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Critical Issues in Information Systems


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Title: Critical Issues in Information Systems

Critical Issues in Information Systems
  • BUSS 951

Lecture 7 Systems for Organisations 1
Informative Technologies
Notices (1) General
  • Unfortunately I was not able to be available for
    consultations during Thursday today as I have
    another commitment in Sydney. I have set up a
    replacement consultation time for Monday
    1430-1630 (for one week only)
  • I am consequently one day late in marking and due
    to other teaching commitments cannot restart this
    work until the weekend- I will hopefully have the
    Assignment 1s available during the replacement
    consultation time
  • Make sure you have a copy of Assignment 2
  • BUSS951 is supported by a website (available from
    Tomorrow), where you can find out the latest
    Notices and get Lecture Notes, Tutorial Sheets,
    Assignments etc

Notices (2) Readings for Week 7
  1. Carroll, J. M. (1991) Introduction The Little
    House Manifesto Reading 11
  2. Landauer, T. K. (1991) Lets Get Real A Position
    Paper on the Role of Cognitive Psychology in the
    Design of Humanly Useful and Usable Systems
    Reading 11

Notices (3) Readings for Week 8
  1. Yu, E. (1998) Why agent-oriented requirments
    engineering Reading 6
  2. Yu, E. S. K and J. Mylopoulos (1994) From E-R
    to A-R- Modelling Strategic Actor Relationshiups
    for Business Process Reengineering Reading 7

Agenda (1)
  • Technological Changes
  • Evolution of IS
  • Layered Architectures Separation of
    presentation, application and data
  • Distributed Applications
  • Security and Personalisation
  • Data Processing Critical Issues
  • Layered Architectures and Planning Problems
  • Diversification of Skills
  • Tower of Babel
  • Standardisation versus Innovation

Technological Changes
Technological Changes (1) Data Processing
Information Management
  • in the 1990s much of the data processing scene
    has been transformed from that even since the
    1970s and 80s (refer to Mowshowitz 1976 Reading
  • particularly,
  • the kinds of technologies that were used to
    process data, and
  • the manner in which data was processing by
  • who gets to actually perform these duties that is
    EDP centres, data centres, outsourcers, ISPs
    and/or ASPs

Technological Changes (2) Concepts Statements
differ- same Theory!
  • there is now a dominant trend in considering work
    and its management from the point-of-view of
    knowledge work
  • the reality is that the knowledge work being
    referred to follows exactly the same logic
    identified earlier in our lecture on information
  • we are still dealing with the problems inherent
    with Shannon Weaver but we still cannot see a
    way clear of it despite valiant attempts to
    consider for example valued information-
    something Shannon Weaver is incapable of
    theorising as it does not deal with meanings
    (semantics) at all

Technological Changes (3) Current IT developed
decades ago
  • current technological deployment is based on
    theory that is new very old
  • 1960s technology relied on batch processing, in
    the 1970s the technology was dependent on the
    timesharing systems
  • however in the 1980s there were two significant
    developments- networking architectures and
    microprocessor based systems- however attempts to
    combine these technologies were ineffective
  • Reasons many but it is true that users often
    preferred the independence from IT management
    control that personal computing power provided

Technological Changes (4) Development of
Client/Server Architectures
  • Client/server technology is a form of distributed
    processing where an application is split in a way
    that allows a front end (the client) to request
    services of a back end (server)
  • Client/server technologies enable the possibility
    of having users interact with an application
    running on a mainframe, minicomputer or network
    server while the front end runs on their PC
  • Of course the real impetus behind the adoption of
    this technology is the Internet and corporate
    Intranets- the web browser becomes a universal
    client (web pages, mail, ftp, server
    applications, search )

Technological Changes (5) Client/Server
Architecture Motivations
  • Management
  • Better equipment utilisation
  • Utilising technical workers better
  • Utilising non-technical workers better
  • Better products and services
  • Technological Advances
  • Microprocessors- powerful systems
  • Graphics- at the client side
  • Network Operating Systems and LANs
  • Software Development Tools- CASE tools can
    support it
  • Standards- are required to develop new,
    sophisticated applications required by
    client/server computing
  • often IT companies sabotage standards in order
    to retain market share!- Critical Issue

Technological Changes (6) Client/Server
Architecture Advantages
  • Off-loading Mainframes
  • Improved Data Integrity
  • Reduced Network Traffic
  • Searches are processed on the workstation not on
    the traditional file server- followed by a
    sequence of record level requests made to the
  • alternatively with Client/server style database
    server the search request is packages and shipped
    to the database server where it executes. When
    complete, the search results are sent back to the
    workstation as a unit
  • Reduced Application Development
  • Reusability
  • Portations
  • Developer Interdependence
  • Reduced Cost

