Expectations Expanding by the Day – Power to the People

JRP Reflecting

Reflection – written October 28, 1999

The Internet is causing a massive transfer of power from institutions (companies, universities, governments) to people. Not in the sense of anarchy but rather in the sense that people can express their choices and wield their economic votes with a simple click of a mouse or cell phone button. One click one vote is near. (The percentage of people who vote is likely to increase when it is not necessary to get in your car on a snowy day to go to the polling place.) The whole idea of “Power to the People” translates to rising expectations. In fact expectations are expanding by the day. Consumers who grew up playing Nintendo games have an intuitive feel for video interactions. All of us who have had positive experiences on a web site expect all web sites to deliver the same kinds of experiences. Yet so many web sites do not yet fulfill those high expectations.
Recently I called a global hotel chain on a Friday evening to make a reservation for the following Friday evening. The reservations agent told me the room was available. I was connected to their frequent stayer program on the web at the time and found the award code that was appropriate and so I asked the agent if I could use the award for the reservation. “I don’t have access to that system” I was told. How do I use the award I asked. “No problem sir. Just call us long distance on Monday morning during our normal business hours, give us your credit card number, and for $35 we will overnight express the award to you”. When I expressed disappointment over this I was told that I should feel good about this expedited service because it normally takes six to eight weeks to get the award! Is this e-business? Certainly not. What is the problem? In a nutshell it is lack of application integration. e-businesses have now migrated from a phase one “brochureware” to a phase two self service model and now need to move on to a phase three model of integrated applications. This means enabling reservation applications to talk to frequent flier systems and ordering systems to talk to fulfillment systems. All the silos need to be connected to be able to meet the expectations of e-business customers. Fortunately there are many tools to make this possible. (see IBM WebSphere Commerce).
Part of meeting expectations is changing our thinking and our vocabulary. The following is an email I received when making an inquiry about an investment account at an on-line brokerage…..

Dear Mr. Patrick,
Thank you for your recent e-mail inquiry. Unfortunately I would not be able to take a request of this kind through e-mail. You would have to speak to a representative in our Customer Service Department and he/she will take your request. One can be reached Monday-Friday between 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.. Call Customer Service and they will put you in contact with a Representative.
If you have any additional questions or comments, please email us at [email protected] or you may call a Customer Service Representative, Monday through Friday, 7:00AM to 8:30PM (Eastern Time), toll-free, at 1-800-999-9999.
John Smith
Internet Representative

“Our normal business hours” is a term that has no meaning in a global network. 800 numbers can’t be dialed from Europe. “Power to the People” dictates a new vocabulary and a new attitude.
Another dimension of “Power to the People” is ubiquitous access. Today more than 95% of all web pages are viewed using a PC and a browser. That may drop to less than 50% in two years. Is the growth of PC’s going to stop? Very unlikely. However, web enabled mobile phones, personal digital assistants, pagers, kiosks, and a whole new class of personal information appliances are about to burst on the scene in numbers that will dwarf PC’s. An October 1999 announcement by IBM and Handelsbanken of Sweden of a joint project to utilize WAP (wireless access protocol) to deliver XML data and applications from the mainframe to Nokia and Ericsson mobile phones is the tip of the iceberg. It is all part of Expectations. People will expect to perform any transaction at any time from anywhere.
The bottom line for institutions is to seize the opportunity and respond to the Expectations. The major choice they have to make is whether they are going to accommodate the Internet and continue to manage their institution much as they have been managing it or to totally embrace the new medium as a natural extension of thier business and accommodate the way they have been doing business. For those who choose the latter I offer four simple ideas to help make the transition. First is to Think Outside In. The people are out there and they have the power. Second is to thing big, start simple, grow fast. The old model was plan – build – deliver. An eighteen month cycle. The Internet model is sense – respond. An eighteen day cycle. Third is to build on a framework. An e-business application needs to be planned for growth. A solid framework can help assure that (see IBM Industry Frameworks ). Fourth is to “Get a taste of Internet culture”. Get a sixteen year old to approve new corporate web sites. Talk to a 75 year old who is proficient with email how they communicated and build relationshiops online. The e-kids and the e-elders totally get it. What about the rest of us?