The Prentice-Hall Business Information Technology series seeks to help both specialists and nonspecialists understand what they should be doing with information technology (IT) and why various problems arise. The objective of this book is to explain in practical terms what IT can and cannot contribute in a business context, what problems it is likely to raise, and how it should be planned and managed. The primary audiences for this book are business and information systems professionals, including people who use, develop, plan, and sponsor the deployment of IT to support organizations’ information needs.
This book is partitioned into six sections: “Deploying the Equipment,” “Assessing the Technologies,” “Managing Information,” “Selecting Suppliers,” “Developing the Applications,” and “Managing the Skills.” The focus is on the management and organizational implications, and the only technical details included in the main text are those necessary to make sense of the management implications that flow from them. Additional technical details are enclosed in boxes alongside the text. Each section concludes with a commentary that summarizes the key points and guidelines for action.
The first section is composed of two chapters that deal with the expanding role of telecommunications in the distribution of computing power. The author describes the chronological evolution of the application of IT in organizations in order to introduce the concepts and techniques of telecommunications and distributed processing. The central issue addressed here is how to achieve the right blend between shared computer systems and distributed machines at the department, work group, and individual levels.
The second part, on assessing the technologies, uses issues in office automation to bring out the weaknesses of measuring benefits of new technology only in terms of time savings and cost reduction. Gunton considers the value as well as the limitations of generic computing. He concludes that the benefits of information systems fall in three investment areas with distinct evaluation criteria.
The third part, on managing information, discusses the technologies of database management systems and expert systems and the issues involved in managing them. The following section, on selecting suppliers, discusses technical architecture and procurement strategies.
Section 5 deals with the issues of developing applications. Using the evolution of applications development from programmers to end users, the author brings out all the issues of software development. He explains what problems can be addressed by improving the software engineering process and notes that these approaches do not address the relationship between the users who must deliver the benefit of the systems and the specialists who deliver the means to do so. The key message is “Development methods should match the project.” For example, Gunton recommends that you buy applications packages where they fit requirements, but not underestimate the efforts and skills needed to implement them. Encourage end-users to develop applications, but make sure that the applications attempted are suitable and that specialist support is available when users get out of their depth. For applications that do not fit the above two categories, adopt conventional development methods but use advanced development tools to keep teams small and time-scales short.
The last section, on managing the skills, describes the expanding role and responsibilities of corporate information systems and what organizations can do to ensure that they acquire, develop, and retain the necessary skills.
Each section brings out the problems organizations are facing, presents the approaches available to address these problems, and discusses the pros and cons of competing arguments and approaches. The writing style is delightful. The coverage is thorough, and the issues raised and addressed demonstrate the author’s extensive practical experience in the field.
This book is well written, comprehensive, and insightful. It brings out the underlying issues, summarizes the state of knowledge, and provides guidelines for effectively applying this knowledge.
The book is quite suitable for university courses in management information systems in the MBA curriculum. Its only weakness as a textbook is that it lacks questions at the end of the chapters.