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36th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS'03) - Track 8
Big Island, Hawaii
January 06-January 09
ISBN: 0-7695-1874-5
Steven Alter, University of San Francisco

This paper builds on ideas in a recent paper which argued that the core subject matter of the IS field should not be "the IT artifact" (as suggested by Orlikowski and Iacono [1]), but rather IT-intensive work systems. This paper extends the ideas in the previous paper by exploring whether pervasive real time IT might be a disruptive technology [2] for the IS field, implying that the long term vibrancy and impact of the field depends on a change in focus and scope that emphasizes some version of work system concepts.

This paper defines the term "work system" and explains that information systems, projects, value chains, and supply chains are all special cases that should inherit work system terminology, generalizations, and success factors. It summarizes six real world examples to demonstrate different types of overlap between work systems and information systems that support them. Comparison of these systems shows that many of today?s more interesting information systems reflect a trend toward pervasive real time IT, i.e., increasingly commonplace application of IT to automate work practices or support and control them in real time. As this trend continues, the overlap between information systems and the work systems they support will increase, leading to a situation in which studying just the information system but not the work system it supports will have less and less significance. The paper concludes by arguing that the IS field needs to encompass work systems that do more than processing information. Expansion in this direction has implications for analyzing systems, conceptualizing system life cycles, communicating with business professionals, interpreting and performing research, and establishing different relationships with other academic fields such as organization behavior and operations management.

Citation:
Steven Alter, "Pervasive Real-Time IT as a Disruptive Technology for the IS Field," hicss, vol. 8, pp.252a, 36th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS'03) - Track 8, 2003
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