[ISN] REVIEW: "Computing Calamities", Robert L. Glass

From: cult hero (jerichoat_private)
Date: Fri May 07 1999 - 16:11:59 PDT

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    Forwarded From: "Rob Slade" <rsladeat_private>
    BKCMPCLM.RVW   990320
    "Computing Calamities", Robert L. Glass, 1999, 0-13-082862-9,
    %A   Robert L. Glass
    %C   One Lake St., Upper Saddle River, NJ   07458
    %D   1999
    %G   0-13-082862-9
    %I   Prentice Hall
    %O   U$29.99/C$42.95 800-576-3800 201-236-7139 fax: 201-236-7131
    %P   302 p.
    %T   "Computing Calamities"
    Is this a book about computing failures?  I'm not very sure about that. 
    In the first place, is it a book?  Almost all of the content comes from
    previously published magazine articles.  (Actually, about all Glass seems
    to have written are some "in the next section we look at" bridges.) 
    Readable, as most magazine articles are, but long on quotes from
    interested parties, and short on hard facts or detailed analysis. 
    Computing?  While the companies noted in the stories deal with computers
    in one way or another, the shortcomings are generally those of management,
    and not technology. 
    Calamities?  Chapter one, for example, points out a major failure--but it
    is a failure of journalists and pundits.  Glass points out that the
    repeated assertion that most software projects fail is based on faulty
    data; or, rather, valid data from a study that was looking at something
    else.  Chapter two isn't about failures either, it's about turnarounds. 
    Interesting, possibly, but hardly dealing with disasters as such. 
    Chapter three is about failures, at least for the most part.  However, it
    will be very difficult to draw any lessons from the stories therein. 
    Some, in fact, deal with outright theft, rather than any shortcoming in
    either technology or business.  One article does spell the lessons out for
    us, in point form.  Even there, however, the text is not straightforward. 
    So the company leader is arrogant and has a lavish office?  When things
    are going well we are told that is how you succeed.  When times get tough,
    well, obviously (with 20/20 hindsight)  those were the seeds of your
    Chapter four looks at things in a slightly smaller scale: projects instead
    of entire companies.  (On the other hand, some of these projects are
    bigger than some of the companies looked at elsewhere.)  Continuing in the
    same vein, though, morals are hard to draw from the story.  Some points
    are indisputable, but they tend to be the business equivalent of
    motherhood statements.  Be customer driven, don't let a project get away
    from you, hire the right people, know when to get out: these are all good
    pieces of advice, but not necessarily easy to accomplish. 
    Chapter five discusses some less commercial ventures, with equally
    ambiguous results. 
    In chapter six, Glass seems to contradict both the subtitle of the book
    ("Lessons learned from products, projects, and companies that failed") and
    some of the earlier material by stating that the compilation is intended
    as a kind of memorial to the dearly departed who are unlikely to leave
    behind any remains of their passing.  This literary "bait and switch"
    operation may be a little unfair on reviewers and unsuspecting potential
    readers in bookstores, but if that is the real intention then I suppose he
    has succeeded.  A book is slightly less ephemeral than the periodicals in
    which the material originally appeared, and the content makes easy bedtime
    reading for technical managers.  However, the likes of "Digital Woes" (cf. 
    BKDGTLWO.RVW) and "Computer Related Risks" (cf. BKCMRLRS.RVW) are in no
    danger from works of this calibre. 
    copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKCMPCLM.RVW 990320
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