Technological Changes (7) Client/Server
Architecture Advantages
  • Complexity applications are separated into
    several pieces that must communicate with each
    other across a network, client/server computing
    is inherently more complex that traditional data
  • Lack of Standards require overwhelming support-
    the problem as I perceive it is largely at the
    management levels of both the adopting
    organisations, and the marketing practices of
    managers in large IT companies (Problems between
    Sun and Microsoft in relation to Java- hardly
    isolated- see latter)
  • Resource Intensiveness very similar issues to
    the marketing practices of large IT companies who
    lock users out of the competition by developing
    proprietary standards (IBM was doing this in the
    1960s- nothing has changed here!)

Technological Changes (8) Distributed
  • the concept of distributed processing,
    distributing pieces of one software program
    entity across a number of processing systems, has
    been around since the 1970s and is was a direct
    influence on the development of ISO and IBMs SNA
  • end users at the application level demand more
    than the computing power available at their
  • more localised controllable types of applications
    have been spreading rapidly
  • but are now becoming entangled with the problems
    faced by Wide Area Network (WAN) routing and

Technological Changes (9) Machine Architectures
System Software
  • any two processors using different architectures
    are by definition incompatible and software
    developed on one will need to be ported and
    compiled on the other system- in fact this kind
    of incompatibility was and still is encouraged by
    all parties
  • this is even the case with universal or standard
    software systems- any deviation is likely to
    affect compatibility and every system deviates
    software rusts

Technological Changes (10) System Software
  • even standards like UNIX which were meant to get
    around these problems have been subject to this
    kind of problem, example which flavour of UNIX
    (AIX, Xenix, ULTRIX, AtT, Berkeley flavours
  • this incompatibility even extends to PC based
    versions, RedHat, Corel Linux, Caldera OpenLinux,
    Mandrake Linux etc
  • even now there is still efforts at trying to get
    a core kernel for Linux, and to allow other
    producers like RedHat etc to package their
    distributions with whatever they want as long as
    they adhere to minimum standards for the kernel

Technological Changes (11) Remote Procedure
Calls (RPCs)
  • there are a number of accepted ways to deal with
    the heterogeneous distributed systems- one
    popular way is to use Remote Procedure Calls
  • Procedures are not only characteristic of
    distributed system about are also used within
    standalone non-distributed programs
  • A procedure, function, or subroutine is a well
    defined program segment that performs a task or
    set of tasks and has a well-defined interface so
    that other program segments can use it
  • RPCs extend this technique of intramachine
    procedure calls into intermachine procedure calls
    required in distributed processing

Technological Changes (12) RPCs and Distributed
  • RPCs differ from local calls (used in subroutines
    etc) in that the address spaces for the caller
    procedure and the called procedure are located on
    separate machines which might be located on
    separate LANs or WANs
  • the calling mechanism at the RPC client passes
    arguments and control to an RPC server via
    communications software
  • similar software to used client side receives the
    information and simulates a local call to the
    intended procedure at the RPC server
  • when the procedure is completed the communication
    software on the server returns any output data to
    the original caller

Evolution of IS Data from Marchand (1990)
Evolution of IS A Managerial Historical View
  • Competitive Thrust
  • IS Strategy
  • IS systems
  • Technical Efficiency
  • Maximization of throughput
  • Seeking of economies of scale
  • Technology in search of solutions
  • High-volume mainframe applications

Evolution of IS A Managerial Historical View
  • Competitive Thrust
  • IS Strategy
  • IS systems
  • Cost Reduction
  • Reduction of overhead
  • Support function back office operation
  • Transaction processing
  • Administrative systems

Evolution of IS A Managerial Historical View
  • Competitive Thrust
  • IS Strategy
  • IS systems
  • Office Effectiveness
  • Networking
  • End-user computing
  • IS emerging from the back office
  • Technology architecture

Evolution of IS A Managerial Historical View
  • Competitive Thrust
  • IS Strategy
  • IS systems
  • Flexibility
  • Leveraging of technology architecture
  • IS supporting business thrust
  • Tailored work station
  • Knowledge-based technology
  • Multimedia environment

Evolution of IS Critical Evaluation (1)
  • actually although there are some elements of
    truth to the slides just presented - a common
    enough representation of some of the salient
    issues - it should not be construed as a correct
    interpretation of events as we shall see
  • for instance how likely do you think it is that
    management had a major rethink about IS on
    January 1st of every decade for four decades
    consecutively!- if you believe that go buy a
    lottery ticket!

