Following examples of a successful IS implementation, the Bankers Trust of Australia, and an on-going failure with the example of the UK's Universal Credit project, it is opportune to consider a subset of IS that is common to both projects and determine whether there is a general rule that can be applied.
When reviewing practical implementations of information systems (IS), incredible failures provide very valuable lessons even if they are ongoing. At an estimated £12.8bn, far in excess of the originally estimated £2.2bn (Ballard, 2013), the UK's Universal Credit project will be the single-most expensive failed or overbudget custom software projects, although when adjusted for inflation the UK's NHS Connecting for Health project (mostly abandoned in 2011), also cost around £12bn. Apparently if one wishes to study exceptional failures in IS, government in general, the UK in particular, and the subcategory of health and welfare is a good place to start. Whilst this may seem slightly snide, it is backed by empirical evidence. Only the US's FAA Advanced Automation System (c$4.5b USD, 1994) is really within a similar sort of scale of failure.
Universal Credit, like many such projects, on a prima facie level, seems to designed on reasonable principles. Announced in 2010, with the objective to simplify working-age welfare benefits and encourage taking up paid work, it would replace and combine six different means-tested enefits, and roll them into a single monthly payment and which, as paid work was taken up, would be gradually be reduced, rather than having an all-or-nothing approach, following the "negative income tax" proposals, as proposed by Juliet Rhys William and Milton Friedman (Forget, 2012). The project was meant to start in 2013 and completed by 2017. Under current plans (there have been at least seven timetable completion changes), this has been pushed out to 2023 (Butler, Walker, 2016).
Following definitional foundations and theoretical models in Information Systems (IS) there is a great desire to find some detailed practical applications. The first, the Arcadia project at Bankers Trust Australia limited (BTAL) for the derivatives group is almost ancient history as far as computer technology is concerned - it was initiated in 1994. However, as a very successful project it provides excellent information on the processes of implementing new systems into an organisation (Baster et. al., (2001)).
Information Systems and Enterprise Resource Planning
If a broad definition of information systems is taken as "usage and adaptation of the IT and the formal and informal processes by all of its users" (Paul, 2007), then Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) must be recognised as a major IT application which seeks to combine a very wide range of business processes in an organisation in a technologically-mediated manner. Integration is of primary importance, for example, so that the disparate and siloed software applications that manage customers, sales, procurement, production, distribution, accounting, human resources, governance etc are provided common associations through a database system and from which decision-makers can engage in effective and informed business intelligence and enterprise management.
As can be imagined with such scope, effective ERP systems are highly sought after, with a range of well-known major providers (e.g., Oracle, SAP, Infor, Microsoft, Syspro, Pegasus etc), and a number of free and open-source solutions as well (e.g., LedgerSMB, metasfresh, Dolibarr etc). The main advantages of ERP systems should be self-evident; forecasting, tracking, a systems consolidation, a comprehensive workflow of activities, and business quality, efficiency, and collaboration. What is perhaps less well-known is the disadvantages; the twins of expensive customisation or business process restructuring for the software, the possibility of vendor lock-in and transition costs, and, of course, cost.
More than thirty years ago, Professor Peter Checkland of the University of Lancaster, raised the question whether information systems (IS) and systems thinking could be united (Checkland, 1988). Almost twenty years later, Ray J. Paul, senior lecturer at the London School of Economics and Political Science also raised the disciplinary status of the subject, as editor the European Journal of Information Systems (Paul, 2007). These two papers are both illustrative of several others (e.g., Banville and Laundry, (1988)., George et. al., (2005)., Firth et. al., (2011)., Annabi and McGann, (2015)) from information systems as it attempts to find its own disciplinary boundaries among the crowd of academia, research, and vocational activities (c.f., Abraham et. al., (2006)., Benamati et. al., (2010).
The two papers are selecting not only to provide an at-a-glance illustration of the time-period of foundational issues within Information Systems as a discipline, but also the temporal context of each paper, and the differences in their views which, at least in part, is reflective of those different times. Drawing from these illustrative comments and from other source material mentioned, some critical issues facing the field of information systems is identified. Rather than attempting to enforce a niche for information systems, a philosophical reconstruction is carried out using formal pragmatics, as developed by the philosopher Karl-Otto Apel (1980) and the social theorist Jurgen Habermas (1984).
What Are Information Systems? (video)
Reflective One Minute Paper
The primary objective here is to define information systems. To do so, one must differentiate between raw, unorganised data, to processed, organised, and structured information that is meaningful. Information is necessary to for behaviour, decisions, and outcomes and can be valued by various metrics (timeliness, appropriateness, accuracy, etc). Information has a life-cycle: Creation (internal or external capture), Existence (Store/Retrieve, Use), Termination (Archive or Destroy).