Creating the Collaborative Enterprise
David J. Skyrme
Chapter 4 Update
Since this chapter was written we have seen the tremendous growth in launches and valuation of virtual (dot.com) companies, followed by a severe downturn (starting in April 2000). In 1999-2000 there was significant investment in virtual B2B (business-to-business) exchanges (see page 104) such as chemdex.com for specialist chemicals and i2i.com for general industrial goods. At its peak there were over 1,000 planned exchanges, Today, perhaps less than a third are actively trading. The rise and fall, of dot.coms and an anlysis of B2B exchanges forms two chapters of the follow-up book Capitalizing on Knowledge.
All is not gloom, however. Overall usage of the Internet - and intranet - knowledge sharing continues to grow rapidly. Individual companies like eBay are profitable, and few large organizations do not have both an Internet and intranet that connects them to partners, customers and suppliers. As noted in the section on megatrends of chapter 1 (page 11 onwards), sometimes the public at large do not see the fundamental shifts, and simply 'follow the herd' leading to wild gyrations (e.g. price volatility) around the average trend. Clearly investors need to work carefully to pick out winners from losers. One of the pioneers CDnow featured on page 104 is suffering setbacks in face of growing stiff competition from amazon.com and a myriad of sites offering music in the MP3 format (e.g. mp3.com). Despite its several years of losses Amazon.com continues to be an excellent example of exploiting customer knowledge (page 105).
No Going Back
While the fortunes of individual companies will ebb and flow, virtualization as a whole is growing. For example, a recent US survey showed that telecommuting is growing as fast as ever. Virtual teams are mentioned with increasing frequency in corporate reorganizations - since people do not have to relocate as organization structures change. And, as noted in the update to chapter 1, both consumers and businesses are communicating and transacting ever more over the Internet. An indication of the ongoing developments is the growing number of e-words e.g. e-biz (see for example Business Week's online ebiz publication), e-procurement, and e-government - sure indications of ongoing developments.
In an interesting shift of strategy Encyclopaedia Britannica (page 104) started to offer its content free on the web. After a $20 million launch and marketing campaign in mid-1999, it quickly found its website (surprise, surprise) heavily overloaded and unable to cope. Later, after increasing capacity, it offered users the same and even more up-to-date content for which they would previously have paid hundreds of dollars. It initially hoped to position itself as a major reference portal and gain revenues through advertising and sales of affiliated products. Since that did not achieve the expected results either, some content is now charged for. Simlar shifts in business models have taken place at FT.com, with free content being supplemented by premium (padi-for) content.
Do you have any discussion points that arise from this chapter or your thinking about the Points to Ponder at the end of the chapter? What are your views on electronic markets? Is your company actively participating in them? If so, with what benefits?
The Knowledge Connections web site provides a comprehensive resource for many topics covered in the chapter. You can also subscribe to a free monthly email briefing I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International news. Also make sure you check out Butterworth-Heinemann's Knowledge Management section from time to time for details of new publications and special offers.
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