It is said that we overestimate the short-term impacts of a revolution and underestimate the longer-term ones. I have known people who overestimated and others who underestimated the short-term impacts of the Web. I have met some who believed that after the dot com bust, the Web wasn't that important anymore. They couldn't be more wrong.The travel industry has been changed by the Web. "The Web caught a lot of people unawares," a member of the travel industry recently told me. "First it was five percent of the market, and people thought, ah, it's only five percent. Then it was ten percent of the market, and then it was like this big juggernaut."
Even during the dot com bust the Web kept growing, as more and more people went online. Almost imperceptibly it became part of the daily lives of millions of people. If they wanted to know about something, they would check it up on the Web. Today, for millions and millions, if it's not on the Web then it probably doesn't exist.
Of course, this is not true for every industry or sector. There are certain industries where the Web is really not that critical, and there are certain countries where not all that many are online. However, where the Web is making a difference, it is making a real difference. It is affecting profitability and productivity, sometimes in a positive way, sometimes negatively.
Many senior managers still don't truly understand what the Web is useful for. I see many intranets languishing because senior management doesn't take them seriously. That often results in intranets that are productivity drains rather than gains. Many public websites are simply not reaching their potential for similar reasons.
Do you feel that your organization is not using the Web to its full potential? How long more do you think that can continue before competitors achieve a real edge over you because they are using the Web effectively? I feel that 2004 is a watershed year where the Web moves into an early maturity phase.
The bubble has burst, the cloud of hype has cleared, and the Web is still here, vibrant, strong and growing. For management not to engage at a strategic level with the Web today is unacceptable. The Web needs management and management will increasingly need the Web in order to achieve its objectives.
Professional content management doesn't exist in most organizations. Let me put it another way: the professional management of content is not happening. I know of numerous organizations that allocate the creation and management of content to the most junior resource they can find. Either that or they outsource it to some agency.
If written well, content can be a critical asset that will increase productivity, profitability, staff and customer loyalty. Done badly it can undermine all these things. Content requires serious attention from senior management and it is not getting that attention, except in organizations that have truly embraced the Web, and those are still the minority, in my experience.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.