Look Before You Leap at e-Business Consultants

When it comes to soliciting help with the e-transformation of your traditional business, don't press the panic button.

Keep your wits about you. Think long and hard about who's qualified to help you retool and redeploy. Never before in the history of technology has the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) factor played such an acute role in the making of snap decisions on technology overhauls.

The trouble with the Internet is that it has generated an unprecedented global advice factory that feeds off an upswelling of panic and insecurity.

Established multinationals that view the Internet like the corporate sequel to The Andromeda Strain are willing to take guidance from just about anybody who's convincing. It's not the fittest, it's the fastest talkers and sharpest salesmen who are making inroads with young dot-com hopefuls and e-commerce executives at traditional companies that have numbers to meet every 90 days.

In his craving for quick advice, a CEO is as likely to turn to his ad agencies as his management consultant, or yield to his IT vendors or - worse - an investment banker touting some hot Internet professional services IPO that claims to have all the answers.

The trouble with this panicky scramble for advice is the life-threatening risk involved in making these decisions and the faith CEOs are putting in these Internet experts. Most knowledgeable folks would agree the experts in Internet strategy haven't yet emerged. It's too new for everyone.

The media have served up an image of the Internet as the Wild, Wild West, where new-economy 49ers pan for gold and intrepid trailblazers chart new territory.

But I think these metaphors aren't accurate to describe life on the Internet gravy train.

The Wild, Wild West was dangerous, dirty and unforgiving. It was filled with murderers and thieves, wild animals, harsh terrain and native inhabitants who fought long and hard to keep their homeland. Getting around was difficult.

Eating three square meals was difficult. Survivors, albeit a scruffy lot, endured considerable hardship to prevail. Except for the killer instincts of some Web entrepreneurs, this hardly describes today's Internet frontier.

Givers of Internet advice have it easy. Their lives resemble the Garden of Eden, where everything is beautiful, safe and plentiful. Where's the fear and adversity when scary conversations take place in plush resorts and rough neighborhoods have microbreweries? A guru's life in the Garden of Internet Eden is worry-free. He has little accountability for his advice. After all, he's feeding off people who are a bit delirious from their staggering market caps and media wet kisses and who can get away with business plans that say, "We may never make a profit."

Ahem. This is business fantasy, a paradise - not the OK Corral. Peddling heretical advice and challenging executives to take gargantuan risks is easy when you have nothing to lose.

So before you get swept away by the fear whipped up by the new Internet apostles, collect your thoughts. Resist the urge to yield to the mind-altering power of FUD. At the end of the day, these are simply IT services firms and consultants. The discipline you've applied to choosing help from these firms in the past is applicable in today's Internet economy.

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