Will all companies become “Internet companies”?

I have been quoted saying that, in the future, all companies will be Internet companies. I still believe that. More than ever, really. Andrew Grove

Very interesting and intelligent person, Dr. Andrew Grove, but even the brightest minds can see evolutions in the wrong perspective…

Let me change this quote and use it 100 years back in time: “all companies will be telephone companies. I still believe that. More than ever, really”.

Or 550 years back: “all companies will be print companies. I still believe that. More than ever, really”.

See the perspective? Like the telephone or print, the internet is nothing more but a communication tool. Internet is the first mass medium in both directions. Both sender and receiver can broadcast their message. But it is not a shop nor a solution!

Yes, it changes the way we work and Internet brings us new tools to sell and promote our business, but is this on its way to become the central point of every company?

Examples My grocer around then corner uses the internet to place his orders with his suppliers and he uses email, but does this make him an Internet company? Can you call this order processing “e-business”? I think it is just a more convenient replacement for the fax he used to write in the evening.

My favourite restaurant has a web site consisting of 4 pages, one for each language but they only use it as an electronic ‘business card’. Is this an Internet restaurant now?
Even if we look at the Internet stores selling things online…
“The internet shop” can only be a real online shop for non-physical goods (like software, tickets for travel or events,…). As soon as you order physical goods, your internet-shop is nothing more or less than the mail order catalogue. You look, you like, you call to order or you fill in the card. The tool you use to order is a different one, but the processes behind the screen are absolute similar.

Instead of prepress, you need an online content management system. Instead of a call centre, you need a technical link between website and order processing system. So it as not that new after all.

The revolutionary part is the possibility of interaction with your customer and the measurement and targeting of your audience.

And here is the future of our online business. At this point much data is collected but not used, we only see the beginning of the targeting of content and products, and interaction grows every day due to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media … But what we see now is only the beginning.

So where Andrew Grove is right, every company will use the medium Internet, but this will never be the core of every business.

Just like my mother has trouble to understand why we need 3 remotes to operate the television, most people think of the internet as a solution, not as a communication medium.
Solution for saving money:
“If we use Skype instead of the normal phone or e-mail instead of fax we can cut costs on communications.“

Solution for teamwork:
“All workers are on remote locations, we our teams collaborate thanks to online tools.”

Solution for more marketing reach:
“Since we have our website online we sell more to people from far away.”
In none of the cases Internet is the SOLUTION. The Internet is the TOOL to provide the solution. Maybe other tools might even do the job more efficient. And how this evolution will influence employment in the future is yet unknown.

But if we look at the e-commerce/ mailorder evolution we see that instead of a large group of many (cheap) unskilled people, you need a lot of (expensive) technology and some very skilled (expensive) people.

TBC in a company near you!