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Proceedings of the 33rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2000

Strategic Information Systems Planning with Box Structures

Alan R. Hevner James Studnicki
Donald J. Berndt College of Public Health
College of Business Administration University of South Florida
University of South Florida Tampa, FL 33620
Tampa, FL 33620 jstudnic@hsc.usf.edu
{ahevner, dberndt}@coba.usf.edu

Abstract Salmela [9], Raghunathan and Raghunathan [20], and
Strategic Information Systems Planning (SISP) is the Sambamurthy et al. [22] have enhanced our understanding
process of aligning an organization’s business strategy of how best to execute SISP and how to measure its
with effective computer-based information systems to ultimate success in the organization.
achieve critical business objectives. SISP is a top Transitioning this research into effective practice is
concern of major executives and considerable resources difficult. SISP has been identified as a top concern of
(time and money) are spent in SISP activities. Many SISP corporate executives and managers [16]. As new business
initiatives are not successful due to the difficulty of strategies and information technologies are both rapidly
implementing the recommendations. A significant moving targets, it is a very challenging task to produce an
problem is the Specification Gap between the description effective plan that achieves business objectives with
of the recommended systems and the detail needed for efficient information systems support. The success, and
actual system implementation. Existing SISP methods do even survival, of an organization in today’s markets is
not provide sufficiently rigorous representations to largely dependent upon the development and
specify detailed system recommendations. Box structures implementation of a coherent and innovative strategic
are proposed as a solution to this problem and a SISP information systems plan.
process with embedded box structure methods is
presented. We have used this innovative process in two Organizations invest vast amounts of time and money
SISP projects with large organizations. Partial results in SISP projects. In a typical SISP project, teams of key
from one of the projects are presented as a case study to managers, users, selected clients, and IS specialists are
illustrate the use of box structures and their benefits formed and a planning methodology is chosen. There are
a number of well-defined and documented planning
methodologies available [13] that can be customized. Or
the organization can hire an IS consulting company to
1. Strategic information systems planning train and guide the teams through its proprietary
methodology. While the benefits of effective SISP are
(SISP) obvious and have been clearly demonstrated in many
Strategic information systems planning (SISP) is organizations, most industrial surveys show considerable
defined as “The process of identifying a portfolio of dissatisfaction with SISP projects [1, 4, 10, 18, 19]. In
computer-based applications that will assist an particular, the time investment, the inability to implement
organization in executing its business plans and realizing the IS recommendations, and the cost of the projects are
its business goals” [9]. The key objective of SISP is to viewed as significant problems.
align the organization’s business strategy with its The remainder of this paper is structured as follows.
information technology strategy [5]. In Section 2, we identify a major problem with current
Research on SISP has focused primarily on SISP methodologies, the Specification Gap. A proposed
developing conceptual frameworks for understanding the solution using box structure methods is presented in
SISP process. Seminal proposals by Zani [25], King [8], Section 3. The use of box structure concepts is
Rockart [21], and Porter and Millar [17] led to the demonstrated in a case study of an actual SISP project in
understanding of important business planning concepts Section 4. The paper concludes with future research
such as top-down strategy, critical success factors, and directions.
value chain analysis. More recent research by Galliers
[2], Henderson and Venkatraman [5], Lederer and

