The Past, Present, and Future of "IS Success"

By Petter, Stacie; DeLone, William et al. | Journal of the Association for Information Systems, May 2012 | Go to article overview

The Past, Present, and Future of "IS Success"


Petter, Stacie, DeLone, William, McLean, Ephraim R., Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Abstract

Since the introduction of information systems more than 60 years ago, organizations want to ensure that their systems are effective or "successful". Much has changed in the evaluation of information systems success during this period. The role of information systems in organizations has changed dramatically, as have the key stakeholders and the expected benefits of the investments in IS. During this period, IS research has evolved to keep pace with the changing expectations regarding the success of information systems, yet practice tends to lag behind. In this commentary, we discuss five eras of information systems evolution and explain how the perceptions and measures of successful information systems have changed across these eras. By looking at the past and present, we are able to comment on how our understanding of success has evolved over time in research and practice. We discuss the inadequacy of IS success evaluation in practice. Finally, we offer four themes as calls for future action related to the research of information systems success.

Keywords: IS Success, IS Effectiveness, Eras of IT, IS History

"Success" is achieving the goals that have been established for an undertaking (Anonymous).

1. Introduction

Regardless of whether the economy is booming or busting, organizations want to ensure that their investments in information systems (IS) are successful. Managers make these investments to address a business need or opportunity, so it is important to identify whether the systems meet the organization.s goals. Keen (1987) described the mission of IS as:

The effective design, delivery, use and impact of information technologies in organizations and society. The term "effective" seems key. Surely the IS community is explicitly concerned with improving the craft of design and the practice of management in the widest sense of both those terms. Similarly, it looks at information technologies in their context of real people in real organizations in a real society (p. 3).

Based on Keen.s view of information systems, we believe the evaluation of the "effectiveness" or "success" of information systems is an important aspect of the information systems field in both research and practice. However, the manner in which we evaluate the success of an information system has changed over time as the context, purpose, and impact of IT has evolved. It is, therefore, essential to understand what these changes have been and what they mean for the future.

Information systems success research evaluates the effective creation, distribution, and use of information via technology. As information technology has developed since the mid-1950s, information has become more voluminous, more ubiquitous, and more accessible by all. If we believe that information is power, this progress in information availability has changed the power dynamics of relationships between corporations and consumers, between buyers and suppliers, between small business and large business, and between citizens and their governments. Thus, the measurement of IS success has become ever more complex while, at its core, still simple.

The complexity arises because the uses and users of information systems are ever expanding. Therefore, the context has infinite possibilities in terms of the purpose of an IS and the definition of its stakeholders. Yet the measurement of information systems success at its core is still simple because there are consistent key elements in the measurement of success, such as information quality, system quality, use, and outcomes. The challenge that researchers and practitioners face today is, as the sophistication of information systems and their users increases, we can lose sight of the basics. Relevance, timeliness, and accuracy of information are still key to IS success, even as our information systems, and the measures of these systems, grow increasingly more complex.

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