Sustainability in IS: the case for an open systems approach

Peter Bednar, Christine Welch

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Common sense tells us that cost cutting leads to saving, and spending should therefore be minimized. However, a little reflection tells us that this sometimes leads to false economies. In an organizational context, these can lead on to a downward spiral of organizational ‘suicide’. Examples of false economies may include: saving on maintenance; saving on research and development expenditure; saving on margins (waste or just-in-time management); and saving on ‘how’ we do things, as opposed to ‘what’ we do. Common sense cost cutting makes ‘how’ invisible, and only recognizes ‘what’. It is vital that we also remember to consider ‘why’ activities are undertaken. Professional competence implies not only skill/knowledge in a particular field, but also desire to apply that knowledge in accordance with certain values, and engagement with the context of application so that learning through reflection may take place. Professional work therefore includes scope for extra-role behaviour, such as suggesting innovative methods or identifying and developing new opportunities (Bednar and Welch, 2010). We suggest that a naïve pursuit of ‘efficiency’ is likely to constrict and curtail possibilities for extra-role behaviour, with disastrous consequences for the development and growth of the business. Creation of systems experienced as sustainable therefore requires us to focus attention on perceived usefulness, rather than efficiency
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGovernance and sustainability in information systems: managing the transfer and diffusion of IT
EditorsM. Nuttgens, A. Gadatsch, K. Kautz, I. Schirmer, N. Blinn
Place of PublicationBoston
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)9783642241475
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Publication series

NameIFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology


  • contextual analysis
  • open systems approach
  • contextual dependency
  • socio-technical design
  • complex information systems


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