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Recommended Books and Articles

This reference material is recommended by Harwell. The links for each book will take you directly to the appropriate page on Amazon.com. The links for articles will take you directly to the article, or to a web site where you can buy a copy of the article (e.g., from Harvard Business Review). The links for services take you to a web site where you can find out more about the services.

Better communication between technical and non-technical people

12/1/2002 Inc Magazine: “What’s Next: Talking to the Tech Department” by Robert X. Cringely
A reminder of what the IT department is supposed to do in most small companies. Includes tips on how to help IT contribute to the business. “A good IT department keeps in mind the objectives of the business, not those of the users, because the two are not always in alignment.”

10/26/2004 Good Experience blog: “Introducing the Customer-Centric World View” by Mark Hurst
This simple article makes a compelling case for making our business customer-centric. The same case can be made for making an IT organization customer-centric. And the anecdote in the article is a good illustration of how communication fails when we forget that customer-centricity.

IT Strategy

Book: “The Agenda” by Michael Hammer
How business has lost touch with the customer, and how to regain customers through process-centric management. While the book is not specifically about IT strategy, it speaks to a lot of what is wrong with many business strategies. And focusing on process will inevitably lead back to information technology.

Book: “The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less” by Richard Koch

The 80/20 Principle (also called the Pareto Principle) says that “a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards.” For a successful IT strategy, it is important to focus on the few things that are key, and not waste unnecessary effort on the 80% of things that don’t matter. This book explains the 80/20 principle and talks about how to use it.

2/1/2003 Inc Magazine: “What’s Next: Software for Non-Dummies” by Robert X. Cringely

Citing high failure statistics for custom software projects, Cringely recommends that companies avoid custom software altogether, using off-the-shelf solutions wherever possible. “Never build. Always buy.”

11/11/2002 InformationWeek: “Heart of the Matter”
How IT architecture is being used at Motorola, Inc. and at Carlson Cos. (See the InformationWeek web site for back-issue articles by date, or search on their site for “heart of the matter.” Unfortunately, their copyright policy doesn’t allow a direct link to the article.)

Software Architecture, Software Architects and Architecting: information from Bredemeyer Consulting
A valuable web site with a good description of software architecture and a lot of in-depth white papers and training material. Architecture isn’t all there is to IT strategy, but it’s a critical component of a good IT strategy. This site is a good technical introduction to what software architecture is all about.

11/1/2002 Harvard Business Review:
“Six IT Decisions Your IT People Shouldn’t Make”

List of IT strategy decisions that often get made by the IT organization by default, due to lack of an integrated business/IT strategy.


5/1/2003 Harvard Business Review:
“IT Doesn’t Matter”

The author makes the case that IT is no longer strategic because all companies have equal access to it. Therefore, instead of investing in strategic IT, companies should spend less, follow others, and “focus on vulnerabilities, not opportunities.” For a different perspective, see my June, 2003 article.

July, 2004 Chief Executive magazine:
“The CIO’s Rise and Fall”

A discussion of a trend toward having the CIO report to the CFO instead of the CEO. The article questions whether this move puts business innovation at risk. 

IT Due Diligence

I would like to add recommendations in this subject area, but I haven’t found any good ones. Please send your recommendations to me at info@makingITclear.com.

IT Manager and Employee Personal Development

The Regional Leadership Forum (RLF) from the Society for Information Management (SIM)
An intensive, nine-month leadership development program focused on creating authentic leaders. Like an executive MBA, it’s done while you still work at your regular job.

Positive Power and Influence® Program
A long time ago, at the very start of my career, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a course called “Positive Power and Influence,” and I have derived tremendous value from that course ever since that time. The idea of the course was that there are four basic ways that we can influence others, and that different styles make sense in different situations. For more information, see my article about the course, or see the Situation Management Systems, Inc. web site.

Audio-Tech Business Book Summaries
I was a subscriber to these summaries for many years. Every month you get an email with a link to download PDF text summaries, and a snail-mail with audio versions of the summaries on CD, cassette, or downloaded MPEG file. That’s two business books a month that you can listen to on the way to work. It’s a great time-saver.

I’ve been an Audible customer since their early days. They offer both non-fiction and fiction books for electronic download, as well as various business, technical and news periodicals. Great for an iPhone, iPod, Android or BlackBerry.  Don’t waste that commute time — listen to books while you drive!

