Management Information Systems Quarterly


This study explored the professional identity of information systems (IS) workers and explicated the set of salient characteristics that comprise the perceived distinctiveness of the IS profession. We developed a more complete picture of IS workers’ perceived distinctiveness, including its composition and outcomes. The perceived distinctiveness of the IS profession, in turn, contributes to individuals’ professional identity. We employed a mixed methods design (qualitative and quantitative) to leverage the strengths of each method. In Study 1, we analyzed transcripts of focus group interviews, using a robust qualitative method—revealed causal mapping. Utilizing the midrange theory that emerged from Study 1, we further explicated and empirically tested it with a quantitative field survey in Study 2. The meta-inference from these relationships can be stated as follows: The occurrence of change within the profession, the facets of knowledge needed, and the continuous refinement and adaptation of the knowledge base within a mentally demanding work context are what make the IS profession distinctive from other professions. Specifically, our findings indicate that the extent of change; the need for continuous learning; the use of creativity and logic to solve problems; the breadth of knowledge, skills, and abilities required; and the level of technology and business integration, time pressure, and stress compose the perceived distinctiveness of the IS professional. Future research might use our findings to incorporate elements of the IS profession into IS-specific theories.