Transitioning to the NetGen Environment

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In prior columns I have detailed the growing role of the Internet generation (herein, the NetGen). This generation, born after 1982, is special for a variety of reasons. How special? For starters, this "Playstation" generation is the first to know only digital technology. In a recent focus group conducted among 13-year-old NetGens, none of the participants knew what a typewriter was. The NetGen will grow from 30 percent of the world's population today to a forecasted 45 percent by 2015, or almost one of every two people. The NetGen is what Time's March 27, 2006, cover article referred to as genM, or the multitasking generation. The article discussed the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2005 survey of Americans ages 8 to 18. On average, children in this age group spend 6.5 hours per day using electronic media (8.5 hours per day, if you take into account the time spent multitasking). Whether or not 6.5 hours per day is the most appropriate way for children of this age to spend their time, here's the take-away: In 10 years the NetGen will be key contributors to the workforce; in 15 years they will hold managerial positions in the workforce; and in 20 years they will run your organization or entirely new ones that you will depend on for survival. Organizational and behavioral transitions for NetGen workers should start now. For example, to secure NetGen employees you may need to create new business processes and access to needed information available in an always-on, always-connected environment. If you can't provide this environment, you'll be less attractive to the NetGen workforce. It may also mean doing things entirely differently when dealing with customers and prospects as well as suppliers to ensure that NetGen buyers and suppliers want and like to do business with your organization. ISM customers have begun the transition to the NetGen: The executive team at one AAA club agreed to significantly beef up its Web-site capabilities for NetGen buyers and suppliers. In fact, the team agreed to create and execute a 10-year e-customer strategy and implementation plan. The executive board at one of our global manufacturing customers acknowledged that existing and new buyer channels now insist on conducting business only digitally, and have moved to PC-based purchasing. The president of this company worries even more about the explosion of digital buyers that "seem to have a special hot key on their PC to secure instant quotes from stiff Chinese competition." To successfully compete in the NetGen environment, these two companies and others need to follow a six-step protocol, outlined below. Companies that follow this plan will be more equipped to transition to the NetGen environment. 1. Conduct internal business process and internal organizational readiness assessments. These assessments baseline your organization's readiness to create and implement needed processes and procedures for your inevitable internal NetGen workforce. 2. Perform an external business process assessment regarding how always-on, always-connected NetGen buyers and suppliers wish to conduct their future business with you. Let them drive this assessment. 3. Gather best-in-class business and organizational processes that address the needs of the NetGen. Here's some good news: These processes are becoming increasingly available for review. 4. Secure appropriate buy-in and long-term funding for this cultural transition (while this may be challenging, don't start down the transition road without it). 5. Create your Organizational/Behavioral NetGen Transition Plan. Be sure to use short-, medium-, and long-term milestones and metrics to measure progress. 6. Execute with excellence, but acknowledge that your organization will be working at the edge of the envelope, so amply allow for mistakes. Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM Inc., a CRM real-time enterprise consulting firm in Bethesda, MD. He is the author of
CRM Automation and the publisher of The Guide to CRM Automation. Contact him at bgoldenberg@ismguide.com
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