Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Management

Faculty

Business and Law.

First Advisor

Prof. Craig Standing

Abstract

Understanding and creating the conditions under which information systems will be embraced by human organizations (thinking systems) remain high-priority research issues. Despite numerous benefits associated with information technology (IT), implementing an information system (IS) in organizational environment is challenging. The literature reports numerous IS project failures. During IS implementation, several factors impede technology’s widespread adoption and use in organizations. These organizational problems often result from such barriers or ‘systemic problems’. The proposed work is based on the argument that addressing ‘systemic problems’ can reduce barriers to organizational progress. Most of the IS/IT adoption theories (e.g. TAM, UTAUT, TAM2 and TAM3) highlight factors related to system users, completely ignoring the other stakeholders who are affected by the adoption process. The purpose of this study is to apply an holistic or systems thinking approach to identify systemic problems in information technology adoption and use within an organizational context by considering the complete stakeholder set as a ‘system of stakeholders’. It involves the study of a web portal implementation project in an Australian university referred to as Aus-Uni. Data was collected through face-to-face interviews of different stakeholders across Aus-Uni and were fundamentally classified into the two categories of ‘involved’ and ‘affected’. Their relevant comments and experiences have been analysed using the lens of a systems thinking-based framework of Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH). The interpretive approach, based on structured-case study method, and the technique of practising CSH have been used as a data gathering framework for this case study. The study’s findings contribute towards identifying information needs and systemic problem scenarios, related to multiple stakeholders in the context of the web portal project. However, its insights may allow broader applications. The roles which these stakeholders play have been classified under the categories prescribed by the CSH methodology of boundary critique. This generated ‘system of stakeholders’ was further analysed to explore problem scenarios as subsystems to this ‘system of stakeholders’. Each problem scenario identifies who was involved and affected by it. It is believed that identifying problems holistically will lead to smoother IS adoption, and reduce IS project failures. This research also proposes two theoretical models based on Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH); one for IS adoption, which demonstrates how CSH can be coupled with the existing IS implementation methodologies to create a holistic perspective of IS implementation issues. This model uses Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) as an example, and proposes that the stakeholder roles need to be identified using boundary critique throughout the project life cycle. The second model is for managing conflicts in the context of organizational change, and is applicable for implementing innovative practices inside organizations, and identifying conflicting scenarios which surface during that process.