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Inventing Information Systems: The Systems Men and the Computer, 1950–1968

  • Thomas Haigh (a1)


During the 1960s, many academics, consultants, computer vendors, and journalists promoted the “totally integrated management information system” (MIS) as the destiny of corporate computing and of management itself. This concept evolved out of the frustrated hopes of 1950s corporate “systems men” (represented by the Systems and Procedures Association) to establish themselves as powerful “generalist” staff experts in administrative techniques. By redefining the computer as a managerial “information system,” rather than a simple technical extension of punch-card “data processing,” the systems men sought to establish jurisdiction over corporate computing and to replace accountants as the primary agents of managerial control. The apparently unlimited power of the computer supported a new conception of information, defined as the exclusive domain of the systems men (assisted by operations research specialists and computer technicians). While MIS proved impossible to construct during the 1960s, both its dream of all-encompassing automated information systems and the resulting association of information with the computer endured into the twenty-first century.



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1 MIS has received little attention from historians. It is discussed briefly in Cortada, James W., Information Technology as Business History: Issues in the History and Management of Computers (Westport, Conn., 1996), 202–12.

2 A survey of almost 4,000 firms conducted in the summer of 1957 by the National Office Management Association found that 50 percent of firms with 5,000 or more office workers had already installed at least one of the largest class of computers then available (those valued at one million dollars or more) and another 14 percent were awaiting delivery of their first such machine. The leading administrative application was payroll. National Office Management Association, Automation in the Office (Willow Grove, Penn., 1957), 19.

3 On the separation of management from engineering, see Layton, Edwin T. Jr., The Revolt of the Engineers: Social Responsibility and the American Engineering Profession (Cleveland, 1971); Noble, David F., America By Design: Science, Technology and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism (New York, 1977); Sinclair, Bruce and Hull, James P., A Centennial History of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1880–1980 (Buffalo, N.Y., 1980). Despite their strikingly different ideological stances, the authors agree as to the substance of this shift. For a discussion of the problematic position of systems analysis between engineering and management in the U.S. federal government of the 1950s, see Akera, Atushi, “Engineers or Managers? The Systems Analysis of Electronic Data Processing in the Federal Bureaucracy,” in Hughes, Agatha C. and Hughes, Thomas P., eds., Systems, Experts and Computers: The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After (Cambridge, Mass., 2000), 191220. For the parallel story of the methods experts of the British government, see Jon Agar, The Government Machine, (Cambridge, Mass., forthcoming).

4 The earliest use of “information engineering” with which I am familiar is Canning, Richard G., “Planning for the Arrival of Electronic Data Processing,” Journal of Machine Accounting 7 (Jan. 1957): 22–3, 30. See also Levin, Harold, “Systems Planning for Computer Application,” The Controller 25 (April 1957): 165–7, 186.

5 For a profile of Haslett himself, see Keller, Arnold E., “The Man Behind Systems at Shell Oil,” Business Automation 7 (Feb. 1962): 20–4.

6 Haslett, J. W., “The Coming Revolution in Paperwork,” Systems and Procedures Quarterly 1 (March 1950): 1. For an important use of systems analysis to describe the work of the systems and procedures department, see Barish, Norman N., Systems Analysis for Effective Administration (New York, 1951).

7 The quote is from Mettler, A. L., “An ‘Old Shoe’ Concept of Systems,” Systems and Procedures Quarterly 1 (March 1950): 13. Systematic management was defined in Latterer, Joseph A., “Systematic Management: The Search for Order and Integration,” Business History Review 35 (Winter 1961): 461–76, and separated from scientific management in Nelson, Daniel, “Scientific Management, Systematic Management, and Labor, 1880–1915,” Business History Review 48 (Winter 1974): 479500. The ideological dimensions of systematic management, and its slow separation from engineering, are explored in Shenhav, Yehouda, Manufacturing Rationality: The Engineering Foundations of the Managerial Revolution (New York, 1999). On the role of systematic management techniques in the emergence of the corporation, see Yates, JoAnne, Control Through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management (Baltimore, 1989).

8 The quote comes from Haslett, J. W., “We All Need an ‘Al’,” Journal of Systems Management 21 (May 1971): 46, though Haslett expressed very similar views in the 1950s and 1960s. There is a well-developed literature on office management during the early twentieth century, within which the most salient work is by Strom, Sharon, Beyond The Typewriter: Gender, Class and the Origins of Modern American Office Work, 1900–1930 (Urbana, Ill., 1992).