Evolution of IS Critical Evaluation (2)
  • in this case that somehow under the guiding hand
    of information management organisations came to
    improve their understand of what makes for the
    good application of technology
  • terms like effectiveness smooth over a rather
    unsavoury corporate history of unemployment,
    downsizing, and corporate raiding that took place
    in Australia for example

Evolution of IS Critical Evaluation (3)
  • the items which characterise different decades
    are highly selective- for example you simply do
    not find much interest in multimedia systems in
  • I know for a fact that in some area of BHP, no
    new computing equipment is provided unless it can
    be cost justified 150- guaranteeing that they
    actually buy something that they need and that
    they get the most use out of it

Evolution of IS Critical Evaluation (4)
  • this kind of presentation and similar kinds of
    presentation in IS and management suffer from a
    fatal condition known as a post hoc argument
  • a post hoc is the fallacy of assuming that
    temporal succession is evidence of a causal
  • the same kind of problem happens in sciences and
    natural history museums as well- see Gee (2001)!

Evolution of IS Sequential Implicativeness
  • in this case even though there seems no logic
    implication that causes for flexibility to
    follow from office efficiency the mere act of
    locating them one after another creates a
    sequential implicativeness
  • the author signals their desire to read this
    table left to right by placing labels which tell
    you which decade your in
  • and also by having the last column flexibility
    as a kind of happy ending- this reveals a deeper
    true about how this argument is being

Evolution of IS Narrative Structure of Reality
  • as you read from left to right one column to the
    next- the ordering becomes powerful because it
    literally suggests and then constructs a
    narrative (ie. this happened, then this
  • in what the great Cultural Studies researcher
    Stuart Hall calls the narrative structure of

Information Management and the Emerging
Infomation Economy
Information Management (1)
  • now that we have established that there have been
    massive changes in the IS
  • although we have strongly critiqued the
    management rhetoric which describes these changes
  • it is important to focus now on the role of
    information management in organisations we should
    expect (and indeed we can easily find) changes to
    the concept of information occurring at the same
    time as we have the emergence of the so-called
    information economy

Information Management (2)
  • is seen as attempting to understand the many
    internal external factors that shape
  • several of these ideas that are currently central
    to information management are
  • information and innovation
  • learning and adaptation
  • addressing value chains- key aspects of the job
    of knowledge workers)

Information Management (3)
  • current information management literature
    describes work in terms of value chains
  • must be addressed at both the bottom and top of
    business organisations in service and
    goods-producing industries
  • what is considered to link information and
    innovation in a business enterprise is the need
    to learn and adapt to key forces

Information Management (4)
  • information management services are now construed
    as contributing to the learning activities of the
    enterprise as they are reflected in group and
    individual work processes
  • focus on enhancing the value chains of employees
    as knowledge workers
  • this involves new requirements for sharing
    information resources in an enterprise as well as
    new ways of
  • coordinating the management functions related to
    human resources
  • facilities planning information services and
    systems as they affect employee performance and

Information Management (5) Emergence of the
Information Economy...
  • information-oriented view of executives and
    workers as knowledge workers leads to new
    patterns of information use and sharing in
  • so if the information economy is an
    international, social, and economic reality, then
    what is its impact on business?- Marchand (1990)
    identified the following responses from managers

Information Economys Impact on Business
  • Characteristics of the Information Economy
  • Information economy is a business reality
  • Knowledge and information are critical resources
    to respond to organised complexity
  • The division of laour has shifted from
    indiustrial to information workers
  • The internation ecomomy is an international
  • information processsing industry has developed as
    the basic industry of the information economy
  • Effects on Business
  • Knowledge is a key factor of production with
    capital, people, and technology
  • information transforms agriculture amd industry
  • manufacturing and service boundaries are blurred
  • service sector boundaries are blurred
  • entrepreneurial opportunities have been created
  • information management evolves as a new business

Current Views of Information
  • the rhetoric changes from information processing
    to knowledge work
  • we now see a shift in interest away from
    considerations data processing and more effort
    being expended into understanding more about what
    the term information might mean
  • this promising avenue of research will be limited
    by the types of theories that can be adopted...

