Why are information systems important

Information system strategy

The information system strategy is part of the IT strategy and shows how the company information system should be positioned within the framework of the corporate strategy (alignment), which processes are supported and what the information system architecture should look like. The information system strategy specifies how an actual architecture should achieve a target architecture and what the actual and target architecture should look like. The information system strategy is geared towards a period of two to four years. The information system architecture is implemented as part of projects. The information system architecture is part of the IT strategy, which deals with all aspects of the use of the potential of information and communication technology.

The basic direction of the information system strategy has changed significantly over the past ten years. Historically, it was seen as an instrument primarily to represent the future information system landscape of a company. It was strongly future-oriented and in some cases was very far removed from a company's existing applications. Today, however, there are numerous applications in almost every company. When an information system strategy is created in a company today, the documentation of the existing systems in terms of an actual architecture is the first major challenge. Only when the actual architecture has been worked out, in particular which applications and which processes support, can the target architecture and the path from actual to target be worked out in the next step.

The information system strategy is usually developed on the basis of a process model of the company or a public administration. This process model does not have to be so detailed that - as in the context of a reorganization - the individual work steps can be seen, but it must first and foremost be suitable to give a good overview. The existing applications are assigned to the processes that support them. It is important that not only the officially known applications are documented, but also the so-called gray IT, i.e. the applications that were developed by the departments without the knowledge of the IT department. In the next step, the target architecture is developed based on the actual architecture. Again, the process model is the starting point. In close contact with management and the specialist department, it must be clarified what the process landscape should look like in two to four years. In view of the great dynamism of the economy and thus also of the individual companies, this is a difficult and in many cases unsolvable task. Nevertheless, reasonable assumptions must be made about how the process landscape should look in the future. Once the future process landscape has been modeled, it is examined which applications are needed in order to be able to carry out the processes optimally. This step is best carried out with interviews, workshops and analyzes of the software market and, increasingly, with internet analyzes. The result is a target information system architecture. In the next step, the difference between the actual and target architecture is derived and the projects that are necessary to move from the actual to the target are defined. As part of the further procedure, these projects will be confronted with the human and financial resources as well as the business priorities and ongoing projects. In this way, a migration plan is created that shows how a company or public administration can get from the actual to the target architecture.

An information system strategy, in particular the process model, the actual and target architecture must not be a snapshot, but must be constantly updated. A professional information management system sets up a process that ensures that there is subsequent documentation at least once a year and that ensures that all projects are carried out as far as possible on the basis of the target information system architecture.

Practice shows that computer-aided tools are necessary to document the process models, the actual and the target architecture. Without these tools it is impossible in practice to even to some extent document the constant changes in the processes, the actual and the target architecture.

The central challenges in the context of the development of an information system strategy have changed significantly in recent years. In the 1970s and 1980s, the information system architecture was very often reduced to a company-wide data model as the basis for in-house development. In the 1990s and at the beginning of this year, the information system strategy in many companies primarily meant introducing standard solutions, e.g. from SAP AG or Oracle AG. The service orientation and the associated heterogenization of the information system architecture will greatly increase the importance of information system architectures and thus also of information system strategies in the next few years.


Brenner, Zarnekow, Pörtig: Development tendencies in information management. In Österle, Winter (Ed.): Business Engineering, 2003.

Österle, Brenner and Hilbers: Corporate Management and Information System: The St. Gallen Information System Management Approach, 1991

Krcmar, Informationsmanagement, 1997, p. 284 ff.

Ward, Griffiths and Whitmore: Strategic planning for information systems, 1996.




Prof. Dr. Walter Brenner, University of St. Gallen, Institute for Information Systems, Müller-Friedberg-Strasse 8, CH-9000 St. Gallen

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