So where do you want to go tomorrow? That's the question Bill Gates tries to answer in Business @ the Speed of Thought. Gates offers a 12-step program for companies wanting to do business in the next millennium. The book's premise: Thanks to technology, the speed of business is accelerating at an ever-increasing rate, and to survive, it must develop an infrastructure--a "digital nervous system"--that allows for the unfettered movement of information inside a company. Gates writes that "The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition ... is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose."
The book is peppered with examples of companies that have already successfully engineered information networks to manage inventory, sales, and customer relationships better. The examples run from Coca-Cola's ability to download sales data from vending machines to Microsoft's own internal practices, such as its reliance on e-mail for company-wide communication and the conversion of most paper processes to digital ones (an assertion that seems somewhat at odds with the now-infamous "by hand on sheets of paper" method of tracking profits that was revealed during Microsoft's antitrust trial).
While Gates breaks no new ground--dozens of authors have been writing about competing on a digital playing field for some time, among them Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian in Information Rules and Patricia Seybold in Customers.com--businesses that want a wakeup call may find this book a ringer. With excerpts in Time magazine, a dedicated Web site, and an all-out media assault, Microsoft is working hard to push Business @ the Speed of Thought into the national dialogue, and for many it will be difficult to see the book as anything but a finely tuned marketing campaign for the forthcoming versions of Windows NT and MS Office. Nevertheless, as Gates has shown time and time again, him, Microsoft, and perhaps even this book you may ignore at your own peril. --Harry C. Edwards
In Business @ The Speed Of Thought, Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates discusses how technology can help run business better in the near future. Success, he tells readers, will come to those who create a world-class digital nervous system so that information can easily flow through their companies for maximum and constant learning. He stresses the need for managers to view technology not as overhead but as a strategic asset, and offers detailed examples from Microsoft, GM, Dell, Merrill Lynch and many others to demonstrate his point. He shows technology can: Convert every paper process to a digital process, thereby freeing workers for more important tasks, Speed Communications around the world with fully integrated computer systems, Stimulate employees to develop and implement business strategies, Speed your companys reflexes through e-mail, Handle routine business analysis, focusing your employees on using information, and much more. Gates also includes a candid assessment of some of Microsofts miscalculations and how technology helped to turn failure into triumph. He covers how specific sectors of the economy are using technology to revolutionize themselves, and even gives readers a peek at some up-and-coming technologies. Also available as a Time Warner AudioBook featuring original material by Bill Gates interspersed throughout. One day laydown: March 25 1999.