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Wrench in the System: What's Sabotaging Your Business Software and How You Can Release the Power to Innovate Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470413433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470413432
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,323,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"We pulled out a plum in this terrific book by the founder of a US-based design agency examining the vexed question of why business software tends to disappoint.

It’s a question that most of us have given up trying to answer. Because the wrong supplier got chosen? Because IT has no idea about business? Because business has no idea about IT? Because the wording of the RFP was bad? Because things changed partway through the selection or development process? Who knows, so we shrug and creep from project hell to the new world…of what also turns out to be project hell.

All of these attempted answers have some validity but it’s rare for a writer to come up with such a cogent, trenchant polemic as Hambrose manages here. As you might expect, Hambrose focuses on software design, suggesting that software given to users all too often fails to reflect the way they work or want to work. So it falls into disuse, is detested, or management comes up with some spurious justification for the enormous amount of money invested in it."
Martin Veitch, CIO Magazine

From the Inside Flap

Why business software doesn't work—and how to fix it

Every year, businesses waste billions of dollars on information technology that doesn't communicate clearly with the people who use it. This fundamental flaw causes errors and delays, lowers profits, and can even endanger lives.

In this groundbreaking book, technology designer Harold Hambrose shows executives and managers how to turn underperforming digital assets into powerhouse systems—how to specify small changes that dramatically boost productivity, how to reduce training costs, and how to ask vendors the right questions.

Wrench in the System reveals:

  • Why so many of our essential software systems are needlessly confusing

  • How to make low-cost changes that provide direct, measurable benefits

  • The hidden costs of forcing people to adapt to clumsy electronic tools

  • The secrets of matching software to the needs of the company

  • How to leverage the power of technology for innovation

Information technology is still in its adolescence, and Hambrose explains that because the industry has grown so quickly, it's still in an awkward phase. Software manufacturers have been in such a rush to add new features that they haven't paid enough attention to the human beings who use their products. Most software systems are built to fulfill business requirements and technical specifications, but often they fail to meet expectations because they aren't designed to anticipate human needs. As a result, much of our most powerful business software is ineffective and underutilized.

With compelling case histories and an engaging narrative, Hambrose exposes popular nonsense about software systems and shows how to evaluate them and measure their performance just as we do every other product.

This timely book by an industry insider tells decision makers what they need to know to un-lock the full potential of one of their biggest business investments.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By arzewski on April 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Good Read. It was interesting to listen to the perspective of someone that has not been entrenched in years of polluted waters of tekkie and business speak on how to solve the software engineering crisis, but from someone that comes from a design background. It reminded me somewhat the front cover of Larry Constantine's book, "Constantine on Peopleware", showing a rendition of the painting "Liberty Leading the People" by Eugène Delacroix, but this time a mob of angry every-day computer users revolting from the unfriendly computers and software applications. Would have liked to see an appendix with some form of taxonomy or patterns of issues and problems found by the author in his experiences.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By KHR on August 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Judging this book by its title, "Wrench in the System: What's Sabotaging Your Business Software and How You Can Release the Power to Innovate" you could be forgiven if you thought this would be just another business book. It's not. What the author, Harold Hambrose, has captured is how the software industry has wandered off the path of designing tools; the purpose of which is to meet the needs of users. In fact, through a series of business and personal examples, he shows how the software industry (and those responsible for purchasing software) has never been on the path at all.

What Mr. Hambrose demonstrates is that "the path" to creating usable business systems requires the same design process that has historically been used to create the world's most beautiful and useful buildings (think, St. Peter's Basilica) and products (think, the iPod). That process, which requires trained designers and researchers to work collaboratively to discover and understand the needs, habits and requirements of the folks who will ultimately use a piece of software, is the same process used to determine that a church needs to be more than four walls and a roof and that a music player needs to be more than a device you plug headphones into. We, the denizens of corporate cubicles and executive offices alike, should require nothing less of our software and business systems. And if that weren't enough, the author has a written a book that really is an enjoyable read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nice production value in the book and a number of good ideas and noteworthy suggestions but a lot of repetition and dead air in here as well. Probably 10, 20 pages at the most of content enveloped in another 200 pages or so of, uh, design? Quick read that should be condensed to its truest form to really make it a must read.
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