Just recently I spoke at a conference in New York, and afterwards milling around the lobby, a few people came up to me and asked me "What do you see happening next? Where is all of this going?"
It's a complicated question and one that literally can change every day as tools and technologies change, but having been involved in the online space since the mid-1990s and my days at Slingshot in Dallas, Texas, I think there are some trend lines that are emerging that are interesting and most are driven by data we are seeing in some of our work online.
As the pace of change intensifies, and I think a lot of what we are going through is Moore's Law coming to hit home and pound us with hyper levels of advancement every eighteen months, we are starting to see groups and organizations almost freeze in the face of the pace of change. The changes online are forcing organizations to not only change the way they do work online, but in how they do work period, and it is causing groups significant stress and increasing turf wars. A blog post from a group's Executive Director to use a non-profit example, is that an act of communications? Or of advocacy? Is that something driven and controlled by development team? With some clients, we are working with membership directors, with others we are working with communication teams, and finally we are even working with development teams at some non-profits.
These internal politics about who owns what represent some of the biggest challenges we are facing and it's why groups like VoteVets (not a client but started by a friend of mine and fellow Huffington Post blogger Jon Soltz) have a core built-in advantage. They have been created in this new world and therefore their structure is better suited to grow and adapt moving forward.
Groups with more of a legacy structure are seemingly doing one of two things. Everyone is trying to adapt to the new world and the new model, and everyone is making some progress, but I see dark clouds ahead in some places because I don't think that some groups are really as of yet understanding how dramatically the shift will have to be to adapt and move forward successfully.
Email and data has to be centralized and shared by all parties with an interest and need for that data -this means, to me, web site traffic, email addresses, Facebook, it all needs to be brought together, and then used cohesively, moved out of the traditional silos.
I worked on the Continental Airlines turnaround (advertising part) a bit when I was at The Richards Group in Dallas and from that point forward, I have watched the airline industry with some interest. We have seen how much easier it is to be JetBlue or now Virgin America and be able to create a new airline, taking the best of previous models and integrating them. And we have seen legacy airlines like American and Delta struggle in the new world of airline transportation.
But there is one example that organizations who are looking to adapt should take comfort in and that's Southwest Airlines, still I believe, the most profitable domestic airline. Southwest is both a legacy and new model, rolled into one great airline. They have never lost their character and core values but they have absolutely been willing, and able, to break down barriers and stay on top of the game. (It was Southwest by the way that really trained its flyers to use e-ticketing making millions more in profits by using Rapid Rewards as incentive to change behavior.)
Moving forward, organizations must be willing to adapt faster and stronger than they have in the past. Every quarter, every year, that the old model drives how the organization thinks and is structured makes it that much harder to adapt moving forward.
More to come.