Customer Reviews: Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy
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on June 29, 2013
This book's intended audience is managers who are interested in how computers and networks can improve business processes. This book is not a Microsoft infomercial. Instead, it poses questions for managers to think about. Here are some examples: (1) "Do you have the information flow that enables managers to get the data they need to make decisions?" (2) "Can employees get access to important data on a daily basis?" (3) "Make a list of the most actionable questions about your business. Does your information system have the data to answer them and the means to distribute it?" (4) "Do your systems let you work seamlessly with professionals such as lawyers and accountants who are 'outside' the corporate walls?" The book also offers helpful platform-agnostic insights. This is an intelligently and clearly written book. I included 25-30 quotations from it in my PowerPoint slide decks for undergraduate business and IT classes.
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on August 29, 2000
I find the book to be quite interesting but not really relevant for normal people....
I think this book is only meant for CIOs, CEOs, CFOs... they are the one that are able to propose such huge investments in Digital Nervous System !!
At the last part of the book, Digital Nervous System is compared against the older methodology "Business Re-engineering" without giving some background about what Business Re-engineering actually means......
Anyway, reader need to have some sense of business before reading this... there are plenty of business terms.
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on April 15, 2003
Business at the Speed of Thought is far more than a position paper on his business strategies, nor is it a public relations effort to soften the critics or judiciary overseers. The book takes a higher conceptual approach, focusing on the imperative role of information and knowledge management will play in running today's organizations. Gates speaks as a consultant, using the successes and failures of real companies, in a case-study approach, to support his philosophies and strategies. It is more basic than revolutionary, but the vision is expressed with great clarity and given depth and breadth through pragmatic, working examples.
CEO's, other organizational leaders, and managers at all levels can potentially benefit from the ideas illustrated. As a small business owner, I found at least half of the content relevant to improving the efficiency of my business operations. Further, those who believe that technology will continue to play an increasingly significant role in the marketplace, should grab a cup of coffee, a pen, and actively read this book.
The book is organized into four distinct sections: information flow, commerce, knowledge management, and business operations. The author's basic premise is that the success or failure of an organization will depend on how well they gather, manage, and use information. Gathering information is the first step in this direction. Gates observes the importance of gathering "business facts", which encompass internal as well as external forces. These business facts concern customers, vendors, distributors, competitors, and internal systems and procedures.
While Gates coherent 12-step program to the implementation of a "Digital Nervous System" is a useful guide to better integrate IT with existing business resources, it unfortunately gave little attention to much deserved social and psychological issues. Gates refuses to admit any problems with technology. This technological utopianism results in an incomplete analysis and does not discriminate at all. As a result, the potential pitfalls are not identified, which could lead to oversight. Functionally, it may lead to a blind, non-discriminatory adoption to digital processes. This absolute change to may produce the inefficiency it is meant to eliminate.
Under this approach, the problems fade into the background because the technology is so perfect. For example, Gates insists that communication flow through the organization over e-mail so that you can act on news with reflex like speed. It is difficult to take a 'key step' like this seriously. Is the ability to act with 'reflex-like speed' really a function of the communication medium, or is it dependent on such factors as experience, intelligence, etc.? Is there no downside to e-mail? What of the lack of truly human communication, that is, fact-to-face, if e-mail is used for all communication? Is it surprising that chief executives fly around the world almost continuously to talk face-to-face? Do they use e-mail, or do they prefer to see the whites of the potential partner's eyes?
Despite these criticisms, I enjoyed this book from cover to cover, and have used its content to increase the productivity of the technological resources owned by my business. Business @ the Speed of Thought illustrates its concepts with detailed case studies of top-notch companies as well as Microsoft in a variety of industries, making the "Digital Nervous System" relevant to a broad and diverse audience. He uses accurate yet easy to understand language, abandoning technical jargon. This, combined with an introduction which provides a clear layout of the books objectives, produces a coherent and pragmatic resource for all people, business persons and non-business persons.

