James Champy and co-author Michael Hammer started a revolution with the 1993 bestseller Reengineering the Corporation (HarperBusiness). Champy, now head of Perot Systems' consulting unit, is at it again with X-Engineering the Corporation (Warner Business Books, $25.95). His work is once again aimed at business processes, but this time he focuses on using information technology to improve them.
X-engineering goes beyond setting up a Web site. Champy talks about fully integrating the cyberworld into sales, procurement, hiring, customer service, supplier relations and more. Instead of just taking product orders online, an X-engineered company would have information about customer orders electronically flow to warehouses and assembly operations, as well as those of its suppliers and even its suppliers' suppliers. Champy also recommends standardizing software and other technologies to make processes from checking credit to filling out shipping forms as efficient as possible.
Of course, reengineering made similar claims, which companies found hard to obtain. And Champy admits X-engineering isn't foolproof either. But the worst news is, you have to reengineer before you X-engineer. So if you missed the last revolution, you'll have to go backward before you go forward.
Are your customers price-unconscious? Are your products cruelty-free? Do you consider yourself an info-gourmet? If you know what these words mean, you've probably been perusing Dictionary of the Future (Hyperion, $22.95). It's a compendium of leading-edge terms and concepts futurist Faith Popcorn and co-author Adam Hanft think will soon be in regular use. Some are questionable. Will we indeed use ZipZones--special lines where favored customers get premium counter service? Others seem genuinely insightful: Presenteeism, defined as the practice of ostentatiously working long hours to avoid being laid off, is on the mark. It's an entertaining browse, and you may find opportunities to expand or retarget your business.
Austin, Texas, writer Mark Henricks has covered business and technology for leading publications since 1981.