Do you know B.I.? It’s a time you might not even know anymore: “Before Internet”. I heard this term from Joi Ito the director of the MIT Media Lab.
B.I. determines a point in time starting an evolution which has changed the way we do business.
OK, this is no big news to all who regularly use online services, try to sell via the internet or use it to stay up to date. But are we aware of the different ways it affects our business life?
We continuously build business on each other, the internet makes it even more visible. Google for example benefits from any new website coming up, it is a new resource they can show and it means more users being interested in the web. Tools like Buffer exist because others have created services like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, it is the invitation to share news that enables Buffer to have a business case.
This evolution continues and has reached traditional business in a way which is unexpected for most of them.
In their effort to be on top of business, they create websites, create tools to show their services or bring their product closer to the users. The missing detail, which is not always realized, is the how much the methods being used to create and succeed in business have changed.
This evolution can be described with three “internet eras”: B.I., Web 2.0 and now.
The B.I. time is the world of traditional methods. An idea always needs a plan and a description, but in those times it had to be well thought through in order to be presented and decided upon. the presentation was the enable for action. It is the time of “Publish or Perish”, research or ideas had to be presented to be seen.
With the internet becoming widely available working methods and the way we wanted to be persuaded changed. This is about the time when Web 2.0 was hype. Ideas, projects and plans are still needed, but the planning process changed to include demonstrations instead of presentations. We wanted to see that it might work and looked for a model or demonstration. This is the time for which Nicholas Negroponte famously said “Demo or die”. Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the MIT Media Lab, implied then that the ability to demonstrate once would be enough of an invitation for others to develop and do whatever necessary to make it work.
The last evolution is “Deploy or Die”, as it is called by Joi Ito. You can watch his TED talk here: Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist”. The basics remain unchanged, a projct still needs ideas and a plan, but it is change which has now been embedded in projects.
We know that a project often doesn’t have a crystal clear end, we accepted that a constant evolution is the way to go. Brands create their logos and will make it go with time, sometimes changing almost imperceptible details. IT is similar, in all the companies I have seen some tools had been there for a very long time. In one of them it was a time tracking system which has been around for more than 20 years. It started as a simple tool, change then required a new project and a lot of user requests. Today it is constantly adapted, thus remaining on top of technology and responding to user needs.
Unfortunately a lot of “traditional” companies keep the old project planning approach, selecting, defining, starting and making the project will go by milestones, requiring a lot of time for each one. In fact until the project ends, the environment will usually have changed, leaving the company lagging behind the market more and more.
For a long time perfection in customer service meant to provide tools which work without errors, which is why developers tried to create error free tools prior to deployment. Now, deployment is the moment we share our product with our customers. Knowing that the experience will not be error free, the target is to make sure that customer experience is good, even when errors occur. In other words, perfection has become the ability to keep up with market speed and customer relationship.
It is all about communication.
The internet makes things look simple. Those who want to use it, can do so without wondering about the complexity behind it. Things change the moment we want to use it for business, even more so, when we do it to reach a global market. Effective communication means to understand the way users want to communicate, that is their language as well as their needs. Understanding both, we will remain adaptable to the market and not only survive but deploy successful products.
[Original publication via frogstalk.com, July 13, 2014]