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Book details of 'Computing Calamities: Lessons Learned From Products, Projects, and Companies that Failed'

Cover of Computing Calamities: Lessons Learned From Products, Projects, and Companies that Failed
TitleComputing Calamities: Lessons Learned From Products, Projects, and Companies that Failed
Author(s)Robert L. Glass
ISBN0130828629
LanguageEnglish
PublishedNovember 1998
PublisherPrentice Hall PTR
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The Virtual Bookcase Reviews of 'Computing Calamities: Lessons Learned From Products, Projects, and Companies that Failed':

Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
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 destruction. 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" and "Computer Related Risks" (see reviews) are in no danger from works of this calibre. copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999
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