Executive Director’s Message: 20th Anniversary Special
Monday, March 17, 2014
AIS 'A Heretical Idea at That Time'
I have had the pleasure of serving as your executive director since 2007. Being an
association executive has been my lifelong profession. Serving the members of AIS during this
tremendous period of growth and development is gratifying.
In recognition of our 20th anniversary, I am
devoting my InSider columns for the next two months to recognizing the first
two executive directors of the association, Bill King, University of Pittsburgh,
and Ephraim McLean, Georgia State University.
I have asked them each to give us an idea of what it was like being at
the forefront of starting and developing an organization that has sustained
itself for the past 20 years. I hope you
will enjoy these perspectives from two leaders and visionaries whose
contributions helped form a strong administrative foundation to assure our
Tinsley: What years were you executive director?
King: I served as de facto executive director during the formative period of AIS; then, I was formally
appointed to that post by the Organizing Committee in 1993, and again by the
first AIS Council in 1994.
Tinsley: What accomplishments are you most
proud of from your term?
King: Successfully creating a new
IS professional society in the face of random-sample survey evidence that
showed that there was not strong support for one. I realized that the success
of such an organization would not be determined by a random set of members, but
rather by the field's leaders, who the rest would follow. So, when I was asked to
study the matter, I phoned about 40 of the leading IS academics to get their
ideas. I found that all but one or two saw the need and indicated that they
would enthusiastically support an IS professional organization. With such
strong support, I concluded that further study was unnecessary and formed an
Organizing Committee consisting of leaders from around the globe. The
Organizing Committee designed the organization using e-mail, dealing
issue-by-issue on a 48-hour cyclical basis. I traveled to numerous
conferences where I held ad hoc informational meetings in which I told
attendees what we were doing and solicited their ideas. The meetings were very
well attended. Six months after the formal start of AIS, we had over 1800
Charter Members and about 3000 within a year.
Tinsley: What was the biggest challenge you
faced in your first year as executive director?
King: Overcoming the commonly-held
belief that since most IS academics had been trained in other fields such as
management science and computer science and already had allegiances to existing
professional organizations, they would not support a new IS society.
Since I was a prime example of this, having been trained in OR and having
served as the elected president of the Institute of Management Sciences (now
INFORMS), I didn't believe this. Only one person in my phone survey of leaders
cited this as a problem, thus giving me some empirical evidence confirming my
What has changed the most in the IS discipline since you were executive director?
King: In 1968, I gave a lecture to
my business school colleagues emphasizing that communications, computer
and information technologies would be rapidly converging as would some
traditional business fields. This was a heretical idea at that time, but it
happened even faster that I had imagined. Of course, the former has been
happening continuously since then and the latter is exemplified by fields
like behavioral economics, behavioral accounting and IS itself (which didn't
even exist then). These convergences continue to require us to adapt our
thinking to new realities and opportunities.
A threat to IS is posed by the commonly-held belief that IT-led, enhanced
productivity is costing jobs around the world. This will continue to be a
public relations problem which needs to be addressed with communications
strategies based on empirical research evidence.
Tinsley: What do you think is
the biggest challenge for IS in the next 5 years?
King: The success of IS has sown
the seeds of its potential destruction. Since technology is now imbedded in all
fields, IS will need to continue to develop a stream of distinctive
competencies that will justify its existence.
Tinsley: Is there anything else you’d like
to share about your years as executive director?
King: I am very grateful to all of
those who helped in creating AIS, including my assistant and doctoral
students, who worked many uncompensated hours, the field's leaders who
supported us and gave us ideas and the many IS academics who made a risky bet
by joining an unproven organization.
I am now retired in Florida and I have published a book, SCHOOL DAYS: Coming
of Age in the Mid-20th Century (available at online booksellers),
that I believe may be of interest to some AIS members.
Tinsley: Thank you, Bill, for sharing
that with us and thank you for your contributions during the early years of
AIS. Next month we will feature Eph
McLean who will relate the ‘rest of the story’ of AIS’ formative years.