Saturday, June 15, 2002
The chapter on engineering change control stands out because this aspect of both data structures and process change management are not covered (or only lightly touched upon) in other ERP references. This chapter and its companion on implementing change add significant value to the book and reflect mature and best practices. I also liked the chapter on new product introduction and custom manufacturing because these aspects of the manufacturing process come with a different set of challenges and requirements from steady production processes.
Regardless of whether you're using SAP, Baan or another ERP package (or are developing custom applications to automate manufacturing materials management) this book will expose the relevant details of the data structures, which are the foundation of any application.
Friday, June 14, 2002
Each section is devoted to carefully chosen papers, some of which reflect individual authors' experience. The strength of this approach is that you benefit from a rich diversity of viewpoints and deep subject matter knowledge. The weakness is that some of the material is inconsistent with what precedes or follows in the book.
Since this is a technology-focused book the highlights are that the information is current and reflects issues, methods and technologies that are valid as of the date this review was written. The editors ensured that information that is not commonly used in ERP integration, such as web services, are not addressed. This doesn't imply that web services will not play a future key role (such as in PeopleSoft 8), but that most ERP implementations are integrated using middleware, XML and other methods. The more typical integration methods are covered in great detail, and the sections on database servers and data warehousing are especially informative.
I also like the section on Internet commerce, which covers topics ranging from web-based testing and capacity planning to XML-based B2B commerce - topics that are not commonly found in other ERP texts. The section on project and systems management also contained excellent information, such as the paper titled "Service Level Management Links IT to the Business", which touches upon a critical aspect of integration. Each of the four papers in the Component-Based Development section also included information that should be carefully considered by large enterprises, especially those that are using off-shore development of off-site contractors to develop modules. This section goes into each of the major critical issues, including economic considerations, domain engineering, server-side Java development and object library management.
Some of the information in this book is time sensitive in that it will be rendered obsolete as web services play a larger role in ERP systems (which is already happening in a sense), and XML and/or ebXML emerge as a core component of all of the major packages, such as SAP, PeopleSoft, Baan, etc. If you have a defined architecture or integration group this book will make a good investment because of the wide array of topics covered. If, however, you are seeking a book that provides a methodology or focused technology description this book may not be for you.
Thursday, June 13, 2002
If you are not familiar with system dynamics, it's a methodology for studying and managing complex feedback systems using time graphs and causal loops, and more formal analytical methods such as simulation and exploring alternatives in a structured manner.
This book uses those techniques to align project management processes to software development. The best way to determine if this book is right for you is to answer the following questions:
- Is your core business software development?
- Is your organization at approximately the same level as that described by SEI's CMM for level 3 or above?
- Is there a commitment to implement an integrated process that is driven by the executive or board level and does this commitment have a strong sponsor?
Those who will benefit most from this book are organizations that have found existing PM methodologies to not fully meet objectives. For example, the U.S. standard based on the Project Management Institute's Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is too generic for software development, and the U.K. standard called PRINCE2 is not as well suited for product-line and software vendor approaches to development. While the PMBOK and PRINCE2 contain processes and procedures that can be used, the system dynamics approach defined in this book gives a method for selecting, evaluating and integrating the processes and procedures borrowed from these two standards. Moreover, since the CMM and related models identify key process areas for project management, they do not prescribe how they are to be implemented. This book will provide the tools and techniques for tailoring the techniques to PM process areas.
If your objective is to find a book that describes a complete project management maturity model you will be better served by Strategic Planning for Project Management Using a Project Management Maturity Model by Harold Kerzner; if you are looking for an off-the-shelf methodology to use with iterative processes such as the Rational Unified Process I recommend Software Project Management: A Unified Framework by Walker Royce. However, if you are seeking to develop and implement a best-in-class, tailored project management methodology that is seamlessly integrated into your software development processes this book will show you how to achieve that goal.
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
Parts that set this book apart from the others include an emphasis on developing a business case and the structured way in which all project stakeholder requirements are considered in project quality and reporting. I also like the way projects are managed at the enterprise level as portfolios and integrated into programs instead of standalone projects. In addition, the many forms, checklists and diagrams are highly useful and can be used with little or no modification.
This book is also completely consistent with the PMI PMBOK and UK PRINCE2 methodologies, and the author's web site that supports this book contains a wealth of up-to-date information that adds to the value of this book.
Sunday, June 09, 2002
- Frameworks and Architectures. Consists of four papers of which I particularly liked Key Concepts in Architecture Definition Languages and Acme: Architectural Description of Component-Based Systems because of professional interests in ADLs.
- Object-Based Specification and Verification. The three papers in this section were focused on narrow topics; however, I gained much from Modular Specification and Verification Techniques for Object-Oriented Software Components. This paper alone made the book worthwhile to me, but this is a subjective remark with which you may not agree.
- Formal Methods and Semantics. Each of the three papers in this section were, in my opinion, valuable. My favorite, Toward a Normative Theory for Component-Based System Design and Analysis, contained a viable framework and approach to component design, which is a topic that receives little coverage in other component-based books.
- Reactive and Distributed Systems. The two papers in this section are interesting in that their topics intersect nicely with the discipline of semantic web engineering. If your interests or work also includes that knowledge area then the papers (Composition of Reactive System Components and Using I/O Automata for Developing Distributed Systems)will 'connect the dots' in a manner of speaking.
The second book is Component-Based Product Line Engineering with UML. Where most books on the subject cover the component-based development life cycle at a high level with an emphasis on the development, deployment and QA aspects, this one is about requirements and design. That is what sets it apart and an important work. It becomes even more important if you are using or trying to adapt the Unified Process to a component-based environment. Obviously if your environment also includes product line development the value of this book increases even more.
The book contains five parts which build upon each other. Part 1 is a thorough, 60-page introduction that compares and contrasts development life cycles, summarizes the approach the book proposes, and the concepts, artifacts and process associated with "KobrA" (a German abbreviation for "Component-based application development".
Part 2 is devoted to component modeling based on the KobrA component model, and covers all aspects in 153 pages. This part ends with an excellent introduction to patterns and UML, which lays the groundwork for the next part. The information in this part drills down into requirements and specifications, which is one of the reasons I cited above that sets this book apart.
In Part 3 (Embodiment) refinement and translation, component reuse and incremental development are covered in detail. Part 4 introduces and covers product line, framework and application engineering. It is here that the KobrA foundation laid in the previous parts begins to become coherent and the viability of the approach becomes apparent.
Part 5 is my favorite because, like Part 2, it gives a view of component-based development that most books gloss over. In particular, the chapters on maintenance and QA are filled with information that reflects the realities of component-based development, and the chapter on quality modeling is among the best treatments of the topic in any book or paper I've recently read. The 60 pages of appendices are also valuable sources of information and knowledge about metamodels, maintenance and process. I found this book to be an invaluable reference and recommend it to anyone who is heavily involved in component-based software engineering in conjunction with product line development.
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