[EAS]Primordial IT Broth

pjk peter.kindlmann at yale.edu
Mon Jan 29 19:09:17 EST 2001

Subject:   Primordial IT Broth

Comment at the end.  --PJK
(from INNOVATION,  29 January 2001)

Chief executive officer, chief finance officer, chief knowledge
officer.  All that leveling of the organization certainly seemed to
have added a lot  of new chiefs. Where will it end? Perhaps in the
newly created position of  chief experience officer. These new
professionals deliver the appropriate  experience at every point of
contact a company makes with the public, says  Challis Hodge, CEO at
HannaHodge, a user experience firm that recently  appointed a CXO.
(User experience is defined as everything felt, observed,  and learned
through awareness and interaction with a company's space,  products,
services and communication.) "This CXO must understand the  processes,
methods and tools necessary to understand people, and should be  able
to translate that understanding into successful points of contact with
 users, customers, shareholders, employees, partners and visitors,"
she  says. "The CXO should be responsible for keeping the entire
organization  focused on the user and the points of contact with the
user." Eventually,  CXOs and related consultants will level out, she
predicts, because all  employees will share those tasks. But in larger
corporate environments, she  says, "I believe we'll see the adoption
and creation of the CXO position  increase dramatically. Business
success will depend on it. Customers rule!"  ("In Search of the Chief
Experience," Web Techniques Feb 2001)

In an interview with Peter Blacklow, senior VP-marketing at
Monster.com,  one of the Web's pre-eminent job-search engines, B2B
found that -- despite  the well-publicized failures of many dot-com
firms -- the market for Web  employment is still strong. In September,
Monster launched ChiefMonster, a  link within the site geared toward
senior executives, and more than 100,000  top execs have logged on so
far. More importantly, Blacklow says that it's  not taking long for
most of them to find jobs. In fact, many Web businesses  are looking
for executives with traditional business experience, having  found out
the hard way that dot-coms have to start behaving like legitimate 
businesses in order to be viable for the long term. "Companies are
figuring  out how to be profitable and how to build a business that
just happens to  take place over the Internet," he says. "To do that,
the dot-coms are  looking for quality senior management with not only
brand-building skills  but also the ability to generate profit."
("Internet Job Market Still a  Monster," B2B Online 18 Dec 2000)

Recruiting and retaining qualified employees is an enormous challenge
in  the current tight labor market, but that's not even half the
battle. For a  company to succeed in the information age, it must have
employees who are  paying attention, who are engaged in the company
mission and able to  prioritize their work accordingly. The Institute
for the Future recently  found that the average white-collar worker
daily sends and receives 190  messages via e-mail, voice, fax, mail,
etc. It's not surprising that nearly  three out of four of those
workers say they feel overwhelmed by information  overload. To keep
employees focused on the task at hand, "companies must...  create an
environment in which those employees have both the time, plus the 
relatively uninterrupted attention, to perform at peak efficiency,"
writes  author Mark Patterson. At the same time, companies must be
able to capture  employees' attention, a challenge made difficult by
the entrepreneurial  nature of most knowledge workers. To keep them
motivated and focused,  companies must modify the traditional top-down
style of management and  shift to a system where employees participate
in critical decision-making.  ("High-Performance Workplaced Demand New
Strategies for Management,  Measurement," Site Selection Magazine Nov

Dear Colleagues -

Some glimmers of awareness that structure in the workplace might
actually be a good thing, like job definitions that derive from
sensible choices of division of labor. 

Information technology doesn't bring with it the structural
perceptions that make it productive, any more than easier printing and
publishing has anything to do with editorial acuity. That's why some
publications get ever bigger and indigestible, while others (like one
of my favorites, The Economist) stay the same size and reflect more
hard-wrought editorial judgement. 

The diffusion of IT-enabled jobs into each other that leads to
employees having to deal with those 190 acts of communication daily
reduces us to swimming in some primordial IT broth at a rather low
level of evolution. Perhaps we are all somebody's Darwinian
experiment, but the vocabulary of traditional business practice still
has much to teach us. Even Corporate Experience Officers and Corporate
Knowledge Officers still strike me as "jelly fish", large, soft and
transparent, in this primordial broth. Somewhere, it is to be hoped,
creatures with spines will evolve and safely crawl ashore.

All best,  --Peter Kindlmann

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