The Way Business Is Moving published by
Issue Date: February 2002

People dynamics

1 February 2002
Pierre Fourie: managing partner, KPMG Consulting

The e-business revolution is changing people dynamics.
While much has been said about the effects that the e-business landscape has on organisations for example, globalisation, lack of traditional customer loyalty and the Internet, there has been a distinct lack of understanding and discussion around an increasing important fourth factor - people dynamics.
Organisations around the world are struggling to come to terms with the internal impact that e-business is having on their companies. Employees today are faced with a new dilemma - an increase in information and technological capabilities, while still trying to find the time to digest the information. Due to the increase in technology and access to the abundance of information, many employees are faced with 24 hour work days.
Pierre Fourie: managing partner, KPMG Consulting
Pierre Fourie: managing partner, KPMG Consulting
They have a day job, whereby they undertake their current work functions and an evening job wherein they try to grapple with the changing environment and the influence of change on their daily functions. The reason for this is simple, there have not been any systematic and structured mechanisms developed for internal personnel to amalgamate the changes in technology and business models with their current work scenarios.
To ensure business succeeds in going forward, companies need to focus much of their 'e' drives around developing a balance between change and training to ensure they are effectively equipped to deal with the flux in job specs, for example, speed to market, quicker turn-around time etc. If this is not done correctly, organisations will start to feel that they are not getting any real value out of their e-business initiatives, due to the uncertainty created internally.
The current market situation around e-business initiatives, is very much like the situation the industry faced a few years back when ERP implementations were considered the new evolution in creating value for a business. As with all new technology, many organisations scrambled to ensure they were on par with the industry, but failed to fully understand the implications of the project and forecast the impact it would have internally. Therefore, many organisations felt that its lengthy ERP projects did not deliver the business value originally promised by the market.
To ensure that businesses do not see themselves in a similar situation with the e-business wave, companies need to examine the fundamental objectives before undertaking any new 'e' project. Firstly, an organisation needs to clarify if they have considered what advantages they will gain for the business by conducting business electronically, and secondly, they should examine what the impact and benefits of utilising the Internet will be - this all needs to be done in the context of how any initiative will affect the entire supply chain including its people dynamics.
For too long there has been mystique created around the advent of e-business, however organisations need to consider how they are going to cope with the gap that this new technology and business model is likely to create internally. For example, once an e-business project is undertaken, how will the company derive value from the software while still allowing its employees to grasp, implement and capitalise on any new initiatives and customers to relate to and understand the change. Therefore careful examination is warranted as to why a company needs to utilise the Internet and its value-added services as a new avenue to market. While it is implicitly understood that an organisation needs to keep abreast of market trends to ensure that they take advantage of what any new industry drivers has to offer, a company needs to examine how they will derive and maintain value from any of these new projects in relation to its people objectives.
South African companies should actively pursue new technologies, however they need to still apply the same sound business principle as they do with any physical project undertaken. Therefore, organisations need to get back to basics, as the promise of technology has become very complex and organisations run the risk of alienating its employees and customers from its 'e' projects if they do not understand how to demonstrate the value-add.
Rather take the approach of understanding what is available in the market around e-business solutions, evaluating its return on investment and matching this to your customer and employee needs. Examine the business holistically and not in separate divisions or departments to determine overall impact on the business. A soloed approach will only address specific problems and not a whole business need.

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