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2. The specification gap A clear analogy with the specification gap in SISP can
be observed in the software development of large
Empirical research on SISP projects [1, 10, 18] has systems. Frequently, the systems design team, using
identified a number of critical factors that determine the techniques such as DFDs and ERDs, develop system
success of the planning project and the recommended IS specifications that are incomplete and ambiguous in key
plan. A major factor that leads to the perceived failure of areas [15]. The specification is passed on to programmers
many SISP projects is the inability to effectively who must fill in the needed details to complete the
implement the recommended IS solutions. Premkumar implementation. More often than not it is just these ‘to be
and King [18] present several cited reasons for completed’ details that determine the success or failure of
implementation failure, including resource shortages, the system. Effective design methods must establish a
substantial changes required in existing systems, discipline in which rigor and completeness are enforced at
significant investment in new systems, and friction all levels of system abstraction.
between IS personnel and users. We propose that an
overarching reason for implementation failure is a vast As a solution to the SISP specification gap, we
Specification Gap between the recommended IS solutions propose the use of box structure methods. They provide
and the detail required to actually implement the desired the rigor, completeness, and ease of use needed to specify
information systems. recommended IS solutions that bridge the specification
gap to effective system implementation. The key asset of
SISP methodologies require the participants to devote box structure representations and methods is that they are
large amounts of time and effort to requirements scale-free. Box structures can handle the full range from
engineering. Typically, existing systems are described high-level system abstractions to low-level abstractions
via context diagrams, data flow diagrams (DFDs), and with the same amount of rigor and precision.
entity-relationship diagrams (ERDs). Then, guided by the
business strategy and business objectives, enhanced
systems are reengineered or originated. The result of the
SISP process is a strategic IS plan accompanied by
3. SISP process with box structure methods
descriptions of the new, recommended systems that SISP project teams face many challenges as they
implement the strategic plan. Such descriptions are often attempt to develop an information systems strategy that
at a fairly high-level of abstraction in DFD and ERD supports the organization’s business strategy. The
forms. These descriptions become the de facto representations of the existing (i.e., ‘as is’) systems and
specifications for the subsequent implementation of the the desired (i.e., ‘utopian’) systems must be produced as
new IS strategy. natural outcomes of the SISP process. The majority of
project participants, however, are not IS professionals and
A recent study by Lederer and Sethi [10] sheds a
they are not familiar with IS representational techniques.
critical light on the effectiveness of the SISP project
Thus, the work of describing the systems is either done by
teams in applying system description techniques. They
internal/external IS experts or it is not done at all (as
gathered responses from 105 firms who had completed
indicated by the research in [10]). Effective system
SISP projects. The firms were asked to state whether they
representation methods should be an integral part of any
followed 71 prescriptions hypothesized to be associated
SISP process and all participants must understand them
with SISP success. Based on the survey data, the authors
and their use.
ranked the prescriptions by the extent followed. All the
prescriptions relating to system descriptions ranked in the An important issue is -What level of system detail is
bottom 25% of the list. The system description needed in the desired system specifications found in the
prescriptions included: strategic IS plan? The system representation method must
be able to support increasingly more detailed levels of
 Use of entity-relationship diagrams
abstraction in a top-down system hierarchy. While
 Use of data flow diagrams
extensive design detail is not needed (and not desirable)
 Use of process diagrams
in the IS plan, it is important that the system description
 Use of process-data matrices
be rigorous and complete at an appropriate level of
abstraction. In this form, the IS specification can serve as
Thus, the authors conclude that SISP teams are not
a well-defined and unambiguous starting point for the
very concerned with process and data architecture issues.
implementation of the desired systems.
This finding corresponds closely with research by
Goodhue et al. [4] who found that the system (process and Box structure methods of system representation satisfy
data) recommendations of SISP projects are highly both the above requirements for ease of use and rigor. A
ambiguous. review of box structure foundations is provided in the

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Appendix. Box structure methods are proposed as a The following information is gathered for each CBP:
complement to existing SISP approaches. An outline of
an enhanced SISP process with embedded box structure • Black Box Definition – Information on CBP
methods is presented below. We assume that the current inputs and outputs are elicited from the team. Functional
portfolio of organizational systems is described in transactions are identified that transform sets of inputs
sufficient detail to be used as input to the SISP process, into sets of outputs (see Figure 1). This provides a
providing the foundation for new system specifications. behavioral view of the CBP.
Otherwise, box structures can also be used to describe the • State Box Description – The state information
existing systems as well. that is required to be persistent in the CBP is elicited from
the team. Rigorous expansion and closure operations are
The newly proposed SISP process provides a number performed to help identify such persistent data. Entity-
of innovative enhancements to current SISP relationship diagrams can be used to describe the state.
methodologies. Overall, the box structure methods State box descriptions (see Figure 2) are useful for
support a rigorous framework for the project teams to planning information repositories in the planned systems.
structure the systems planning information. Once the • Clear Box Description – This step expands the
teams identify the Critical Business Processes (CBPs) via CBP description by eliciting information on the roles and
well-established and effective planning methods, the activities to be performed. Process flow diagrams can be
CBPs are individually described in detailed Black Box, used to describe the sequence dependencies among
State Box, and Clear Box forms. Note that teams can essential process activities (see Figure 3). There is
work independently in parallel on groupings of the CBPs. significant potential for optimizing the workflow of the
This increases the efficiency of the SISP process. CBP in this step.