9 For a discussion of masculinity, work, and technology, see Oldenzeil, Ruth, Making Technology Masculine: Men, Women, and Modern Machines in America, 1870–1945 (Amsterdam, 1999), and many of the papers in Baron, Ava, ed., Work Engendered: Towards a New History of American Labor (Ithaca, N.Y., 1991).

10 On the importance of reporting directly to the chief executive, see Neuschel, Richard F., Streamlining Business Procedures (New York, 1950), 53. For his faint praise of the office manager, see Ibid., 49–50.

11 The keynote speech is recorded in Wanner, F. Walton, “Design for Controlled Professional Development,” in Myers, Gibbs, ed., Ideas for Management: Papers and Case Histories Presented at the Tenth International Systems Meeting (Detroit, 1958), 1719. The latter quote is from Reitzfeld, Milton, “Marketing the Systems Function,” Systems & Procedures Journal 16 (Nov.-Dec. 1965): 30–5.

12 On the management audit, see Lazzaro, Victor, “The Management Audit,” Systetns & Procedures 11 (May 1960): 26; and De Luca, A. Richard, “Functions of a Systems & Procedures Department,” Systems & Procedures 12 (March–April 1961): 27. The SPA's survey is discussed in De Luca, A. Richard, “Placing the Systems and Procedures Function in the Organization,” Systems and Procedures Magazine 12 (May–June 1961): 1423. Figures from earlier surveys are reprinted in Association for Systems Management, Profile of a Systems Man (Cleveland, 1970).

13 Mills, Geoffrey J., “An Appraisal of British and European Rusiness Systems” in Gordon, Colver, ed., Ideas For Management: Papers Presented at the Eleventh International Systems Meeting (Cleveland, 1959), 2536.

14 Wanner, “Design for Controlled Professional Development,” 1958.

15 For a verbatim transcript of the meeting at which the name was changed, see National Machine Accountants Association Board of Directors Minutes, 19 June 1962, 35–49, in Data Processing Management Association Records (CBI 88), Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. The quote comes from an article published shortly after the shift: R. Calvin Elliott, “DPMA: Its Function & Future,” Datamation (June 1963): 35–6. On the use of tabulating machines in insurance companies, see Yates, Joanne, “Co-evolution of Information-processing Technology and Use: Interaction Between the Life Insurance and Tabulating Industries,” Business History Review 67 (Spring 1993). On the continuity between tabulating machines and computers, see Campbell-Kelly, Martin and Aspray, William, Computer: A History of the Information Machine (New York, 1996): 131–5; Cortada, James, Before the Computer: IBM, Burroughs and Remington Rand and the Industry They Created, 1865–1956 (Princeton, 1993).

16 The first is Brook, George W., “A New Look,” Systems & Procedures 11 (Feb. 1960): 715; the second, Heshka, William, “This Point Cannot Be Overemphasized,” Systems and Procedures Journal 17 (July–Aug. 1966): 48–9. The “back to basics” plea can be found in Leighton, A. J., “The Real Job of Systems and Procedures,” Systems and Procedures Journal 13 (Jan.–Feb. 1962); Marien, Ray, “Forms Control: A Reappraisal,” Systems and Procedures Journal 14 (May–June 1963): 44–5.

17 For an excellent grounding in the complexities of early computer use, see McCracken, Daniel D., Weiss, Harold, and Lee, Tsai-Hwa, Programming Business Computers (New York, 1959).

18 The first quotes are from Leslie, John T., “Are Systems Men Industry's Displaced Persons?Systems and Procedures Journal 14 (Nov.–Dec. 1963): 30–3. Neuschel was quoted in Stryker, Perrin, “What Management Doesn't Know Can Hurt,” Fortune 56 (Nov. 1957).

19 Agre, Philip E., “Institutional Circuitry: Thinking About the Forms and Uses of Information,” Information Technology and Libraries 14 (Dec. 1995): 225–30.

20 The first quote is from Anonymous, Today's Office—Room For Improvement,” Dun's Review and Modern Industry 72 (Sept. 1958). Similar figures on the sudden emergence of information are presented in Cuadra, Carlos A., ed., Annual Review of Information Science and Technology 1 (New York, 1966), 3. The management professor is Rathe, Alex W., “Management's Need for Information,” in American Management Association, ed., Control Through Information: A Report on Management Information Systems (New York, 1963), 14.

