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Attitude adjustment: IBM ‘s internet guru reveals the mind-set necessary for success in the era of connectivity.

Book Review by Vivian Pospisil
Inside Business 01/01/2002 Page 10
Copyright 2002 Gale Group Inc. All rights reserved. COPYRIGHT 2002 Great Lakes Publishing Company


It’s an all-too-common scenario. An executive logs on to a hotel chain’s Web site on a Friday night to check his frequent-guest points balance. Finding an award code for a one-night stay in New York, he calls and makes a reservation for the following weekend. Then he tries to pay for the room using his bonus points.
“Oh, I can’t do that,” says the reservationist. The executive asks if he is speaking to an answering service or the hotel chain itself. “This is the hotel chain,” she says, “but I don’t have access to any frequent-guest data.” No problem; the traveler, she says, can simply call on Monday morning – long-distance, no 800 number- and pay $35 by credit card for a coupon that the chain will send via overnight-express mail to pay for the room.
What differentiates this vignette from other consumer visits to cyberspace hell is that because the hapless traveler is John R . Patrick , vice president of Internet technology for IBM Corp., it provides a launching point for an unusually cogent analysis of e-business failures and opportunities. Patrick as Everyman appears frequently in Net Attitude (Perseus Publishing), his highly readable new book. Behind the amusing anecdotes, though, is a serious message. Most companies fail to take full advantage of the Internet, he says, not because they lack the technology, but because their corporate cultures lack the necessary vision and leadership.
“Organizations of all kinds have a fundamental decision to make,” Patrick says. “Choice number one is to accommodate the Internet but continue to do business as they have been doing it. … Choice number two is to become an e-business and embrace the Internet as the primary relationship mechanism.”
Patrick himself has helped instill a Net attitude at IBM , where he created the company’s Get Connected program to expand Internet use within Big Blue and establish a model for other companies. He also is a driving force behind IBM ‘s backing of Linux and created the alpha Works Web site, IBM ‘s online research and development laboratory.
Net Attitude gives readers a heads-up on seven characteristics of the next generation of the Internet , which will be:

  • Fast, as bandwidth expands rapidly;
  • Always on, with no more logging on;
  • Everywhere, in the form of mobile phones, kiosks, PDAs, pagers and new wireless devices;
  • Natural, characterized by multilingual, integrated telephony and voice recognition within Web pages;
  • Intelligent, offering seamless integration of applications and more relevant matches for Web searches;
  • Easy in terms of building and maintaining Web sites and conducting business via the Net; and
  • Trusted, whereby authentication, not security, is the biggest issue.

In a series of comparisons of “Attitude Problem” and ” Net Attitude ,” Patrick shows how far e-business aspirants have to go. The problems of the hotel chain may be complex, he admits, and a long-term fix will take time, but in the meantime applications can be enabled to send messages to one another behind the scenes and give the customer the effect of a completely integrated solution.

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