While the feedback to The New Polymath was overwhelmingly positive, I was a bit surprised what prompted some of the negative comments. A few software companies bitched about the Salesforce case study. More than a few outsourcing firms complained about the Cognizant case study. A cleantech VC told me I was too generous to Kleiner Perkins in the book. I actually took that as a compliment – most of those people were actually telling me they should have been in the book:)
So, with over a 100 case studies and cameos in my upcoming book, I am bracing for questions from competitors like what is so special about HP’s supply chain? Virgin America’s design principles? 3M’s portfolio of technology products? Google’s green initiatives?
My good friend Dennis Howlett got one of the few early review copies and kindly took the time to read it. Read his full review here, but if I can paraphrase, he wonders “why not more on enterprise software?”
There is quite a bit on enterprise software spread across the book – Flextronics’ global Workday project, Groupon’s global NetSuite project, various aspects of Salesforce’s social assets like Chatter and Radian6, SAP’s changing definition of sustainability.
But the major themes in the book are a) the consumerization of enterprise tech – how enterprises in every industry are embedding technology in their products and services from satellites in cars to sensors in shoes and b) the enterprising of consumer tech – how Amazon’s logistics and Apple’s retail stores and EBay’s PayPal banking capabilities are world class. These two powerful trends are changing what defines today’s technology elite and those 12 elite attributes make up the meat of the book.
If many of these companies I profile had sung praises of SAP or IBM, I would have given them more ink. But most of them discussed specialized technology vendors. Roosevelt Island talked about Streetline’s smart parking technology, Valence Health about SAS analytics, Virgin America about Tibco’s Loyalty Labs, Boeing about HCL’s product engineering services, UPS about devices from Symbol and Honeywell.
As Dennis observes “In the book, he cites company after company that are continuing to invest heavily in technology but not in the way most tech pundits see the world. We bemoan the apparently stagnant levels of visible technology spending yet are blind to the real investments that are making a demonstrable difference to our lives.”
And many of the elite attributes I profile have little to do with underlying technology. The chapter on Elegance focuses on aesthetics and design excellence. The chapter on Pragmatism focuses on smart technology attorneys.
Back to enterprise software. It is one tool in a growing technology toolbox. Use that hammer too often and it hurts companies as we have seen over and over in the last decade. And it certainly does not help Mercedes with its Gloria avatar or Facebook with its hyper efficient Prineville center profiled in the book.
My favorite part of Dennis’s review was “I was struck by the almost child like wonder and excitement that oozes from Vinnie’s analysis.” I was clearly inspired by the elite companies I profile in the book.
And I hope the book inspires, more than annoys, a wide cross section of readers – even those who wish I had more on enterprise software.