This is the second book I’ve read from Mark Schwartz and I have enjoyed them both (review for War, Peace, and IT). They are both easy reads and if you’ve worked in IT Management, they don’t really contain anything that would surprise you; just proven concepts tied together in a nicely coherent way. The big theme in this book is that Business Value is not something that can be thrown over the fence to IT to build, but something that must be theorized on, tested, and refined by teams that have both business and IT. If this is something you or your company are struggling with, you will find helpful techniques and ways to justify it in this book.

A few of the things that I found particularly useful were:

  • He talks about the Enterprise Architecture as being the “the abstracted total of IT Capabilities that allows the business to operate – software, infrastructure, and all that. The giant hairball of stuff that the CIO oversees, that keeps getting new features stuck to it – duct tape, rubber cement, chewing gum, etc.” I love this as a definition. Too many Enterprise Architects get caught up in designing how some new project should be built. A lot of times the more valuable thing they could provide is a view on how the new project fits in the current mess of things… exactly which components/apps/tools can/should be retired with the new thing coming in, what legacy systems need to talk to the new system and how they could/should be changed, etc…
  • There is a good section on focusing on having the entire team understand business value and not just having a product owner (a flawed human being who probably doesn’t have a perfect understanding of the business or the tech… let alone both) set all the priorities. It includes this quote, “Is it possible that the product owner role feels like a good idea because it helps fit Agile practice into a command-and-control hierarchy?”
  • There’s another great analogy about in a traditional waterfall project IT feels like an order taker at a fast-food restaurant and that in scrum, IT becomes more of a salesman at a high-priced clothing store that works with the customer to find the right clothes in the right fit. Either way it is flawed because the business treats IT as a vendor instead of as a coworker.