Specifity Frontier

This project grew out of Professor Bernstein's  Ph.D.-thesis called: Populating the Specificity Frontier: IT-Support for Dynamic Business Processes.  It takes some grounding insights from organizational sociology/psychology and pairs them with some computer science and artificial intelligence technology to develop a system for supporting dynamic organizational processes.

While at MIT Prof. Bernstein collaborated with Professors Thomas W. Malone, Wanda J. Orlikowski, and. Peter Szolovits on this subject.


In the past, most information systems focused on either automating fixed processes or supporting ad-hoc processes. Both kinds of systems have limitations. The tools for automating fixed processes, like transaction processing systems, enterprise resource planning systems, or workflow management tools, are often inflexible and difficult to change. Ad-hoc support-tools, like email or groupware, can be easily used for many different processes, but they provide no specific support for any particular process.

This research project proposes to bridge the gap between these two kinds of systems by developing a novel approach that supports processes at many points along the spectrum: from well specified to highly unspecified. Furthermore, the approach will allow users to easily move back and forth along this spectrum as their needs change. The project will employ a prototype implementation to assess the effectiveness of this approach for supporting adaptive and emerging processes.

The primary goal of this project is to present the implementation of a software tool for supporting rapidly changing group processes that integrates previously unconnected technologies and is well grounded in social science theory. A secondary goal of the project is to propose a theoretical approach to reconciling some of the conceptual differences between understanding human work as the "execution" of planned procedures on the one hand, and situated action on the other.

More Information

  • My Thesis:
    Bernstein, Abraham. 2000. "Populating the Specificity Frontier: IT-Support for Dynamic Organizational Processes." Pp. 330, Ph.D.-Thesis. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Sloan School of Management.
  • A Conference Paper:
    Bernstein, Abraham. 2000. "How can cooperative work tools support dynamic group processes? Bridging the specificity frontier."  Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Philadelphia, PA: ACM Press.
    can be found on this page