Monday, June 22, 2009

Wrench in the System

Last year, I gave away bound galleys of a book I was marketing, free to anybody who would blog about it. That book was CauseWired, a great book by Tom Watson about the increasingly interlinked worlds of social networking, philanthropy, and social/political causes. (And that book is even more relevant in a month when solid news of the Iranian crackdown is only getting out via Twitter -- so take a look at it on Amazon, will ya?)

I've got another book that I'd love to share with people, on a different topic by a different great writer and thinker: Wrench in the System by Harold Hambrose. Hambrose is the founder and CEO of Electronic Ink, a design consultancy for information systems. What he mostly does is work on making enterprise systems work -- tweaking those gigantic computer systems that are supposed to control all of the functions for an organization and every once in a while end up shutting the whole place down for months. (As in the famous implementation of SAP R/3 at Hershey's a decade ago, which stopped them from shipping $100 million worth of candy for Halloween.)

I may have just confused those of you who aren't programmers. (The programmers, on the other hand, are probably muttering about how I don't know anything about what I'm talking about -- and, compared to them, I probably don't.)

Big companies have big computer systems -- gigantic databases, massive inventory management operations, huge customer-service systems. And those all have to interface with their human users as well as with each other -- sometimes very well, and sometimes in ways that makes us yearn for the days of Microsoft Bob or "Clippy" the helpful paperclip.

Another way to put it -- my jokey title for this book, when the editor and Hambrose were working it into shape, was Your Portal Sucks: Why IT Investments Fail. That's what it's about, and what Hambrose has been doing for a couple of decades -- helping companies design their computer systems (or, sometimes, their processes, if you want to get really consultant-speak about it) in ways that their users will not only be able to use, but will want to use -- will find it easier to use a new computer system than to do it the old way.

So Wrench in the System is an examination of the ways design -- old-fashioned, art-college design, as well as fancier modern kinds -- can help IT, with lavish illustrations and examples. And I'd like to get it into the hands of people who are going to read it, think about it, and write about it in public. If you're interested, e-mail me at with details of the blog where you usually write, and maybe (if you want) an indication of what interests you about Wrench in the System.

1 comment:

wrenches said...

Well in the case of such giant corporations many wrenches in the works appear concerning their computer systems. It's all a matter of how good your tech guys are.

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