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Thinking of lugging a book about customer relationship management on vacation with you this summer may sound like the definition of a busman's holiday. We understand that while lying in a hammock you might not want to read some War and Peace-sized tome of marketing statistics, so we decided to give you more interesting options. SFFA asked the industry's thought leaders to review the business technology books they've been reading and explain why you should put these selections on your summer shortlist. You'll probably recognize some of the titles from the business best-seller lists. Other selections might be lesser known but cover topics just as vital to your company's success. All of these books share a common vision: to address the business and technology issues relevant to your pre- and post-vacation life-and they're not bad reads, either.

The Power of Corporate Kinetics: Create the Self-Adapting, Self-Renewing, Instant-Action Enterprise

By Michael Fradette and Steven Michaud
Simon & Schuster, 1998; $25

Reviewed by Bo Manning, a partner and coleader of the customer relationship management practice at Deloitte Consulting.

An end to customer loyalty. Economic instability. Continued globalization. The rise of e-commerce creating new markets and new market leaders, and the birth of the virtual customer. Merger activity on an unprecedented scale. The Power of Corporate Kinetics, by Michael Fradette and Steven Michaud, heralds that predictability is dead. The truth is that companies today who can't respond fast enough will be obsolete and out of business. They are required to adopt a new model for business-the kinetic model-that is flexible and dynamic enough to respond to just about anything.

In a kinetic world, companies move beyond bringing the right resources together at the right time to adapting and creating whatever customers want, whenever they want it. To accomplish this, workers ignite both customer events (driven by a single customer demand) and market events (driven by an unfulfilled market need). The concept of kinetics has powerful implications for all elements of the enterprise: strategy, people, process and technology. Readers can begin to ask themselves probing questions about their own company's ability to operate in this wild, wired environment. The Power of Corporate Kinetics parses issues from defining a strategic vision for the boundaries of your enterprise and the need to collapse processes to be able to respond to a customer requirement, to ensuring that your leadership and your workforce are enabled with the right culture and technologies to act like entrepreneurs and respond in zero time.

The ideas in this book aren't simply theories. They are based on the people and companies already using them. Leaders and employees from companies in a wide variety of industries-from manufacturing to health care, from Kinko's to MTV and John Deere-share their experiences that illuminate kinetic organizations and kinetic employees. The authors give us a context and a journey that speak to the idea of transforming the enterprise. But more importantly, they force us to ask the question: We need to transform, but to what and why?

Cyber Rules: strategies for Excelling at E-Business

By Thomas M. Siebel and Pat House
Currency/Doubleday, 1999; $27.50

Reviewed by Christopher Fletcher, research director, Aberdeen Group.

If you have time to read only one book on the tsunami that is electronic commerce, it should be Cyber Rules, a sometimes rambling but almost always interesting jaunt through the morphing worlds of customer relationship management and electronic commerce. During the course of this peripatetic discussion, Cyber Rules takes the reader through several real-world illustrations of how the Internet is being used by companies like Cisco, Compaq and Novell to augment and enhance relationships with their customers.

Most importantly, Cyber Rules highlights one of the key lessons to be learned about doing business over the Web: Electronic commerce is not about technology; electronic commerce is about managing and enhancing customer relationships. Companies that are successfully using the Internet to market to, sell to and support their customers already understand this, and Cyber Rules does a good job of explaining why Internet-based CRM (Siebel uses the term ERM, or Enterprise Relationship Management) is rapidly becoming a critical component of success.

The industry is currently witnessing the blending of electronic commerce technology with the applications, knowledge and best practices provided by CRM/ERM. Companies that think they will get rich selling over the Internet will be disappointed to learn, as Cyber Rules illustrates, that it takes more than a "store front" to attract and retain customers. An effective electronic commerce strategy needs to include marketing and promotional initiatives, sales and self-service capabilities and an effective customer support functionality. Likewise, existing or planned sales force automation and customer support initiatives need to adapt to and embrace the Internet as an additional and incremental channel for maintaining effective customer relationships. Cyber Rules does not beat this point into the ground, nor do the authors use Cyber Rules as a soapbox to promote their own Siebel-centric view of the world. This book does do a good job of explaining why the integration of the Internet and CRM is occurring and why it is a compelling and likely scenario that will continue to be played out in the foreseeable future.

