Business Network Transformation, edited by Jeffrey Word, is a compendium of articles on the ideas of business networks, sponsored by SAP. Make no mistakes this book is market-iterature – a cross between marketing and book publishing, but once you know that there are some interesting ideas here. Just know what you are reading and take things with a grain of salt.
The book is easy to read, the concepts clear, and the discussion ample. But the details are few; the ideas seem pretty well established so if you are following this stuff not much new here. Overall Jeffrey Wood the editor from SAP did a nice job of walking the line between getting the company’s message out through thought leaders who are able to express themselves.
The fact that this book will get a market push, primarily with business execs means that its one that you should be aware of because people are going to ask about business network transformation – particularly if you have SAP.
- The book’s chapters are with real thought leaders and academics who are sharing their ideas presented in a BNT context.
- The book provides a comprehensive discussion of BNT from a strategy, IT, operations, measurement and innovation perspectives. This is not a one trick book.
- The individual chapter authors do a fairly good job of not repeating each other or contradicting each other, so it reads as a book about a single subject.
- The books chapters have been written to order – the idea of BNT – to varying degrees. This seems to be the idea that SAP is getting behind so because they are behind it the authors are at a minimum saluting the idea – this robs the reader of some deep discussion and analysis of the merit and pitfalls of the ideas behind BNT.
- There is little to no treatment of the finances and financial governance of these approaches. One of the things holding BNT’s back is how we account for them, particularly in a services environment. The book is largely and surprisingly silent on this point.
- There is much discussion and very little detail in the chapters about actual experiences, what works and what does not work. The authors seem to be at least one or two degrees removed from the actual case experience or the experience is a few years old.
The move to business networks is not particularly new. The discussion of them has been going on for some time and this book makes a valuable contribution to the discussion with 11 chapters focusing on different aspects of business networks. The chapters are:
1. Transforming your business network (Philip Lay and Geoffrey Moore) – a general introduction into the idea and an attempt to brand BNT as a business term.
2. Business Network Transformation IN action (Marco Iansiti and Ross Sullivan) – a discussion of the BNT ideas in general with surprisingly general case studies. This is a repeat of Iansiti’s Keystone Advantage HBR 2004.
3. Creating superior customer value in a connected world (Sawhney and Gulati) – provides a comprehensive but conservative view on BNTs.
4. Shrinking core, expanding periphery: the relationship architecture of high-performing organizations (Gulati and Kletter) is a reprint of a California Management Review 2005 article which provides some helpful frameworks for thinking about the different stages. But, it’s a little dated particularly if you have been following research in the area.
5. Product leadership in a network era (Venkatraman) – provides a logical and complete description of the product opportunities, but again nothing earth shattering here.
6. Driving collaborating success in global process networks (Hagel III, Seely Broun, Kasthururangan) features some good case studies on Li & Fung and other companies. This chapter is probably the best of the book.
7. Operational excellence: the new lever for profitability and competitive advantage in a networked world (Russell) – perhaps the worst chapter in the book as it is an extended info-mercial for the balanced scorecard and strategy maps.
8. Constructing and managing innovation in business networks (Chesbrough) a good chapter that rehashes the author’s concepts about open innovation. I would suggest the book as being better.
9. Value of trust in business networks (Dyer) – a good discussion of the issue of trust in the automobile industry which is highly networked.
10. The role of IT in business network transformation (McAfee) – the discussion is a little overly simplistic regarding the use of IT in creating networks and the examples are more seasoned (older) The author quickly moves to his definition of Enterprise 2.0 and does not provide much guidance.
11. Road map to transform your business network (Lay and Moore) — Exactly the type of wrap-up chapter you would expect complete with a maturity model for BNT that requires a full suite of ERP tools. I am sure you will see in consulting and other presentations.
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