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Fri 21 May 2004

The book I wanted to write

Category : Commentary/speedOfStupid2.txt

I've just finished "Business @ the Speed of Stupid" - by Dan Burke and Alan Morrison. If I can, I want to give this book to everybody I know who is involved with planning, designing, or deciding on IT projects. It could be the most important book on the subject, by a very long way, and for a very long time.

The first part of the book contains ten examples, ten case studies of how IT projects fail, and I've experienced every one of them. An example from page 145:

Andy's idea was for content to be managed by the users with little administrative control or interference. He believed that the secret to success for systems like this was ease of use and accessibility. He had hardly begun to present the content management part of the design when Peter interrupted. "Andy, I like everything you've said up to this point, but I've got a real problem here. This isn't a toy for the users to play with; this is a mission critical business system, one that requires the same degree of security and management control as our accounting system. The system is going to contain a lot of valuable and client-sensitive information, information that has to be protected. I understand where you're coming from, wanting to make the system friendly and easy to use, but I don't think that putting a few management controls in place would have much of a negative effect. In fact, it will result in better, more dependable content, which will increase user confidence and make it more likely people will use the system." Andy wanted to disagree but could sense that Peter wasn't likely to change his position on the matter, so he nodded agreement and said, "Okay. We can easily put in more access controls and work out some procedures for submission and approval of content. I'll get that done and run it past you within a couple of days." Peter smiled and nodded.

I had thought that, okay, the first part of the book was fun. But wait till we get to the prescriptive part of the book, and we'll hear the same old nonsense in the form of half-baked methodologies. But no, the second part of the book was quite good, too. I think these two authors make a lot sense and that the simple framework they use to think about IT projects can work. It would help if more people, and especially the business owners and key users, get to know and read this.

I think this is the book that I had wanted to write. But I don't see how anyone could do a better job than what Burke and Morrison did in explaining the issues and suggesting a way to get out of the fix.

Posted at 11:32AM UTC | permalink


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