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New York Times Found Someone to Blame for the Market Bubble

Dave Aiello wrote, "Here's a shocker. The New York Times is the latest Old Media company to try to put a cap stone on the Dot Com era. And, surprisingly, they point to the New Age Consulting Firms such as Razorfish, Scient, Viant, and MarchFirst as the culprits."

"I find this frustrating because the analysis is so shallow. No matter what we think of people like Razorfish (who never met a Web page that couldn't be improved by the inclusion of a little platform-dependent Javascript) or any of the other firms mentioned, they offer nothing worse than the technology services offered by the Big 6 Consulting Subsidaries. Fortune 500 businesses were told that they needed the methodology of a New Age Consulting Firm in order to define their Web offerings properly. What these firms generally got for their money was the best a bunch of twenty-somethings on their first or second Web project could produce."

"After reading the New York Times article, I asked whether it was fair to blame the consultants more than the clients? CTDATA participated in one project where Razorfish was also engaged. I am convinced that the Razorfish people would have done whatever the client wanted. But in this case, the client wanted a Web Site that had wild graphics that no one with any previous Web development experience liked."

"If you take this anecdote and scale it up, are we left with a situation where the New Age Consulting Firms deserve the lion's share of the blame? Hardly."

Dave Aiello continued:

Perhaps more frustrating to me was the author's inability to point out obvious alternatives with better prospects for success that were right in front of Fortune 500 firm's faces. For example, until the Year 2000, many large corporate Intranets had grown up as isolated Web Sites supported by different profit centers. These Web Sites could have been integrated into a useful and coherent set of Web Services through the proper use of Portal Technology and Content Syndication. These were well known technologies that were easy to implement at that time.

What did many companies do instead? They tried to skip a generation of technology. Instead of building a portal for their employees, they tried to build more than one portal for different demographic groups of clients. This effort often failed because clients didn't want to have a window open to their supplier's Web Site all day long. Why would I want news headlines from Charles Schwab when I could get them from The Wall Street Journal instead?

Clients would have accepted a streamlined environment for buying things from their suppliers. That's what nearly all of the successful corporate Web Sites did in 1999 and 2000, and that's largely what they are doing today.

On the Intranet side, many companies we work with tried to build services for employee who are out of the office. In other words, let's keep the employees who are at their desks travelling between six or seven separate Web Sites and a number of databases that can only be accessed via the Lotus Notes 4.x client. Instead, let's build the broadband-enabled virtual office of tommorrow, complete with access to desktop applications from anywhere in the world via Citrix.

Many people who had already built successful Intranet Web Sites pointed out that there were a number of problems with the virtual office concept. Among them:

  • Many employees who would get the most value from a virtual office spent much of their time in airplanes.
  • Few employees had broadband connections to the Internet at home.
  • Most companies had not yet built the virtual private network infrastructure necessary to enable the virtual office.
  • All employees were less productive when they were in the office because of poor integration between otherwise successful Intranet sites.

Of course, this reasonable advice fell on deaf ears because it would have dictated a strategy of trying to get runners on base, instead of sending the best and brightest up to bat to hit a home run every time. Who were the Razorfishes of the world to say "no" to so many open checkbooks?

In the end, the New Age Consulting Firms failed because they could not say no to themselves. They could not stand the idea of producing good, useful Web Services, when their peers would making an all-or-nothing attempt at greatness. Their customers, meanwhile, had what appeared to be an unquenchable thirst for bleeding edge design and development. None of these people (consultants or clients) ever seemed to hire enough adult management to slow down and ensure they were making the right decisions.... until recently.

Maybe that's why it was easier for the New York Times to say it was all the consultants' faults.

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CTDATA Venutures (CTDATA) develops Internet and Intranet applications for corporations and non profit organizations. Our services include:

  • Consulting services for Movable Type and TypePad-based publishing systems (visit our Weblog Improvement website for more information),
  • Financial services business process consulting,
  • Content management system and knowledge management system consulting,
  • Apache web server engineering and hosting,
  • MySQL, Sybase, and Microsoft SQL Server architecture and development,
  • SOAP, REST, and XML-RPC system architecture and programming, including Amazon Web Services and
  • Weblog publishing.
For more information, contact Dave Aiello by email at dave [at] daveaiello.com or call him at +1-267-352-4420.
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