follow the links and learn what’s out there. Over time you will get the “attitude”.

Net Attitude: what it is, how to get it and why your company can’t survive without it by John Patrick is published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, price £19.99. ISBN 1-85-7882997