The analysis within the case studies gives examples of how IT can improve, or did improve, failed processes. These examples of already successfully re-engineered information networks, provides concrete methods of how to manage inventory, sales, customer relationships, etc. Because Gates draws from a diverse field of companies, the advice of Gates is useful for all business people of all types of organizations, from service to merchandising, and profit to non-profit.
In addition, the concept of a "Digital Nervous System" can be applied to the personal lives of people who are adapting what he calls a Web Lifestyle. I concur with Gate's conviction that the success of businesses will be a function of how you gather, manage, and use information. Subsequently, Business @ the Speed of Thought goes a long way to increasing vital IT knowledge and skills; and these life-long skills are as important for personal, academic, and professional achievement as traditional academic knowledge and skills such as Math and Science.
While Gates breaks no new ground, he provides specific examples that illustrate the necessary steps to help businesses capitalize on their IT investment, and authentic examples of its realized benefits. I recommend this book to anybody who feels they are unclear on how to integrate IT with current business operations, as well as to individuals who desire to learn more about how to utilize technology to improve their personal tasks. I do not believe Business @ the Speed of Thought is just a finely tuned marketing campaign, but it may be hard for those who do not favor Microsoft to listen to Gates for the entire length of the book. In this case I recommend people read selected chapters that are in line with their individual or business IT objectives. As Gates has shown time and time again, him, Microsoft, and perhaps even this book you may ignore at your own peril.
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on August 10, 2001
This book is a beacon and a lighthouse in our transforming world of e-anything you want. Bill Gates is an optimist and it shows. I think the whole book can be reduced to a quotation by Alfred Sloan, the Chairman of General Motors : « Bedside manners are no substitute for the right diagnosis. »
Bill Gates analyzes absolutely all the consequences of the release of Information Technology in the Internet time onto the economy, society, administration, life. He does not take any precaution to sweeten or soften his message. You will follow this revolution, that is unescapable, or just plain die. When reduced to that the book is by far too long. But it is not only that.
The book studies hundreds of particular cases were the problem was confronted, solved or refused and the consequences of this acceptation to go along with modern times or of this refusal to have anything to do with such an iconoclastic approach that destroys, makes obsolete everything that was common creed in our society. Those cases are extremely well shown and described and are superbly enlightening and entertaining. Because this book is also entertaining. You will find some real pleasure in reading it.
But the book also goes beyond this. It is a book for all the CEOs and CIOs of the world. Hence it is pedagogical and didactic. It demonstrates what has to be done and it gives examples of the right solutions, and all the practical advice and even diagnosing recipes needed for any one to find their ways in the labyrinth and jungle of modern information times. The main objective then becomes to liberate thinking in business by entrusting machines with collecting and analyzing data, with the help of some human friends. When this thinking is finally liberated, business can use the speed of thought to increase its efficiency, its transformation and its progress. The general idea is that failure, slump or recession is never anything else but the inability to seize the day in these technological times.
It also, here and there, explains how Microsoft navigated through all the troubled waters of change and capitalistic success. Strange enough it makes us feel and think that the word « capitalism » itself is obsolete in global times. It is obsolete because the economy, business have to give each one member of the working team that the workers (at all levels) have to become and be for the economy to work, their total independence of thought, autonomy of decision and yet integration in the wider picture of the team. He shows marvelously that there is no business that can survive if democracy, discussion, confrontation and common objectives emerging from the aforesaid are not the very core and ethics of the economy and business. He also implies that any business has to become global to survive : global by covering the whole world ; global by envisaging the totality of a problem, product, range of products, etc ; global by the desire to dominate your field completely and totally. That leads to an understood and never expressed idea that the anti-trust regulations that are ours today are passé, old-fashioned, ineffective, even dangerous because mutilating for thought, business and the future of the world. Then competition is no longer the same thing as it used to be : the competition between several firms producing or providing the same goods or services. Competition is innovation and this can only come through the liberation of thought and through a new organization of business : a firm has to literally control its whole field of activity but including innnovation and democracy in its everyday functioning and concentrating on the core issues and activities necesary for its global role to be total, and by understanding that free business thinking will always produce the start-up that may break you if you are not one step ahead of any possible innovation. A businessperson is both a visionary prophet and a convincing guru. And keep in mind that profit, both individual and collective, is and has always been, the objective of the human race. It empowers each and all human beings with the energy to go beyond even the farthest limits and frontiers. We do not venture in hostile lands if we do not aim at getting a profit out of it. Otherwise we are forced to do it : it is slavery or the gulag.
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on December 27, 2008
I expected a lot from this book. It is after all by a person considered a thought leader by many. Unfortunately it seems more like a book written to take advantage of Bill Gates' big draw name, with nothing new or insightful in it.

