1. Staggers, Nancy PhD, RN, FAAN, Reviewer

Article Content

Critical Reflections on Information Systems: A Systemic Approach


Jeimy J. Cano (Editor), Idea Group Publishers, 2003, 701 E Chocolate Ave, Hershey, PA 17033, Tel: 717-533-8845 or 1-800-345-4332, Fax: 717-533-8861, E-mail:, Web site:, Price: $79.95


This edited book is a series of essays by international business information system (IS) and computer science authors. The purpose of the book is to increase IS managers' and academics' understanding of the holistic nature of information systems by applying systems thinking to various aspects of traditional IS concepts and operations.


The target audience for this book is a combination of IS academics and practitioners. Informatics researchers will find the notions in many chapters fodder for thought-new conceptualizations about ISs and new evaluation methods in particular. Informatics nurse specialists who manage IS projects, planners of large IS applications, or those in need of new evaluation methods will especially find this book useful. The book offers both conceptual and operational aspects of ISs, a useful blend for informatics nurse specialists.


The authors of the chapters are well-credentialed, most having PhDs in either business-related aspects of IT or computer science. Only 3 of these international authors are not doctorally prepared and 2 of these are doctoral candidates. The authors are a blend of more seasoned ones and those newer to the field. All are academics; however, one author (Campbell) spent 20 years in industry before becoming a professor.


The main theses of this book will intrigue informatics nurse specialists. Information systems are treated not as adjuncts to organizations but as a critical component of organizations. Seen as intertwined, organizations and ISs are a holistic entity with human, technical, and business components. More important, one of the key themes is that IS implementations are deemed sociopolitical ventures. They just happen to have technical components. This thesis creates the basis for new ways of thinking about systems adoption, implementation, evaluation, and research.


The book contains an interesting collection of chapters. Although the editor does not provide a framework for the book or chapter introductions to help readers understand the connection between chapters, the variety and depth of works compensates for this. A range of topics is presented, including


* A formal definition of ISs and why these should be deemed systems first and foremost


* Why ISs are social systems


* The phenomenological design of ISs


* IS planning based upon critical thinking


* Several models and frameworks for IS implementation, research, and evaluation


* Methods for IS evaluation



Several authors mention the evolution of systems thinking and how these newer concepts should drive the way we relate to ISs (eg, a movement away from hard cost-benefit analyses to ones that include softer components).


Other strengths of this book include 2 chapters of case studies. In fact, 2 more case studies are included as examples within chapters to apply the presented concepts. Another strength is that each chapter includes an informative abstract.


A few elements about the book are less positive but minor in scope. The title of the book and the title in the Table of Contents are slightly different-one is "a systemic approach" and the other is "a systematic approach." It is a bit difficult to discern the main points in the preface because of unusual English phrasing. Also, the editor could have defined "systemic" in the preface and helped readers understand this term. Nevertheless, readers will be able to make good use of the book without reading this section. The chapter abstracts will guide readers to the material they most want. Likewise, the language in the chapters is excellent. Occasionally, a reader may trip over a typo or a term such as the "technology problematic," an uncommon and slightly confusing term for English readers, but, again, this criticism is minor.


This book provides valuable information for informatics nurse specialists. It provides a new look at ISs that will resonate with those of us working in both operational and academic settings.