The authors, Richard L. Nolan, Robert D. Austin, and Shannon O’Donnell, wrote this book in the format of a novel describing the challenges that IT leadership encounters. Topics are divided into sections based on their topic, such as project management, crisis handling, risk assessment, … etc. Jim Barton, the protagonist, is a new CIO with a strong business background but no knowledge of IT. The book takes the reader on an adventure with Jim Barton as he struggles to manage his IT organization.
I read this book for an IT strategy course that I’m taking at the Sauder School of Business, so I had high expectations of the material. The book was less informative than I had hoped, but it did help me understand the considerations that go into an IT leader’s strategic decisions. The authors make a few references throughout the chapters to IT management frameworks such as agile development, McFarlan’s strategic grid, the Doctrine of completed staff work, … etc. I knew a few of these frameworks before reading the book, and having previous knowledge definitely put things into context for me. However, I would have appreciated a more detailed explanation of how these frameworks applied to the company’s strategic decision making process and the outcomes as a result of those decisions. Part of the reason why I had high expectations was because the book was written as a novel, rather than the usual case studies I analyze in business school. (A great case study to apply the concepts of this book is Peak Experiences and Strategic IT Alignment At Vermont Teddy Bear. You can view my analysis of the case here.)
The biggest takeaway I got from the book is the principle of leading IT organizations based on business strategy and IT alignment. The book affirmed my beliefs in the establishment of IT as a business enabler. Oftentimes, the IT department is too caught up in day to day maintenance to see opportunities where IT can improve business organizations. The authors wrote about IT topics in a way that allows readers to be more aware of the potentials as well as risks of technology. However, the language and diction they employed seemed to target a younger audience, which was slightly distracting for me.
All in all, the book covered basic IT concepts fairly well and is an effective way for those interested in IT leadership to understand the context under which IT decisions are made. I would recommend those who wish to read the book to brush up on some IT frameworks before diving into the text in order to get the most value out of the material.