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Information Systems as Academic Discipline

Information as perceived by the common human being is the knowledge about people, events, surroundings, data and such. However, the modern or one can say the post-modern connotation of information is inclined more towards the mathematical and business perception (Ingarden, Kossakowski and Ohya 2013). Information, from the perspective of business is defined as the data that is precise, timely, explicit, structured, accessible within a background that provides it meaning and importance and leads to an enhancement in understanding and reduction in uncertainty.

The Information Systems on the other hand is defined as an organized system for the compilation, management, communication and storage of information.  In an organization, information systems play a major role in the dissemination and utilization of information to different sections (Pearlson, Saunders and Galletta 2016). Information systems in its initial stages started as operational research and hence were perceived as hard science or the science distinct from the social sciences. Therefore, it was recognized to be objective, concrete and certain. It is also describes as an academic discipline that is relatively new to the field and that needs attention.

The given essay discusses Information Systems through a Modern Philosophical Framework and does a critical assessment of the objectivity and certainty of the IS. The essay further elaborates on the issue of IS designed and developed as technical artifacts in organizations. 

The essay outlines the various concepts of information systems and the views put forward by different experts. In addition, it also focuses on the researches done on IS and the results formulated to show the importance of IS in organizations.

Information systems form an organizational perspective, as already mentioned, is the system that provides information services to an organization. In any organization, a separate division handles the information systems and specific personnel are appointed to look after this division (Stair and Reynolds 2013).

In the academic field, an information system is more or less inclined towards the organizational perspective. Most universities are concerned with the dissemination of the course with a view to equip students who look to make a career in an organization. Researches carried out on IS have revealed the important role system-analysts, designers and managers play in an organization. The management information system (MIS) group within an organization possesses the necessary knowledge in areas relating to catalog, telecommunications, networking and encoding needed to achieve systems incorporation (Rainer, Prince and Watson 2014).  This natural span is mirrored in the research field linked to IS as an academic discipline. Information System thus can be said to be studied under systems development arena specific to business school setting. The study of information system as an academic discipline involves terms such as information systems, information management, and computer networking, information technology and so on. Information management concerns the realistic and hypothetical problems of gathering and examining information in any business utility. Computer and networking focuses on IS as telecommunication technologies. In addition, it is seen in the academic arena as a discipline that is connected to the utilization of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in organizations. Information system while emerging as a modern academic discipline did not attract international attention until the late 20th century. Scholars around the world in this field carried out many studies and researches but it took years for these to be published in international journals (Tsang 2014). One of the reasons for this neglect was the work of different scholars already published in this field and the need to include a separate study on IS was not deemed necessary or important by experts.

Information Systems Viewed in Modern Philosophical Framework

In its early years, the IS was considered a part of Computer Science and it took decades for it to be designated as a separate field of study. In 1965, the discipline got its first professor; the year 1968 marked the first official program for IS, and in 1976, IS got recognition as a separate field of study. This leads o the fact that IS was, from the very beginning a part of hard science (Petter, DeLone and McLean 2013). Most of the studies and fields concerning information systems belong to the domains of hard science as evident from the trends. Although recognized as a separate field, IS still is a part of the broader field of computer science, which is considered hard science. It must however be noted that the IS has had roots in the philosophical and social domains as well. IS as an academic discipline did succeed in attracting enrollments but many scholars have noted a decline in enrolment in this course. The prime reason for this decline may be attributed to the ambiguous foundation of IS that is still debatable.

Within a few decades of its emergence, information system has become a topic of debate for scholars around the world regarding its main area of discipline. This has resulted in the surfacing of two major philosophical issues. Firstly, it has prohibited its practitioners from mapping a rational historical outlook on its beginning and further implications. Secondly, it has proved futile to produce a credible logical basis for its academic justification. Use of conventional approaches to design and deploy information systems in an organizational setup cannot achieve the desired results as the IS functions in a very complex and uncertain environment (Urquhart and Fernandez 2013). A multidimensional approach that includes social, psychological, economic and technological aspects of IS in an organization is favored by many thinkers. It has also been found that hardly there is any book that focuses on the philosophical foundation of IS. With more stress being laid on the study of IS in recent times, the apparent need to identify its philosophical grounds has seen a rise. A new discipline like the IS can use its methodological analysis and philosophical fundamentals to offer the logical explanation for its application, tools and practices (Friedman et al. 2013). This calls for a need to comprehend the philosophical as well as historical facets of systems concepts, contrast the systems and scientific approaches to resolve information systems issues in organizations. When these two approaches of the IS design are compared and contrasted, various dimensions of organizations surface. These dimensions may include – holistic focus, teleological purpose, multi-way relationship and dynamic organization under systems approach and elemental focus, functional purpose, linear relationship and static organization under scientific approach.

