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Smart Enough Systems: How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions [Paperback]

by James Taylor, Neil Raden
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 9, 2007 0132347962 978-0132347969 1

“Automated decisions systems are probably already being used in your industry, and they will undoubtedly grow in importance. If your business needs to make quick, accurate decisions on an industrialized scale, you need to read this book.”

Thomas H. Davenport, Professor, Babson College, Author of Competing on Analytics


The computer-based systems most organizations rely on to support their businesses are not very smart. Many of the business decisions these companies make tend to be hidden in systems that make poor decisions, or don’t make them at all. Further, most systems struggle to keep up with the pace of change.


The answer is not to implement newer, “intelligent” systems. The fact is that much of today’s existing technology has the potential to be “smart enough” to make a big difference to an organization’s business. This book tells you how.


Although the business context and underlying principles are explained in a nontechnical manner, the book also contains how-to guidance for more technical readers.


The book’s companion site,, has additional information and references for practitioners as well as news and updates.


Additional Praise for Smart (Enough) Systems

“James Taylor and Neil Raden are on to something important in this book–the tremendous value of improving the large number of routine decisions that are made in organizations every day.”

Dr. Hugh J. Watson, Chair of Business Administration, University of Georgia


“This is a very important book. It lays out the agenda for business technology in the new century–nothing less than how to reorganize every aspect of how a company treats its customers.”

David Raab, President, ClientXClient


“This book is an important contribution to business productivity because it covers the opportunity from both the business executive’s and technologist’s perspective. This should be on every operational executive’s and every CIO’s list of essential reading.”

John Parkinson, Former CTO, Capgemini, North American Region


“This book shows how to use proven technology to make business processes smarter. It clearly makes the case that organizations need to optimize their operational decisions. It is a must-have reference for process professionals throughout your organization.”

Jim Sinur, Chief Strategy Officer, Global 360, Inc.


Frequently Bought Together

Smart Enough Systems: How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions + Decision Management Systems: A Practical Guide to Using Business Rules and Predictive Analytics (IBM Press) + Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning
Price for all three: $81.63

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Taylor
Prior to co-founding Smart (Enough) Systems, James Taylor was a Vice President at Fair Isaac Corporation where he developed and refined the concept of enterprise decision management or EDM. Widely credited with the invention of the term and the best known proponent of the approach, Mr Taylor helped create the emerging EDM market and is a passionate advocate of decision management. Mr. Taylor has 20 years experience in all aspects of the design, development, marketing and use of advanced technology including CASE tools, project planning and methodology tools as well as platform development in PeopleSoft's R&D team and consulting with Ernst and Young. He has consistently worked to develop approaches, tools and platforms that others can use to build more effective information systems. He is an experienced speaker and author, with his columns and articles appearing regularly in industry magazines.

Neil Raden
Prior to co-founding Smart (Enough) Systems, Neil Raden was the founder of Hired Brains, a research and advisory firm in Santa Barbara, CA, offering research and analysis services to technology providers and venture capitalists as well as providing consulting and implementation services in Business Intelligence and Analytics throughout North America and Europe. Hired Brains, and its predecessor company, Archer Decision Sciences, have been in business for over 20 years, providing services to many of the Global 2000 companies. Mr. Raden began his career as a casualty actuary with AIG in New York before moving into software engineering, consulting and industry analysis, with experience in the application of analytics to business processes from fields as diverse as health care to nuclear waste management to cosmetics marketing and many others in between. The recurrent theme in his work is the need for analytics that can be deployed and used by a wide segment of the population. He is a practicing consultant, industry analyst, speaker and author. His articles appear in industry magazines and he is the author of dozens of sponsored white papers for vendors and other organizations.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Extreme Programming Installed

This book is about how organizations can deliver systems smart enough to cope with the modern world. This requires a focus on decision-making and on the automation and management of those decisions. Most organizations struggle with dumb systems and think that their choice is between esoteric artificial intelligence from the lab and mindless systems where everything comes down to "peopleware." Today, people do all the hard work and computers are left to do only what they do best. It is completely feasible to flip that around—have people do what they do best and let computers do the hard work. Organizations can apply proven technology in a new way to get the systems they need.