21 The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., supports this claim of a distinct new postwar usage of information to denote something “without the implication of, reference to a person informed … and which is capable of being stored in, transferred by, and communicated to inanimate things.” For a linguistically oriented discussion of this issue, see Nunberg, Geoffrey, “Farewell to the Information Age,” in The Future of the Book, ed. Nunberg, Geoffrey (Berkeley, 1997), 103–38. The use of ahistorical claims to universalize information is discussed in Bowker, Geoffrey, “Information Mythology: The World Of/As Information,” in Bud-Frierman, Lisa, ed., Information Acumen: The Understanding and Use of Knowledge in Modern Business (New York, 1994). All attempts to provide coherent definitions of information that unify different kinds of recent usage have failed. For examinations of this divergence, see Wellisch, H., “From Information Science to Informatics: A Terminological Investigation,” Journal of Librarianship 4 (1972): 157–87; and Belkin, N. J. and Robertson, S. E., “Information Science and the Phenomenon of Information,” Journal of the ASIS 27 (1976): 197210.

22 Shannon, Claude E., “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” Bell System Technical Journal 27 (July 1948): 623–56.

23 Bello, Francis, “The Information Theory,” Fortune 48 (Dec. 1953): 136–41, 149–50, 152, 154, 156, 158. This first article focused on the technical and electronic communications aspects of the theory. The quotation is from a follow-up article in which the same author updated his audience on the booming field of scientific information retrieval systems, in Bello, Francis, “How to Cope with Information,” Fortune 62 (Sept. 1960): 162–7, 180–2, 187–9, 192. For a contemporary account of early professionalization activity in information science, see Taylor, Robert S., “Professional Aspects of Information Science and Technology,” in Cuadra, Carlos A., ed., Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, Vol. 1 (New York, 1966), 1540. Few professional historians have investigated information science, but see Aspray, William, “Command and Control, Documentation, and Library Science: The Origins of Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 21 (Oct.–Dec. 1999) for discussion of an important attempt to make information science relevant to corporate management. Attention within the information science community has recently turned to its own history: see Hahn, Trudi Bellardo and Buckland, Michael, eds., Historical Studies in Information Science (Medford, N.J., 1998); Hahn, Trudi Bellardo, Williams, Robert V., Bowden, Mary Ellen, eds., Proceedings of the Conference on the History and Heritage of Science Information Systems (Medford, N.J., 1999).

24 Berkeley, Edmund C., Giant Brains, or Machines That Think (New York, 1949), 1017. Industrial automation receives its classic historical treatment in Noble, David F., Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation (New York, 1984). For Diebold's original usage of “automation,” see Diebold, John, Automation: The Advent of the Automatic Factory (New York, 1952). Automation enjoyed very wide coverage in the business press of the 1950s and early 1960s; see Diebold, John, “Automation—The New Technology,” Harvard Business Review 31 (Nov.–Dec. 1953): 6371; Gibson, Malcolm H., “Automation Should Be Your Whole Philosophy,” Office 51 (Jan. 1960): 134, 136; Kelley, George J., “We're Easing into Automation,” The Controller 25 (Feb. 1957): 66–9. Only during the mid-1960s did a more nuanced conception gain ground, even in elite business discourse; see Silberman, Charles E., The Myths of Automation (New York, 1966).

25 Drucker, Peter F., The Practice of Management (New York, 1954), 346.

26 Levin, Howard S., Office Work and Automation (New York, 1956). For an early use of the term “knowledge worker,” see Drucker, Peter, “The Next Decade In Management,” Dun's Review and Modern Industry 74 (Dec. 1959): 5261. Drucker continues to prefer “knowledge revolution” to the more technical “information revolution.” For a general discussion of information-society theorists, including the origin and spread of different versions, see Webster, Frank, Theories of the Information Society (New York, 1995).

27 Levin, Office Work, 8. Levin's distinction is taken up to criticize data-processing technicians in Stone, Milton D., “Data Processing and the Management Information System: A Realistic Evaluation of Data Processing's Role,” in American Management Association, ed., The Modern Business Enterprise in Data Processing Today: A Progress Report—New Concepts, Techniques and Applications (New York, 1960).

