Jun 142018

This post is based on a question from lecture n. 3 part 1 of week 3 and discusses its impact in the context of support to information systems of institutions and organisations in developing countries by not-for-profit international organisations.

This is the sixth post of a series of six posts according to the mid term assignment titled “Digital Portfolio and Written Assignment”.

The question at slide 19 is the following: “What do you think are some of the problems with having a functionally based organisation each function having a stand-alone TPS (Transaction Processing System)?”

The answer to the question depends on the type of organisation, in this post I look for an answer through the case of state institutions like ministries or agencies.

Ministries are typically and traditionally functionally based organisations.
Nowadays modern ministries redefined their internal structures in order to harmonize processes, standardize information, share data and interoperate systems with the aim of facilitate the inter-government collaboration (Scholl, Kubicek, Cimander , Klischewski, 2012)1

Politics, through civil society like associations, organisations, political parties and also non-governmental organisations, has increasingly pressured for transparency during the last decade, forcing governments to adopt adequate information systems.

Interoperation and interoperability are a must in any modern state institution within a democratic organized society. While interoperation is a known concept since a long time, take for example a bureaucratic document issued by the institution X the same document must be readable and understandable in the different institution Y, interoperability is often perceived just as technical solution, all different layers of interoperation are not always analysed properly. I think that there is a base principle that helps in making interoperability effective: the precondition is a valid and effective paper system in place, if the paper system works then there are good chances that the electronic system will also work. There are tents of other criteria to meet, of course, but this precondition is a good starting point.

Interoperability could not be necessary in presence of integrated systems, but ministries are characterised by old traditions of functionally based organisations and often closed compartments, a tradition that did not create the conditions for the development of integrated systems.

Even if this particular environment, ministries and state agencies, is characterised by a rigid hierarchy, the perceived wishes and needs of the involved actors are a key factor for the success of interoperated systems (Burton, 1990; Lederer, Galtung, & Antal, 1980)2,3

In the current circumstances, the context of modern democracies, there is no place for stand-alone systems, the related stand-alone software are not useful their effectiveness is reduced to zero. Once interoperability functions are available, stand-alone disappears as concept and as mechanism.

I guess that the answer to the main questions of this post is simply “the question is outdated”, the existence of stand-alone systems depends only by political decisions that are not influenced by technical considerations. Stand-alone systems are not sustainable, they are species with a common faith, the extinction.


1) Scholl, Kubicek, Cimander , Klischewski, (2012), Process integration, information sharing, and system interoperation in government: A comparative case analysis

2) Burton, J. W. (1990). Conflict: Human needs theory. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

3) Lederer, K., Galtung, J., & Antal, D. (1980). Human needs: A contribution to the current de-
bate. Cambridge, Mass. Koenigstein/Ts: Oelgeschlager A. Hain.