The current paper is an attempt to critique Russell L Ackoff’s article on management information systems. The article appeared in the December 1967 edition of the Management Science journal. To start with, the paper shall endevours to provide a detailed summary of the key points of the article. Secondly, an attempt shall be made to critique the article on the basis of the positive as well as negative outlook evident from it. Also, the paper shall try to examine whether the author has used any relevant theories to support his arguments. Finally, a conclusion shall be provided taking into account its general view by the writer.
In his article, Ackoff (9) has endeavours to present five flawed hypotheses that MIS designers often make in their daily activities. The five assumptions as provided for by Ackoff include:
- Most managers operate under critical deficiencies owing to the absence of relevant information
- In order for a manager to make informed decisions, they require the information that he/she wants
- The ability of a manager to obtain the information that he requires helps to improve his decision making process
- When managers are in a position to communicate better amongst themselves, this helps to improve organizational performance
- It is not necessary for a manager to acquaint himself with the way his information system functions; he only needs to understand its application.
Ackoff (10) further contends that the designing of an MIS system, coupled with its integration with a management control system would go a long way towards helping to solve the aforementioned beliefs. Ackoff (11) has further suggested that the designing of an MIS should begin with recognition of each form of managerial decision, along with the associated links through the application of a decision flow chart.
In addition, Ackoff (12) argues that there is need for all the different managerial functions within an organization to take a participatory role in the system design step. Ackoff also informs us that various forms of managerial decisions utilize various decision models in defining the necessary information and prediction outcomes. Towards this end, Ackoff (12) argues on the need to ensure that decisions characterized by similar requirements are combined so that managers are not overloaded with information. Also, the author supports the need to design the management control system in such a way that it becomes easier to spot deficiencies.
The author was among the pioneers in management science, operational research, as well as systems thinking. He is also a professor of management science (Ackoff & Emery 19) and as such, his qualifications indicate a high level of knowledge in the field in question. At the time of writing this article, in 1967, the field of MIS was still very young. As such, the article is lacking in the numerous developments that have taken place in this field over the past 4 decades. Although Ackoff has endevoured to present his ideas in a detailed manner, nevertheless, he has only utilized a single reference to back his findings. Moreover, Ackoff’s arguments are not in any way linked to relevant theories in the field of information systems. This is unlike other related studies in which others have quoted relevant theories to support their stance. For example, in his work, Orlikowski (401) has borrowed heavily from Giddens (65) on his theory of Structuration. This has helped him to re-evaluate the concept of structuration.
In addition, Orlikowski’s work has also quoted the work of Gurbaxanl and Whang (62) who had sought to determine how information systems affect markets and organizations. Separately, Robey and Sahay (5) have made use of a case study on how county governments are impacted on by information systems to enable them gain an insight into the transformations going on in the field of information systems. However, there is no evidence in Ackoff’s article that he has used any case study to augment his ideas. The article by Robey and Sahay (6) makes use of a case study that examines transforming work in the field of information technology through the use of a case study that offers ample evidence as regards the dynamics in the field of organizational transformation.
On the other hand, the article by Ackoff (12) could act as a useful guideline in presenting the design and system analysis area of MIS. The author has also identified the various forms of managerial decision, along with their associated relationship through the application of a logical decision flow chart. He has also argued on the need to ensure that the design of the system takes into account any apparent deficiencies. He has also recognized the need to ensure that the user takes a participatory role in all the crucial stages of the systems life cycle.
Although the ideas that Ackoff presents in his article cannot be regarded as the completed stages of information systems, nevertheless, they are quite useful for anybody who wishes to undertake research in the field of MIS design and analysis. It is also important to note that Ackoff has introduced to us how the management of an organization is affected by IS.
Overall, the article by Ackoff is well written in a coherent and understandable language. In addition, the author has the relevant qualifications in the subject matter. However, most of the ideas that he has provided in the article are based on his work experiences, and he has only used a single source to reference his findings. Nevertheless, the article has given us useful insights into how the management in an organisation is often impacted on by IS.
Ackoff, Rusell. Management Misinformation Systems. Management Science, 14. 4(1967): 9-13.
Ackoff, Rusell and Emery, Fredrick. On purposeful systems. Chicago: Aldine, 1972. Print.
Giddens, Athiony. The Constitution of Society. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1984. Print.
Gurbaxani, Vijay and Whang, Seunigjin. The impact of information systems on organizations an Markets. Communications of the ACM, 34. 1(1991): 59-73.
Orlikowski, Wanda. The Duality of Technology: Rethinking the Concept of Technology in Organizations. Organization Science,3.3(1992): 398-427.
Robey, Daniel and Sahay, Sundeep. Transforming Work through Information Technology: A Comprehensive Case Study of Geographic Information Systems in County Government. http://heim.ifi.uio.no/~sundeeps/Publicationsnew/sundeepwebpage%202/Robey%26 Sahay96.pdf