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Book Review : Business Agility: Sustainable Prosperity in a Relentlessly Competitive World

Business Agility: Sustainable Prosperity in a Relentlessly Competitive World

Great buisness reference book for developers

I going to be honest, I almost gave up reading this book, when withing the first few page, the author references Sun Tzu and the Art of War. I thought this book, was to turn out like one those cliche alpha male, win at all costs classic 80/90's American, Donald Trump-esque, business bullsh#t books. The kind that preached business is war and to win we all have to effectively commit business genocide, and murder the competition. However, I'm pleased to say I persisted with this book, and actually learned a bit from the author, even though there were a few more references to Sun Tzu sprinkled throughout the book.

Why I read this book

Business Agility has become an overused phrase. Often the perception it creates is that of post-it notes on whiteboards and people having meetings huddled standing up in a corner answering 3 questions!

Sure these practices may help an organisation to think it is practicing agility, but in fact they are only fooling themselves. What is true business agility is a how businesses react, adapt and respond to change.

In the software development industry we often think that business agility can only be achieved by developing a new software solution or by automating processes. However, what I found most interesting in this book is how often even the slightest small change can a huge impact on the businesses profit.

It's important to keep in mind that when we're thinking and architecting software solutions, we need to keep both simplicity and profitability in mind. We should never loose sight of the ultimate goal of business.

Technology may be fun and exciting, but the true purpose is to satisfy a customers needs and desires while making a profit.

The relentless pursuit of industrial efficiency no longer yields the profits it once did because it requires a level of business predictability that no longer exists. Instead, the Internet and global video and telecom systems provide a massive and continuous flow of data that causes the whole world to behave like a giant stock market, with all the volatility and uncertainty that goes along with such markets. Responsiveness now trumps efficiency.

What I learned from this book

I found this book to be extremely interesting and enlightening. In my opinion, the author managed to achieve the impossible, in taking what could potentially a very dry and boring subject and turning it into a relative page turner of a book.

I have attempted to read many business based books in the past, and found them to be in one of two camps. One they are extremely dull and full of academic text book waffle with very little practical advice, or two over hyped egotiscal gloating by someone whose made a bob or two and is just itching for a chance to tell you how amazing they are.

Surprisingly, I found this book in neither of those two camps. I have actually re-read this book on several occassions over the years, and have just recently done so once again.

I think what makes this book so interesting from a software developers perspective is that it takes principles and practices from Agile and reframes them for non-software context. It gives plenty of ideas and models that can be applied to business strategic planning.

It argues the case for lightweight solutions to organisational problems rather than a monolithic system thinking.

What I like about this book

I generally have a dislike for any business books that seemingly feel the need for referring to works of military strategy or seem to think that the worlds of business and war are perfect match.

My personal belief is that business and war should be counter opposites in that war is a very negative force and business should rather be a positive force. In my opinion when we relate business to war, then that opens the door for business to be used as a negative and destructive force.

There is a chapter in the book, when the author introduces a number of quotes from sources such as Sun Tzu, art of war. a seemingly popular book, although I personally have never read.

Business is certainly not war; business is about creation whereas war is about destruction. Business happens when we find constructive ways to meet our needs; war happens when we do not!

On this occassion, I think the author makes fairly constructive point, in that on some occassions there may be some useful lessons to be learned from the ills of war!

Why I recommend this book

The hardcover book only weighs in at 179 pages, so in keeping with the context, the author has kept it as lean as possible without skimping on the useful information.

I totally recommend this book, to any IT professional looking to make more of an impact on the business world, helping to create businesses that really matter and provide real benefits for all.

Gary Woodfine
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