This chapter sets the stage for the remainder of the book. It spells out, in very simple terms, why I believe that we are not nearly as successful in our software endeavors as we could be. I will refrain from quoting failed projects data that is too often quoted. If you are interested, you can visit the Standish Group’s website at standishgroup.com. These are the folks who track the numbers.
I will also refrain, for the most part, from focusing entirely on dot-com failures, although some stories related to this era are relevant and personal. If you really want the low down on dot-com failures, you should read ComputingFailure.com by Robert Glass. Also, if you have a seriously morbid interest in following the demise of dot-com and other contemporary companies, then read F'd Companies: Spectacular Dot-Com Flameouts by Philip Kaplan.
The fact that we are not as successful as we could be in our software endeavors, which now includes almost all business endeavors, is not widely in dispute. There is a tremendous amount of literature on the subject, most of which focuses on technological aspects of the problem. Although some chapters in this text do touch on technological issues, I will attempt to provide causal analysis by focusing on historical, organizational, and sociological aspects of the software dilemma.
I have been a student of business and computing (in that order) during my entire professional career. I have deep intellectual curiosity in both domains; however I am, by far, more practitioner than academic. For the most part, this book is a collection of my war stories and experiences as reported from the front lines.
Information is free. Insights are rare.
Hopefully, the stories and anecdotes in this book will provide insight that will prove useful to business executives, IT executives, and other practitioners. If that happens, I will certainly be pleased. However, I must confess that this is not the sole, or even the primary, reason for my telling of these anecdotes. They are in my head, and I have a need to tell them. It is, in part, an attempt to exorcise some of my own demons. I am very passionate about computing. It has totally consumed a large part of my waking hours for many years now—mostly, but not always, in a positive way.