HANDLING THE VARIABILITY OF INFORMATION PROCESSING IN COMPLEX SYSTEMS: AN INFORMATION SYSTEMS DESIGN PERSPECTIVE
The variability of the dynamics of a system introduces variability in the way in which information needs to be processed. Complex adaptive systems such as modern organizations usually include computer-based processes as part of the information processing aspect of their dynamics. According to an adaptability-programmability tradeoff (Conrad, 1985), however, despite the tremendous speed, capacity, accuracy, and communication capabilities of digital computers digital computing faces important challenges, especially when it comes to the support of unstructured processes or of processes where the variability of information processing is high.
In this paper we discuss an approach to handling the variability of information processing in a system as goal of the design of computer-based information systems. We use the view of information processing as an aspect of the dynamics of systems as a means of identifying the requirements that the dynamics imposes on the way in which information needs to be processed. Our approach considers the analysis of the degree of structure of the processes that participate in the dynamics, the uncertainty of the changes occurring in these processes, and the computational and adaptability properties of the processors available in the system. Central to our approach is finding a combination of digital computing, human intelligence, and other forms of information processing on whose basis a computer-based information system that effective supports the functions of the system and contributes to its adaptability can be designed. A function support principle of design and the adaptability-programmability tradeoff provide the necessary guidance.