This article responds to “Taking the Work System Theory Forward” (Niederman and March, 2014), a JAIS research perspective article about an article on work system theory (Alter, 2013e). The research perspective article recognizes value in the work system approach, suggests that WST is not a proper theory, and suggests areas for related theory development.
After summarizing the main ideas in WST, this article explains disagreements between Niederman and March (2014) and Alter (2013e), hereafter called N&M and the WST article, regarding what WST is and what WST should become. It notes that N&M interprets basic ideas in WST differently than those ideas were defined in the WST article. It notes that N&M’s critique of WST is anchored in issues about the nature of theory, especially a preference for Gregor’s Type 4 theory. It explains that WST is a special case of general system theory, and as such should not and cannot take the form of a theory that expresses relationships between independent variables, moderating variables, and dependent variables. Next it explains why the WST article called WST a theory when it might have been called something else, and also why the development of WSM was not treated as a design science research project. The concluding section responds directly to N&M’s title, “Taking the Work System Theory Forward” by explaining that WST is becoming a platform for applications and extensions in IS and within and across a number of disciplines. It illustrates that view using examples under five categories.
Alter, S. (2015) "Work System Theory as a Platform: Response to a Research Perspective Article by Niederman and March", Journal of the Association for Information Systems, in press