Business Informatics: An Engineering Perspective on Information Systems

Helfert, Markus (2008) Business Informatics: An Engineering Perspective on Information Systems. Journal of Information Technology Education, 7. pp. 223-245. ISSN 15393585


Over the last three decades many universities have offered various programmes related to Information Systems. However, the rapid changes in recent years demand constant evaluation and modification of education programmes. Recent challenges include, for instance, the move towards programmes that are more applied and professionally-orientated. The Bologna Declaration in Europe with its three level study structure as well as the increasing pressure to ensure funding within most departments adds further pressure to many universities. Despite attempts being made to provide reference to curricula and guidelines, many universities and faculties struggle with the proper direction and design of the information systems curricula. Common reference curricula related to information systems are, for example: the IS 2002; Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in information systems; the MSIS 2000: Model Curriculum and Guidelines for Graduate Degree Programs in Information Systems. Although these guidelines have existed for many years, many discussions and disagreements exist on the content and direction of information systems curricula and information systems as a discipline. Recently a joint task force of the Association for Computing Machinery and Association of Information Systems is aiming at revising the IS 2002 undergraduate curriculum (Topi et al., 2007). At the same time we are experiencing decreasing enrolments in information system programmes worldwide (Granger, Dick, Luftman, Slyke, & Watson, 2007). This article views information systems study programmes from an engineering perspective and presents a framework for structuring information systems programmes within Europe. We amalgamated the IS 2002 and MSIS 2000 model curriculum with a recommendation for studying business informatics, published from the German Society for Informatics (Gesellschaft für Informatik, 2003). The framework was used to identify differences between selected study programmes currently in place for information systems curricula. For the study we selected two historically different educational systems: the United Kingdom and Ireland as representative for the Anglophone area and Germany, Austria, and Switzerland as representative of a continental European approach. We collected data from 20 Universities and classified the studied subject areas along our framework. Our results show that even in the context of the Bologna Declaration and common credit transfer systems, the study programmes nationally and internationally remain very diverse. Indeed, this makes comparisons between study programmes difficult to ascertain. The analysis reveals indications that the controversy in information systems is often due to two related but fundamentally diverse streams, one being a technology-and engineering-orientated focus and the other being a business- and management-orientated emphasis. The relatively strong inclusion of engineering principles appears to be typical for business informatics degrees, emphasizing both mathematics and structural science. Logistics, accounting, and economics are specific courses which are common to most business informatics curricula. The study led to the development and accreditation of a business informatics study programme at Dublin City University. In this article we summarize the curriculum and present experiences made during the accreditation process. Indeed the accreditation process confirmed our earlier result, that information systems have two fundamentally different streams: technology and managerial orientation. This programme was introduced in September 2006, with a relative low number of students enrolling in the programme, and we report on experiences made during the last two years of running the programme. Graduates from this programme were all recruited into related employment. Furthermore, practitioners confirmed the career relevant curriculum.… [ABSTRACT FROM PUBLISHER]; Copyright of Journal of Information Technology Education is the property of Informing Science and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)

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