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Business Information Systems Seminars

The Discipline of Business Information Systems seminar organiser is Sebastian Boell.

Upcoming Seminars


5th Oct 2016 - 10:00 am

Venue: Room 5040, Abercrombie Building (H70)

Speaker: Steven Alter, University of San Francisco

Title: What Might Be the Content of a Body of Knowledge about Information Systems? A Perspective Based on Work System Theory

Abstract: Upon returning to academia after eight years in startup software company I decided to write books and do research that might have been of genuine benefit to the company’s customers and staff. Insights from writing and using four editions of an IS textbook (1992, 1996, 1999, 2002) led to various versions of the work system method (WSM) for analyzing and designing IT-reliant systems in organizations. Ideas underlying WSM were formalized as work system theory (WST in Alter 20013, 2015). Extensions of WSM/WST in the last 15 years expanded into many topics and issues that were not on my personal radar screen when I started the effort.

This seminar will provide background about my past research (items 1 – 4 below) and then will focus on a new research topic (item 5) that I think is interesting and possibly controversial.

  1. Background: general aspirations underlying the development of WST/WSM
  2. Core ideas in WST: definition of work system, the work system framework, and the work system lifecycle model.
  3. Core ideas in WSM: systems analysis and design where the system of interest is an IT-reliant work system, not a technical artifact.
  4. A 10-minute introduction to various extensions of WST: These include normative work system principles, work system design spaces, a metamodel supporting detailed description of a work system, a theory of workarounds, related ideas about a workaround design system, beneficial noncompliance, and detrimental compliance, potential applications of WSM/WST in many areas, and WST/WSM perspectives on topics such as sociotechnical systems, organizational routines, service systems and “service science”, BPM, technology adoption and diffusion, limitations of typical models of user satisfaction models and IS success, and so on.
  5. a new research topic: The second half of the seminar will discuss a new project that started with a challenge from Prof. Carson Woo of UBC to try to articulate the “basic principles” underlying WST and possibly other theoretical views of systems. Discussions with Carson and Alirio Rosales, a UBC philosopher of science, led to a paper that will be presented at ICIS 2016: “Principles for “Purposefully Constructed Activity Systems” -- A Step toward a Body of Knowledge for Information Systems”. Discussions of that paper in August at AMCIS and at the IEEE Conference on Business Informatics led to additional ideas that are outlined in a partial draft of an extension of the ICIS paper. Both the ICIS paper and the latest partial draft of the extension will be available to seminar attendees and others who request them.

Biography: Steven Alter is Professor Emeritus at the University of San Francisco. He turned his MIT Sloan School Ph.D. thesis into one of the first books on DSS. The experience of serving as VP of a manufacturing software start-up and writing and using four editions of an IS textbook inspired a long-term effort to develop WSM to help business professional collaborate with IT professionals, consultants, and vendors. Many of his papers are available at his website along with summaries of basic ideas related to work systems and service systems.

RSVP: Please RSVP to business.infosystems@sydney.edu.au