I would be quite embarrassed to put my name on this book. It basically tries to put forward a fancy framework for corporate and global networks. In other words, the internet, something Microsoft famously completely missed the boat on and is still to this day trying to catch up on. Don't waste your time or your money, other than as a lesson in how corporates often completely miss the forest for the trees, especially when they own a very lucrative monopoly on a small piece of a much bigger picture.

There's nothing new or insightful here. Here's the short version to save you a whole lot of time trying to decipher the "insight": "Networks are good for business." Profound isn't it?
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on November 2, 2000
OK. I usually don't bother reveiwing a bad book, but I think you ought to know what you're getting into here.
The setup at the beginning is remotely beneficial as internet scope/impact primer. It goes down hill from there. Bill's main point is that the internet and PC combination is powerful. While that is hardly a revelation, the book never goes anywhere from there. Over half of this book is overly simplistic examples of successful PC/Windows implementations. There is no practical 'take home' information here. Nothing to apply.
This book suffers from several maladys: 1. There is nothing novel here. 2. The prose is really boring. 3. Half the book is pointless examples - (they all make the same point) 4. Ultimately you realize that this book just an advertisment encouraging you to use PCs and Microsoft produts.
If you are considering this book because of who wrote it (like I did) save your money. You're not missing anything.
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on March 31, 1999
If you think you knew everything about the internet, Bill confirms it. A book about what has been, and the future that everybody already talks about. Although, he doesn't seem to understand much of what may come. written in the way MS developed it's software, copying the best from others, change the format, and release it with the Microsoft logo on it. He did it with windows, word, excel, explorer and now with this book. If you really like to know what the net possibilities are, buy "" from Patricia B. Seybold, maybe she should become our next MS CEO.
Don't forget, that this is the guy who forgot about the net, and had to change his company around because he was missing out on what other companies were already working on.
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on September 20, 1999
Nothing new here, and much of it is wrong-headed. First step, Bill needs a new ghostwriter for his next book... someone that can put a little snap in his verse. He keeps saying the same thing the same way.
Second, his various claims that technology was the competitive advantage in his case studies is just flat wrong. For instance, the Japanese did not cave Detroit's head in because they had more computers and infrastructure, as Bill would have you believe. They had better business and engineering practices. That has been well-established in the business research press.
The list goes on . . .
A real disappointment that Bill put his name on this eighth-grade term paper.
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on October 16, 2012
This book was great! It gives IT staff a window into how management works. This is a blueprint for the C-suite to fully intergrate the CIO and the IT team. IT isn't 21st blue/gray collar workforce. Business is has one mantra for IT : "IT must align to the needs of the business they serve." Here is a blueprint: using this book, the C-suite could implement a BYOT/BYOD polices and cloup computing with compromising control and security.

With the edition of tablet computing and mobile communication,and unified commuication ability theis book can be a guide to implement these new devices. The problem with tablets is how do you grow a wi-fi enviroment and make sure its secure.
a possible solution would be to use a disposable token system that would expire in a specified period of time
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on May 9, 2013
This is a business strategy book, for business leaders. Bill Gates' value-per-hour is too high for idle commentary on tech trends; rather, he focuses on WHY those trends matter from the business leader's perspective, and HOW to get dominance in your industry with information flow as your competitive edge.

Bill Gates' focus in Business @ The Speed of Thought is teaching us how to build a "digital nervous system" -- a real-time and complete information flow. Gates is famous for valuing "information smarts," where the only statements allowed in a discussion are based on actionable facts; going-nowhere drivel has no place in Microsoft meetings, and now, at his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Here are Bill Gates' steps to building a digital nervous system, which is at the heart of the success of Microsoft and the Foundation:

1) Think hard and write down, What facts are actionable for my company?
2) What are questions to which the answers change my company's actions?
3) Build an information system that answers these questions.
4) If my current business information system does not answer these questions, build one that does.

The book in detail, always with data and examples to back each statement, goes into how to build this information system, and why. Each chapter ends with "Business Lessons" -- a summary of chapter key points -- and "Diagnosing Your Digital Nervous System" -- a set of questions for improving your information system. The "Diagnosing Your Digital Nervous System" questions alone are worth picking up the book.

I found the book dense with facts and examples (relevant at least as much now in 2013, if not more so, than when the book was written in 1998). I recommend you listen to the audiobook of Business @ The Speed of Thought to get through the content, and buy the hard copy, which is useful for referencing certain points, especially the diagnostic sections ending each chapter, and the appendix.

Don't pass up an opportunity to learn from someone who has achieved so much.
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