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An Executive Road Map to Object Technology

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Book Information
The Books (in Road Map Order)

Object Technology: A Manager’s Guide, Second Edition, by David A. Taylor, Ph.D. Addison-Wesley Longman. 1998. 205 pages. $29.95 (Amazon price).

The Object-Oriented Thought Process, by Matt Weisfeld, SAMs Publishing. April 2000. 226 pages. $29.99 US, $44.95 CAN, #21.99 Net UK.

Surviving Object-Oriented Projects: A Manager’s Guide, by Alistair Cockburn, Addison-Wesley Longman. 1998. 250 pages. $29.95 US, $44.95 CAN.

Object-Oriented Methods: Principles & Practice, Third Edition, by Ian Graham, Pearson Education Limited/Addison-Wesley. 2001. 832 pages. $49.95 (Amazon price).

Does the story of your career sound something like this? Your first job, more years ago than you wish to remember, was programming in a language like COBOL or SQL. You were bright, fresh out of college with a 3.8 GPA, and worked well with others–so you didn’t hold the “programmer” title very long. You began climbing the technical management ladder, spending long hours putting out lots of fires and attending plenty of management workshops. You survived reengineering the corporation, total quality management, and every one of the seven habits.

Then it happens. One Monday morning, your boss calls you into her office. “Our new push is towards 100% objects,” she says. “I’m going to need to shift you to a new project… a dozen developers… CORBA… UML… distributed objects … inheritance… polymorphism and all that… you’re going to love it! And the whole thing is being written in Java! Way cool! I’ll get back to you later in the week…” Stumbling back to your office, with the weight of the world on your shoulders, you wonder, “How can this happen? I’ve been flying high all these years, and now I have no idea what anyone is talking about!” You feel as if you’ve got to start all over again…

Don’t despair. This month I’m going to give you a road map of reading assignments that will leverage what you already know and propel you into the new territory. Take a deep breath and keep reading.

Let’s suppose the above scenario fits you perfectly. You have absolutely no experience in object technology, and you need to get up to speed with the fundamental concepts. Pick up a copy of David A. Taylor’s Object Technology: A Manager’s Guide. (A full bibliography for this and the other books is listed in the information box.) Taylor won’t waste your time. He quickly teaches you the fundamentals and prepares you for more advanced reading. Although the book elucidates concepts used in most popular object-oriented languages, it pays careful attention to the design constructs of Java. The final chapters of the book touch on advanced concepts, such as ORBs, CORBA, IIOP, DCOM, and RMI.

If you have a programming background and are interested in how things work under the hood, you might want to take a look at Matt Weisfeld’s The Object-Oriented Thought Process. His book is to programmers what Taylor’s book is to managers. Managers on the fast track of learning, however, will want to bypass this detour (at least for now).

With the basics under your belt, our next book will give you the most preparation for your new responsibilities. Alistair Cockburn’s Surviving Object-Oriented Projects: A Manager’s Guide readies you for both the technical and human resource decisions you’ll be required to make. Cockburn provides a brief introduction to object technology, then dives into such areas as cost/benefit analysis and rational expectations. It’s a no-spin zone: He is realistic about what objects can do for your organization–and what they can’t. Using 11 template projects, the author walks through most of what you will need to manage a project correctly: project selection, human resource selection, team communication, training, technology decisions, methodology, iterative development, modeling, the role of users–the list goes on. Cockburn’s most important lesson for the transitioning manager is to build upon what you already know from non-OO work. Good project management skills don’t fly out the window just because you are transitioning to objects.

Surviving Object-Oriented Projects is not without limitations. The author focuses on managing projects with a staff of no more than 50 people, and states that he has little to teach those doing projects with larger numbers. Cockburn should have included a glossary for those inexperienced in object technology. He also should have teamed with a professional writer; his language constructs are sometimes cumbersome and time-consuming to read. Originally published in 1998, Cockburn’s book includes some information that is beginning to show its age. His claims on Java’s capabilities and tool availability are dated. Be sure to consult with your technical staff before making any decisions. One hopes for an updated edition of this important book in the near future.

Finally, if you want to enter the upper echelons of object technology managers, you should consider reading Ian Graham’s Object-Oriented Methods: Principles & Practice. Graham has authored an advanced and comprehensive work that educates the reader on the current state of object technology. It will take you a while to get through his tome, but it may do wonders for your career.

The road to objects can be one of the bumpiest you’ll ever take. You must read and learn constantly, and remember not to discard all that you already know. It’s an exciting path, full of many rewards. Good luck on the journey! //

David Fisco is a consultant and developer.

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