How Business is Done in the 21st Century

In the 21st century “business” and “data” have become synonymous. It is data that connects a business, internally, with all its processes and it is data that then connects that same business with the outside world, its partners, customers and the market place.

When viewed this way success in business becomes simple. All any company has to do is make sure it is listening to what its data tells it within its organization and then listen to the data it collects from outside. This begs the question that if that is “all” that’s required why do so many businesses do so badly?

The simplicity of the approach hides a world of complexity. Capturing data does not automatically guarantee success. As a matter of fact it does not even automatically guarantee that a business will understand what it has to do. Data is all noise until it is contextualized sufficiently to get a signal that has direct meaning for the organization. A signal that is relevant enough to be acted upon.

The twin vectors of context and relevance are the engines driving the semantic web, semantic search and the adoption of Big Data everywhere. They help “social marketing” pay off in terms of return on the investment (ROI) and they are helping cut through the clutter of modern business and its overt focus on the next “new shiny” so that everything that happens is assessed through the simple question: does it work?

That kind of attention to detail and focus on the really important subjects requires the kind of perspective that most organizations simply do not have and find it difficult to develop on their own. The smart ones bring it, hiring consultants that help them jump-start the process of developing it.

Know What You Don’t Know

At the point where outside expertise is brought in the questions become very easy to ask and even easier to answer:

In the 21st century it makes no sense to talk of anything other than a true partnership where the outside experts do not just bring in “expertise” but also work to graft their knowledge within the organization helping it grow and develop much, much faster and therefore more cost-effectively, than it would on its own.

This is a radical departure from the notion of the ‘consultants’ of the past who used to hoard their knowledge and parse it out in carefully measured bites in what was, very much, a relationship of dependence with whoever hired them.

Today’s modern agency comes in, identifies strengths and weaknesses within an organization, agrees on goals based on them, explains timeframes and outcomes and then works to achieve them in a way that is going to, in time, make its services redundant. To a 20th century mindset bent on selling the same knowledge set again and again, this makes no sense.

In the 21st century however the marketplace moves at near light speed. There is no such thing as knowledge that lasts forever. The practices of yesteryear are no longer good enough and the consultants who market knowledge from a fixed position are already more out of date than the companies they try to help.

Today’s agency brings in a fluidity of knowledge that’s derived from its specialized skillset and unique perspective. It imparts that knowledge and skill to the organizations it helps so that they begin to know what they didn’t and then, in total alignment with their goals and values, works to maximize its impact by working on the next set of targets, moving forward together.

Is this radical? Only from a last-century point of view. In the 21st century nothing however less would work and no modern business should expect anything less.

David Amerland