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“Rethink the theoretical foundations of the IS discipline” is one of the grand challenges for IS research identified in a Delphi study in Business Information Systems Engineering (Becker et al., 2015). This draft addresses that challenge directly through an integrated approach to the operation and evolution of systems. Almost any attempt to articulate a theoretical foundation for IS (a TFIS) would need to cover that topic although other attempts might emphasize other topics and other viewpoints.

The proposed Theoretical Foundation for IS (TFIS) has three main goals:

1) Integration. Build outward from an integrated core. Do not accept the excuse that the IS field is not ready for a serious attempt at integration.

2) Usefulness. Contribute to describing, analyzing, designing, and evaluating systems, developing new tools and methods, and supporting empirical IS research.

3) Near-symmetry. Treat sociotechnical systems (with human participants) and totally automated systems as similarly as possible. Trends toward digitalization, automation, AI, and robotics imply benefits from that type of near-symmetry for understanding changes in the “division of labor.”