IT Project Assessment

Book: “Waltzing with Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects” by Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister
“Risk management is project management for adults,” says the book. DeMarco and Lister address all aspects of how to measure and deal with risk on a project, and they convince the reader that project management isn’t just coping with project crises—it’s taking steps in advance to avoid them. You’ll read this book once, and then return to it often.

Book: “Critical Chain” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
A “business novel” that leads the reader through a discussion of why projects are always late, and then proposes a simple, yet elegant solution to this problem. Goldratt introduced the “Theory of Constraints” in his earlier classic book “The Goal.” In “Critical Chain,” Goldratt applies the Theory of Constraints to project management.


Book: “The Mythical Man-Month” by Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.
A classic, originally published in 1975. A highly readable introduction to project software issues, particularly the issues that come from very large projects (Brooks managed the software development for IBM’s OS/360 operating system).


Book: “Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams” by Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister
A slightly newer classic (published in 1987) that talks about the people side of software development, including recommendations for the best way to use teams. Easy to read, but full of great insight.


2/1/2003 Harvard Business Review: “Why Bad Projects Are So Hard to Kill”
Two case studies about large projects that were continued in spite of their failure. Why projects are continued, and what to do about it.


The Standish Group
The Standish Group specializes in statistical measures of IT project success and failure. Their “CHAOS Report” shows year-to-year improvement (or not) in IT project success in the US. You can buy the report, or you can get a very high level summary from their press releases (which are found in the public area of their web site).

IT System Assessment

I would like to add recommendations in this subject area, but I haven’t found any good ones. Please send your recommendations to me at info@makingITclear.com.

Organizational Issues

Book: “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick M. Lencioni
A “business novel” that explores the factors which make teams work, and that prevent them from functioning. An eye-opening book that you can use to make your teams or your organization work better together.


Book: “How Full is your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life” by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton
Using a simple metaphor of filling a bucket, the authors explain the importance of positive reinforcement to success and happiness. They cite numerous studies to prove their case. A quick read, but it makes an important point.

System Usability and Better User Interfaces

Book: “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum” by Alan Cooper
How so many companies go wrong by letting technical people design user interfaces, and how it should be done instead.


Knowledge Management

Book: “Managing Knowledge – A Practical Web-Based Approach” by Wayne Applehans, Alden Globe, and Greg Laugero
A short introduction to Knowledge Management, and how to start a Knowledge Management project. Can apply to an intranet, or generically to any Knowledge Management project.


Book: “If Only We Knew What We Know – The Transfer of Internal Knowledge and Best Practices” by Carla O’Dell and C. Jackson Grayson, Jr.
Another introduction to Knowledge Management. This one focuses on the transfer of best practices, and includes case studies from which to learn.


Book: “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” by Louis Rosenfeld & Peter Morville
A good introduction to how to organize information for a web site.



2/1/2000 Harvard Business Review: “What’s Your Strategy for Managing Knowledge?”
Describes two entirely different strategies for managing knowledge, codification and personalization, and discusses when to use each.



Better Consulting (whether for CIOs or for consultants)

Book: “The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving & Getting Advice Successfully” by Gerald M. Weinberg
A classic book that is both insightful and fun to read. If you can only read one book on how to help people (whether as a consultant or as a business problem solver), this is the one to read.


Book: “Selling the Invisible” by Harry Beckwith
Whether you’re a CIO selling your own department’s services, or a consultant selling to others, you’ve got the same challenges. This book is a great introduction to what it means to sell a service.



Book: “The Invisible Touch” by Harry Beckwith
Continues where “Selling the Invisible” left off. I liked the second book better, but maybe because I was already familiar with the concepts from the first book.



Book: “The Trusted Advisor” by David H. Maister, et al
If you don’t have the trust of your clients or your business, then you’ll never truly be successful, nor will your business. This book explores the subject in detail, giving advice on how to create trust with all sorts of people and in all sorts of situations. It talks about the challenges you’ll face, and how to overcome them.

Disclaimer: The books, articles and other material referenced on this site are ones that I personally find valuable. There are many other books on these topics that I haven’t read and thus can’t recommend. If you have a book or article that you would like to recommend, please email me at info@makingITclear.com.

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