“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. Version 1.0 went to colleagues who provided early feedback at conferences or at university visits. It also went to co-authors and others who might find it useful. Feel free to forward the current version to anyone who might be interested. This document is long – 50 pages – but it is designed like a slide presentation (one main idea on many pages, many diagrams, and use of bullet points for brevity) to allow relatively quick understanding of the overall approach and of how and why separate parts fit together as an integrated whole. Quick scan. The outline on page 3 summarizes how the main ideas are organized. Scrolling page by page provides a deeper overview in the sequence of headings and figures or tables. Concise bullet points identify key insights or issues. Integration is based on consistent use of a work system perspective that is summarized briefly. Many pages are understandable independent of surrounding pages. Deeper consideration. You might find value in deeper consideration of how some of this paper’s ideas are related to your research interests, such as relevant ideas that you had not considered. Your insights about limitations of this approach might help in identifying future directions for your research. Goals. 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.” I hope you have time to consider whether this overall approach is plausible and might have useful implications for your research or teaching. I would appreciate any comments you might have even though I recognize that many who see this are too busy to spend time on it. Again, feel free to forward this DRAFT to anyone who might be interested. Thanks for your interest.
Alter, Steven, "“A Proposed Theoretical Foundation for the Information Systems Discipline (version 1.1)" (2021). Business Analytics and Information Systems. 81.