This article was originally published on CFO.com.

As business models evolve away from a dependence on the concept of a fixed “place,” companies will have to adapt.

Are you wasting money, resources and customer goodwill because of an outdated implementation of “place” in your business processes?

Let me explain.

Much of my work on a day to day basis involves some form of secondary research or information gathering – in both technology topics and business strategy – in support of which I subscribe to a lot of published content, through both free and paid subscriptions. Most of this started off as paper based, delivered periodically by mail to a specific physical address. Over time, all this paper piled up, to such an extent that I could seldom read it all, especially when traveling – paper-based content  is heavy to carry around and isn’t easily searchable.

So several years ago I started limiting myself to material that I could access online. In some cases to get the online version, I still have to receive the printed version at a specific address (a place where I am almost never present), but it’s immediately recycled.

With the online version of the content I can cut down on paper weight (and hopefully eventually eliminate the waste of paper, ink, energy etc., involved in producing and transporting the paper I never read), and the content is searchable. I can modify or write simple search agents that scan everything I subscribe to for content of current interest and build simple topic repositories. I can do citation analysis, provenance checks, sentiment and trend analysis; none of which is really possible with “analog” content.

Sure, I get a lot of email, but the inbox management tools available today make automation reasonably straightforward. All in all, I have a much better system that meets my research (and general interest) needs much better than periodic delivery of paper to a place where I am not likely to be able to get it in a timely fashion.

So why do publishers still want to know my office or home address? They have my email address (which really hasn’t changed in the past 25 years, while my street address has changed several times) and my phone number (they call me). Given that I don’t want a physical delivery, they have no need to know where I live or work. Yet every year I get dozens of phone calls from publications (mostly outsourced to call centers) asking to confirm a physical address. I get it that they need to confirm circulation (another archaic concept, when they can easily track how much I access their content online), but it’s an expensive waste of everyone’s time.

As a matter of policy, I do not give out this information (and most other personally identifiable data) to unsolicited callers, so I have to politely refuse to confirm, even as I continue to receive the content digitally. They also call a number where I am seldom available (and which blocks certain types of calls from my follow-me service), so even calling to confirm is a waste of resources – most of the calls fail.

This is just one example of the problems companies are having as business models evolve away from a dependence on the concept of a fixed “place.” Until we “disaggregate” the idea of a single fixed place to associate with a person or business process, we will continue to waste huge amounts of resources on work that has no value.

Not that place isn’t important. For example, I certainly want Amazon to know where to deliver the items I buy from them. But even then, I often really want a delivery to where I am (or will be) rather than to just one fixed address from which I am often absent. To their credit, some businesses are beginning to offer a more flexible approach to “place”: order online, pick up in store is a good example that’s becoming more common. But I have yet to see anyone try for true omni-channel logistics, including an order-from-anywhere, deliver-to-anywhere service for physical as opposed to digital products, except food service.

Two lessons here to ponder:

  • Where are you wasting money, resources and customer goodwill because of an outdated implementation of “place” in your business processes?
  • How can you add a more flexible concept of “place” to your fulfilment processes?

Both questions deserve some attention in 2015.

About the Author
John Parkinson

John Parkinson is an Affiliate Partner at Waterstone. John brings extensive experience to the topics of technology strategy, architecture and execution having served in both senior operating and advisory roles.