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Whole Systems, not Money down a Hole

Today, the typical business, be it large or small, boasts some sort of a web site. The company may have spent thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars producing it, and spends more each month to host and update it. That is, if they ever update it. But why update something that is little more than an online brochure? I mean, their address hasn't changed, and they still have the same phone number. They're still in the same building; the one prominently featured on the top-level banner. Besides, they don't even know if anybody ever looks at the damn thing. They haven't in months. Why should they? There's nothing new to see, do or learn. The Web's interactive nature is utterly squandered.

In the scenario above, the company's web site is not much more than a virtual hole that money disappears into.

Let's look at another scenario; the Whole Systems Scenario. Imagine a Web Site that is actually integrated into the business. The site is a useful business system in its own right. It is as useful and indispensable as a telephone -- or a cash register.

Customers and suppliers come to the site on a regular basis, because it is dynamic and continually offers new information and services. The information may range from product news and reviews, to abstracts of important trade publications. It may include a library , dictionary and glossary of industry terms and technologies. Services may include online purchasing, inventory systems, fulfillment tracking, appointment scheduling. There are also mechanisms for direct feedback between customers, suppliers and the company. This can be accomplished through online conferencing (virtual meetings), bulletin boards, or even Internet Telephone. The company's management has real-time access to data regarding the site's use; it's no longer a guessing game as to whether or not the damn thing carries its own weight. Management and staff now have statistical information on customer behaviour, likes and dislikes, that was previously difficult, if not impossible to access in a timely manner.

Customers feel more in control, as does the company. Suppliers are more responsive, more like partners, and inventory is better managed. Armed with improved data and communications, product cycles are shortened, and potential market failures are forecast and avoided. Competitive advantages are revealed and exploited. Efficiencies are realized in travel,telecommunications, and other charges.

This is the vision and reality of Whole Systems thinking, and it is inherent in the wise use of the Web's interactive nature.

Steve Solomon, December 30, 1999

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