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Wrench in the System: What's Sabotaging Your Business Software and How You Can Release the Power to Innovate

ISBN: 978-0-470-41343-2
272 pages
August 2009
Wrench in the System: What
Praise for Wrench in the System

"Look to Harold Hambrose to make significant contributions to safer health care records through interface design, product design, and data visualization. Wrench in the System should be the bible for corporate executives striving to gain a competitive advantage in these trying times."
Alan Siegel, Chairman and CEO, Siegel+Gale

"During the short history of computing, interface design has usually been neglected, resulting in software that is cumbersome and counterintuitive. In this book, Harold Hambrose calls for design where 'help' is helpful and where clutter is eliminated. He describes a set of commonsense principles and asserts the essential place of design in superior products. Together with thought leaders like Edward Tufte, Harold Hambrose reminds us that great design can change the world."
Tony Pizi, CIO, Asset Management Platform Services, Deutsche Bank

"Making computer information easily available to people in their work can help organizations meet their most important goals. This book recommends adopting traditional methods and procedures of design to do so, and suggests that turning data into accessible information could be a high calling for designers now. I wish we designers were as wise as the author considers us! But we, as much as computer users in business, can learn deep lessons from his confrontation of the challenges of information design today, and his demonstration of how our own techniques can apply to meeting them."
Denise Scott Brown, Principal, Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, and coauthor, Learning from Las Vegas

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FOREWORD (DAN BOYARSKI).

PREFACE THE INVISIBLE EDGE.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.

ONE: IT’S JUST A PRODUCT!

The World’s Biggest Lemons.

The Checklist.

Failure to Communicate.

Behind the Hype.

The Wrench on the Front Seat.

Inventing an Experience.

Designed to Disappear.

Just What We Need.

TWO: DESIGN TO DELIGHT.

The Emperor's New Enterprise System.

Software's Missing Feature.

Who's the Customer?

Security Solutions: A Better Set of Keys.

Navigating Notre Dame.

Communicating by Design.

Teaching Etiquette to an ATM.

The Human Factor.

Form, Function, and Spirit.

THREE: SPECIFY INNOVATION.

Stranded at Heathrow.

Don’t Blame Technology.

The Transparent Dashboard.

When Green Means STOP.

Listening to the Receiver.

"People Are Different."

Removing Roadblocks.

Easy as Pie: The Tale of a Tool.

What We Need to Know.

FOUR: CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES.

Lessons from the Underground.

The Workaround Wizard.

Continuous Education.

Building on Assumptions.

Sprinting toward Second-Rate.

Automating the Status Quo.

Frozen in the ICU.

FIVE: THE RIGHT TEAM.

Designing a New Experience.

The Science of Common Sense.

A Tendency to Crash.

Designers and the Art of Interpretation.

Looking at a Project from Every Angle.

The Other Customers.

Analyzing the Workflow.

What Your Staff Won’t Tell You.

A Powerful Partnership.

SIX: FIND OUT WHAT YOU REALLY NEED.

The Correct Definition.

Missed Information and Lost Limbs.

Beyond Technology.

Meaningful Information.

A Shortcut through the Warehouse.

A Common Language.

Hobos and Hieroglyphs.

An Accurate Translation.

Beautiful Data.

What Business Hasn’t Even Thought Of.

Channeling Rivers of Energy.

SEVEN: BELIEVE IT WHEN YOU SEE IT.

When Prototype Becomes Product.

Envisioning the Chrysler Building.

The Hidden Costs of Guesswork.

Charting a New Course.

Breaking the Cycle of Failure.

Leave Nothing to Interpretation.

Rethinking and Redrawing.

Survey the Landscape.

Picture It!

Showing Why.

EIGHT: REFRESH THE SYSTEM.

Find Out How They Really Feel.

Check for Physical Evidence.

Make Sure That “Help” Is Helpful.

Watch Your Language.

Rethink the Form.

Eliminate Clutter.

Consider the Context.

Take the Measure of the Problem.

Define Your Priorities.

Get an Outside Opinion.

NINE: YOUR NEXT SYSTEM.

What Is This Thing?

Is This What We Really Need?

A $100 Million Guinea Pig?

Will the Basic Model Do the Job?

Who Will Be Using It?

What's It Like to Use?

Are the Information Displays Informative?

How Clearly Does It Communicate?

How Forgiving Is It?

How Will It Support Our Brand?

Is This Product Truly Innovative?

What Do Training and Change Management Really Mean?

What Real Information Does the Manufacturer Have about User Adoption and Effectiveness?

What about Those Service Contracts and Future Upgrades?

APPENDIX A: MAXIMIZING YOUR DESIGN RESOURCES.

APPENDIX B: TOUGH QUESTIONS FOR CONSULTANTS.

NOTES.

ILLUSTRATION CREDITS.

INDEX.

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Harold Hambrose is the CEO and founder of Electronic Ink, a design consultancy he established in 1990. His company has transformed the operations of many Fortune 500 companies by showing them new ways to collaborate, innovate, and design low-cost solutions to some of their most expensive problems. His clients include British Petroleum, Comcast, Research In Motion, McDonald's, and dozens of other industry leaders, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
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"We pulled out a plum in this terrific book by the founder of a US-based design agency examining the vexed question of why business software tends to disappoint.

It’s a question that most of us have given up trying to answer. Because the wrong supplier got chosen? Because IT has no idea about business? Because business has no idea about IT? Because the wording of the RFP was bad? Because things changed partway through the selection or development process? Who knows, so we shrug and creep from project hell to the new world…of what also turns out to be project hell.

All of these attempted answers have some validity but it’s rare for a writer to come up with such a cogent, trenchant polemic as Hambrose manages here. As you might expect, Hambrose focuses on software design, suggesting that software given to users all too often fails to reflect the way they work or want to work. So it falls into disuse, is detested, or management comes up with some spurious justification for the enormous amount of money invested in it."
Martin Veitch, CIO Magazine

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