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Towards a theory of organizational information services

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The use of information technology (IT) in organizations has undergone dramatic changes during the past 30 years. As a result, it has become increasingly common to adopt services rather than traditional systems perspective to more accurately capture contemporary practices. There is, however, a lack of theories that can help us understand, assess, and design information services in organizational contexts. On this backdrop, we combine general notions of information processing options and requirements to outline a contingency theory of organizational use of information services. The theory suggests that information services are configurations of heterogeneous information processing capabilities; these services are evoked by organizational actors to help execute tasks, and evoking different configurations may lead to equally satisfactory outcomes. The theory distinguishes between four types of services computational, adaptive, networking, and collaborative services, and it suggests that organizational actors need portfolios of information services that are suited to the equivocality and uncertainty profile of the information processing they face. The paper defines four types of services and how they relate to information processing requirements; it applies the theory to a study of information services in response to vehicle policing; and it outlines how the theory relates to standardization and unintended consequences of information services. We conclude by discussing the theory and its implications for research and practice.

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