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Strategy and computers
Wiseman C., Dow Jones-Irwin, New York, NY, 1985. Type: Book (9789780870945908)
Date Reviewed: Jan 1 1986

Given the technology at hand, it’s a pity that most firms spend so much of their computer systems resource merely automating clerical functions. Even many sophisticated Management Information Systems do little more than regulate daily operations, filling in-baskets with boring, rarely-read lists of facts and figures.

The author proposes an entirely new perspective on computers. He suggests that competitive advantage may be gained by deploying the computer as a strategic threat. Wiseman dubs such systems Strategic Information Systems (SIS) and devotes the book to providing example upon example of business success stories based on such systems. A highlight of the book is his scheme to initiate SIS thinking, called the Strategic Option Generator. Later chapters provide discussion and examples of options in the strategic thrust areas of differentiation, cost, innovation, growth, and alliance. A final chapter gives the reader ideas on how to get started on SIS.

The intended audience is clearly managerial, as the reader will need some appreciation of marketing, economics, and current events in the information systems industry to best assimilate the middle chapters dealing with “applied” SIS. The book might well serve as a useful adjunct to a graduate level offering in information sytems.

Although the writing style gets a little dry from time to time, no less than 165(]) anecdotal cases from international business spice up the theory under discussion (in fact, an Index of Cases is included). Also, an illuminating appendix explains how we get into the rut of conventional perspective, with aging methodologies such as IBM’s BSP being a typical culprit.

SIS thinking gains more exposure every day. A recent Communications of the ACM paper [1] and Chapter 1 of Martin’s book [2] both discuss strategic systems. However, Wiseman may be the first to give us an entire book on the subject.

The author concludes:

If this book serves its purpose, it will awaken those now asleep to the threats and opportunities posed by information systems and inspire them to develop an SIS vision for meeting those inevitable challenges.

It does, and I agree.

Reviewer:  G. M. Bull Review #: CR109694
1) Ives, B.; and Learmonth, G.The information system as a competitive weapon, Commun. ACM 27 (1984), 1193–1201. See <CR> Rev. 8506-0541.
2) Martin, J.Information systems manifesto, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1984. See <CR> Rev. 8409-0700.
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