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Geographical Information Sytems (GIS) are now a mature technology, and many organistations have or plan to implement a GIS in support of their business objectives.  This book discusses a wide range of topics concerning devloping and implementing a GIS covering both business and GIS related issues and considerations.  Many of the examples are USA based, but there is also a selection of UK examples.

The book begins in Chapter 1 by giving an overview of the rationale for the book, providing an overview of differences with the first edition (published nearly 15 years earlier), outlining the ‘continuing need for a management focus in GIS’, and outlining the chapters in the book. The main imputus for the revised edition is focused around the change in technology and the transistion from organistations thinking about GIS as a future tool, as opposed to the revised view of the implementation stage which organistaions have begun or are approaching, and the new considerations around this.

Chapter 2 discusses the ‘evolution of a profession’ and the change over the past 10 years from a GIS community to that of a profession.  The chapter discusses a body of knowledge, shared language, professional culture, a code of ethics, and a range of GIS organistations, all of which the authors argue demonstrate that GIS has become a profession. Chapter 3 discusses ‘the role of geograhic information within an organization’s IT’ (Information Technology).  Elements discussed include the role of GIS and other information systems (IS) in relation to the value chain (incl. logistics, operations and marketing) as well as meeting the information needs of all levels of management in the organisation to aid their desciosn making at operational, tactical and strategic levels, and should be seen as an complimentary rather than an alternative tool.  Chapter 4 looks at why ‘geography still matters’, and highlights the dangers of establishing a GIS without full awareness and expertise in knowledge of GIS techniques, knowledge of the business domain, and an understanding of the underlying principles of geography, cartography and spatial statistics.

Chapter 5 discusses the integration of ‘GIS and the strategic planning process’, looking at the key elements of the planning process, strategy analysis and the use of GIS in this.  Chapter 6 covers ‘implementing a GIS’ and looks at definitions of implementation success, models and assessment of implentation, as well as discussing the implementation problems are usually people problems ascociated with implementation as opposed to technical issues.  Chapter 7 is the largest chapter, and rightly so, as it tackles ‘organisational politics and GIS implementation’.  As I am sure we can all testify, institutional politics, and the ascociated power games, is one of the critical issues which we all face to varying degrees, and that no one enjoys. Political impacts on GIS is described, as is a framework for organistational political behaviour (OPB), as well as providing views on potential mitigation actions, or positive politics to aid GIS implementation.

Chapter 8 looks at the ‘economic justification for GIS implementation’, covering cost and benefit analysis, discounting and risk. Chapter 9 moves on to ‘sharong geographic information across organisational boundaries’ looking at frameworks for sharing, information exchange, motivations owenership and access.  Linked to this, Chapter 10 discusses ‘metadata for geographic information’, covering what metadata is and why it is required and standardisation.  Chapter 11 goes on to discuss ‘policy conflicts and the role of GIS’ and public participation, the types of conflict which may arise, and how GIS may be used to help resolve conflict.  Chapter 12 assists the manager with ‘ensuring the qualifications of GIS professionals’ including certification, accreditation and aligning with a body of knowledge.  Chapter 13 covers the important aspects of ‘legal issues in GIS’, including liability, publica access, data ownership, interlectural property rights and data privacy.  Chapter 14 covers the ‘ethics for the GIS professional’ discussing ethics, professional obligations and a code of ethics for professinals to follow.  The final chapter looks forward to ‘envisioning a future’ and potential future trends that those managing GIS should be aware of.

Managing GIS is an ever increasing challenge for organisations, and whilst a manager could not pick up this book and use it as a step-by-step guide, it does provide an invaluable reference and thorough introduction to the topic.  The thought provoking approach flags issues to the reader and prompts them to consider in more depth in relation to their own experience and tasks.  The book is academic in style and as such not very penetrable for the average time-strapped manager.  The book discuses many generic business concepts and would benefit from a little more direct correlation with GIS management issues, this is however not a significant downside. There are lots of research references allowing further reading, as well as practical applications linking to business deliverables.  The cross-pollination of business functions, GIS and the inter-related organaistational issues make this book a resource worthy of consideration, and one which will aid successful GIS implementation.  This book breaks the mold of discussing GIS in isolation, and discusses in context of its’ intended use to further the benefits to the organistation.

Managing Geographic Information Systems.
Second Edition.
By N. J. Obermeyer and J. K. Pinto.
The Guilford Press, New York, 2008.
ISBN 978 1 59385 635 9.

This book review was originally published in: In The Photogrammetric Record, 2010, Vol. 25, Issue 129, pp85-86.