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Abstract

The "IT artifact" and debates about the core of the IS field received a lot of attention in the last several years. This paper is a response to Benbasat and Zmud's June 2003 MISQ paper "The Identity Crisis within the IS Discipline: Defining and Communicating the Discipline's Core Properties," which argues that "the IT artifact and its immediate nomological net" constitutes "a natural ensemble of entities, structures, and processes" that "serves to bind together the IS subdisciplines and to communicate the distinctive nature of the IS discipline." This paper starts by examining the meaning of "IT artifact" and concluding that this term is too unclear to serve as a basic concept for delineating the field. Next it examines and disputes aspects of Benbasat and Zmud's prescription for being more faithful to the discipline's core. It suggests that their vision of tighter focus on variables intimately related to the "IT artifact" creates problems and provides few of the benefits of an alternative vision centered on "systems in organizations." This alternative vision provides an understandable umbrella for most existing IS research and treats the discipline's diversity as a strength rather a weakness. It provides a rationale for building on current knowledge and expertise, exploiting the discipline's areas of competitive advantage in academia and business, defusing the IS discipline's identity crisis, and helping increase its long-term contributions to academia, business, and society.

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