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How Digital Is Your Business?

How Digital Is Your Business?

by Adrian J. Slywotzky, David J. Morrison

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Within a very short time, the issue of how to become a digital company has become a major headache for the management of every company in every industry. Every company has Internet and digital initiatives, yet despite the expenditure of much time, effort, and money, they are not reaping the benefits of digitalization because they haven't thought through the purpose of


Within a very short time, the issue of how to become a digital company has become a major headache for the management of every company in every industry. Every company has Internet and digital initiatives, yet despite the expenditure of much time, effort, and money, they are not reaping the benefits of digitalization because they haven't thought through the purpose of digitalization from the standpoint of the major issues facing their business.

Bestselling author Adrian Slywotzky, with the penetrating insight that has become his trademark, provides the way out of the conundrum. His answer is as simple as it is profound: Before undertaking any digital initiative, the first question that must be asked is: What are the top five business issues facing my company? Only when the answers are known to this fundamental question can one then go on to ask:

  • What are the smartest business design choices regarding these issues and...
  • How do I digitalize these choices so that I improve and refine the nature of my relationship with my customers, create strategic control, and provide new opportunities for growth and profit?
The business world is moving quickly toward a digital divide. There are a few companies doing it well. Most are not. There's limited time to get it right or be left behind. Slywotzky provides the clearest thinking and most practical program for making this great leap into the future.

About the Authors:
Adrian J. Slywotzky and David J. Morrison are vice presidents of Mercer Management Consulting, a Boston-based strategy consulting firm. They have worked as strategic consultants with a wide variety of companies and industries, including IBM, Dow Chemical, Allied Signal, American Home Products, Lotus Development Corporation, Metropolitan Life, Searle Pharmaceuticals, Tribune Companies, Microsoft, and United Health Care.