The absence of proper philosophical understanding shows a tendency to form a technologically focused IS design that neglects the evolving human scope in organizations. Scholars have argued that focusing only on the technical aspect of IS in organizations provides inadequate capability for managers to solve multifaceted problems involving social, psychological, technological and economic domains. They further their argument in favor of a strong multidisciplinary approach in applying the IS within organizations (Arvidsson, Holmström and Lyytinen 2014).

Commissioning, Design, and Development of IS in Organizations

A multidisciplinary approach refers to a set of methods involving philosophical and technological methods through which the foundations of information system could be understood. As mentioned in the above section, the technology driven aspect of IS limits the broader outlook of this field and hence its foundation remains shadowed (Zadeh 2013). This type of approach takes into account all facets of an organization, not just the technical factors. To run an organization successfully, it is important to design and deploy the information system in a way that does not take certainty and objectivity for granted, rather lays stress on philosophical and social factors as well.

In an organization, multifarious departments are there that disseminate information on daily basis to everyone in the management. The application of Information System in an organization thus becomes extremely crucial (Cassidy 2016). However, it needs to be remembered that a single information system cannot provide every information desired by the organization. The IS flows from the top level of management to the bottom.

Organizations take advantage of technologies in order to achieve success and this trend has seen an impetus in the past few decades. The Information System has provided an added benefit to these organizations through which they can collect information about almost everything (Galliers and Leidner 2014). A more efficient operation of businesses is ensured by the use of varied information systems that enables businesses to connect with partners and customers, reduce costs and make revenues. These information systems are used at various levels of an organization- executive, managerial and operational.

The Transaction Processing System (TPS) is used at the level of operations in an organization. This includes collection, storage, inputting and outputting of data. The TPS is mostly applied for generating payroll, sales and ordering, inventory, purchasing and such. One example of TPS could be found in business concerned with airline booking (Rajaguru and Matanda 2013). When a customer opts for a flight schedule and desired seat online, the system revises the available seats list selecting those chosen by the customer. This process involves all the elements of an information system- input, process and output.

The Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRM) is utilized by organizations to coordinate sales and marketing endeavors. The CRM information system enables customers to interact with firms and organizations for providing feedback for any product or requesting a service. The customer also uses CRM systems to enquire about a particular problem.

Another component of the IS organizations is the Business Intelligence Systems (BIS). The BIS provides future sales pattern analysis, give a gist of the current costs and estimate sales revenues. Financial companies mostly utilize the BIS information system to create credit risk models that investigates the statistics of the credit given to different sectors.

The last in the list is the Knowledge Management Systems (KMS). The purpose of using this system by organizations is to systematize and dismember knowledge and then reallocate it to members of an organization. The KMS is probably the most important component of the IS for an organization as it helps store and share information that is further used for innovation, performance enhancement and bringing integration (Willcocks 2013).

It can be observed from the above discussion that information system has all encompassing use in the organizational setup. It is used not only for collecting and disseminating data but also for keeping a track of employee performance and satisfaction. Information systems are vital to an organization and its use and development depends on the knowledge and expertise of the concerned executive or manager.

Laudon and Laudon (2016), while outlining the importance of Information Systems have pointed out that the modern business scenario demands for a holistic approach to IS. According to them, contemporary businesses and organizations apply information systems in order to achieve six major goals. These include operational excellence, improved business models, products and services, closeness between the customer and supplier, enhanced decision-making, competitive lead and lastly, survival. The authors also state that information systems and businesses in the contemporary world have become interdependent. The organization’s decision to make any changes in the business strategy, planning or policies depends on the capacity of the hardware or software system or the telecommunications system. To put is simply, the decision or desire of an organization depends on the capacity of the systems.

Peppard and Ward (2016), further elaborate the point by highlighting the strategic importance of Information Systems in organizations. According to them, the boon that has been witnessed by the IT sector in the past few decades has redefined the way business is done. Information and Communication Technology (ICT), which is a part of the IS has revolutionized the business world by introducing numerous ways through which information is collected and used for benefit.

Many scholars have also brought to light, the complexity of Information Systems as it continues to perplex them. As per Cecez-Kecmanovic et al. (2014), the researches on IS, from the time of its inception have failed to settle the concurrent social and technological aspect of the information system. This symbolized an essential highlight in distinguishing the interrelationships involving the philosophical and the technical. Although it was yet based on a supposition of duality between the social and the technological, it continues to be reflected in both technology-centered and social and philosophical perceptions of IS.

Information system has always been considered a branch of hard science and is characterized by neutrality, firmness and concreteness of facts (Rodger and Bhatt 2014). This notion has stayed with IS even today and to an extent has been taken for granted by organizations and academicians. It is not always necessary to rely on the information systems to provide concrete and objective data and information. Information systems are applied in organizations as technical objects designed to collect data from within and around the organization that assist in the decision-making and other important processes (Venkatesh, Brown and Bala 2013). However, relying solely on the IS to achieve desired results and consequent success would be wrong. Managers and executives must remember that it is just a technical component and not a parameter to decide the overall performance of the organization.

