By Kenny MacIver For hi-tech chief executives, publishing a treatise on the astonishing impact of the Internet and the emerging e-commerce economy has become something of a badge of credibility. In some cases, the outpourings are little more than a vehicle for the promotion of the author’s career, or the particular company’s narrow marketing message. […]
By Kenny MacIver
For hi-tech chief executives, publishing a treatise on the astonishing impact of the Internet and the emerging e-commerce economy has become something of a badge of credibility. In some cases, the outpourings are little more than a vehicle for the promotion of the author’s career, or the particular company’s narrow marketing message. But Thomas Siebel and his number two at Siebel Systems, Pat House, do not stray into that territory. Though their business lives revolve around running the leading customer relationship management software company, there is little in Cyber Rules about Siebel, its market or its clients. Rather, the book attempts to portray how far the Internet has evolved since the birth of the browser, and how much it will continue to evolve. The authors make no apology for talking up the phenomena of the Web – in fact, they say its impact has been under-hyped. Nonetheless, the text does not shy away from exposing many of the misconceptions that surround the Internet.
Above all, Cyber Rules leads by example. It is packed with profiles of many well-known Internet businesses (Amazon, Preview Travel and Cisco) and other less publicised, but equally intriguing ones (Electronic Marketing, Adaptec, Genstar Container, Realbid.com and Autobytel.com). It also highlights a few missteps – for instance, how car maker Volvo included an email facility on its Web site that it hoped would elicit fan mail. When Volvo vehicle owners turned that into a conduit for complaints, Volvo was obliged under US product liability laws to answer each of the thousands of daily emails.
To some wired executives, such lessons seem hackneyed. In fact, Cyber Rules is aimed at the many executives who are still struggling to conceive how the Internet might impact their businesses and careers. Most of the books of this genre are written by consultants, many of whom make their living from representing the subject material at seminars and conferences. How non-professional pundits such as Siebel and House managed to gather equally broad research becomes apparent very quickly. Many chapters are structured around extended quotes, the most notable of which come from transcribed interviews with Charles Schwab, who also happens to be on Siebel’s board; John White, Compaq’s former chief technology officer; president of PlanetAll’s Warren Adams; and Novell’s CEO, Eric Schmidt. In fact, Schmidt is so heavily quoted that he should have been credited as a third author.
Despite that second-hand input, Thomas Siebel’s passion for his subject is infectious. He underscores the message that the Internet economy is only in its infancy and that we are all witnesses to a historic watershed. This is, says Siebel, without a hint of irony, akin in significance to the invention of writing, the introduction of metal currency and the adoption of Arabic numerals. Astonishing conclusions for extraordinary times.
This article first appeared in the June 1999 issue of Computer Business Review