'An impressive list of America's top CEOs has been gushing with praise about the book, and forward thinkers in the software and management business are using it to find direction and insight in this messy, complicated - world.' InfoconomistIn Search of Excellence set the management programme for the 1980s. Michael Hammer's Reengineering the Corporation set the standard for the 1990s. Now The Agenda does the same for the 2000s: it is the essential handbook for 21st-century business. It's time for business to get serious again. The 90s are over, and so are the ideas that came to the fore at the end of the decade: that the Internet changes everything, that entrepreneurship is the answer, that success is easy. Tough times - that is, normal times - are back. Money is tight, competition is intense and customers are more demanding than ever. The Agenda offers no silver bullets or empty slogans. Its principles are neither theoretical nor abstract: they concentrate on the nuts and bolts of an enterprise that determine how well a company performs. The Agenda offers serious ideas for serious people, concrete guidelines that show managers how to rethink every aspect of a business and reshape it for the imperatives of the customer economy. Any company - large or small, manufacturing or service, high tech or low tech - can apply these principles.
While suppliers once dominated their customers because the latter were competing for scarce goods, now, with the late 20th-century's increase in production capacity, "sellers have become supplicants for scarce buyers." In his fourth book, Hammer(Reengineering the Corporation) heralds the arrival of the new "customer economy," exhorting corporations everywhere to prepare for it by implementing his agenda. Each of the nine chapters devoted to business innovation principles diagnoses a corporate disease, offers a cure, provides brief case histories of companies undergoing treatment and summarizes what the reader should remember when attempting to remedy his own company. But this quick and occasionally entertaining read is often superficial: a chapter describing the power of the Internet to break down intercorporate barriers fails to answer basic questions about vulnerabilities assumed by companies outsourcing essential business functions or sharing information. His broad subjects require corporate case studies to provide needed detail; instead, the reader is offered anecdotes. And exhortations like "to create a customer-centered company, everyone... will have to work extra hard, learn new skills, cope with unfamiliar problems, and in general rise to the occasion" are unhelpful. Nor are Hammer's assumptions always realistic: constructing powerful computer interfaces to help customers help themselves is not the low-cost, complete customer service panacea Hammer claims it to be. After all, readers familiar with automated phone-navigation systems or customer service links replaced by FAQ links on Web sites may wonder where the "customer economy" concept really exists in practice.