Christopher Columbus didn't just point his boat at the sunset to discover America.

He'd heard an old fisherman in the Azores (about a third of his way into the Atlantic) tell of a vast land to the West. The fisherman knew because he had seen it when a ferocious easterly blew him off course several years before. With this scrap of information, speculation became certainty and the rest was history.

Software's a trifle more complex. When I first began to write software in President Reagan's era, I knew I was doing something no one else had done. I thought I was alone. I didn't even know what I didn't know.

Creating software is still pioneering, but only a masochist tries to create it unaided. To end up where you want to be, you and your team must navigate many crucial passages. There's nothing difficult in any of them. As the chapters of this book explain in simple language, it's mostly common sense.

This book is accordingly organized like an Atlas, with pages to guide you from one area to another. So start at the part that concerns you and take it from there. The more you understand the A to Z of it, the healthier your project's chances, which is why I hope that you will eventually read the whole book. Others have gone through ulcers, divorce, bankruptcy, firing, executive jets, and Las Vegas to put this information in your hands.

Let their hindsight be your foresight.

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