What is good for the organization and what is good for the customer are not always the same thing.Organizations are used to saying to customers: "Here's what we have. If you like it, you're going to have to adapt to how we do business." But on the Web, the customer has much more control. The customer is saying to the organization: "Here's what I want. If you have it, great, but adapt to me." The organization needs the customer. The customer needs the organization. So, shouldn't that lead to a perfect marriage? No. What's at play is complexity and change. Most people and most organizations are inherently conservative. We resist complexity and change. This world is a swirl of ever-increasing complexity and change. So, the questions become: Who changes? Who takes on the complexity? I was with an organization recently that will not accept email enquiries from the public. It is a long-established organization and it simply has not been able (or willing) to initiate the internal changes required to allow email enquires. It can deal with customers coming into its offices. It can deal with customers ringing up. It can deal with customers sending in letters. But it can't (won't) deal with its customers sending in emails. It is cheaper and often more efficient to deal with an enquiry or support question by email (not to mention by online chat). So why doesn't the organization do this? Because this is a large organization and changing to a situation where email enquiries can be received will cause it a lot of hassle and complexity. Intranets are notorious places for organizational complexity, departmental chest-thumping, and vanity publishing. Without proper management, they become a peacock's paradise and an acronym and jargon jamboree. It would seem that internally, the department and the division is the enemy of the organization. It's a complex world. And there is a choice. Will the organization take on this complexity so as to make things simpler for the customer? Or will the customer take on the complexity thus making life easier for the organization? In a rigid authoritarian society, customers and citizens have no choice. They have to fill out long forms, stand in line, adhere to archaic rules, and bow to inflexible bureaucracy. But in a modern and open society, the shoe of complexity is on the other foot. It is the organization that must bend and be flexible. It is the organization that must wear out leather as it rushes around trying to simplify the world for the customer. This need for flexibility is equally necessary within the organization. Staff are no longer thankful for jobs for life, because there are no jobs for life. They are no longer as willing to learn and adapt to badly designed internal processes. The old organization must give way to a new, much more flexible model. The organization can no longer easily say: adapt to us. Organization is not an end in itself. The end is to achieve an objective. What is the objective? Serve the customer. In a complex world, serving means making simple.

About the Author

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.