Research in Information Systems

Research in Information Systems

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0131-4.ch003
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Abstract

Information Systems (IS) are complex artifacts which could be viewed as playing the role of an interface between the organizational structure and processes and the technological capabilities. IS design is influenced by—and has an influence on—its outer environment: organizational context. Much of past research in IS is of explanatory nature and has largely focused on the processes and functions of outer environment, including organizations and individuals. There is not sufficient theoretical elaboration on the organizational and technological connections of the IS artifacts. Some of the most prominent theoretical models of IS do not incorporate the very nature of information systems to a substantial extent. The information content of these models is also questionable. IS research has been criticized by some members of the research community for lack of identity and lack of relevance.
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Information Systems

The term “Information Systems” (IS) unfortunately is not always as readily recognized outside the academe by common business professionals and prospective students as compared to the terms related to such areas as Finance or Marketing. Recent downward trends in the student enrollment in the IS programs poses a serious problem for the respective academic departments in educational institutions (George, Valacich, & Valor, 2005). It has prompted many IS faculties to reach out to the bodies of potential students with the purpose of explaining the kind of professional profiles the discipline is targeting. We, the teachers of IS are often involved with visiting colleges and participating in “open house” events just to convey the message about the very nature of IS education. Many people, in general, have no difficulty with recognizing such disciplines as “Management” or “Computer Science,” while they seem to struggle trying to comprehend the Raison d'être for IS discipline.

An information system is commonly defined as a composition of software, hardware, data resources, and people that has a purpose of supporting business functions within organizations. IS, thus can be viewed as part of the intra- and inter-organizational infrastructure designed to enable a variety of transactional and decision making processes within organizations. The infrastructure view of IS may suggest that its role, however important, will sort of “sink” in the organizational background (Carr, 2003). However, reducing IS to a simplistic notion of common infrastructure (such as elevators or power lines) is hardly justifiable due to the following critical reasons. First, the value of information and information processing practices within organization has a direct impact on the effectiveness and efficiency with which a firm interacts with its customers and business partners. Therefore, the design of IS may have a huge impact on the way a firm fulfills its obligations and adheres to its business principles, tactical modus operandi, and strategic mission and vision. Second, the revolutionary expansion of the capabilities of Information Technology (IT), its proliferation throughout numerous aspects of the economic and social environments continuously poses new challenges for organizational decision makers in terms of emerging opportunities and threats. These factors considerably complicate the wicked problem of managing IS portfolios within firms.

Conceptually, IS can be viewed as a “bridge” between the information technology and organizational structure (Figure 1). The problem of adequate design of IS involves finding the right arrangement and orchestration of IT components to meet the demands of organizational processes. In Alexander’s terms this can be expressed as shaping the form using the IT capabilities to find a proper fit with the context produced by the field arising from an organization’s information demands. In light of the above challenges, the process of IS design can be viewed as being ultimately “self-conscious.” Revisiting Alexander, we could note that such design processes are especially challenging because the “misfits” – the critical measures of the goodness of a form – are difficult to spot. As a result, one could predict creation of multiple poor forms. It is hardly surprising, then that the failure rate (in terms of expectations, time, and money) of IS projects is so high. For example, in (Armour, 2007) it is estimated that 80% of IT projects are doomed for failure.

Figure 1.

IS and its context

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