If you are interested in how to make your organization function more effectively by improving the behavior of your information systems, this book is for you. You might be a manager, wondering what might be possible with your systems or an IT professional looking for a framework for thinking about these aspects of information systems. Perhaps you know something of data mining, predictive analytics, optimization, or business rules and are looking for better ways to apply them. You may be in an organization that has never attempted this kind of work before or one struggling with getting these technologies out of pilot projects and into the mainstream.

We have tried to move gradually from a nontechnical to a moderately technical point of view. The initial chapters are designed for any business reader, whereas the later chapters are really aimed at readers who are more technical. None of the chapters requires a detailed understanding of or experience with the technologies described. Plenty of books exist that describe the component technologies; this book is about how, and why, they fit together. The real case studies scattered throughout the book and, in the more technical sections, the real architecture diagrams are not meant to be comprehensive but illustrative. Similarly, several sections of the book discuss SmartEnough Logistics, an imaginary company whose story illustrates some of the key points in the book.

A companion web site is available: This companion site is designed to be a useful ongoing resource to support the book and those using the concepts described in it. The site has an Enterprise Decision Management Wiki that supports errata, links, additional materials, and more for the subjects covered in the book. The Wiki is open to anyone who registers to participate. News and updates are available through the smartenoughsystems blog, and the site contains information to help you learn more about the subjects covered—everything from webinars and podcasts to training and books.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (July 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0132347962
  • ISBN-13: 978-0132347969
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,097,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why didn't I think of that? August 4, 2007
I've been in the enterprise software business for a long time, and for a long time I've had several related intuitions about how requirements, rules and SOA fit together. But frankly, I never managed to get to a coherent whole about them. Many times while reading this book I kept saying "yes of course, why didn't I think of that?" There are so many excellent insights in this book.

Taylor and Raden may have created a new movement with this work in Enterprise Operational Decision Management. The central theme is that organizations are known by the decisions they make, and not just the major strategic decisions, but the myriad small decisions that their thousands of employees make on a day to day basis. Up until now we had to make due with Decision Support, Knowledge Management, Business Intelligence, Data Warehouses and other off-line aids for manual decision making. In the last few years the maturation of Rules Management systems and the near universal adoption of SOA, Work Flow and BPM are making it possible to more the entire decisioning process into real time, whether human assisted or fully automated.

Two other profound ideas I want to comment on are the champion/ challenger concept, and the role of hypothesis and prediction. Each alone is worth the price of the book.

The champion/challenger concept says once you have a decision model in place and working you owe it to yourself to constantly challenge it by setting up a series of alternate models and running some percent of the decision flow through the challenger model and testing the outcome against the current (champion) scenario. This wasn't really viable until the advent of SOA. They make a great case for how this arrangement allows firms to continually improve their decision making.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed wisdom July 24, 2007
James Taylor knows the Enterprise Decision Making space and has a lot to teach the rest of us. The first several chapters make an excellent business case for the use of decision systems. I found myself underlining and marking content on several pages. His message, however, gets muted by his disjointed writing style, a problem compounded by a poor graphic layout. The disjointedness is mostly a distraction in the first few chapters, but becomes more critical as the content becomes deeper and more technical. (One of my current job responsibilities is leading a business rules system implementation at my company.)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Smart Enough Systems is a book with one foot in two worlds. At one level, it is a business book addressing the issues of using information and decision support. On the other level it is almost a BI/DSS for the less intelligent in terms of its step by step guidance on working through these issues. Fortunately the books premise regarding automating hidden decisions requires a bit of both.

