Its All Coming Together

The person who does not worry about the future will shortly have worries about the present.

"The person who does not worry about the future will shortly have worries about the present." — Chinese proverb

Yes, its difficult to think about the future. Todays executives, used to working up three- and five-year business plans, now look no further than the next quarter. And, as the events of the last few weeks proved, planning a strategy for even the next three months is, at best, a roll of the dice.

But, as Richard Williamson points out in this weeks cover story, those responsible for setting corporate Internet strategies can get a feel for what will be needed tomorrow by watching what kids are doing online today.

What are they doing? Well, everything. Theyre using wireless devices for communication, information and entertainment. Theyre buying billions of dollars worth of stuff on the Web. And, like all consumers, they increasingly demand that sellers and marketers cater to their needs. While we older folks may worry about whos looking over our shoulder when we bounce around the Net, teen-agers want marketers to know who they are so that special offers and customized products can be sent their way.

The good news is I-managers seem to be ready for the future.

A report released last week from research firm Gartner finds wireless technologies, security and privacy issues, and customer relationship management (CRM) among the top five issues with which information and Internet technology decision makers are wrestling.

The results of the Gartner study mirror many of the findings from our own I-manager survey, the results of which were published in the May 21 issue.

At that time we found that security was the top I-manager challenge, and that wireless technologies and e-CRM topped the list of future trends about which I-managers were most concerned. But while we, and others, concentrate on individual technologies and issues when gazing into our crystal balls, the most important trend were likely to see is the convergence of Internet technologies, online marketing and e-commerce activities.

Today its impossible for I-managers to be concerned about e-CRM without being worried about the products and services customers are buying and the Internet devices from which theyre making their purchases.

"Upon closer look," the Gartner report summarized, "managers also ranked virtual private networks and secure mobile users as key issues within mobile and wireless technology. Similarly, managers ranked mobile commerce business scenarios as key issues with CRM; disaster recovery and business continuity as a key issue with Web services."

Yes, its hard to think about the future. Its even more difficult to think about a spread of issues and technologies and how they interact with each other. "The Web and Web-based computing has led to organizations taking a more holistic view in regard to all their business decisions," says Gartner vice president and research fellow Jamie Popkin. But its the whole — with all the pieces — that I-managers must worry about today in order to avoid worries in the future.