Instructor Manual

Chapter 3 Building The Foundations for IS Strategy

Chapter 3 examines:

  • What social theoretical foundation is the most relevant to information systems and strategy?
  • Within a chosen theoretical framework, what are the issues relevant to both information systems and corporate strategy?
  • How does this theoretical underpinning apply specifically to the domain of information systems strategy?
  • What does a strategic framework informed from this perspective look like?

Many students (and lecturers) will choose to avoid this chapter. However, in my view, an inability to fully grasp this basic level of theory for IS and corporate strategy, will affect the understanding of both the domain and the rest of this text.

Review Questions

Revisit Table 3.1 and Figure 3.1, and ensure students are clear on this view of the nature of paradigms.

  1. The dominant positions can be explained by Table 3.1 and Figure 3.1, by concentrating on the functionalist and interpretive paradigms. At this stage the limitations of these positions would be sufficiently understood by the students if they simply recognise that the sociology of radical change is being apparently entirely ignored.
  2. The theory is explained in Table 3.3. The key to understanding Habermas' contribution to this debate lies in relating the technical interest to functionalism, the practical interest to interpretivism, and recognising that there is now a way of moving to more radical positions through application of the emancipatory interest. What this tells us about human social activity is that in these theoretical terms human beings seek to satisfy three primary interests, the latter of which (emancipatory) is seen to be essential in order that the other two may be achieved.
  3. The ‘commitments' of critical systems thinking are critical awareness, social awareness, and complementarism at the levels of methodology and theory. What they have to say about the domain of IS can be explained by critical and social awareness being related to more inclusive human activity, and complementarism to the more informed mixing of methodologies.

Discussion Questions

  1. The components of the subjective and objective positions may be discussed either in terms of the philosophical background (Table 3.1), or by reference to Figure 3.2, looking at the nature of the interests and types of action that each of the positions would promote. Approaching IS strategy from these perspectives can again be discussed in relation to each of the paradigms. For example: functionalism privileges a technically based plan; interpretivism is more inclusive of human interaction and therefore requires soft approaches; radical humanism promotes the idea that social inclusion is not something to be assumed but to be worked towards, and that participation will only be achieved where those participants are free and able to contribute.
  2. I would normally approach this question by asking students to consider Table 3.2, and, using examples from their own experience, discuss each of the issues in turn. Make sure that students see the connection with the ‘sociology of regulation' in the Burrell and Morgan grid.
  3. This simply requires that students discuss Figure 3.3 and its implications.

Case Exercise

This case can be used to draw together the learning from the first three chapters. In essence we have a company which fits an entrepreneurial / adhocratic classification, which from the evidence of Chapters 1 and 2 would seem ill suited to a planning approach. What I would do is invite students to discuss these issues theoretically, and match the theoretical and practical positions.