28 Leavitt, Harold J. and Whisler, Thomas L., “Management in the 1980s,” Harvard Business Review 36 (Nov.–Dec. 1958): 41–8. Later articles assert that Leavitt and Whisler coined the term “information technology,” although Bello, in “How to Cope with Information,” mentions that the term was used in 1957 to derive the name of a maker of scientific information retrieval equipment called “Infotek.” Some of their ideas were anticipated by T. F. Brasshaw, “Automatic Data Processing Methods,” in Anthony, Robert N., Automatic Data Processing Conference (Boston, 1955). The author, a partner of the consulting firm Cresap, McCormick and Paget, suggested that effective use of EDP would “force” a shift to a new kind of management based on more deliberate design of control systems and organizational structure.

29 Simon addressed this specific question in Simon, Herbert A., “The Corporation: Will It Be Managed By Machines?” in Anshen, Melvin and Bach, George Leland, eds., Management and Corporations, 1985 (New York, 1960), 1755. The claim of centralization was disputed in Burlingame, John F., “Information Technology and Decentralization,” Harvard Business Review 39 (Nov.–Dec. 1961): 121–6. For a reevaluation of the significance of the Leavitt and Whisler article, see Applegate, Lynda M., Cash, James I. Jr., and Mills, D. Quinn, “Information Technology and Tomorrow's Manager,” Harvard Business Review 66 (Nov.–Dec. 1988).

30 Stein, Charles Jr., “Some Organizational Effects of Integrated Management Information Systems,” in American Management Association, ed., The Changing Dimensions of Office Management (New York, 1960), 82–9.

31 The AMA had a long history of promoting the modernization of administrative techniques, first through the prewar work of its office executives group and later through a series of seminars on the use of electronic equipment. As the use of this equipment became commonplace, the organization reoriented its efforts toward a broader consideration of the use of computers for management. The conference proceedings themselves are contained in American Management Association, ed., The Changing Dimensions of Office Management. The seminal role of this conference is discussed in Society for Management Information Systems, Research Report One: What Is A Management Information System? (Chicago, 1972). For the Navy's embrace of the concept, see Dillon, John H., Data Processing in Navy Management Information Systems (Washington, D.C., 1959).

32 The idea of “integrated data processing” originated at U.S. Steel and was publicized through an AMA conference held in February of 1954. See American Management Association, ed., A New Approach to Office Mechanization: Integrated Data Processing through Common Language Machines (New York, 1954). Otterbein, J. M., “An Integrated Data Processing Application,” Systems and Procedures 12 (June–July 1961): 1930, deals with IDP using a variety of automated office machines but no electronic computers.

33 Gallagher, James D., Management Information Systems and the Computer (New York, 1961), 15–17, 23. The genesis of the Continuing Seminar on Management Information Systems is discussed in the introduction and foreword.

34 The first quote is from Haslett, J. W., “Towards the Totally Integrated Management Information System at Shell Oil Company,” in American Management Association, ed., Advances in EDP and Information Systems (New York, 1961), 135–40. The second is from Meacham, Alan D. and Thompson, Van B., eds., Total Systems (Detroit, 1962). For the SPA conference, see Christian, Roger W., “The Total Systems Concept,” in Systems and Procedures Association, ed., Ideas for Management: 14th International Systems Meeting (Cleveland, 1961), 1520, and other articles in the same volume, including J. W. Haslett, “Functions of the Systems Department,” 5–9.

35 Christian, “The Total Systems Concept,” 1961: 16, 17, 18.

36 For a recent collection of papers on the use of systems approaches in a variety of social arenas, see Hughes, Agatha C. and Hughes, Thomas P., eds., Systems Experts and Computers: The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After (Cambridge, Mass., 2000). The development of “systems engineering” techniques through the seminal SAGE and ATLAS projects is discussed at length in Hughes, Thomas P., Rescuing Prometheus (New York, 1998). The quote is from Kaufman, Felix, “Data Systems That Cross Company Boundaries,” Harvard Business Review 44 (Jan.–Feb. 1966): 141–55.