Current Views of Information Knowledge Work
valued Information...
  • note the quantitative overtones (minus, equals)
    together with the desire to think about
    information in qualitative terms (valued

information minus information equals
valued available
used information
Current Views of Information Knowledge Work
valued Information...
  • from a current information management point of
    view consideration of information must consider
  • information content or actual knowledge,
  • timing or delivery of information
  • the quality of the information
  • the quantity or scope of the information
  • the presentation format or relevance of the
  • the ease of retrieval or actual use oof the
    information, and,
  • finally the cost of the information to the
    individual, work unit, or organisation

Organisational Implications Data to Information
Based Enterprises
Organisational Implications Data to Information
Based Enterprises (1)
  • we have established that along with a change in
    the way IT is employed in organisations there has
    also been a commensurate shift in the way
    information as a category is described
  • now we consider the organisational implications
    of the development of information based
    enterprises in an information economy and the
    effect that this change has on how organisation
    and workers are managed

Organisational Implications Data to Information
Based Enterprises (2)
  • of course there have been major changes that can
    be seen in what IS are used, how they are used,
    who uses them and who controls them
  • what changes are evident in the observed
    transformation from data processing to
    information based enterprises?
  • what implications have these changes had to the
    organisations in which they have been deployed?

Organisational Implications Data to Information
Based Enterprises (3)
  • traditional hierarchical model of organisation
    based on control and compliance does not promote
    effectively the focus on service management
  • some authors have suggested a reversal of
    traditional pyramidal structure and a substantial
    downsizing to promote a focus on customer
    interaction with front-line employees where
    managers of support units strive to improve the
    quality of services

Organisational Implications Data to Information
Based Enterprises (4)
  • managerial organisational differences that
    characterise firms in the traditional,
    industrial-based model -vs- information-based
  • traditional industrial model
  • 6 to 13 layers of control-oriented, top-down
  • knowledge resides at the top and is distributed
    on a need-to-know basis downward
  • functional groupings tend to be rigid and poorly
    coordinated except at the top of the organisation

Organisational Implications Data to Information
Based Enterprises (5)
  • hierachical control-oriented
  • top down
  • knowledge residing at the top and distributed on
    a need to know basis downward
  • functional orientation
  • flatter, repsonsive
  • horizontal, focused on the support of the worker
  • shared information, targeted use of knowledge,
    expertise, and technology
  • task, market orientation

Organisational Implications Value Chains of
Knowledge Workers (6)
  • a few leading-edge firms are beginning to
    define all their workers as knowledge workers
  • due to automation, increasing reliance is placed
    on the quality and productivity of the less
    numerous, yet more highly skilled production
    workers in charge of manufacturing processes
  • an interesting possibility is to consider that
    the rhetoric of knowledge workers is actually
    being re/produced solely to reduce costs by
    employing fewer workers- just a continuation
    automation during the 60s and 70s

Organisational Implications Value Chains of
Knowledge Workers (7)
  • the new knowledge worker becomes the object of
    value adding management practices which views
    them as incurs costs and subject to various
    managerial practices

Facilities Dimension work environment physical
coordination work processes location/site
characteristics Knowledge Worker reasoning
capabilities cognitive style education experience
personality motivation
Human Resources compensation package learning/trai
ning resources benefits menu merit, equity in
worker relations Information Mgmt
Division information uses and needs sources of
information types quality presentation
format ease of retrieval
Info Tech Division software availability and
use tailored hardware to work task supportive
tech. infrastructure
Organisational Implications Value Chains of
Knowledge Workers (8)
  • interestingly, the actual value of the knowledge
    workers and the utter depedence of organisations
    and managers on their work is rarely acknowledged
  • this erasure is evidence of workers is evident in
    the ways management practices address them (ie.
    refer to them, think about them etc)
  • pay attention to the language that is being iused
    in the following dioscussion about knowledge
    workers- what you need to think about is how are
    the knowledge workers being addressed...

Organisational Implications Value Chains of
Knowledge Workers (9)
  • in general it is viewed as not a good idea to
    subject workers to these apparent disjointed
    activities of management!
  • the literature suggests that this traditional
    approach to the management of business processes
    and workers (termed disease-oriented treatment)
    can lower quality and flexibility enormously ...
  • ... and can result in treating the symptoms of
    worker dissatisfaction and low productivity while
    being unable to deal with the causes of such

Organisational Implications Value Chains of
Knowledge Workers (10)
  • the alternative that is proposed to addressing
    the value chain of knowledge workers is
    characterized as patient oriented
  • perceiving and addressing the interactions and
    interrelationships between the key dimensions of
    the worker value chain
  • production workers are perceived holistically,
    and task requirements needs to be addressed in a
    coordinated way by each group of functional

Organisational Implications Value Chains of
Knowledge Workers (11)
  • in my experience the dissatisfaction faced by
    knowledge workers has an entirely different
  • often management does not understand the work
  • or is uninterested in being able to address
    worker symtoms of dissatisfaction
  • in some cases management actually can end up
    deluding themselves into thinking that every
    thing is OK