As a business book, Smart Enough covers the need to explain the concepts in business terms and provide a framework for generating ROI. It does not talk in great depth about how decisions drive competitive advantage. It is also a little weak on the explanation of where to apply this technique as I doubt enterprises will make the funding available to automate all of their decisions.

As a technology book, the author focuses on Enterprise Decision Management (EDM) is the primary focus of this book and it is described as applying a services approach to decision making. This looks to take business rules out of IT systems and put them into something akin to a decision service broker/service so the same situations are handled with the same set of rules.

The book is a solid and complete explanation of the author's ideas. Taylor and Raden focus on the systems aspects of EDM and their automation. This leads into a discussion of decision types and how they are automated. Here Taylor and Raden do well to illustrate these concepts, although the reader often encounters graphics and statements that are more than a bit dated.

The book would have been greatly helped with a clear and consistent case study application of its concepts.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Well structured and written, this book could be the first definitive bible for enterprise decision management (EDM). Taylor & Raden cover all the EDM bases; explaining its business need, core tenets, and technical underpinnings. However the authors avoid the temptation to dwell too much in technology detail, and manage to strike a nice balance with tips on practical implementation in real-world business environments and even offers a mini-methodology to help your company take its first step into the bold new world of EDM.

A must read for any company or IT practitioner that's frustrated with their current business intelligence and analytic systems and wants to focus more on value-creating decisions rather than managing data per se.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
When we hear the word "systems" we naturally think of Information Technology - not a subject most CEOs, CFOs or CMOs care to deep dive into.

But Taylor & Raden have filled this book with such indisputable logic and so many engaging,relatable business cases that I recommend every CEO,CFO and CMO use it as a blueprint of how to close the business-to-IT-strategy gap.

When corporations are drowning in data yet starved for information on what customers want, in an increasingly competitive world, every company will benefit from this game-changing way of competing that the authors share here.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This book reminds us that in a "Long Tail" world, the ultimate role of technology in a global economy is to recapture those time-honored business benefits we once could only find in the "corner store".

Jackie Bassett, CEO
BT Industrials, Inc.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of $$$
If you want to spend over $40 for a paperback and be bludgeoned over 400 pages with the obvious then this is the book for you. Read more
Published on April 26, 2011 by Bill
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new
There is absolutely nothing new in this book that I haven't read in many others. Some more money down the drain.
Published on September 30, 2008 by Michael Bingle
5.0 out of 5 stars SOA Decision Services
If you are interested in learning more about decision services and what James Taylor calls Enterprise Decision Management read his book Smart Enough Systems: How to Deliver... Read more
Published on September 12, 2008 by Eric Roch
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for Application Architect
Rules management really a big thing these days. It is one of the best technologies for lowering IT costs. Read more
Published on March 16, 2008 by Daniel G. Mccreary
4.0 out of 5 stars Natural Successor to "Competing on Analytics"
Most business persons associated with the technology aspects of their firms now understand that the importance of intelligence in general to beat the competition has increased... Read more
Published on September 16, 2007 by Erik Gfesser
5.0 out of 5 stars For me this book defines agility and explains how to approach it
It seemed to me that the systems that run our business process are really controlled by a few elite IT professionals and programers. Read more
Published on August 22, 2007 by Edgebender
3.0 out of 5 stars Verbosity & cliche' obscure important messages
Wouldn't take a very sharp blue pencil to trim this down. Even well-defined terms like blackbox and whitebox testing are obscured in the buzzspeak grinder. Read more
Published on August 12, 2007 by constantine_reeder
5.0 out of 5 stars "Adequacy is Sufficient," Even for Business Intelligence!
The late Adam Osborne, pioneer of the "transportable," all-in-one computer, once said that "adequacy is sufficient. Read more
Published on July 27, 2007 by Michael Dortch
5.0 out of 5 stars A practical business "blueprint"
A well written, useful book which I can apply in my daily work making our BI system more valueable and business-centric. Read more
Published on July 26, 2007 by kerberus
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