Cyber Rules has more of a narrative style than a business lecture or textbook voice, which has its strengths and weaknesses. Partly because of the conversational tone of the authors, the book has a tendency to ramble. Also, the reader hears from the same early adopter companies several times throughout the book, which can become a little tiresome. On the other hand, this casual tone makes Cyber Rules more interesting to read and easier to follow than the average "technology textbook." Cyber Rules is a good choice for the reading public that is not part of the information technology industry.

I said earlier that if you could only read one book about electronic commerce it should be this one. Better yet, if you have a colleague-perhaps a white-haired CEO or grizzled sales manager-who is somewhat averse to technology but wants to understand the dynamics (and valuations) that are occurring in this market, hand him this book. I don't think either of you will be disappointed.

The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison

By Mike Wilson

William Morrow & Company, 1997; $25

Reviewed by Christopher S. Selland, vice president of customer relationship management and Internet computing strategies, Yankee Group.

The intentions of Mike Wilson's book seem clear right from the book's title page: to get inside the "real" Larry Ellison and expose the inner motivations of a driven, larger-than-life icon of the Silicon Valley. However, the book does little to really get "inside" Ellison. The Larry who emerges from this fast-moving book is, at most, conflicted. While he can be driven, conniving and manipulative, at the same time he also clearly possesses a desire to be loved and accepted.

Ultimately, this book is much less effective as a character study than it is as a history of Oracle itself, from the early days at Ampex where Ellison met cofounder Bob Miner, through the near-implosion of the company in the early '90s (the best section of the book). It concludes with Ellison's attempt to proselytize the network computer and defeat Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

The book is frustrating in places. The ending is as abrupt as it is unsatisfying, and Wilson has an annoying habit of comparing Ellison to fictional and public figures ranging from Citizen Kane to Bill Clinton. In addition, Wilson seems quite nave about standard sales practices in the software industry. The supposedly egregious deals, which caused Oracle's near-death in the early '90s, will be all too familiar to most sales executives. Although it can be argued that Ellison drove the company excessively and created an atmosphere where sales pushed the envelope, the actions of the sales force were clearly much less damaging than the lack of financial controls that existed in the pre-Jeff Henley era.

While The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison provides a breezy and entertaining history of Oracle, Silicon Valley and the software industry over the past 10 years, readers looking to understand exactly what makes Larry tick are going to be disappointed.

The Invisible Computer

By Donald A. Norman

MIT Press, 1998; $25

Reviewed by Dave Hanaman, executive vice president and cofounder of c3i, a CRM professional services firm.

Donald A. Norman does not specifically address CRM in this book, but sales executives and CRM leaders should take note.

Despite the growth of the CRM industry, many deployed systems still suffer from under-utilization. Salespeople (those actually executing the sales process) remain skeptical and generally view CRM as an additional-though perhaps necessary-burden. Technology (with the notable exception of the mobile phone) is usually something that is used before and after the actual processes of selling.

In contrast, Norman, a former professor of cognitive science who now works at Hewlett-Packard, describes a compelling vision, one that is a long way from where CRM is today: "Design the tool to fit the task so well that the tool becomes a part of the task, feeling like a natural extension of the work, a natural extension of the person," he writes. Imagine a salesperson finishing a phone conversation with a prospect and instantly downloading the event and its participants from her mobile phone to her PC-or "whiteboarding" a presentation to a customer and seamlessly relaying the drawing to each participant and to the customer file in the salesperson's CRM system.

Norman makes a powerful argument for a complete rethinking of the way technology is designed and brought to market. He argues compellingly for his vision of information appliances, standardized communications and their seamless integration with each other and traditional personal computers. The Invisible Computer is an enjoyable read that will reset one's perspective on technology design and the importance of the user.

Synchronicity: The Inner Path to Leadership

By Joseph Jaworski

Berrett-Koehler Publishing, 1996; $24.95

Reviewed by Laurie Hayes, a partner in CSO Forum, a firm that researches, benchmarks and counsels chief sales officers on how existing and emerging challenges are solved through technology solutions. CSO Forum works in partnership with SFFA.

Technology is forcing chief sales officers to reinvent the way they service and sell products. In the face of this challenge, CSOs have to rethink how they lead their teams. Synchronicity: The Inner Path to Leadership offers a personal journey that illustrates sales leadership qualities the new century will require.

