God forbid that doing business and making money on the Internet should bear any resemblance whatsoever to the past millennium of bricks-and-mortar capitalism--that would be too easy. Nope, it's a whole different ball game now, and the new rule is: adapt or die. At least that's the message behind Digital Capital
. From the three principal cyberconsultants at the Alliance for Converging Technologies (one of whom, Don Tapscott, authored the bestsellers The Digital Economy
and Growing Up Digital
), comes a paradigm for global takeover: the business web, or "b-web" for short. In their words, b-webs are "strategically aligned, multi-enterprise partner networks of producers, suppliers, service providers, infrastructure companies, and customers that conduct business communication and transactions via digital channels." Some examples are eBay, Cisco, Dell, MP3.com... in short, any enterprise that a) knows how to form lateral partnerships with other goods-or-service providers, and b) eliminates the role of planes, trains, and automobiles--not to mention lots of time, money, and human energy--by doing almost everything over the Internet. Not only do the authors provide a wealth of b-web case studies (including Charles Schwab, Priceline.com, Webvan, AT&T Solutions, and OptiMark in addition to those mentioned above), they outline a step by-step process for weaving a b-web of one's own.
Too often, Digital Capital's sound ideas come marinated in think-tank jargon so alienated from plain English as to be nearly impenetrable. Consider: "Disaggregation leads to 'disintermediation' and 'reintermediation'," which, believe it or not, isn't a line that French film theorists use in pick-up bars, but the simple statement that business webs manage to cut out a lot of the traditional steps between producers and customers. Now why couldn't they just have said that? No matter. After you nibble through the self-important MBA-speak, you'll find a smart look at how online shops are rewiring early 21st-century capitalism. --Timothy Murphy
From Publishers Weekly
Building on concepts that have been around for more than a decade, the authors argue convincingly that the age of the trillion-dollar enterprise, where two or more companies come together to complete one project, and then go their separate ways, competing against one another for the next, may finally be at hand. Managers who are grappling with ways to expand rapidly with limited resourcesAa description that fits just about every managerAare bound to be intrigued by the argument that Tapscott (The Digital Economy), Ticoll and LowyApartners at the Alliance for Converging Technologies consulting firmAput forth. As they see it, the Internet eliminates almost all of the transaction problems that have plagued alliances up until now. Alliance partners no longer have to be in the same location, since the Web makes communication instantaneous, which in turn makes managing enterprises easier. Continuous market feedback is possible, since customers can be plugged into the network, along with suppliers and subcontractors. That's intriguing enough, but the authors go further and outline how five possible types of alliances, or "business webs," can be tailored to suit virtually any company. While the authors give relatively short shrift to the "how to" component of constructing these webs and they don't spend as much time as they might on exactly where employees fit into them, those shortcomings don't distract too much from their otherwise trenchant and absorbing presentation. While the future may evolve differently than the authors envision it, they have provided a workable interim blueprint for getting from here to there. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.