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This article began as a response to an exchange of letters concerning the need for more vs. less user participation in IS projects. It grew into an exploration of whether and how ten 1999 CAIS articles use basic IS/IT terms with different meanings and connotations related to the different perspectives of their authors. The article characterizes differences between an IT perspective and a business perspective and categorizes the ten articles accordingly. It then presents numerous quotes from the articles to illustrate differences across the articles in terms of their use of eight basic concepts: system, user, stakeholder, IS project, implementation, reengineering, requirements, and solution. To help understand the differences and their significance, the article makes extensive use of distinctions between work systems, information systems, and projects. When applied to the articles these distinctions raise questions such as whether the term “system” refers to a work system, information system, or software, and whether the term “user” refers to hands-on users, people who receive information, or managers whose organizations use information systems. An underlying theme throughout is that the lack of conscious attention to the meaning of basic terms and points of reference may be a significant impediment to effective communication and to our ability to make sense out of research findings and even journalistic anecdotes about what seemed to work or not work in particular situations.


Originally published in Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 3(10), 2000



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