37 Gallagher, Management Information Systems and the Computer, 175.

38 Revolution through total systems, operations research, and computers is expounded in Klein, Herbert E., “Computer in the Board Room,” Dun's Review and Modern Industry 64 (Sept. 1964). For a more critical take on the claims of revolution, see Anshen, Melvin, “The Manager and the Black Box,” Harvard Business Review 36 (Nov.–Dec. 1960). On high modernist ideology, see Scott, James C., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, 1998). For an insightful and detailed intellectual history of strategic planning, an idea closely related to MIS, see Mintzberg, Henry, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (New York, 1994).

39 The alleged quote from GE is in Murdick, Robert G., Introduction to Management Information Systems (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1977).

40 On the intertwining of operations research and MIS, see Halbrecht, Herbet, “Through a Glass Darkly,” Interfaces 2 (Aug. 1972): 117.

41 For an example of the claim that corporate management would know more than divisional managers about their own operations, see Kirkpatrick, Forrest Hunter, “Partners for Tomorrow—Manager and Machine,” Business Automation 14 (Oct. 1967): 36–9, 54.

42 The first quote is from the conclusion to Evans, Marshall K. and Hague, Lou R., “Master Plan for Information Systems,” Harvard Business Review 40 (Jan.–Feb. 1962): 103. During the 1950s and early 1960s the Soviets, like the Japanese in the 1980s, functioned in managerial literature both as proof of the efficacy of whatever reform the author advocated and as a threat to justify the urgency of its implementation. See, for example, Forest, Robert B., “The Operations Research Society of America: An Interview with ORSA's President,” Datamation 9 (Oct. 1963): 32–9. The 1963 survey was distributed widely to an executive audience as Garrity, John T., “Top Management and Computer Profits,” Harvard Business Review 4 (July–Aug. 1963): 6–8, 10, 12, 172, 174; Garrity, John T. and McNerney, John P., “EDP: How to Ride the Tiger,” Financial Executive 31 (Sept. 1963): 1926.

43 Guest, L. C., “A Temperate View of Data Processing Management and Management Information Systems,” in American Management Association, ed., Advances in EDP and Information Systems (New York, 1961), 713. On “total systems” as a mandate for separation from the controller, see Bararb, George J. and Hutchins, Earl B., “Electronic Computers and Management Organization,” California Management Review 6 (Fall 1963): 3342.

44 Pomeroy, Richard W., “The ? Box,” Systems &Procedures Journal 14 (Nov.–Dec. 1963): 29.

45 Chandler discusses the changing locus of decision-making power and the importance of staff experts, in Chandler, Alfred D. Jr., “Recent Developments in American Business Administration and their Conceptualization,” Business History Review 35 (Spring 1961): 127. The quote is from Neuendorf, Charles W., “The Total Management Information System,” Total Systems Letter 1 (March 1965): 18. For examples of the “MIS makes a big business work like a small business” refrain, see Herbert E. Martenson, “New Techniques Permit Old Solutions,” Journal of Systems Management (Feb. 1970): 24–7; Smith, Theodore A., “From Burden to Opportunity: The Revolution in Data Processing,” in American Management Association, ed., The Changing Dimensions of Office Management (New York, 1960), 2631. On the importance of “systems” to Litton, see Glenn E. Bugos, “System Reshapes the Corporation,” in Hughes and Hughes, Systems, Experts and Computers.

46 The quote is from A. T. Spaulding Jr., “Is the Total System Concept Practical?” Systems it Procedures Journal (1964): 28–32, although similar sentiments were widely expressed well into the 1970s, most venomously in Hanold, Terranee, “An Executive View of MIS,” Datamation 18 (Nov. 1972): 6571.

47 See Saunders, Paul R., “Management Information Systems,” in Lazzaro, Victor, ed.. Systems and Procedures: A Handbook for Business and Industry (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1968). The idea that operational, tactical, and strategic management was built on a common base of information was always inherent in the total MIS concept (Gallagher, Management Information Systems and the Computer, mentions “a sort of pyramidal structure in the information requirements of a firm's total management”), but the illustration of this relationship as a pyramid seems to have suddenly emerged during the late 1960s following the seminal Robert V. Head, “Management Information Systems: A Critical Appraisal,” Datamation 13, May 1967. Head's separation of MIS into three related levels explicitly followed Robert N. Anthony's earlier separation of managerial decision making into strategic, managerial control and operational control levels in Planning and Control Systems: A Framework for Analysis (Boston, 1965).

