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Planning for the Next Hundred Years
by Glen Emerson Morris
Copyright © 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris
All Rights Reserved
keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing.
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One of the most of remarkable qualities of the last hundred years is that so much
evolved with so little planning. It's almost enough to make it seem like planning
isn't needed, until you consider the billions of dollars the Y2K problem has cost.
Evidently, at least some things go better when planned for. The trick seems to knowing what
you need to plan for, and what you can leave to chance.
In their haste to jump on the Internet bandwagon, the advertising and marketing industries
may be overlooking the new, and long term, kind of planning needed to successfully
do business in the digital economy. In fact, even short term planning seems to escape many Internet e-commerce ventures.
A good example of this is the e-commerce scene in San Francisco, where a number of
major corporations decided to launch e-commerce sites, evidently without considering
that San Francisco doesn't have the engineering talent available to support them.
There may have been the assumption that talent could be recruited from nearby Silicon Valley,
but it's turned out that few in the Valley are willing the face the 90+ minute commute
into the city. So, companies in SF are offering $60 to $70 per hour for Web development and quality assurance positions, and finding few takers.
The problem isn't limited to San Francisco. The advertising industry is facing a serious
shortage of qualified people to develop and maintain e-commerce Websites, and the
shortage is only likely to get worse over the next ten years. The US currently produces 40% fewer engineering graduates than it did ten years ago. Of these, many are foreign
nationals who will return to their native country after graduation, taking their
skills with them. Adding to the problem is that software engineers have about half
the average career life of a civil engineer. They either burn out from the 60 to 80 hour
work weeks at startups, or they've made so much money they don't need to work anymore.
The trend in Silicon Valley is to import workers from Asia and Eastern Europe to replenish
the talent pool. While this has managed to keep wages down, relatively speaking,
it's also added impermanence to the equation. Silicon Valley has, for practical purposes, become the most expensive, affluent, migratory work camp in the world. With
homes starting at $350,000, and rent for two bedroom apartments frequently exceeding
$2,000 a month, few of the people who move to the Silicon Valley to work will ever
afford homes there. Unlike the great trade cities of the industrial revolution, the skilled
population base of Silicon Valley is rootless, and constantly changing.
The advertising and marketing industries need a reliable, dependable, talent pool
and are facing a future where that may not be available. In the past, some industries
facing similar talent shortages have managed to do something about it.
In the late 1940's, Bell Telephone became worried about a declining enrollment in
the sciences and ordered a series of yearly one hour specials produced with the idea
of selling science careers to kids. There had been a backlash against the sciences
following the use of the atomic bomb, and Bell was concerned that there might not be enough
scientists and engineers in future years to keep the phone system going. The series,
produced at Warner Brothers, and starring the bald, bespectacled, Dr. Frank Baxter
as Dr. Research, proved successful, and probably launched as many science careers as
Citizen Kane launched film careers.
The Bell System was successful, in part, because long term planning was part of their
culture. Unfortunately, this can't be said for most businesses.
In the past, the business environment changed so slowly that it was seen more or less
as static. It was difficult to see a need for planning for changes in the business
environment, so most businesses never developed a planning methodology to do it.
This is becoming a problem now, even businesses that want to plan ahead are finding they
don't have the internal processes in place to do it.
Given the current state of affairs, it may take some effort to establish a business
culture that values, and supports, long term planning, but it will be worth it. The
consequences of not doing so will mean a repetition of the Y2K problem, in a variety
of different forms and flavors of economic disaster.
The advertising and marketing industries can't afford to leave it to chance that there
will always be enough of the right talent available. The industry needs to either
make plans to increase the talent pool (like the Bell System did) or make plans to
make do with less talent. Currently the advertising and marketing industries are doing
neither, which is unfortunate. Like the Y2K problem, the talent shortage can be ignored
for a while, but not indefinitely.
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