The Development of
Strategic Information Systems Theory
During the last 15 years, an area has developed within the Information Systems discipline which is generally referred to as 'strategic information systems'. It concerns itself with systems whose importance to the organisation extend beyond merely assisting it to perform its existing functions efficiently, or even just effectively. A strategic information system is instrumental in the organisation's achievement of its competitive or other strategic objectives.
This paper presents a critical summary of the literature, and is accompanied by an extensive reference list. It begins by tracing the development of contemporary theory about strategic uses of corporations' internal information systems, primarily from Porter's theories relating to competitive strategy. This leads to discussion of systems which transcend the boundaries of particular organisations and are associated with cooperation between them. The process whereby strategic information systems are created or identified is then examined.
A number of weaknesses in the existing body of theory are identified, and suggestions made as to directions in which knowledge is or may be progressing.
The topic of 'strategic information systems' is concerned with systems which contribute significantly to the achievement of an organisation's overall objectives. The body of knowledge is of recent origin and highly dynamic, and the area has an aura of excitement about it.
It is risky to attempt a historical exposition of such a recently emerged topic. On the other hand, the line of development which the conventional wisdom has followed is itself interesting and instructive. This paper is prepared as an introduction to the literature, but embodies interpretation in both its structure and its expression, and should therefore be read with at least as critical a disposition as any other paper in the area. It may also be compared with other critical interpretations such as Swatman & Swatman (1992), Galliers (1993) and Ciborra (1994).
The notion and its origins are first discussed. The emergence of the key ideas is then traced. The process whereby strategic information systems come into being is assessed. Finally, areas of weakness are identified, and directions of current and future development suggested.
The role of Information Systems (IS) has developed during the years. The original conception was of automation of existing manual and pre-computer mechanical processes. This was quickly succeeded by the rationalisation and integration of systems. In both of these forms, IS was regarded primarily as an operational support tool, and secondarily as a service to management.
During the 1980s, an additional potential was discovered. It was found that, in some cases, information technology (IT) had been critical to the implementation of an organisation's strategy. The dominant sense in which the term is used is...