48 See Dearden, John, “Can Management Information be Automated?Harvard Business Review 42 (March–April 1964): 128–35, and MIS Is a Mirage,” Harvard Business Review 50 (Jan.–Feb. 1972): 90–9.

49 The quotation, and most of the précis in this paragraph, is taken from Dearden, “MIS Is A Mirage,” 1972. Discussion of “vertical” information systems and the desirability of a logistics information system can be found in Dearden, John, “How to Organize Information Systems,” Harvard Business Review 43 (March–April 1965): 6573. See also Dearden, John, “Computers: No Impact on Divisional Control,” Harvard Business Review 45 (Jan.–Feb. 1967): 99104, and Myth of Real-Time Management Information,” Harvard Business Review 44 (May–June 1966): 123–32.

50 Dearden, John and McFarlan, F. Warren, Management Information Systems: Text and Cases (Homewood, Ill., 1966). Another early assault came in Browne, Dudley E., “Management Looks at Management Information Systems,” in American Management Association, ed., Advances in Management Information Systems (New York, 1962), 1316. This criticizes misplaced “computopia” and warns that revolutionary change risks a “systems dictatorship” more suitable to the Soviet sphere.

51 See, for example, Martino, R. L., “A Generalized Plan for Developing and Installing a Management Information System,” Total Systems Letter 1 (April 1965): 16. This was one of the more visible attempts to formulate a structure for MIS. It appeared in an earlier version as “The Development and Installation of a Total Management System,” Data Processing for Management (April 1963): 31–7, and was reprinted in the collection, Schoderbek, Peter P., ed., Management Systems (New York, 1967).

52 RCA's ten-year plan is offered for emulation by its customers in Becker, James L., “Planning the Total Information System,” in Meacham, Alan D. and Thompson, Van B., eds., Total Systems (Detroit, 1962), 6670. Trade journals regularly profiled modest systems as “Phase I” of a much larger effort; for example, see Anonymous, “Total System in the Mill,” Business Automation (1965): 22–9; Cooke, William F. and Rost, William J., “Standard Cost System: A Module of a Management Information System,” Journal of Systems Management 20 (March 1969): 1116. For RCA's spare parts system, see Cohen, Henry M., “A MIS That Scores As A Decision-Maker,” Business Automation 14 (Nov. 1967): 44–8.

53 Taylor, James W. and Dean, Neal J., “Managing to Manage the Computer,” Harvard Business Review 44 (Sept.–Oct. 1966): 98110; Dean, Neal J., “The Computer Comes of Age,” Harvard Business Review 46 (Jan.–Feb. 1968): 8391; Canning, Richard G., “What's the Status of MIS?EDP Analyzer 7 (Oct. 1969): 114.

54 Alexander, Tom, “Computers Can't Solve Everything,” Fortune 80 (Oct. 1969): 126–9, 168, 171.

55 The Arthur Young author is Donkin, Robert G., “Will the Real MIS Stand Up?Business Automation 16 (May 1969); McKinsey and Company, Unlocking the Computer's Profit Potential (New York, 1968); Ridley Rhind, “Management Information Systems: Some Dreams Have Turned to Nightmares,” Business Horizons (June 1968): 37–46. For the warnings of “computeritis,” see the article written by two members of Andersen, Arthur, Konvalinka, J. W. and Trentin, H. G., “Management Information Systems,” Management Services 2 (Sept.–Oct. 1965): 2739.

56 Jones, Curtis H., “At Last: Real Computer Power For Decision Makers,” Harvard Business Review 48 (Sept.–Oct. 1970): 7589. Similar sentiments were presented in Boulden, James B. and Buffa, Elwood S., “Corporate Models: On-Line, Real-Time Systems,” Harvard Business Review 48 (July–Aug. 1970): 6583. The was not universally acknowledged, however; for example, one prominent management theorist held that executives were incapable of properly understanding information and so should rely on experts to guide them through its selection and application. See Ackoff, Russell L., “Management Misinformation Systems,” Management Science 14 (1967): B14756.

57 Zani, William M., “Blueprint for MIS,” Harvard Business Review 48 (Nov.–Dec. 1970): 95100. The bottom-up nature of MIS efforts in practice is also discussed in McFarlan, F. Warren, “Problems in Planning the Information System,” Harvard Business Review 49 (March–April 1971): 7589.