Author Joseph Jaworski, a prominent trial lawyer and son of Watergate attorney Leon Jaworski, currently works with MIT's Center of Organizational Learning. In his book, he takes a fast-paced, autobiographical approach that demonstrates three fundamental shifts needed for revolutionary change: the way you view the world, interact in a web of relationships and demonstrate a willingness to make a difference.

Shell Oil's CEO sees Jaworski's "synchronistic leadership" as "enabling others to break through limits-created organizationally or self-impaired." Visa's CEO describes Jaworski's life as demonstrating that "the immense cultural and institutional change, which a livable future demands, can begin anytime, anywhere, in anyone, even those who have benefited greatly from the old order of things."

Across all industries, a new breed of CSO leadership is emerging that personifies Jaworski's characteristics of command. CSOs are redefining their worlds and taking even the most seasoned sales veterans with them. For those CSOs who have a vision of what their industry could become, Synchronicity provides an inner path of leadership to make that vision a reality.

The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence

By Don Tapscott

McGraw-Hill, 1995; $14.95

Reviewed by Lee White, managing director, AnswerThink Consulting Group.

The Digital Economy is a fascinating and dead-on account, full of statistics, research and analyses of the fundamental change occurring in our nation's economy-the digital revolution. As a consultant responsible for helping major corporations digitize their sales, marketing and customer service functions, I see firsthand how many organizations are already adopting Tapscott's model of digitization and disintermediation. These are the companies that will succeed in the new millennium.

Tapscott's work centers around the fact that we are in the midst of a revolution, not unlike the agricultural revolution of the 1800s or the industrial revolution of the 1900s. In the nineteenth century, farmers had to acknowledge that manual labor was no competition for the magnum efficiency brought about by the mechanization of farming equipment. Those who invested in the future were successful; those who did not were left in a cloud of dirt. In the early 1900s, many steamship companies refused to acknowledge the growing impact of the railroad industry. Without diversifying their transportation mechanisms, many of these companies found themselves out of business by 1925. Today's digital revolution, according to Tapscott, will have an equivalent transforming effect occurring at a much faster pace.

Most organizations will slice up their target markets, serving high margin, complex segments differently from commodity, high volume segments. They will have to establish clear strategies for how they want to provide knowledge, value and service at an affordable cost, depending on the channels, including e-channels, used to acquire, retain and enhance customer interactions.

Similar to expanding the breadth and depth of an organization's services and channel offerings, companies will have to retain sales and service professionals who have broader, more flexible skill sets. Expanding on Tapscott's explanation of a "knowledge worker," sales and service professionals will have to bring a high volume of knowledge and involvement to the sale, as well as exploit technology far beyond yesterday's expectation of simply bringing an opportunity to the table.

Tapscott has provided us with a well-written and thoroughly researched description of today's digital evolution. I predict if corporations resist the digitization of the new economy by neglecting to reengineer their people, processes and technologies, they will ultimately become the defunct steamship companies of the twenty-first century.

Customers for Life

By Carl Sewell and Paul B. Brown

Pocket Books Division of Simon and Schuster, 1991; $14

Reviewed by Paul Selden, author of Sales Process Engineering. Salespeople in Carl Sewell's Dallas-area auto dealerships sell nearly twice as many vehicles as the national average. This kind of performance helped build Sewell's company into a $450-million annual business. How did he do it? Customers for Life, which Sewell cowrote with former BusinessWeek editor Paul B. Brown, shares more than his unique secrets. His story reveals underlying principles and concrete techniques that anyone with desire and intelligence can replicate-and that still ring true even eight years after the book's publication.

The book is structured cleanly. It starts with an easy-to-read list of "The Ten Commandments of Customer Service"-for example, "underpromise, overdeliver." Each chapter lays out how Sewell set up systems to ensure his people follow the precepts. A handy checklist at the end of each chapter helps readers get down to brass tacks and track progress.

Best of all, Sewell's methods work and are honest. People tend to repeat behavior that is rewarded; Sewell shares the blueprints he follows to ensure his customers' loyalty is amply rewarded. Couple Sewell's behavioral systems with the economic reality that the lifetime value of a customer to most businesses is far greater than their initial purchase. Now you have a recipe for profits that any astute businessperson should be able to cook up.

You could spend a lifetime trying to reinvent Sewell's methods through trial and error. Or you could pick Customers for Life (or its companion audiotape) and follow the roadmap. The lessons spelled out in this book are worth a fortune.

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