Strategic Information Systems Planning (SISP) Process with Box Structure Methods
1. Collect and analyze all pertinent SISP information, to include:
 Business strategies and business objectives for the organization
 Current information systems portfolio (‘as is’ descriptions of existing systems)
2. Apply strategic planning methods (e.g., Critical Success Factors [21], Value Chains [17], Strategic Alignment [5])
to identify Critical Business Processes (CBPs) in the organization.
3. For each CBP, describe the CBP in box structure forms:
3.1. Produce a Black Box Definition of the CBP. (Figure 1)
3.2. Produce a State Box Description of the CBP. (Figure 2)
3.3. Produce a Clear Box Description of the CBP. (Figure 3)
3.4. Verify the completeness, consistency, and closure of the box structures [14].
3.5. Refine the box structure descriptions as needed to accurately represent the ‘utopian’ CBP.
4. Integrate the CBPs into a strategic enterprise information systems plan.
4.1. Apply traditional integration techniques (e.g., Process/Data Matrices) as well as innovative ‘Bright Ideas’ for
CBP integration.
4.2. Use box structure composition and decomposition techniques [6] to produce an integrated system hierarchy.
4.3. Verify the completeness, consistency, and closure of the box structure hierarchy.
4.4. Refine the box structure hierarchy as needed to accurately represent the ‘Utopian’ enterprise information
systems plan.
5. Develop a high-level Incremental Development Plan for implementation of the desired strategic information
systems.
6. Produce a Strategic Information Systems Plan that includes the information systems specification and the
incremental development plan for implementation.

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Proceedings of the 33rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2000

I n p u t s ( S t im u l i - S ) O u tp u t s ( R e s p o n s e s - R )

B u s in e s s P r o c e s s

} }
f (S * ) - - > R

Figure 1: Black box description

B u s in e ss P ro c e s s

S ta te ( T ) :

In p u ts O u tp u ts

g ( S ,T ) - - > ( R ,T ’ )

Figure 2: State box description

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B u s in e s s P r o c e ss

S ta te

In p u ts P r o c e s s D ia g r a m : O u tp u ts
R o le s a n d A c tiv itie s

Figure 3: Clear box description

The underlying mathematical basis of the box architecture. Box structure methods of composition and
structure methods allows the verification of the important decomposition are used to form a rigorous Box Structure
properties of completeness, consistency, and closure Usage Hierarchy. The principles of state migration and
[14,15]. The teams refine the box structure descriptions common services also provide guidance for the
until they are satisfied that the critical business processes development of the integrated system hierarchy. The
are represented accurately and completely at the desired system structure is verified and refined by the team
level of abstraction. members until they are satisfied with the accuracy and
completeness of the IS specification.
In our experience guiding SISP teams through box
structure methods, we found the teams very open and An additional step of strategic planning is strongly
responsive to the box structure descriptions and methods. recommended. This step involves the development of a
After a half-day training session on box structure strategic incremental development plan [24] for
concepts, the teams were able to participate effectively in implementation of the IS specification. In building a first-
CBP description meetings led by an expert facilitator. cut incremental development plan, the SISP project is
After some initial struggles to reach the right levels of forced to consider issues of implementation feasibility;
abstraction in the descriptions1, the teams responded for example, resource availability (systems and skilled
readily to the structured elicitation of CBP inputs, outputs, personnel), schedule requirements, and costs of
state, and process roles/activities. revitalizing old systems and buying new systems. Such
considerations may impact decisions on the recommended
The integration stage of planning is a critical step to
IS architecture. The inclusion of an initial development
achieve an effective IS plan. Given the box structure
plan in the SISP recommendations should alleviate many
descriptions of the CBPs, there are a number of standard
of the reasons for implementation failure found by
techniques used to analyze integration options. Examples
Premkumar and King [18].
of integration techniques include Process/Data Matrices
and Trade-off Analysis [13]. However, we believe that The completed Strategic Information Systems Plan
this stage of the process is ripe for the discovery of would include a rigorous information systems
‘Bright Ideas’ for CBP integration. We encourage the specification as a recommended IS plan and an
project team to brainstorm on ideas that break current incremental development plan for implementing the IS
business molds. These innovative ideas are used to guide specification.
the integration of the CBPs into an enterprise IS
4. A case study of a SISP project
1
A major risk in SISP projects is that the teams will provide too much
detail. Such detail can easily become overwhelming and the facilitator We have applied the proposed SISP process with box
must quickly establish a workable level of abstraction in the box structure representations in two projects with large
structure descriptions. healthcare organizations in Florida. In this section, we

