Review by Keith Instone (July 10, 2000)

Futurize Your Enterprise

Redesign your company around your customers. This is the core message of David Siegel's new book. In order to execute this new strategy for business in the age of the Internet, you need to:

  1. Identify your most important customer segments.
  2. Restructure your org chart around these customer segments.
  3. Add tools so your customers and employees can enter into a dialogue around "the deal."
We've all seen company-centric web sites, where the org chart is mirrored on the home page. Many companies are evolving towards more customer-oriented sites, but internally they are still pretty much the same. David explains that you have to go one step further and reorganize your company along customer lines.

For example, an online book-seller might identify seniors as a key market segment. They should create a "Senior Department" to serve that market. They might build a site where seniors and employees in the "Senior Department" can talk with each other about books.

As these employees get to know their customers, they will be better able to understand and support a full range of needs. Book-oriented discussion forums might lead to the development of online or even off-line support groups for the families of people with Alzheimer's. Over time, the company won't be in the book business, but in the "serving seniors" business.

I found this book similar to the Cluetrain Manifesto. If you are a "traditional" business person, these concepts may shake up the way you view the business world. If you're an Internet old-timer, this book will not feel very revolutionary; still good, but a lot more "yeps" than "wows" for me.

My favorite parts of the book are the "Warning Signs of E-Cancer" at the end of every chapter. Here are some of my favorites. If they are true for your organization, then you should definitely read this book.

Warning Signs of E-Cancer

  • Company wants to be the "" of its category.
  • It takes a week to make a spelling change on the web site.
  • Most people in the company still don't have Internet access.
  • Customer suggestions are treated as complaints.
  • Consumer-opinion site aimed against the company makes national news.
  • CEO has assistant print out emails.
  • Company relies on ad agency for web strategy.
  • CEO thinks "people who like soft drinks" is a customer group.
The web site for the book is also very good:

Quotes from the Text

On the New World (p. 2):
"In the Old World, the customer had little choice. In the New World, customers will have all the power."

On e-commerce and e-business (p. 29):
"In e-commerce, the web team goes fishing every day and brings back the catch. In e-business, the web team teaches everyone in the company to fish."

On community (p. 45):
"You can't force communities to appear on your company's site. You can only provide a friendly environment and the conditions for them to sprout."

On one-to-one (p. 133):
"As effective as the one-to-one approach is, it's just a tactical part of the customer-led strategy."

On the role of managers (p. 304):
"It is not their [the managers'] job to transform their companies from management-led to customer-led. It is their job to create the environment and set the examples that allow the transformation to take place on its own."