58 A fascinating round-table discussion, during which the SMIS leadership strive and fail to define MIS, is transcribed in Society for Management Information Systems, Research Report One: What Is A Management Information System (Chicago, 1972). The quote is from Milton Stone and is on page 7. Stone elsewhere defined SMIS as “only the infosystems elite … large companies, big government, well-heeled campuses.” Stone, Milt, “Editor's Point: The House That Incompetence Built,” Infosystems 19 (Oct. 1972): 25. SMIS was eventually redubbed the Society for Information Management (SIM), in which guise it persists to this day. MIS Quarterly remains a leading academic journal on the use of computers in organizations.

59 The definition is from Morton, Michael S. and McCosh, Robert, “Terminal Costing for Better Decisions,” Harvard Business Review 46 (May–June 1968): 147–56. The Nolan quotation is from Nolan, Richard L., Managing the Data Resource Function (New York, 1974), 27. See also Robert V. Head, “MIS-II: Structuring the Data Base,” journal of Systems Management (Sept. 1970): 37–8. For an early definition of MIS as a reservoir of information, see Christian, “The Total Systems Concept,” 7. See also Martin, James, Computer Data-Rase Organization (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1977); Nolan, Richard L., “Computer Data Bases: The Future is Now,” Harvard Business Review 50 (Sept.–Oct. 1973)

60 The quote is from SMIS, Research Report One, 1972, 11. An example of a 1970s MIS textbook with a business-school orientation is Murdick, Robert G. and Ross, Joel E., MIS In Action (St. Paul, 1975). Dozens of such volumes were published during the late 1960s and 1970s, many of them paying considerable attention to “the systems approach” as an allencompassing philosophy. For examinations of management's actual use of information, see Lucas, Henry C., Why Information Systems Fail (New York, 1975), and Mintzberg, Henry, Impediments to the Use of Managerial Information (New York, 1975).

61 As early as 1973, editorial writers in the usually upbeat Infosystems had begun to identify MIS as a “dirty word” in need of rehabilitation. It informed its readers that Univac “deliberarively refrains from using the term MIS” for its large-scale, integrated system. Laton McCartney, “To MIS but not to MIS at Univac,” Infosystems (June 1973): 35–8. See also Anonymous, “…MIS, the Impossible Dream?Infosystems 20 (Feb. 1973): 70. For the switch to new terms for research on computer systems to support executives, see Rockart, John F. and Bullen, Christine V., eds., The Rise of Managerial Computing: The Best of the Center for Information Systems Research (Homewood, Ill., 1986). The use of MIS to describe specific computerized management and control systems now seems limited to the public sector, though the related term “information management systems” remains more generally popular.

62 W. F. Dyle, “The Name Game,” CIO Magazine (15 Jan. 1995). On ERP, see Davenport, Thomas H., “Putting the Enterprise in the Enterprise System,” Harvard Business Review 76 (July–Aug. 1998). For a presentation of business intelligence in MIS-like terms, see Michael Vizard, “Yahoo and IBM Head for a Collision on the Road to Business Intelligence,” Infoworld. com (12 Feb. 2001).

63 For a manager's wide-ranging and historically informed discussion of structural issues in corporate IT management as “politics,” see Strassmann, Paul A., The Politics of Information Management (New Canaan, Conn., 1995).

64 Davenport, Thomas H. with Pursak, Laurence, Information Ecology: Mastering the Information and Knowledge Environment (New York, 1997), 3.

65 For a recent summary of the productivity paradox debate, see Madrick, Jeff, “Computers: Waiting for the Revolution,” New York Review of Books 45 (26 March 1998): 2933. The distinction between automating and informating is central to Zuboff, Shoshana, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (New York, 1988).

66 The quote is from Killian, G. E., “After the Honeymoon,” The Hopper 5 (Oct. 1954). For an influential early account of 1990s reengineering, see Hammer, Michael, “Reengineering Work—Don't Automate, Obliterate,” Harvard Business Review 68 (July–Aug. 1990).

67 On the eclipse of systems analyst as a job title, see Phillips, Tim, “The Last of an Evolving Breed,” The Guardian (London) (26 Feb. 1998), online edition. MIS is used as a foil to the desirable qualities of the CIO in Thomas Kiely, “The Once and Future CIO,” CIO Magazine (Jan. 1991): 44–58.


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