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present selected results from one of the projects in order transmitted to the appropriate physicians and caregivers.
to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of box The patient must also be educated as to the implications
structure methods in an actual SISP project. of the outcomes. In addition, financial charges must be
accurately posted to the patient’s account. Figure 5
Over the period of three months, we facilitated a SISP
presents the box-structured representation of this CBP.
project for a rapidly growing healthcare organization.
The SISP task force was made up of 40 thought leaders in These box-structured representations identify the
the organization. Both IS users and technicians were black box inputs and outputs, the state box state, and the
included on the task force. At the start of the project, the roles and activities found in the clear box. The groups
participants were given a half-day of training on box found these levels of abstraction to be appropriate for the
structure specification and analysis techniques. A set of strategic planning goals of the organization.
exercises was performed both in class and at home to
familiarize the participants with concepts of box 4.2 An integrated information systems
structures, critical success factors, and integrated system architecture
architectures. Due to the limited timeframe of the project, Simply identifying a set of Critical Business Processes
only an abbreviated version of the full SISP Process, as for the healthcare organization is not sufficient. The
described in Section 3, was executed. The following CBPs must be integrated into an information systems
sections provide examples of the SISP outcomes. architecture that supports top quality patient care at an
4.1 Identification of critical business processes efficient cost. The SISP task force developed an
innovative set of strategies to integrate the CBPs into a
The full project team was divided into three subgroups comprehensive healthcare delivery system. Healthcare
to begin the identification of organizational Critical Integrated Delivery Systems (IDSs) [23] must be
Business Processes (CBPs). The three major areas of composed of affordable, efficient, interoperable
planning were: information systems. These systems must operate
• Patient Access seamlessly across a wide variety of institutions –
• Patient Care hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, laboratories, medical
• Managed Care centers, etc. Leading healthcare user groups, such as HL7,
CORBAmed, and MS HUGS, are proposing IDS
The goals of each subgroup were to identify a architectures based on distributed object technology.
‘utopian’ approach to satisfy the needs of the focus area.
The outcomes of the subgroup meetings were a well- Based on the box structure representations, we
defined set of CBPs represented in box structure formats. developed a top-level model of an IDS information
A total of seventeen CBPs were described in the three systems architecture in terms of high-level business
focus areas. To illustrate, we present two CBPs from the objects. These business objects are drawn from the
area of Patient Care – the Request for Service CBP and critical business processes (CBPs). The innovative
the Provision of Service CBP. integration ideas mentioned above contribute the
framework for enhancing quality of patient care and
Patient Care – Request for Service improving cost efficiencies in the architecture. We
The request for service process is central to the identified ten fundamental objects in the IS architecture.
efficient functioning of a healthcare organization. The Each of these complex objects will encapsulate the
request for service must be consistent with the patient’s essential information for the domain and the required
treatment plan and must be authorized by a physician. functional interfaces for interaction with other objects and
The outputs of the process would be one or more orders the external environment. The ten fundamental business
for patient service sent to the responsible departments objects are:
either within or outside of the organization. Appropriate -Electronic Patient Record (EPR)
physicians and caregivers update the patient record. -Personnel Administration
Figure 4 presents the box-structured representation of this -IDS Institutions
CBP. -Patient Access Management
Patient Care – Provision of Service -Patient Case Management
-Request for Services (Ordering)
The request for service initiates the provision of -Provision of Services (Delivery)
service to the patient. The actual performance of the -Clinical Decision Support
service will vary. However, the outputs of the service are -Contract Management
consistent across all types of service. The outcomes of -Financial Services
the service must be recorded in the patient record and

