Expecting the unexpected : beyond teleological information systems development
Thesis (MA (Information Science))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.
Information systems have become a standard and essential feature of contemporary organisations as they are applied to enable the management of information as an organisational asset in the unstable business world of the knowledge economy. The academic field, though extremely young, is a dynamic permutation of various professional domains and scientific research areas, making information systems a complex and often confusing subject. Traditional information systems development methodologies, like the Systems Development Life Cycle, approach systems development with a teleological paradigm. This implies that information systems should be developed to adhere to a certain set of predefined system requirements. Although organisations have widely accepted this paradigm, some experts argue that it is insufficient when organisations are subject to frequent change as a result of turbulent business sectors. They suggest that information systems will operate in a changing context that will render any predefined set of system requirements futile. In contrast to the teleological paradigm, these experts proclaim the ateleological paradigm as a more suitable approach to information systems development in organisations that require the inherent ability to adapt to a changing environment. The ateleological paradigm approaches an information system as a living system that should have the ability to adapt continuously to emerging or changing system requirements. Instead of being driven by system requirements that were fixed at a specific point in time, these information systems are developed over time continuum to ensure that the system remains relevant with the changing context in which it operates. Tailorable Information Systems (TIS) is an information systems development approach that embodies the ateleological paradigm. As a central principle, TIS operates around the notion that information systems development should be done by the end-users of the system as opposed to the traditional system analysts and developers. By empowering the end-users of an information system with adequate technology and relying on their technical sophistication, organisations can implement truly flexible systems that are particularly responsive to contextual changes. In the light of the ateleological paradigm, this thesis critically evaluates traditional information systems development approaches and compares these two approaches that support the notion of an information system as a living system.