Editorial Reviews

When Industry Week magazine compiled a list of the six individuals whose principles and practices most inspire business leaders around the world, they included Adrian J. Slywotzky, coauthor of How Digital Is Your Business?. Slywotzky was honored for his impact on such global players as Microsoft and Honeywell as well as for his expansive vision of a future in which technology, deregulation, and the accelerated exchange of information reshape classic business models. In How Digital Is Your Business? Slywotzky and coauthor David J. Morrison expand upon the conventional definition of a "digital business" and argue that, in the future, digitalization will be "the price of admission to the game."
Boston Globe
Slywotzky [is] one of the leading lights of a new generation of strategic thinkers.
Industry Week
Six individuals . . . now are the people whose ideas, principles, and practices most challenge, drive, and inspire chief executives in companies across the U.S. and around the world . . . Peter F. Drucker, Bill Gates, Andrew S. Grove, Michael E. Porter, Adrian J. Slywotzky, and John F. Welch, Jr.
CFO Magazine
In every industry, managers struggle to understand the changing rules of competition. Slywotzky's charting of the tectonic shifts in business has made him one of today's hottest corporate strategists.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Slywotzky and Morrison, management consultants and authors of The Profit Zone, return with guidance for companies that will increase their competitiveness and profitability by integrating the most appropriate technology into their strategic business design. Their concept, dubbed "Digital Business Design," is "not about technology for its own sake; it's about serving customers, creating unique value propositions, leveraging talent, radically improving productivity and increasing profits. It's about using digital options to craft a business model that is not only superior, but unique." The companies that demonstrate the best DBD, they argue, are those that focus on business issues first--and then determine how technology can maximize their business. The authors guide readers through a series of fundamental questions, with numerous examples of companies (Charles Schwab, GE, Cisco) that have successfully employed the DBD concept. Key to DBD is a "choiceboard," an "interactive on-line system that allows individual customers to design their own products and services." The best example of a company using choiceboards to increase a customer base, claim Slywotzky and Morrison, is Dell, whose customers can go online and select from an array of options to "custom make" their own computer system. For an increasingly global and digital market, Slywotzky and Morrison lay out a clear and cogent recipe for increased competitiveness and profitability. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Abridged, 6 CDs, 6 hrs. 20 min.
Product dimensions:
5.63(w) x 4.89(h) x 0.99(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Why this book? And why now? After all (you may be thinking), this isn't the first book on e-commerce and the Internet. It may not even be among the first hundred books on these topics, as a casual glance at any bookstore's shelves makes clear. What can this book say that's new and different?
That casual impression is correct in one sense, wrong in another. Correct because the digital revolution has been under way for years and has spawned hundreds of books, including several excellent ones. Wrong because How Digital Is Your Business? is not a book on e-commerce or the Internet. It's a book on digital business. And that means it could not have been written even eighteen months ago.
We define a digital business as one in which strategic options have been transformed--and significantly broadened--by the use of digital technologies. Under this definition, it's not enough to have a great Web site or a wired workforce or neat software that helps to run a factory. A digital business uses digital technologies to devise entirely new value propositions for customers and for the company's own talent; to invent new methods of creating and capturing profits; and, ultimately, to pursue the true goal of strategic differentiation: uniqueness.
Digital business, so defined, is a phenomenon that has emerged only since 1996. It gathered momentum in the last two years of the twentieth century.
* Not until 1998 did Dell Computer's on-line configurator--one of the first Choiceboards, a powerful new tool for digital business--appear in anything like its current form.
* Not until May of the same year did it become apparent that what we call 10XProductivity--order-of-magnitude improvement in cost, capital requirements, and cycle time--could be and in fact was being realized through the use of digital technologies.
* Not until early in 1999 did it become clear that AOL, Yahoo!, and eBay had all developed viable business models for doing business on the Internet.
* And not until the early months of 2000 did it become clear that GE, one of the business world's great incumbent companies, was moving forcefully to bring about the first successful large-scale transition from a nondigital to a digital business model.
Add to these facts the reality that the creation of a fully developed digital business design takes four to five years to complete, and it's apparent that what we now know about digital business was impossible to know, except in vague outline form, prior to 2000. Thus, we'd argue, this is the first book about digital business. It won't be the last.
Having been exposed to the hype and furor that digital technologies have aroused, we have no desire to contribute to them. But we believe that digital business represents a fundamental change from past business models. By comparison, other business movements, like the quality movement of the 1980s or the reengineering movement of the 1990s, will prove to be significantly narrower and more technical, and will have less impact.
The breadth and depth of the digital revolution are so important that no one in business can afford not to make digital business a leading priority during the next half-decade. The situation of today's business leaders--those responsible for decisions that affect customers and determine how talent, money, and other resources are deployed--is comparable to that of any professional whose field is being altered forever by the emergence of a new and better way of working.
Think of an architect during the early years of the twentieth century, when steel-girder construction and the invention of the elevator were making skyscrapers possible; or imagine a physician in the middle of the nineteenth century, when the discoveries of anesthesia (in the 1840s) and of sterile technique (in the 1860s) were transforming surgery from a torturous horror into a life-saving miracle. No responsible professional would want to ignore such developments. It's now clear--far clearer than it was even two years ago--that the changes made possible by new digital ways of doing business will be equally radical, beneficial, and liberating.
The history of digital business is just emerging from the discovery stage. But early developments have already revealed some important lessons for those who would lead--or join--the second wave of business digitization. This book makes available to anyone in business the economic and organizational implications of the success stories (as well as the struggles and setbacks) of companies that are showing the way toward the Digital Business Designs of the future.
These companies are the digital pioneers, and several chapters in this book tell their stories: Dell Computer (Chapter 4), Cemex (Chapter 5), Charles Schwab (Chapter 7), and Cisco Systems (Chapter 9). Taken together, these chapters illustrate the extraordinary outcomes that Digital Business Design makes possible, and they suggest the qualitative changes in business culture and values that accompany digitization. The stories of these four companies offer profiles of the digital businesses of the future.
Chapters 12 and 13 present a different kind of case study: the current experiences of two large and powerful incumbents, GE and IBM, as they transform themselves into digital businesses. These chapters sketch out what it takes to change a traditional enterprise into a digital business, and some of the problems and obstacles that must be overcome.
Chapter 14 tells yet another type of business story: the success of the few large-scale Internet-based businesses that have developed viable (and profitable) digital business designs. AOL, Yahoo!, and eBay are examples of what it takes to start in a digital space and build an effective business model. Legions of struggling dot-com companies have begun to learn some of the hard but necessary lessons.
Other chapters focus on specific aspects of digital business design: the Choiceboard, a powerful but little-known digital tool; 10X Productivity, one of the remarkable benefits that digitization offers; and the organizational effects of going digital. Each element of the digital business picture provides ideas and methods that can help every company that is crafting a transition from a conventional to a Digital Business Design. The chapter sequence allows the ideas, information, and stories to be mutually reinforcing and cumulative in their effect.
We hope that, after reading this book, the importance and urgency of digitization for all businesses today will be clear. The current business climate of relative prosperity (and the record-setting bull market) can dampen the sense of urgency about fundamental business reinvention. "We're doing fine," is the feeling, "so why rush into something we don't really understand?" That reaction is human, understandable, and very dangerous.
Consider the people for whom you're responsible: your customers, your employees, your partners. Within the next three years, it simply won't be possible to do a world-class job of serving them, and the other stakeholders who rely on you, without becoming digital. But if you begin today the process of transforming your company through Digital Business Design, you'll be able to offer them benefits no other company can match--the unique value propositions that are the ultimate reward of digitization.
The time is now, and the starting gate is right here.
From the Hardcover edition.

What People are Saying About This

Michael Dell
Let's be clear about one thing: If you take a business that's a bad business and put it online, it's still a bad business. It's just become an online bad business.

Meet the Author

Adrian J. Slywotzky and David J. Morrison are, respectively, vice president and vice chairman of Mercer Management Consulting, a New York-based strategy consulting firm.  They have worked as strategy consultants with a wide variety of firms in many industries, including IBM, Dow Chemical, Allied Signal, American Home Products, Metropolitan Life, Searle Pharmaceuticals, the Tribune Companies, Microsoft, and United Health Care.  A resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Adrian Slywotzky was recently selected by Industry Week as one of the six most influential people in management, along with Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Peter Drucker, Andy Grove, and Michael Porter.  David Morrison lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

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