Organisational Implications Value Chains of
Knowledge Workers (12)
  • Disease-oriented treatment
  • problem specific
  • fragmented
  • functional independence, dealing with knowledge
    worker independently o fother functions
  • Patient-oriented treatment
  • worker oriented
  • holistic
  • coordinated impact of functional strategies on
    knowledge workers

Data Processing Critical Issues
Data Processing Critical Issues 1. Layered
Architectures Planning Problems
  • the infrastructure is changing but the computing
    science theory behind for example client/server
    and distributed processing had been around for
    decades and has the internet that has propelled
    these technologies in recent years
  • interestingly decision makers have been very
    selective in the ways they use technological
    possibilities such as those afforded by the
    internet (for example there is no pier-pier
    computing is used in organisations
  • the real challenges involve the complete
    separation of presentation, application, data
    across distributed systems

Data Processing Critical Issues Layered
Architectures Planning Problems
  • separating these layered architectures but there
    is no way of easily layering these different
    types of architecture together into a single
    enterprise architecture to help planners get it
    all right
  • a sterling effort by Zachman (2001) on the next
    slide shows how difficult this to achieve and how
    difficult these problems must be to implement in
    real organisations

(No Transcript)
Data Processing Critical Issues 2.
Diversification of Skills
  • Some literature suggests that future programmers
    can be grouped into four categories
  • IS department programmers declining from
    2,000,000 in 1994 to several hundred thousand by
    2010- rather than centralised into EDP centres
    they are being distributed out into business
  • Software company programmers numbers are rise
    from 600,000 in 1994 to several million by 2010
    as a result of more packaged solutions
  • Embedded software programmers Code embedded in
    other consumer goods like cars. Increase from
    several million in 1994 to 10,000,000 in 2010
  • Occasional programmers Other professions use
    programming as part of their duties. Rise from 20
    million in 1994 to over 100 million by 2010

Data Processing Critical Issues 3. Tower of Babel
  • there are now so many languages (complete,
    scripting etc) and technologies that it is simply
    impossible to find staff trained in all the
    necessary issues
  • particularly the case in Intranet and Internet
    (e-commerce) applications
  • the following slide is meant to show the range of
    technical options that need to be covered by IT
    managers and how technically difficult this can
    get for web enabled applications

Data Processing Critical Issues Web Database
Applications- Components
External helper program
Browser Layer Application Logic Layer Databa
se Gateway Layer Database Layer
HTML Document
Java Application
Java applet
CGI program
Proprietary Web Server
Web Server API module
Vendors Database API
Command-line interface to database
Database (RDMS)
Data Processing Critical Issues 4.
Standardisation versus Innovation
  • we talked about systems software
    incompatibilities when describing distributed
    applications- there is a powerful disincentive to
    comply with these standardisation efforts
  • big producers argue
  • big producers generally argue that it is market
    forces (often code for marketing force) that
    will dictate who succeeds and who fails
  • they will represent the view that standardisation
    as stifles innovation- does this remind you of a
    certain BIG company!
  • in general this argument is by those who wish to
    maintain or increase their market share and are
    unwilling to agree to standards which would be
    perceived as favouring smaller producers

Data Processing Critical Issues Standardisation
versus Innovation
  • an interesting aspect is that this kind of
    argument plugs into a set of beliefs about people
    as rational individuals free to choose and
    consume as they wish
  • but of course I like many of you are not free to
    consume, we are locked into certain kinds of
    purchasing choices because of the market that
    favours the producer not the consumer
  • the tragedy is that I might end up believing
    that my choice of a particular word processor is
    because there isnt anything better (ie. other
    people have got the same word processor so they
    are likely to load and read my documents) rather
    than I really like to use it

Data Processing Critical Issues Standardisation
versus Innovation
  • Small producers want the advantage of creating
    products that have a chance of being adopted
    widely and are disadvantaged if a major player in
    the market locks up a greater percentage of its
    actual market

  • Gee, H.(2001) Deep Time Cladistics, The
    Revolution in Evolution London Fourth Estate
  • Gebremedhin, E. (1991) Distributed Processing
    Concepts and Models DATAPRO Managing Information
    Technology Technology Issues Trends 1212, 1-12
  • Marchand, D. A. (1990) Infotrends A 1990s
    Outlook on Strategic Information Management
    Information Management Review 5 (4), Spring
  • OLone, E. J. and A. Williamson (1991)
    Client/Server Computing DATAPRO Managing
    Information Technology Technology Issues
    Trends 1222, 1-11

  • the author greatly acknowledges the use of
    material provided in a research talk developed by
    Jim McKee, Department of Information Systems