Managers put emphasis on the use of Information System has it supposedly reduces uncertainty and provides a practical solution to problems faced by them. It is however needs to be noted that IS may provide certain and concrete facts but it may not provide facts that are beyond the domain of technology. It is not always possible for the IS to tackle problems within the management of an organization that concerns employees and customers. Sometimes, a fault in the leadership or human resource management also leads to an organization’s failure (Dwivedi et al. 2015).

Therefore, it must be borne in mind that IS are just technical tools designed to produce raw data and information.

Conclusion

Therefore, it can be stated that information system as an academic discipline within the framework of modern philosophy demands social as well as technological understanding. Information system is considered a branch of hard science that concerns raw data and information collected technically. The essay discusses the origin and development of information systems and its gradual acceptance as a separate field of study. It was found that information system is a relatively new branch of study and has attracted international attention in a very short time. However, many critics opposed the acceptance of IS as a separate field of study as it involved all the basics of computer science. The essay further discusses IS from the modern philosophical point of view and establishes the fact that it is a complex combination of social elements and technology. The essay has also focused on the importance of information systems in organizations. The different types of information systems within an organization across the different levels have also been discussed- Transaction Processing System, Knowledge Management System, Customer Relationship Management System and Business Intelligence System. The essay has further highlighted the importance of uncertainty in understanding knowledge. The information system is a branch of study that stresses on objectivity and certainty but from the philosophical point of view, this objectivity and certainty holds little value. In an organizational setup in particular, information system must be recognized only as a technical artifact not as an all-encompassing element that governs management. The essay has, in addition, discussed has put forward the views of certain scholars regarding the inception, use and development of information system as an academic discipline.  

References:

Arvidsson, V., Holmström, J. and Lyytinen, K., 2014. Information systems use as strategy practice: A multi-dimensional view of strategic information system implementation and use. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 23(1), pp.45-61.

Cassidy, A., 2016. A practical guide to information systems strategic planning. CRC press.

Cecez-Kecmanovic, D., Galliers, R.D., Henfridsson, O., Newell, S. and Vidgen, R., 2014. The sociomateriality of information systems: current status, future directions. Mis Quarterly, 38(3), pp.809-830.

Dwivedi, Y.K., Wastell, D., Laumer, S., Henriksen, H.Z., Myers, M.D., Bunker, D., Elbanna, A., Ravishankar, M.N. and Srivastava, S.C., 2015. Research on information systems failures and successes: Status update and future directions. Information Systems Frontiers, 17(1), pp.143-157.

Friedman, B., Kahn Jr, P.H., Borning, A. and Huldtgren, A., 2013. Value sensitive design and information systems. In Early engagement and new technologies: Opening up the laboratory (pp. 55-95). Springer Netherlands.

Galliers, R.D. and Leidner, D.E. eds., 2014. Strategic information management: challenges and strategies in managing information systems. Routledge.

Ingarden, R.S., Kossakowski, A. and Ohya, M., 2013. Information dynamics and open systems: classical and quantum approach (Vol. 86). Springer Science & Business Media.

Laudon, K.C. and Laudon, J.P., 2016. Management information system. Pearson Education India.

Pearlson, K.E., Saunders, C.S. and Galletta, D.F., 2016. Managing and Using Information Systems, Binder Ready Version: A Strategic Approach. John Wiley & Sons.

Peppard, J. and Ward, J., 2016. The strategic management of information systems: Building a digital strategy. John Wiley & Sons.

Petter, S., DeLone, W. and McLean, E.R., 2013. Information systems success: The quest for the independent variables. Journal of Management Information Systems, 29(4), pp.7-62.

Rainer, R.K., Prince, B. and Watson, H.J., 2014. Management Information Systems. Wiley Publishing.

Rajaguru, R. and Matanda, M.J., 2013. Effects of inter-organizational compatibility on supply chain capabilities: Exploring the mediating role of inter-organizational information systems (IOIS) integration. Industrial Marketing Management, 42(4), pp.620-632.

Rodger, J.A. and Bhatt, G., 2014. Refining information systems (IS) competencies: the role of organizational learning.

Stair, R. and Reynolds, G., 2013. Principles of information systems. Cengage Learning.

Tsang, E.W., 2014. Case studies and generalization in information systems research: A critical realist perspective. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 23(2), pp.174-186.

Urquhart, C. and Fernandez, W., 2013. Using grounded theory method in information systems: the researcher as blank slate and other myths. Journal of Information Technology, 28(3), pp.224-236.

Venkatesh, V., Brown, S.A. and Bala, H., 2013. Bridging the qualitative-quantitative divide: Guidelines for conducting mixed methods research in information systems. MIS quarterly, 37(1).

Willcocks, L., 2013. Information management: the evaluation of information systems investments. Springer.

Zadeh, L.A. ed., 2013. Computing with words in Information/Intelligent systems 1: Foundations (Vol. 33). Physica.

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