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The Internet as a Tool,....Not a Miracle
by: Mark S. Deion
Deion Associates & Strategies, Inc.

Current opinions about the internet describe it as either the best or the worst technological development in the 20'th century. Some describe it as an efficient tool which allows them to conduct commerce, perform research and market their products and services. Others describe it as an enormous "black hole" in cyberspace which only adds to the confusion of doing business in an ever-competitive economic landscape.

The reality is that both of these contrary opinions are accurate and true. he internet can be used to make a company more effective and efficient. It can also be used to completely disorganize and decentralize the activities of a company. Technological innovations can be advantageous if they are understood and implemented in a fashion which allows a company to realize actual benefits. Merely accessing a new technology does not necessarily mean that something positive or productive will occur. The key word to be considered when utilizing the internet is "tool", and that's exactly what the internet is,....a tool.

Many businesses have "followed the trend" and have initiated a web site on the internet with the expectation that something positive would occur with their business. These businesses may have incurred significant expenses related to: hardware, software, web site development, personnel training, personnel time to maintain the web site, etc. They have probably also been faced with the impossible task of attempting to keep pace with the never-ending releases of hardware and software upgrades in an effort to ensure that they possess a state of the art web site.

Many of the businesses which "jumped" onto the internet were met with dashed hopes, minimal responses, increased demands on their time and finances, and little if any positive financial rewards. Although the tool may have been correct, the manner in which it was used leaves much to be desired.

The internet is a tool, much like a computer is a tool. It can not perform any task unless programmed to do so. A failure to develop a definitive plan of implementation and operation for the use of the internet will most likely result in a poor internet program.

Many companies assume that by initiating an internet presence, something positive will happen to their company. If you think that your company is next in line for a miracle, go ahead and create a web site without developing a plan, and wait for the miracle to occur! When the miracle does not happen, you might want to work on developing a plan which will allow your company to utilize the internet as a tool.

Do you intend to use the internet to:
Gather information.
        Perform data research.
        Research customers.
        Research competitors.
        Review other web sites and data resources.

Disseminate information.
        Communicate to known individuals.
        Communicate to the general public.
        Provide customer support.
        Provide product support.

Receive Information.
        Subscribe to various informational sources.
        Provide communication access to non-company sources.

Interact with customers/potential customers.
        Perform commerce.
        Engage in financial transactions.

Interact with company personnel and staff.
        Provide access to corporate information.
        Centralize corporate activities.
        Enhance corporate training activities.

The above list should provide a company with the basic information necessary to begin outlining what they want their use of the internet to accomplish. This basic outline should identify what level of internet program should be initiated. A company should use the internet to make something which they are currently doing, more effective, more efficient, more economical.

It might be possible that the initial internet presence for a company does not require the creation of a web site, but merely the installation of internet access softwares on corporate computers to allow personnel to browse the internet for information. If a company is only interested in increasing their ability to gather information and receive messages via e-mail, then the initial internet program should not be too difficult or expensive to initiate.

Such a program would also allow the company to communicate to all personnel within the company possessing an e-mail address, while also allowing for external communication (to and from) with anyone else on the internet with an e-mail address. The ability to increase communication capabilities and the dissemination of information via file attachments to e-mail messages could result in significant cost savings.

If a company is looking to market/advertise their products and services to the general public, then the development of a web site is definitely in order. One would need to determine if this site should be designed with the ability to engage in actual ordering and financial transactions, or, if the site is merely used as an advertising/marketing tool.

A company may decide to use a web site to provide existing and potential customers with numerous documents, supportive information, newsletters, and even downloadable software. Such a site significantly reduces the cost of manually producing and forwarding this type of information on an individual basis.

These are just a few of the opportunities available by utilizing the internet. Equipment and software has been developed to allow for excellent internet, intranet and extranet programs. A company needs to ascertain how to use these tools to perform their current activities in a different fashion. If a company cannot identify how to use the internet in a manner which results in significant benefits or cost savings, then the internet might not be the proper tool to use at this time.

Ultimately, proper use of the internet should allow a company to become more effective and efficient, and should allow for growth into new and previously unattainable areas. But the internet is still just a tool, and it will only do what you have programmed it to do.

There are those who say that "The internet is just a black hole in cyberspace." My simple response is, "Never enter into a dark room without a flashlight, or without knowing where the light switch is. You always need a plan!".

Mark S. Deion is the President and owner of DEION ASSOCIATES & STRATEGIES, INC., a consulting firm which provides numerous services related to business development, internet development, and business representation in the US and in the Former Soviet Union. He has written numerous articles on business, and has presented business seminars to various companies, colleges and universities both in the US and in the Former Soviet Union.

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Deion Associates & Strategies, Inc.
Mark S.Deion

15 Sackett Street
Warwick, RI 02886-2333 USA
Tel: (401) 732-0457 • Fax: (401) 732-8767
E-mail: marks@deionassociates.com
URL: http://www.deionassociates.com

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