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Despite the availability of elaborate methods for defining data and business processes, huge amounts of time and effort are wasted on system projects that produce disappointing results. An important contributing factor is the difficulty business and IT professionals experience when they try to describe, evaluate, and/or analyze systems in organizations even at a cursory level. Between 1997 and 2003, the author's information system courses for evening MBAs and EMBAs required students to write two group papers that present a business-oriented analysis of a real world system in an organization and propose preliminary recommendations for improvements. If these working students are representative of the types of business professionals who are involved in systems in organizations, it is plausible that the major types of pitfalls demonstrated by their papers are representative of common pitfalls that contribute to disappointing results with systems. An examination of 202 group papers submitted by evening MBA and EMBA students between 1997 and 2003 revealed pitfalls in 9 categories related to system and information definition, performance measurement, treatment of personal and organizational issues, susceptibility to techno-hype and jargon, inadequate critical thinking, and difficulty applying abstractions and formal methods. This paper illustrates these pitfalls using examples from student papers. Assuming that typical business professionals encounter the same types of pitfalls, both MBA programs and analysis and design methods should provide concepts and techniques that help in identifying and minimizing the related problems.


Originally published in the Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 17(3)

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