Chuck Martin is no Nostradamus. But as a former VP of IBM and founding publisher of Interactive Age, he thinks he knows a thing or two about the future.
However, Martins future actually looks a lot like the present. It revolves around three important Nets: the Internet, the intranet and the extranet. Products become commoditized and customers become data. Consumers bank online, shop online and take classes online. Companies gather information about customers online. And collaborative filtering and data mining prove extremely useful for turning profits. Sound familiar?
Net Future intends to help readers deal with current realities by examining how others have dealt with the changing economic landscape. On the plus side, the book offers mini-case studies: company X handled a challenge this way; company Y did it that way. Martin shares letters written by other executives, and these are rather insightful. For instance, its instructive to read how Onsales Jerry Kaplan and Pricelines Jay Walker view the Internetworked world.
The book also contains a number of checklists. Lists of dos and donts for content creation, ad sales management and wiring the work force aim to help companies plan their business strategies. Other lists like Business Rules of the Net Future and Executive Prep for the Net Future include really obvious tips: Surf the Net, learn to filter your e-mail, get a bigger hard drive, acquire a domain name and buy something online. While such assignments may seem elementary to sophisticated readers, Martin has apparently found a comfortable niche helping nonwired execs read the Internets tea leaves. Its a bit pretentious to claim you have a bead on tomorrow, especially when it doesnt look all that different from today. But amid all the recent fin de siecle future-telling, this books strength may be in telling you about whats happening in the here and now.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 8: Learning Goes Real Time, All The Time Go to school? No, school will go to you in the Net Future-if you're motivated to learn. New technologies will create classrooms in which the students may be in 100 different locations, all different from that of the teacher. Whether in colleges or corporations, whether used to gain a degree or new technical skills, online education will become an increasingly popular way to help students and workers get the education they need to remain competitive in a rapidly changing world.
There are several key drivers in the growth of online education.
1. The rapid change in skill sets required. With the growth of the knowledge economy, more and more corporate assets are developed, maintained, warehoused, managed, and distributed using information technology. The need for IT professionals is expected to double by 2006, according to the Information Technology Association of America. That new emphasis, plus changes in the technology itself-the rapid inroads of the Internet foremost among them-is driving a tremendous increase in the need for corporate training. U.S. companies spend $60 billion a year on training. The amount spent on Webbased training and education of just IT professionals will grow to nearly $2 billion by the year 2000.1 And more than half of adult education participants have some portion of their tuition reimbursed by their employers.2
2. The cost of training. About 70 percent of a company's training costs are tied up in getting people to classes: transportation, meals, lodging, and instructors. The Net has the power to eliminate those costs. Web-based training also makes the processmore efficient. Rather than having to hold multiple sessions over a long period of time, corporations will find that doing at least part of the training on the Web means that less time is needed in the classroom. Qualcomm, which makes E-mail software, finds that online preparation for classroom courses reduces butts-in-seat time by 40 percent. That is a critical factor in the highly competitive Net Future, where being slow in getting a sales force up to speed can give a competitor precious time to gain market advantage.
3. Employee recruitment and retention, Recognizing that they can no longer guarantee long-term employment-and that the workforce is increasingly mobile-companies have discovered that training programs can act as an effective employee retention tool. Both entry-level and more experienced information technology professionals say that the opportunity to improve their skills is a better.perk than flextime or additional compensation; for IT managers, it ranks third.3
When employees at CSX Technology check out job openings on the company's Intranet Career Mapping program, they learn more than simply what's available within the company. If the employee's skills don't match the position desired, the person can search the Intranet for available training and even take an online course from the company. The career-mapping center is the only place where employees can find the total picture of openings at CSX. More important, it helps define a career path within the company-an aid in retaining the knowledge that people have already gained at CSX.
4. The explosion in adult learners. Roughly 40 percent of all people pursuing degrees today are over 40. Unfortunately, these adult learners often find traditional educational schedules difficult to meet. Enter Net U, where learning adapts to the student's schedule rather than the other way around. The Chronicle of Higher Education, the bible of academic life estimates that every institution will be teaching online by the year 2000.
As bandwidth increases and standards for Web content creation become better defined in the next few years companies will be able to migrate much of the multimedia training delivered a few years ago via CD-ROM. Such training was regarded as a huge leap forward because of its ability to provide instruction on demand as well as rich animation and graphics.
In the Net Future, those digital assets will be delivered via the Net. And because the Net lends itself to alternative Me. ways of interacting with others, new ways of learning and teaching will emerge. At least one study of online education has shown that students in a virtual classroom can learn as MA- I as or better than their counterparts in a traditional classroom. 4
ANYTIME LEARNING With Net-based virtual learning centers, school will become something you do, not someplace you go. Online classrooms can include not only lectures and other materials posted by the teacher, but E-mail exchanges (teacher/student and Student/Student), bulletin boards or chat rooms for class discussions, and tests. Using the Net, education no longer will need to have students gather at one time in one physical location unless being there serves a specific purpose.
University College at the University of MaryLand is one of several colleges that have established full undergrate or graduate degree programs online. About 4004 students have enrolled in the school, and 1500 have graduated
In the Net Future, there will be a blurring of the lines between the 18-to 2 1 -year-old student body that higher education has traditionally catered to and an adult population that will be pursuing degrees in nontraditional ways, seeking professional certification or getting training to improve job skills. At SUNY, 80 percent of all students also have jobs. Those students need greater flexibility if they are to be able to handle course work at the same time.
In the Net Future, students will be buying not only an education but the convenience of how they get it. In some cases, institutions have been able to charge higher prices for online instruction than they have for campus classes; students are willing to pay tuition that is as much as four to five times higher, because online simply makes their lives easier. Convenience is the key reason students cite for taking courses online-the ability to attend "class" at midnight on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of 8 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or to do homework whenever it makes the most sense.
The same is true in the corporate training arena, where companies want to reduce the time and money employees spend physically going to training sessions. Fidelity Institutional Retirement Services Company, which administers corporate 401 (k) programs, used to offer 90-minute seminars on retirement planning that were broadcast via satellite to employees at multiple sites around the world. Using live phone hookups that allowed employees to ask questions directly of the experts and hear questions from all the other sites, the seminars were intended to dramatically cut the time needed to make presentations to a large, geographically dispersed workforce.
The seminars were designed to reduce the number of Fidelity employees who had to spend time on the road briefing their clients' employees on their retirement plan. However, the broadcast process proved too cumbersome and expensive for most clients. Fidelity found that even clients that had established their own internal broadcast systems were beginning to substitute Intranet-based information, which required no set schedule.
WELCOME TO NET U! When UOL Publishing began offering distance education 5 courses in 1984, its name was University On Line. However, when the company went public in 1996, its name was changed to reflect the fact that 80-90 percent of its customers now are corporations. Of the 700 courses in the catalog, data communications, telecommunications, and information technology are the three biggest instructional areas; there even are courses for teachers and trainers on how to develop a Web-based curriculum. The demand for online corporate training over the Internet increased the company's revenues tenfold almost overnight from $1 million in 1996 to $10.1 million in 1997. . . .