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Box structure representations of each of these objects
were developed at an appropriate level of abstraction [6].
Under the proposed open systems architecture, we
illustrate a high-level process flow for an important
healthcare scenario - In-Patient Process Flow. We use an
Activity Diagram to provide a basic understanding of the
workflow through this scenario. Activity diagrams are a
behavioral modeling technique found in the Unified
Modeling Language (UML). Additional details on the
development and use of activity diagrams are located in
the UML literature (e.g., [3]).
The In-Patient Process Flow is shown in Figure 6.
The primary role players, located in the swimlanes, are:
-Access Team Members
-Primary Caregivers - Physicians and Nurses
-Case Manager
-Ancillary Units – Surgery, Pharmacy, Labs, etc.
-Account Team Members
The Patient is shown as an object with an
encapsulated EPR that is constantly updated with new
information throughout the workflow. The activities and
workflows in the diagram are largely self-explanatory. It
provides an illustration of how business processes can be
represented and reengineered based on the proposed IS
architecture.

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C r i t i c a l B u s i n e s s P r o c e s s : P a t ie n t C a r e - R e q u e s t f o r S e r v i c e : P h y s ic ia n s a n d / o r
C a r e g i v e r s p r o d u c e a r e q u e s t f o r p a tie n t s e r v ic e s .

In p u ts: O u tp u ts:
• C a re G iv e r O rd e rs S ta te : • U p d a t e d P a t ie n t
• P a tie n t R e c o rd R e c o rd
– T e s ti n g
• P a t i e n t C a r e N o te s • N o ti f ic a t i o n o f
– S u rg e ry
O r d e r t o R e s p o n s i b le
– T h e ra p y • L o g o f P a ti e n t O r d e r s D e p a rtm e n t
– M e d ic a tio n • O r d e r P r o to c o ls
– N u tr i ti o n • M o d if i c a t i o n o f
O rd er
– S o c ia l S e rv ic e s
– P a sto ra l
– C lerica l
– C o n su lts
R o le s a n d A c t iv i t i e s :
• C a r e G i v e r : I d e n t i f y n e e d , U n d e r s t a n d o r d e r , A n a ly z e
– N u r s i n g T r e a t m e n ts
o rd e r, R ec o rd o rd er
• P a tie n t R e c o rd
• P h y s i c i a n : I d e n t if y n e e d , A n a l y z e o r d e r , A u t h o r i z e
• P h y sicia n o rd e r
A u th o r i z a ti o n
• P a t i e n t / F a m i ly : U n d e r s t a n d o r d e r
• T re a tm e n t P la n
• C le ric a l: R e c o rd a n d tra n s m it o rd e r
• P a t i e n t / F a m i ly
C o n sen t

Figure 4: Request for service CBP

C r i t i c a l B u s i n e s s P r o c e s s : P a t ie n t C a r e - P r o v is io n o f S e r v ic e : R e s p o n s i b le
d e p a r t m e n t p e r f o r m s th e s e r v ic e a n d r e p o r ts th e r e s u lts .

