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Many keys needed to open all of the online doors

There are four fundamental pillars necessary to build the online economy – online businesses, online government agencies and departments, online community groups and online householders.

In Australia, the digital revolution has been largely driven by government agencies and corporations.

Small business and local government are finding the transition complex and are lagging behind their larger counterparts. Many community groups are only just migrating from the concept of a home page to a real web site.

As we piece it together we are gradually realising the comprehensive nature of the new online environment. Internet worked communities and businesses these days are, on one hand, both physical and virtual and, on the other hand, local and global.

I have just concluded a series of conferences on the east coast where I was asked to identify some of the keys to success in building online communities and businesses. There are some very evident keys:

• Support from the top of the organisation is critical. This is not a revolution that works simply from the bottom up. Senior management commitment is essential in order to create the new culture and undertake the planning and re engineering

• Starting small and growing fast is far more effective than developing a ‘War and Peace’-style strategy. Most plans have to be scrapped or radically amended along the way simply because of the speed with which things are developing

• It is important such projects are not developed as IT projects. As strange as it may seem, in some projects I have been associated with, traditional IT managers have proved to be real stumbling blocks. The move to the online economy is about the strategic management of information and know-ledge, not simply IT

• Strategic partners are very important. This has a lot to do with the vastness of the task

• It is essential to define the WIIFM – “what’s in it for me”. Without evidence of tangible benefits many people are hard to budge

• Design projects that can be managed and maintained after delivery. There is not much point building a Rolls Royce if the highways to drive it on don’t exist. In terms of web infrastructure, this usually involves a trade-off between bells and whistles and speed and efficiency

• Collaborative learning is a vital part of the process. The vast majority of people involved were educated and trained before the digital era

• Being prepared to be highly flexible, innovative and wrong helps a great deal. Sometimes a radical change of direction is called for

• It is important to remember that every company and community is different. Therefore the resources and responses required and the operating priorities will be different.

The digital paradigm is expanding on an exponential basis and the online organisation is the key vehicle. There is no single door behind which lies one simple solution.

• Mal Bryce is chairman of Celebrating Lives and a former WA Deputy Premier.

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