Implementation of the key to successful information systems

Implementation of the key to successful information systems

185 ook Review Implementation of The Key to Successful formation Systems by Henry C. LUCAS, Jr Cohbiu U~~iversi~y Press, I981 ISb’N: O-?31-04434.8...

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ook Review

Implementation of The Key to Successful formation Systems by Henry C. LUCAS, Jr Cohbiu

U~~iversi~y Press, I981

ISb’N: O-?31-04434.8

The book can be of significant interest to those who develop or use computer-based information systems. The author is concerned with implementation as a process which occurs during the entire life cycle of a system, including organization changes related to the implementation of a system. He contends that “unfortunately our understanding of how to successfully implement information systems lags far behind our understanding of their technology.” His view of implementation includes organizational and individual behavior. If one accepts the author’s assertion and his view of implementation, then one may find in the book an interesting road map to the literature related to the implementation process based upon his scheme for classifying research about implementation. If one has a definition of implementation thaf: ignores behavioral aspects, one may find this book helpful in recognizing the need for an expanded definition. The author also helps developers or users of a system to become more sensitive to the need for specifying what constitutes successful implementation, and the difficulty of doing so. If the reader picks up this book expecting to find simple answers to a question such as how much user involvement is necessary in a successful implementation, he or she will be greatly disappointed. However, if after North-Holland Publishing Company Information & Management 5 (1982) 185-186

reading the book one begins to wonder what the question means or whether or not the question his a verifiable answer, then I would suggest that the reader has benefited from the book. Furthermore, one may begin to question what is meant by user involvement and how one obtains such involvement. Chapter Two provides a brief review of some theories of implementation. This chapter can help the reader raise his own questions about the nature of implementation and motivate the reader to study the cited references. Chapter Three mentions studies and references to what tb? author labels as Factor Research, i.e., factors related to implementation success. (A factor can be one or a group of related variables.) Chapter Four addresses some of the few available studies on the implementation process as defined by the author, i.e., the process of design and the relationship between designer and user, in addition to the design task itself. Not surprisingly, the author concludes the chapter with the statement that “the user/designer relationship does impact the design task.. . ” and “implementation success.” Some of the important issues to be considered in the design process are noted. The author remarks on the paucity of published process studies. Chapter Five presents in tabular form a concept& framework designed to synthesize the previously presented materials and to outline a multi-stage, multi-factor scheme to guide implementation with the purpose of determining the important variables and how these variables influence the implementation process. Chapter Six contains two interesting and well-presented examples to elucidate the framework presented in Chapter Five.


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The last chapter, Chapter Seven, “In Conclusion,” is a three-page summary with a rather forcefully presented list of recommendations for developing successful information systems. The book concludes with a 50-page Appendix, “Abstracts and Summaries of Some of the Studies Discussed.” Many readers will be pleased to find this appendix with its many references and comments about the references. As the author notes in the Preface, “Unfortunately, I cannot specify a formula for implementation success. The goal of this text is to make the reader aware of the critical importance of implemengation in the development of successful information systems and to organize our existing knowledge of the phenomenon.” I fully agree with this passage and believe the author is to be con-

gratulated for achieving his goal. The reader can come away being discouraged about how little we understand the implementation prccess, or can come away better enlightened and willing to bring additional and newly-found insight to the challenges of implementing computer-based information systems, Maybe with such insight we will find better information systems which are people-oriented rather than computer-based. Mervin E. Muller Senior Adviser, Financial Planning The World Bank 1818 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20433 USA