Book review: How to do Systems Analysis

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The strapline on the back of this book is ‘becoming a systems thinker’.  The authors have taken a practical approach to systems analysis describing the fundamentals of systemic thinking including problem definition and problem solving.

How to do Systems Analysis covers the six main phases of systems analysis:  determining system goals, establishing a process and criteria for ranking alternative solutions, developing those solutions, ranking solutions, iteration and finally action.  The majority of the book is taken up with more detail about these steps.

A significant chapter is also dedicated to the index of performance i.e. how to establish whether or not the system is fit for purpose.  As well as explanations and formulae related to economic criteria, the authors also consider how best to engage end users in the definition of index of performance.  While the book is highly technical and sometimes dry to read, it is solidly grounded in the practical application of theory.  The authors make it clear at all times that there is no point in doing analysis for analysis sake: there is always a customer and there is always a problem that needs resolving.

Latter chapters of the book cover the additional skills required of a systems analyst: management of the systems team and project management.  These sections include advice on effective oral presentations to clients, documentation and effective planning.

How to do Systems Analysis includes many examples of projects where analysis and systems engineering have been key to the outcome.  Most of these are large-scale, complex systems and presented in case study format.  There are also plenty of exercises for the systems analysis student, to ensure clarity of understanding and prompt further reading.

There are other, more straightforward, texts for desk reference, but this is a very comprehensive book that junior or student systems analysts would find helpful for fundamental concepts.  It would also be of use to those analysts moving from small projects to complex systems where more breadth in the role is required, whatever the discipline.

  • This review has been published in The Computer Journal
  • John E Gibson, William T Scherer, William F Gibson, How to do Systems Analysis, Wiley 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0-470-00765-5. £47.50. 360pp. Hardcover
  • Elizabeth Harrin, The Computer Journal 2008; doi: 10.1093/comjnl/bxn067

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