Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 8 Number 2 1991 pp. 11-30

The Role of Metaphors in Strategic Information Systems Planning

Mason, Robert M

ABSTRACT: This paper posits that (1) metaphors perform a crucial role in enacting strategy and linking strategic thinking with IT planning; (2) the war metaphor, which underlies many previous discussions of strategic information systems (SIS) is inadequate, possibly obsolete, in today's environment, and the shift away from this metaphor in the past few years is evidence of this; (3) other metaphors offer potentially more useful foundations for strategic thinking and SIS planning in today's world than the war metaphor; and (4) explicit articulation and exploration of alternative metaphors help identify strategic opportunities for information technology (IT) applications, designing SIS for global enterprises, and formulating research on SIS issues. This paper outlines these arguments and identifies desirable characteristics of metaphors, and discusses alternative metaphors of the organization as: an adapting organism, city-state, participant in organized team sports, an expression of philosophy, and expression of economic forces. The paper concludes with suggestions for research on the use of metaphor in strategy formulation and IT planning.

Key words and phrases: strategic information systems, strategic MIS planning