Off the CyberShelf

Still an e-commerce novice? Patricia Seybold’s latest book will help you polish your on-line strategy. The book tackles the subject from the viewpoint of the all-important customer, pointing out holes in even successful companies’ strategies. Seybold lays out the five steps to e-commerce success and the eight critical success factors to reaching that point, with detailed case studies of 16 famous and not-so-famous companies. Seybold uses personal anecdotes about her struggles to get excellent service to great effect. The case studies-on companies ranging from American Airlines Inc. and National Semiconductor Corp. to the National Science Foundation and Tripod Inc.– are clearly laid out to help readers quickly absorb the message. For example, technical details concerning the profiled company are in a different typeface and set off from the rest of the material so that those who prefer can easily by-pass the techie stuff.

Every Business Is a Growth Business

By Ram Charan and Noel M. Tichy

Times Books

In Every Business is a Growth Business, Ram Charan and Noel M. Tichy encourage leaders to look at their organizations from the outside to determine customer need. They advise us to think of companies as works in progress, creatures that must grow or die. As we trudge through this text, however, we learn that not all growth is good growth. It’s balanced growth we’re after. With an emphasis on the need to “strategize from the outside in” and change as the market and the world change, the authors tell us this theory must be taught. At Ford, a company that is trotted out as an example of enlightenment, the top 1,000 leaders are responsible for teaching corporate ideas and values to all 53,000 employees. In contrast, the dying company simply makes its numbers, does not take risks and watches its back. The growing company widens its horizons, unleashes the imagination and employs a go-for-it attitude. Your customers’ needs must be your needs.

Electronic Commerce: Technical, Business, and Legal Issues

By Nabil Adam, Oktay Dogramachi, Aryya Gangopadhyay, Yelena Yesha


This book (written by four college professors) is recommended to IT managers charged with taking their corporate Web sites from on-line brochures to true electronic-commerce venues — and especially to those who need to get their business colleagues to understand the effort. Despite a textbook-like tone, the book is well-organized and avoids a good deal of the “business revolution” hype that mars other books in this category.Chapters 1 and 2 describe electronic-commerce services and components; Chapter 3 covers its use in various industries; Chapters 4 and 5 cover technical issues such as protocols, interoperability, workflow, languages and security; and Chapter 6 is a review of legal issues. But the final chapter on future trends is too cursory to be of much use.

Net Worth

By John Hagel III and Marc Singer

Harvard Business School Press

What other challenges does the Internet hold? The opportunity to become an “infomediary,” according to Hagel and Singer. These McKinsey & Co. consultants define an infomediary as “a business that helps customers capture, manage and maximize the value of information about themselves and deny vendors access to this information.” While acknowledging that no companies fill this role right now, the authors argue that there’s value in facilitating the ‘Net’s shift of power from vendor to consumer. Chapters 1 through 4 lay out the concept and identify promising markets and potential players. The next four chapters describe potential entry strategies. The remaining chapters are largely tangential, but the appendix provides an overview of tools for infomediaries (including “reverse cookies” that track where the consumer has been), profiling tools that allow collaborative filtering to make product recommendations and privacy protection aids such as cookie suppression, e-mail filters and anonymous payments.

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