In p u ts: O u tp u ts:
• S e rv ice R e q u e st S ta te : • P e rfo rm an c e o f
O rd er • P a tie n t R e c o rd S e rv ice
– L a b o r a to r y • D e p a rtm e n t R e c o rd F ile • T ran sm it to
E x te r n a l P r o v i d e r
– P h arm ac y • C h ro n o lo g ic a l L o g o f S e rv ic e
• R e q u est fo r
– S o c ia l S e rv ic e s • B i ll in g R e c o r d s C l a r i f i c a t io n o r
– R eh ab M o d ific a tio n
– C o n su lts • O u tc o m e o f S e r v ic e
( R e s u l ts )
– Im a g in g
• U p d a t e d P a t ie n t
– N u c le a r
R e c o rd
– S u rg e ry R o le s a n d A c t iv i t i e s : • P a t i e n t E d u c a ti o n
– A n e s t h e ti c s • C a r e G i v e r s : S c h e d u l i n g , P r e p a r a t io n , D e l iv e r y o f
• C h a rg e G e n e ra tio n
P a t i e n t, D e l i v e r y o f R e s u l t s , A n a l y s i s
– N u rsin g
• C le ric a l: R e c o rd R e su lts
– R e sp ira to ry
• P h y s i c i a n : A u t h o r iz a t i o n , A n a l y s i s , R e o r d e r
• P a tie n t R e c o rd
• P a tie n t: U n d e rsta n d
• R e q u e s ti n g
P h y sic ia n /N u rse • E x te r n a l S e r v ic e P r o v id e r : P r o v id e S e r v i c e a n d R e s u lt s
• T re a tm e n t P la n
• T im e N e e d e d

Figure 5: Provision of service CBP

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Access Team Primary Service Providers Case Manager Account Team
Caregivers
Ancillary Depts .

Registration

Authorization

Generate Bill
Coding and
Template Def
.

Patient

Clinical Temp.
Financial Temp. Assessment
Unit
Documentation
Service Info.
Request for
Service

Provision of Quality
Service Review

Assessment

Patient
Update Info.

Discharge Quality
? Review
No Yes

Send Bill for
Payment

Figure 6: In-Patient Process Flow

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4.3 SISP project outcomes • Same Representation for IS Planning and IS
Implementation – Box structures are scale-free. Thus,
The outcomes of the SISP projects include the
box structures are effective representations for both
organizational CBPs, an integrated IS architecture that
planning and implementation of strategic systems. This
supports all CBP requirements, and an incremental
provides a common means of communication between the
development plan for developing the IS architecture in
planners and the developers of the software systems.
well-defined phases. The representation of these
Ambiguity of the IS recommendations is significantly
outcomes in box structure formats provides a clear
reduced.
starting point for the design and implementation of the
integrated information systems in the healthcare Future research will involve using the proposed SISP
organizations. In the referenced projects, information process in several major projects with industrial partners.
from the SISP outcomes is being used as input to RFPs Particular attention will be directed toward measuring the
for vendor selection of systems that meet the ease and effectiveness of implementing the recommended
specifications of the strategic IS architecture. systems. Also, a controlled experiment is being planned
in which one project team will use a traditional SISP
5. Conclusions and future research process and another team will use the new SISP process
Strategic information systems planning (SISP) is a with box structures. Ease of use and usefulness of the box
highly visible, critical activity for business organizations. structures will be studied.
Recent surveys have provided evidence of a Specification Acknowledgements
Gap in most strategic IS plans that leads to significant
problems in implementing the desired systems. The use We acknowledge the contributions of Lauralee Pasko
of rigorous box structure methods in SISP projects has the to this work. We also thank the team members in the
potential to bridge this specification gap. We present a healthcare organizations who participated in the SISP
comprehensive SISP process with box structure methods projects.
and a case study of the use of box structure
representations and methods in a large SISP project. References
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[11] Linger, R. Cleanroom Process Model. IEEE Software 11, 2 APPENDIX: BOX STRUCTURE FOUNDATIONS
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Box structure methods are a central technology in
[12] Linger, R., Mills, H., and Witt, B. Structured Cleanroom software engineering [11]. Box structure methods
Programming: Theory and Practice, Addison-Wesley, Inc., provide mathematics-based technology, processes, and
1979. expressive forms that can be applied to software system
definition and verification [14]. Box structures emphasize
[13] Martin, J. and Leben, J. Strategic Information Planning
technical rigor and management simplicity. They permit
Methodologies, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1989.
definition of system components and their behavior, data, and
[14] Mills, H., Linger, R., and Hevner, A. Box-Structured control in terms of three fundamental system structures that can
Information Systems. IBM Systems Journal 26, 4 (1987), 395- be nested and sequenced over and over in box structure
413. hierarchies. These system structures are black box, state box,
and clear box.
[15] Mills, H. Stepwise Refinement and Verification in Box-
Structured Systems. IEEE Computer 21, 6 (1988), 23-36. The fundamental principle of box structures is that systems
and their components can be regarded as rules for mathematical
[16] Niederman, F., Brancheau, J., and Wetherbe, J. Information functions (or relations). That is, systems and components carry
Systems Management Issues for the 1990s. MIS Quarterly 15, 4 out transformations from input (domain) to output (range) that
(1991), 475-500. can be specified as function mappings. The three box structures
[17] Porter, M. and Millar, V. How Information Gives You are special forms of mathematical functions that correspond to
Competitive Advantage. Harvard Business Review 66, 4 (July- useful and natural system views that can be derived in a
August 1985), 149-160. stepwise decomposition/composition and verification process.

