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Tech Futures

Need a map for where business goes from here?

Manuel Castells, dubbed "the first significant philosopher of cyberspace" by no less than The Economist, says the Net's influence on commerce has only just begun. The Internet will, he says in his book The Internet Galaxy (Oxford University Press, $25), allow organizations to be both as tightly focused as traditional hierarchies and as adabtable as networks. The payoff: Faster growth, easier change and tighter interaction with customers and suppliers.

The essential commercial entity of this world will be what Castells calls the networked enterprise. From the outside, a networked enterprise looks much like any e-commerce company that conducts the majority of its sales through a well-designed e-commerce Web site where customers specify products, place orders and arrange shipping. But, behind the scenes, a truly networked enterprise feeds that information into manufacturing. There it's used to engineer products that better meet customers' needs. It also winds up in the databases of a global system of suppliers, who can use it to improve the systems and services incorporated into the end product. Such networked structures, he says, can help companies of any size shine brightly in the new Internet galaxy.

Filling Seats

You can't count on a soft labor market to make it easy to find, hire and keep the best people, say McKinsey & Co. consultants Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod. In their book, The War for Talent (Harvard Business School Publishing, $27.50), the authors say the battles will continue for years, and they map out five imperatives that can help you win them. Perhaps the most useful tool is Employee Value Propositions. EVPs recognize there's more to getting paid than a dollar sign. For instance, a holistic approach might take into account such things as desires to change jobs and learn new skills. Can offering a transfer beat out a raise as a means of retaining workers? All's fair in the war for talent, and the possibilities they raise are tempting.


Austin, Texas, writer Mark Henricks has covered business and technology for leading publications since 1981.

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This article was originally published in the January 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Tech Futures.

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