Meeting demand in the on-demand era

The old ways are dead, like it or not

Everything is in place, the ducks are lining up nicely.

We have the great generational change from humans raised in an analog world and artificially inseminated with a digital gene to real live humans naturally born and bred into the digital age.

Out of this comes an entirely new approach to how these digital beings analyze their surroundings, solve problems, and conduct business.

And finally, we have the technology, both in terms of major shifts like Web 2.0 but also in the nuts and bolts like IBMs first server product line designed to work the way Web 2.0 works, moving in to place to support it all.

I spoke with Steve Papermaster, CEO of NGenera, formerly BSG Alliance -- a name change that might speak volumes about the changes sweeping across the global business landscape, thanks in some measure to powerful demographic forces Papermaster sees at work in the marketplace.

Anyone with two eyes in their head can see that today's young people work differently than most of us old analogers. They have 32 things going on simultaneously. They are texting their friends, perusing songs on their iPods, surfing Facebook, posting Twitter entries -- all while doing their homework.

In the US alone, there are 80 million people like this. They are between the ages of 13 and their late 20s, many of whom are just now entering the workforce.

"This is the echo from the baby boom generation," says Papermaster.

This digital generation -- always connected, highly collaborative -- will transform social networking into a way of doing business.

And here we have a second force at work: "consumerization" as a major technology driver for the enterprise. A nod to those who first identified this trend as one that will increasingly set the business agenda.

Every demand is on demand

Consider eBay. The company lays out a nine-month strategy to enter the Asian market. From an operational standpoint, the plan must include the ability to support millions of new buyers and sellers. The problem is, consumers in this market have already "self-selected" eBay -- pushing the business plan forward from outside the company because of the fast-paced and growing World Wide Web.

According to NGenera, these forces are leading toward a far less hierarchical structure to business organizations and one that values peer collaboration; a business climate that may be more inclined to sharing rather than in protecting IP; a movement from a plan-and-push-out mentality to one that emphasizes engagement and co-innovation.

In the old days, business centered around transactions and ERP. Even if you were a multinational company, you rolled out a marketing strategy slowly, across borders, which reflected local markets and pricing.

Today you can't wait weeks or months to find out results. You can't implement a marketing strategy that takes months to roll out across the globe. You can't have lags built into pricing changes because of the rapid nature of currency fluctuations.

Commodities used to be more stable, like fuel prices. Now they change in a nanosecond. Everything is on demand.

"Think globally, act locally" might have been your mantra but not today.

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