B4B: A book review by Bob Morris

B4BB4B: How Technology and Big Data Are Reinventing the Customer-Supplier Relationship
J.B. Wood, Todd Hewlin, and Thomas Lah
Facebook.com/TSIA Books (2014)

If “software is eating the world” (Marc Andreessen), then it’s time to update the kitchen and probably the recipes.

For more than a century, at least back to 1884 when founder and CEO of National Cash Register, James Patterson, devised it, the B2B (i.e. business to business) model has been dominant. In recent years, a B2B2C model was developed. B1’s focus was shifted to doing as much as it could to help to strengthen B2’s relationship with its customers. To what does this book’s title refer? According to, J.B. Wood, Todd Hewlin, and Thomas Lah, “B4B seeks to frame what is possible in an age where suppliers are connected to their customers in real time. The traditional world of B2B was designed to sell things to customers, whereas the new B4B model will be about delivering outcomes for customers. It’s a whole new ballgame. Using powerful models and specific examples, B4B envisions a next-generation tech industry where suppliers play an active, ongoing role in helping business customers achieve unparalleled value from their technology investments.”

As I worked my way through this book, I was again reminded of the title of one of Marshall Goldsmith’s recent books in which he explains why “what got you here won’t get you there.” In fact, I presume to add that “what got you here won’t even keep you here,” wherever and whatever “here” may be. Patterson’s B2B served NCR and countless other companies well for decades but it should be noted that this model, albeit fundamentally sound, still required frequent tweaking from time to accommodate changes in the given marketplace. The same will be true of B4B, only I doubt if it will remain dominant for more than a decade, if that.

All this and much more are thoroughly explained in this book. These are among the several dozen passages of special interest and value to me, identified to suggest the scope of Wood, Hewlin, and Lah’s coverage:

o The Current B2B Model (Pages 6-016(
o Three Key Areas in Which to Reduce Risks to Customer (29-31)
o The Supplier Side, and A Platform of Service (38-44)
o Maybe You Disagree (45-50)
o Market Maturity (54-56)
o But What s the New Business Model? (56-59)
o It’s the Outcome! (70-71)
o B4B: Trouble in Paradise (81-83)
o The Great Migrations (94-96)
o Connectedness (97-100)
o Success Science (104-108)
o Merging Capabilities (130-135)
o The Three Pivots (142-143)
o Key Capabilities for the Expand Sales Motion (159-163)
o Key Capabilities for Adoption Services (174-180)
o The Data Handshake (192-194)
o Epilogue (217)

I commend J.B. Wood, Todd Hewlin, and Thomas Lah on the wealth of information, insights, and counsel they provide. It remains for each reader to determine whether or not to lead the charge to adopt the B4B model. In that event, vigorous resistance must be anticipated and prepared for, with much (most?) of it coming from those who established — and now defend — the status quo. I strongly recommend checking out the resources and support services available at the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA).

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