Book Recommendations

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Life is too short and valueable that one can learn from one’s own mistakes. Good advice costs money and is limited by the availability of other resources. A good book helps in the meantime.

But what is a “good” book? This will certainly depend on one’s view. We picked some books from our overcrowded shelves, which we enjoy reading and regard as good, useful and lucrative. These books will improve your knowledge in important fields such as process improvement, software design, IT marketing and IT management. The recommendations are based on our own reading. We are not associated with authors or publishers of these books.

Enjoy the reading!



Interpreting the CMMI: A Process Improvement Approach (Kulpa, Johnson; ISBN-10: 142006052X)

CMMI is a complex subject area which is is not easy to fathom for beginners. If you have already done your first steps, browsed the instructions on the CMMI homepage and now search for more concrete information, then this book is a logical continuation. Without any superfluous formaisms, the authors describe the basic structure of the model in all process areas and goes into detail of CMMI implementation procedure. All phases, roles and control mechanisms are extensively described. The book also contains a very helpful appendix containing examples of templates, metrics, role descriptions, etc.

Great book for process experts, best read before introducing the CMMI standard to your organization!

Leading Change (John P.Kotter; ISBN-10: 0875847471)

What should be considered when a comprehensive process improvement measure is about to be developed and implemented? In a modern factory, the human resources, not the automated assembly line, make it a successful enterprise. The same goes for software companies. For that reason, the introduction of new processes is a perilous exercise. Certain rules must be followed, otherwise a disaster is inevitable.

In his classic book Leading Change, John Kotter introduces a proven strategy for a successful organizational change. Stressing the clear distinction between management and leadership, the process is very intuitive and straightforward to implement. In our consulting practice, we have repeatedly proven the effectiveness of Kotter’s strategy.

Surviving Object Oriented Projects (A. Cockburn; ISBN-10: 0201498340)

Learning from other’s mistakes – this book makes it possible. The authors offer highly interesting, real case studies about implementing object-oriented technology. The (partially anonymized) reports are both entertaining and highly educational. The object-oriented hype is long gone, but even today, new technologies are introduced repeatedly in a way that is very reminiscent of the cases presented here.

If you are a project manager confronted with the challenge of setting up a new project, and you are being asked if EAI/SOA/MDI/whatever-the-current-hype-is should be considered and how to go about it, you should read this book in the first place.

Software Fundamentals (Collected Papers by David L. Parnas; ISBN-10: 0201703696)

A book for true connoisseurs! David Parnas, one of the most famous personalities in the computer science world and the inventor of the infamous Data Hiding principle (data encapsulation), has put together various articles from various sources that handle a variety of interesting topics. Some may seem a bit nostalgic, but all contributions offer timeless insights. May interesting subjects will catch the reader’s attention, including very serious titles like “Structured Analysis, Requirement Analysis in Complex Systems”, “Software Engineering Principles”, as well as a refreshing article with the ominous headline “A Rational Design Process: How and Why to Fake It”.

A first-rate reading for all software professionals.

Mind over Machine (Hubert L. und Stuart E. Dreyfus; ISBN-10: 0743205510)

What is an expert? Can the term “expert” be effectively defined at all? How does one become an expert? If we knew the answer, then experts might become easily interchangeable. Experts could be described by a set of rules, the rules could be fed into a computer and the computer would become a cheap replacement for expensive human experts.

Written in the eighties, when artificial intelligence (AI) was a popular hype, the book offers the conclusion that a computer will probably never replace a human expert. Marketed under the misleading term “expert systems”, complex computer systems fail to perform trivial tasks ordinary people handle every day with ease. Even today, the computer science still struggles with the task of designing artificial experts. Despite the ability of modern computers to beat nearly all human chess masters or to more-or-less reliable recognize human faces and number plates, we are still light years away from emulating a human being.

However, the book offers much more than just a realistic assessment of the AI fiasco. The reader will find many exciting social experiments and their explanations. The authors also comprehensively describe their famous, five-stage skill model, from “novice” to “expert” explaining the role of “intuition” in the human learning process. Many concepts presented in this book can bee found in various today’s trendy publications. More than worth reading.

Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (Gamma et al; ISBN-10: 0201633612)

A must-have classic for all software designers. Anyone who works with object-oriented technology must read it. It contains practically-proven solutions to common design problems arising in everyday life of a software designer. The authors offer comprehensive and useful examples for each design pattern.

Design patterns are a basic vocabulary that facilitates communication, reduces the number of unnecessary debates and thus saves time and money. There is no way round this masterpiece.

The Deadline: A Novel About Project Managment (Tom DeMarco; ISBN-10: 0932633390)

The Deadline – this is the absolute classic in the area of the IT project management. This novel (!) from the famous management guru Tom DeMarco is an fictional journey through a giant project management laboratory in which multiple project teams pursue different management approaches with the same goal: the successful development of a new software system. The author offers what is impossible in the real word: a comparison of concurring organizational approaches.

Even if it occasionally becomes obvious that Tom DeMarco is, by heart, a manager and not a professional fiction writer, the book is fun to read and contains many useful insights on the art of IT project management. The Deadline – a cult book and a highly recommended reading for all aspiring project managers.

In Search of Stupidity (M.R.Chapman, with a preface from Joel Spolsky; ISBN-10: 1590597214)

Why did Tom Peters deliberately lie in his book “In Search of Excellence”? Why could Microsoft be so successful with MS-DOS, and why did Bill Gates actually not want to make it? What has happened to such promising products such as dBase, Word Perfect, and OS/2?

These interesting questions find their answers in this book. Merrill Chapman, a veteran of the IT industry (MicroPro, Asthon-Tate, Novell and many more were among his employers or clients) tells in a witty yet informative style of marketing disasters, bad decisions and cases of plain luck that we can learn from. If you are looking for answers to urgent questions like, “Our developers want to rewrite the system – should we do it?”, “How to market a software product?”, or if you are wondering why Microsoft, despite the allegedly poor code quality is a world leader in software business – then this book is right for you. It is an entertaining reading, a lightweight, yet very useful stuff.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions (Dan Ariely; ISBN: 0007256531)

Are we rational human beings? If so, why do so many of us drive a more expensive vehicle while a much cheaper alternative would meet all of our practial needs? Did you know that the first price mentioned in a sales negotiation demonstrably affects the final price? Why does a can of beer in a student dorm fridge quickly disappear, while a dollar bill lies there for weeks? And why is the “culture of free”, the freebie movement, so popular? There must be a catch to it, right?

Daniel Ariely, economist and MIT professor, offers interesting answers to these questions. The book is entertaining and very interesting for readers who work in marketing and sales professions.

The Wisdom of Crowds (James Surowiecki, ISBN 978-0385721707)

When dealing with complex problems, asking prominent experts for help is common sense. James Surowiecki shows in his book that this is not always the best choice. For certain problem classes groups of independent individuals provide (under certain circumstances) significantly better results than expert teams.

This startling insight has broad consequences for the world of innovation, marketing and technology. The often unexploited potential of employees, citizens, or even anonymous internet users can be unleashed to the maximum benefit of commercial businesses. “Prediction Markets” or Google’s pagerank algorithm are famous examples of this “wisdom of crowds principle”.

The book is a worldwide bestseller, is written in an entertaining and pleasant language. We recommend it to all audiences.