Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 16 Number 3 1999 pp. 3-4

Editorial Introduction

Zwass, Vladimir


The field of management information systems is inherently diverse and dynamic. As befits an area of inquiry centering on the organizational use of information technologies, the theoretical approaches and the problematic of the field are fed by and overlap with those of several behavioral and technological disciplines. The diversity of foundational theories and problem sets is amplified by the diversity of research methodologies. Moreover, since some of the reference disciplines, such as computer science, are "sciences of the artificial" [2]-that is, sciences of design that creates new realities-these disciplines move ever new areas of investigation within the MIS compass. For example, as the progress in technological capabilities enables knowledge management, we may observe that information retrieval and, beyond that, the issues of ontologies move within the area of our interests. It is a fundamental and abiding commitment of the Journal of Management Information Systems to present leading research in the field in all its diversity. We have published and will publish behavioral work as well as research based on the development and study of technological exemplars of novel systems that aim to support individuals in organizations. We have published and will publish theoretical work as well as rich case studies that bring important insight. We have published and will publish the work of researchers with positivist as well as interpretivist commitments. The dynamics of our own field, the evolution of the reference disciplines, and the development of the technological substratum continually renew the disciplinary matrix of MIS, to use the terms in which Thomas Kuhn reconceptualized his notion of paradigm [1]. Indeed, scholarly journals are the essential vehicles for the integration and elaboration of this matrix of research and scholarship.

The statement of the above paragraph is occasioned by the title chosen by the Guest Editors for the Special Section that opens the issue, Robert O. Briggs, Jay F. Nunamaker, Jr., and Ralph H. Sprague, Jr. Let me introduce dialectical tension here by saying that, far from exploring the outlands of our discipline, the papers are right in the corral. Each of them expands the way we can think about a core issue of information systems: security assurance, processes of human communication, document management, or the very basic understanding of the relationship among data, information, and knowledge. The Guest Editors introduce these works more closely.

The first paper of the general section, by T. Ravichandran and Arun Rai, offers a badly needed empirically validated set of partly interrelated constructs that make for effective total quality management in information systems development. Although the empirics are perceptual, they generally correlate with the objective quality performance measures. The study indicates that the managerial quality factors have a cumulative effect and should be adopted as a whole. It is an important complement to the technological perspective generally adopted in the work on information systems quality. The paper is also an illustration of how MIS research can complement the work in the reference discipline of computer science.

The idea-generation stage of electronic meetings is particularly vulnerable to the effects of information overload. Thus, users of a brainstorming tool of a group support system have to cope with a large number of rapidly generated ideas and with many comments that support them. Mary-Liz Grise and R. Brent Gallupe present a theoretical perspective and a tool for regulating the flow of ideas based on this theory. They proceed to describe an experiment that shows the tradeoffs involved in using the complexity-handling tool.

We still have a fragmentary understanding of the relationship between the use of information technologies and organizational structures. Choong C. Lee and Varun Grover examine the relationship between the use of communications-oriented (as opposed to computing-oriented) information technologies and the firm structure in the context of the manufacturing sector. The authors find that these technologies play a direct role in reinforcing the organizational structures dictated by the firm's environment. Although the general causal contingency model of IT-influenced structural organizational variables remains elusive, this contribution shows that the technologies that enable organizational coordination play a more weighty structuring role than the purely information-processing technologies.

It is not exactly bad news for the discipline that entry-level MIS professionals are hard to keep. It is, naturally, a serious problem fo1r the organizations. The work of James J. Jiang and Gary Klein tells them what they can do about it. A long-term supportive view of a novice's carrier is the recommendation that follows from the empirical study presented by the authors.




1. Kuhn, T.S. Second thoughts on paradigms. In F. Suppe (ed.), The Structure of Scientific Theories. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1974, pp. 459-482.

2. Simon, H.A. The Sciences of the Artificial, 2d ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981.

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