Are Facebook, Google and the others the new ERPs?
Until recently, when we spoke of structuring technologies for companies, we meant ERP. Whether we like them or not, these software packages were (and still are) the backbone of companies, the obligatory passage point for their nerve impulses, for the orders and decisions that the brain transmits to members.
Nowhere else was the company dependent on a system so vital to its operation, to its business, and especially not on the customer dimension. Until the 2000s, moreover, technology was totally absent on the customer side. Of course, we used CRMs to manage the customer, but that was only a use for employees. There were no interactions supported by technology between the company and the customer unlike what was happening internally. Of course, in certain cases there are purchases and invoicing, but all this remains precisely within the scope of the ERP.
The giants of the web have made it possible to industrialize marketing, communication and customer relations
Then came the web. Companies have long “tinkered” with this new medium before measuring its potential and treating it seriously. Then came the Google, Facebook and others who in a way brought, from the point of view of the company, rationality in a web until then a little “mess”. All of a sudden the companies had:
major points of contact with their customers, audience hubs
actors centralizing access to these contact points
an industrialized way of reaching the customer through these points of contact
Google, Facebook and the few other web giants have thus brought structure and industrial logic to customer relations and marketing. There is a way of doing things, we fill in boxes, we know what we are buying, we follow the process and the rules and we have the result obtained.
If we remember that 15 years ago we only talked about print, radio or TV, a real quantum leap has been made and it is good to be aware of it.
In this way, there is no doubt that this industrialization, this standardization of models applied to marketing, to customer relations, to communication are reminiscent of what management had experienced decades earlier with the arrival of computer science. management then ERP. A priori a good thing in terms of simplicity and efficiency.
Are Google and Facebook going to kill their customers’ competitive advantage?
But if the computerization of activities and management processes has had its positive side, it also had its negative side.
In 2004 in “Does it matterNicholas Carr noted that ultimately IT in general and the computerization of management had brought no gain in terms of competitive advantage. On the one hand, all the companies that have used it have obtained very significant gains in terms of productivity and efficiency of management tasks, ie. But on the other hand, all the companies have used more or less the same software to set up identical best practices and processes, giving rise to identical settings, all set up by the same consulting firms and consultants all trained in the same way.
There have, of course, been absolute gains. But this has led to such a normalization of the functioning of companies that none has been able to widen a substantial gap and create a new competitive advantage. When everyone uses the same tools in the same way, no matter how much you improve your performance, it doesn’t make a difference compared to the competition, which does exactly the same thing.
It would have been different if a company had decided to be disruptive, innovative, creative in terms of process and management rules. But we know that this was not the case for 99% of them.
The ultranormalization of the customer approach: a mistake?
Today when we do a search in Google we do not have an exhaustive vision of what exists or the best results but a view of the results “according to Google”. Google decides what we should see first and what not and to be included we have to comply with Google’s rules.
Google promotes quality content. I do not know if you have wondered for a single second of knowing:
if an algorithm can assess the quality of a writing
who is Google to say that content is of quality or not
I can still understand that on the form, there are ways of writing more relevant than others and that it can be measured and evaluated. Basically, I challenge anyone to prove to me that Google is legitimate to say that an article is of quality or not.
We write more for an audience but for Google.
However, Google sets its rules and we write accordingly. We write more for an audience but for Google.
On the other hand, Facebook also decides on the types of content that may or may not be cited on its platform, going as far as a form of censorship that is sometimes disturbing. Facebook decides overnight to change the rules of the game, the way in which content is displayed, whether or not it appears in the newsfeed, imposes rules of the game at all levels and obviously everyone follows.
When everyone uses the same tools in the same way, following the same rules and processes, everyone gets the same result. When everyone accepts that a third party unilaterally sets the rules of the game on such a crucial subject, we deprive ourselves of any capacity for innovation… or in any case of mastery of this innovation. Innovation will come from the big platforms and your competitors will benefit as much as you do, so don’t look for any possibility of competitive advantage there.
In short, the giants of the web have provided companies with fantastic tools allowing them to industrialize and rationalize their procedures in a territory which until then was largely fragmented and looked more like the Wild West than anything else. But this is done at the cost of an ultra-standardization of practices and a form of abandonment of sovereignty which I am not sure does not ultimately condemn any capacity for differentiation.
Bertrand Duperrin is Digital Transformation Practice Leader at Emakina. He was previously Consulting Director at Nextmodernity, a firm in the field of business transformation and management through social business and the use of social technologies.
He regularly deals with social media news on his blog.