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Seven Steps to Nirvana offers "e-business for the rest of us"

By Julie Hsu

Nirvana's not just for Internet start-ups, but for upstart traditional businesses too, according to a new book co-authored by Mohanbir Sawhney, the McCormick Tribune Professor of Electronic Commerce and Technology. The Seven Steps to Nirvana: Strategic Insights into eBusiness Transformation (McGraw-Hill) defines "nirvana" as enlightenment and applies the concept to the corporate world.

Sawhney and co-author, DiamondCluster International research fellow Jeff Zabin, present a systematic approach for exploiting the new possibilities of e-business by interweaving such elements as technology, strategy, processes, infrastructure and organizational issues. "I felt that there was an urgent need for an e-business book that spoke to mainstream businesses, and placed customers at the front and center of e-business strategy," says Sawhney.

Sawhney points out that the book is targeted to senior managers in traditional established businesses who want to use e-business as a tool to optimize their core business and to grow their companies by leveraging assets, capabilities and relationships. The text is meant to be a compass for senior executives as they embark on the journey of e-business transformation. "This book is e-business for the 'rest of us,' and e-business with customers as the anchor for initiatives," Sawhney notes.

Why the metaphysical overtones in the title? "We talk about e-business as a journey," explains Sawhney. "Nirvana stands for personal transformation, self-development."

What makes this book different from other recent books focusing on e-business is that it sees electronic business as a means to an end, not an end in itself. "We show how e-business can be used to create value for customers and shareholders," says Sawhney. "The book focuses on real people in real businesses in mundane sectors of the economy. There are no superheroes here. Just regular people in regular businesses trying to make change happen in large companies."

The authors employ frameworks and concepts over case studies and war stories, in the hope that these insights will stand the test of time. The book attempts to bring clarity to a wide range of strategic business issues, including how to find opportunities to leverage the core business, and how to fund e-business and manage project portfolios. "I wrote this as more than an e-business book; I wrote this as a strategy book," says Sawhney. "At its heart, it's more a book about marketing and strategy than it is about technology."

The authors also have incorporated metaphors, stories and fables to make the book more readable and to explain concepts that might otherwise seem abstruse. Perhaps most refreshing, Sawhney says he and his co-author have taken pains to "eschew the breathless hype of 'New Economy' books" to instead offer readers a more practical guide rather than "a view of the trenches from 30,000 feet."

©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University