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The Gordon B. Davis Symposium

The Future of the Information Systems Academic Discipline: Opportunities and Directions

Management Information Systems Research Center
Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

May 13-14, 2005


Professor Gordon Davis is one the pioneers of Information Systems as an academic discipline. His retirement in 2004, thirty-six years after the first formal MIS degree programs were established at the University of Minnesota, provides an occasion for reflection, re-examination, and re-visioning the direction and future of our field. IS academics continue to explore and debate the conceptual foundations of the field, thirty years after Professor Davis’s seminal conceptual foundations book was published. In the meantime, IS is well accepted as a central discipline for management in business and government organizations. Executives recognize the strategic role and value of a sound body of knowledge about the acquisition, management, and use of information technologies in organizations. IS academics have made significant advances in developing appropriate theories, methodologies, and research streams on important subjects such as the adoption and use of IT, economic value of IT, organizational impacts of IT, strategic consequences of IT, design of enabling IT infrastructures and applications, and the capabilities, processes, and organizational models for management of IT. Overall, the discipline has made considerable progress in establishing its intellectual foundations and in contributing to practice.

However, the celebration of these successes must be tempered by the realization that numerous challenges remain. For example, what is the future intellectual space of the information systems discipline? What phenomena will be considered important for study by IS academics? What body of knowledge should the discipline continue to develop in order to strengthen and maintain its role as a business discipline? The dot-com crash, corporate failures, and the ubiquitous nature of computing and global bandwidth have prompted some to question the continued relevance of IT as a strategic asset. Some assert that the management of IT be reconceptualized as a less than strategic activity in firms, although others argue that continued success with innovation, agility, and competitive advantage will require tighter integration between IT and business processes, structures, and strategies. Increasingly, IT savvy business executives challenge existing knowledge about the role and nature of IT management and appropriate models for governance and organization of IT activities. The rapid emergence of multinational outsourcing is contributing to revisions in IT management practice. Furthermore, interest continues in learning not just whether IT investments and management practices have economic payoffs, but also what conditions and organizational practices enable the leverage and capture of the economic value of IT. Finally, as information technologies become significantly embedded into organizational work processes, routines, and structures, interest grows in understanding how combinations of social institutions, human actions, and technology features and functionalities will occasion change and transformation of organizational and managerial practice.

This symposium provides a forum for examining, exploring, and understanding the future evolution of the information systems academic discipline. What phenomena, theories, and research methods are going to dominate the conversation and thinking of IS academics and enable its continued growth as a professional and academic discipline? What body of knowledge will the members of the IS community need to develop to strengthen the economic, societal, national, and organizational role and value of IT? The symposium will feature a combination of invited and contributed articles.

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