[18] Premkumar, G. and King, W. An Empirical Assessment of A black box maps the current stimulus into a response that
Information Systems Planning and the Role of Information also depends on the history of stimuli received. A black box is
Systems in Organizations. Journal of Management Information uniquely determined by its stimulus history. Black box
Systems 9, 2 (1992), 99-125. definitions are state-free and procedure-free, referencing only
external stimuli and responses. Black boxes define required
[19] Premkumar, G. and King, W. Organizational behavior in all possible circumstances of use, including
Characteristics and Information Systems Planning: An Empirical expected, error, and stress uses. The behavior required for all
Study. Information Systems Research 5, 2 (1994), 75-109. usage scenarios must be defined for mathematical completeness.
[20] Raghunathan, T. and Raghunathan, B. Adaptation of a Research on the application of black boxes for requirements
Planning System Success Model to Information Systems specification is reported in [7].
Planning, Information Systems Research 5, 3 (1994), 326-340. A state box maps the current stimulus and the current (i.e.,
[21] Rockart, J. Chief Executives Define Their Own Data old) state into a response and a new state. In the state box, the
Needs. Harvard Business Review. (March-April 1979), 215- stimulus history of the black box is replaced by persistent state
229. data necessary to achieve black box behavior. A state box
definition is procedure-free and isolates and focuses attention on
[22] Sambamurthy, V., Venkatraman, S., and DeSanctis, G. The state invention. The principle of transaction closure requires
Design of Information Technology Planning Systems for that the transactions of a system or system component be
Varying Organizational Contexts. European Journal of sufficient and necessary for the acquisition and preservation of
Information Systems 2, 1 (1993), 23-37. all its state data and that its state data be sufficient and necessary
for completion of all transactions.
[23] Scott, H. Charting the Information Technology Direction
for an Integration Delivery System. Journal of Healthcare A clear box is a program, or set of programs, that
Information Management 12, 3 (Fall 1998). implements the state box and introduces and connects
components in an execution structure for independent
[24] Trammel, C., Pleszkoch, M., Linger, R., and Hevner, A.
decomposition at the next hierarchy level. Such connections are
The Incremental Development Process in Cleanroom Software
a key feature of box structure methods and are critical to
Engineering. Decision Support Systems 17, 4 (1996), 55-71.
maintaining intellectual control in large-scale system
[25] Zani, W. Blueprint for MIS. Harvard Business Review 48, 6 development. Clear boxes are expressed in familiar control
(November-December 1970), 95-100. structures such as sequence, conditional (i.e., if-then-else),
iteration (i.e., while-do), and concurrency structures.
Correctness verification of clear boxes is carried out through
application of the Correctness Theorem [12], typically in verbal
proofs of correctness in team reviews. The theorem reduces
verification to a finite number steps, each based only on
localized reasoning, even though programs contain a virtually
infinite number of paths.

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