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Looking for a book to help get your IT shop better aligned with the business? Or maybe you want to brush up on your management skills? Here's a list of books that can help.
Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle
By Matthew Symonds; commentary by Larry Ellison
Simon & Schuster, October 2003
528 pages, $28
The fascination with Larry Ellison continues. In a different attempt to try to satisfy it, Symonds, an editor at The Economist, was given unlimited access to Ellison himself—with the Oracle chairman and CEO getting a chance to make comments in the text (Ellison also wrote the forward). Not surprisingly, it is Ellison's comments that are the most intriguing. Example: "If you work in Silicon Valley long enough, you can't help noticing how much the technology industry resembles the women's clothing business. Both are fashion-driven. Fashionable ideas are hot, when others are not."
Code Name Ginger: The Story Behind Segway and Dean Kamen's Quest to Invent a New World
By Steve Kemper
Harvard Business School Press, May 2003
336 pages, $27.95
The most appealing part of this book is studying the way Dean Kamen, the inventor of the much-hyped "human transporter," goes about spurring innovation in his company. First, failures are celebrated. Second, in order to spur new thinking, people from different departments are periodically charged with solving problems outside their spheres of expertise. Third, Kamen consistently acts as a cheerleader to keep everyone's spirits up during the inevitable product delays. This approach would seem to work no matter what kind of technology you are trying to invent.
The Cure: Enterprise Medicine for Business
By Dan Paul and Jeff Cox
John Wiley & Sons Inc., February 2003
304 pages, $24.95
About the only author who's been able to pull off the concept of the business novel is Jeff Cox (The Goal, Zapp!). Other writers either get bogged down in plot—so the business issues don't resonate—or they get the business points across but can't tell a story. Here, teamed with Paul, the former head of strategic planning for Jack Welch's General Electric, Cox tells the story of how one struggling firm learned to respond quickly to changing marketing conditions by eliminating boundaries within the organization and moving to a flexible production schedule. The implicit message: This is not a fairy tale; it's a necessary strategy.
Perfect Enough: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett-Packard
By George Anders
Portfolio/Penguin Putnam, January 2003
288 pages, $24.95
Anders, a senior editor at Fast Companymagazine, talks a bit about the reinvention of Hewlett-Packard in light of its acquisition of Compaq. But the real focus here is on the battle to get Hewlett-Packard shareholders to approve the deal. He provides the behind-the-scenes story of CEO Carly Fiorina's ultimately successful battle to get shareholders to go along with the plan, despite the vehement opposition of Walter Hewitt, son of one of the company's founders. The real trick now, of course, is to make the acquisition work.
21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com
By Mike Daisey
Free Press, June 2002
240 pages, $23
There are a couple of things that make this book different from all the "I worked inside the dot-com bubble" books flooding the market. First, Amazon is still in business. Second, Daisey, a self-professed slacker, is funny. Among other things, Daisey worked as an Amazon customer service rep, so he got a first-hand look at the company's technology in action. The view wasn't pretty. The infrastructure, for instance, consistently failed to keep up with the company's phenomenal growth. When the computers were down, Daisey had to jot down credit card numbers on Post-it Notes. As Daisey puts it: "Amazon is the world's most aggressively marketed beta product."
DoCoMo: Japan's Wireless Tsunami
By John Beck and Mitchell Wade
Amacom, September 2002
256 pages, $25.00
Why care about the rise of NTT DoCoMo Inc., the wireless division of Japan's Nippon Telephone and Telegraph? Because, argue these two Accenture Ltd. consultants, DoCoMo has succeeded where wireless in the U.S. and Europe has not. DoCoMo has "made commerce on the mobile Internet compelling—so compelling that it is fast becoming universal throughout Japan." The book makes clear that DoCoMo's success is also a reminder of what too many CIOs forget: Consumers don't care about the technology. They only care about what the technology can do for them. The authors spend more time talking about the marketing of DoCoMo's "i-Mode" than they do the technology itself.
Inside the Cult of Kibu and Other Tales of the Millennial Gold Rush
By Lori Gottlieb and Jesse Jacobs
Perseus Publishing, July 2002
320 pages, $26
Gottlieb, head of the long-defunct Kibu.com, a portal for teenage girls, and Jacobs, who works for ifilm.com, chronicle all the excesses of the dot-com era. They get the tone just right. Here is Gottlieb's dedication: "For my 16-year-old cousin Shira Berenson, who when I asked what she thought of Kibu ... candidly replied via e-mail: 'It sucks.'"