M. Lynne Markus is the John W. Poduska, Sr. Professor of Information and Process Management at Bentley University. She has published extensively in the areas of digital business and interorganizational governance, enterprise systems and business processes, electronic communication and knowledge reuse, and organizational change management. Her current research interests include digital innovation in the financial and health sectors, the responsible use of data and algorithms, and the changing nature of work. Markus was named a Fellow of the Association for Information Systems in 2004 and received the AIS LEO Award for Exceptional Lifetime Achievement in Information Systems in 2008.
The origins of the IS field lie in organizational engineering—the application of practical arts and science to the design, building, and use of systems in organizations. From the beginning, this mission hasmotivated IS scholars to explore the ethics, economics, and human implications of organizational systems and our own professional practices as system designers, builders, and investigators of system use.
Much has changed in the roughly 50 years since our field was founded and formalized in journals and conferences. System use has extended far beyond organizational boundaries into every aspect of civil life from socializing to childrearing and elder care. System building and operation have become distributed, with patchy oversight and control, across many organizations and individual contractors. Systems today are only partially designed: their trajectories are also shaped by unanticipated actions and accidents. The size and scope of system-related risks and societal implications have become apparent to citizens and governments. Some observers anticipate the technological singularity—the point at which artificial intelligence evolves to direct its own future course—within the next 30 years.
These developments suggest that our field is at a turning point—a wonderful time to envision future directions and priorities. In this address, I will consider three initiatives I consider both urgent and promising for our field: the elimination of solutionism from system design, the reintroduction of joint optimization in system building, and the uptake of holistic critical analysis of system use—and misuse.