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UNDERSTANDING INFORMATION SYSTEMS AS SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS:

DYNAMIC INSTITUTIONAL THEORY

A Dissertation

by

BONGSUG CHAE

Submitted to the Office o f Graduate Studies of


Texas A&M University
in partial fulfillment o f the requirements for the degree of

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

December 2002

Major Subject: Information and Operations Management

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UNDERSTANDING INFORMATION SYSTEMS AS SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS:

DYNAMIC INSTITUTIONAL THEORY

A Dissertation

by

BONGSUG CHAE

Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of


Texas A&M University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

Approved as to style and content by:

'YfinjutLMvfci&Yhh — .-3 - __
Marshall Scott Poole /y James F. Courtney |
(Co-Chair o f Committee) </ (Co-Chair o f Committee)

]/-<?
Antonio Arreola-Risa
(Member)
Arnold Vedlitz
(Member) r
L su S ^ ih
Bala Shetty
(Head o f Department)

December 2002

Major Subject: Information and Operations Management

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ABSTRACT

Understanding Information Systems as Social Institutions:

Dynamic Institutional Theory. (December 2002)

Bongsug Chae, B.A., City University o f New York;

M.B.A., St. John’s University

Co-Chairs of Advisory Committee: Dr. Marshall Scott Poole


Dr. James F. Courtney

The deployment of large-scale information systems such as enterprise resource

planning systems, knowledge management systems, customer relationship management

systems, and interorganizational information systems is a major trend in the corporate world.

However, in the information systems field there is a lack o f understanding of exactly what

these large-scale systems involve and how they evolve over time. This dissertation develops a

meta-theoretical framework, the Dynamic Institutional Theory, for understanding the design,

implementation, and use of large-scale information systems. The Dynamic Institutional Theory

integrates institutional theory with two influential social theories currently used in the

information systems field - structuration theory and actor network theory. It argues that

information systems are best construed as social institutions and their development and use as a

dynamic process of institutionalization.

The first seven chapters develop the Dynamic Institutional Theory based on analysis

and critique o f existing theory and research. The remainder o f the dissertation presents a case

study o f a large-scale information system in a university setting that is used to explore the

utility o f the Dynamic Institutional Theory as a framework for understanding the development

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and use o f large-scale information systems. Results o f the case study are used to further

develop and refine the Dynamic Institutional Theory.

This dissertation attempts to make three types of contributions. First, it attempts to add

to our knowledge of large-scale information systems through providing critiques of extant

approaches and understandings o f such systems. Second, the dissertation attempts to contribute

to theory-building within the IS field through developing a meta-theoretical framework that

considers both local, contingent aspects of sociotechnical change and broader social structures

at the same time. Finally, the dissertation attempts to contribute to the tenets o f institutional

theory by developing a dynamic institutional theory that reconceptualizes the process of

institutionalization.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This dissertation has benefited from the contributions, intended and unintended, of

many people over the entire period o f my doctoral study in the Department o f Information and

Operations Management (INFO). All have enriched and supported my doctoral study in their

own way.

First, I feel very indebted to those who participated in this project and shared their time

and experience with me. In particular, I want to thank the MIS project team, particularly Janna

Keel, senior system analyst, Freda Strazelec, the FAMIS project manager, Mr. Tom Putnam,

the director of computer information services (CIS) at TAMU, a system auditor of TAMUS,

several top administrators of TEES, TEEX and TAES, and the founders o f FAMIS, who gave

me access to documentation and answered countless questions.

I have benefited from the help of people in INFO. I would like to thank all the faculty,

doctoral students and administrative staff who helped me through my study. In particular I

would like to thank Dr. Bala Shetty for his support and encouragement. I also would like to

thank my fellow students, Maggie Guo, Ahmed Mahfouz, Dianne Hall, Hope Koch and Vo

Van Huy for their friendship and love. I would like to extend my thanks to INFO

administrative staff, Bettie Poehl, Dawn Jefferson and Hose Peg, for their time and help in

many ways during my stay in INFO.

I am deeply indebted to my dissertation committee: Dr. Antonio Arreola-Risa, Dr.

Arnold Vedlitz, Dr. David Olsen, Dr. James F. Courtney, and Dr. Marshall Scott Poole, who

gave me the opportunity and support to explore and define my research topic. I thank them all

for their helpful and insightful comments at the early stages o f this study. I am appreciative of

the encouragement and support o f Dr. Arreola-Risa and Dr. Vedlitz, my committee members. I

would like to extend my appreciation to Dr. Olsen for formerly serving as my committee co­

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vi

chair and for his support and intellectual guidance. I am particularly grateful to Dr. Courtney

and Dr. Poole, my committee co-chairs. They are the greatest teachers I have ever had in my

life. In fact, my appreciation to Dr. Courtney and Dr. Poole could not be expressed sufficiently

in this short acknowledgement. Dr. Courtney accepted me as his doctoral student and trained

me from the beginning. He was always patient with my immaturity as an IS scholar and always

trusted and supported me sufficiently to pursue my research interests in different areas. He

always helped me develop a sense o f confidence in my work and an enthusiasm for research

ideas. I owe special thanks to Dr. Poole. Knowing him as a researcher and a person was my

greatest pleasure during my doctoral studies. I will forever appreciate the opportunities and

intellectual and personal guidance Dr. Poole has provided me throughout this project. He has

been an adviser, a mentor, and a friend. Without his support, encouragement and guidance, this

dissertation simply would never have been possible. In his scholarship and as a person, he is

the model o f what I hold as the highest achievement in my professional and personal life.

My thanks go to my friends and family in both the U.S. and Korea. I believe that my

basic philosophy and way of thinking were formed around 1990 and 1991 at a college in

Korea. I am indebted to my friends and fellow students who discussed various social, political

and economic issues and shared their ideas with me. I acknowledge that they have contributed

to this dissertation in their own way. My appreciation to my brothers and sister, Kwansug,

Woonsug, Jisug and Mihee, is special. Their support, encouragement and understanding have

helped me through my doctoral study. Finally, I dedicate this dissertation to two women, my

mother (Sungshim Kim) and my wife (Joungae Pu), and two men, my deceased father

(Kyuwon Chae) and my son (Chris Soobin Chae), without whose love, support, patience,

sacrifice, and prayers none of this would have been possible.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page

ABSTRACT.................................................................................................................................... iii

ACKNOLWEDGMENTS............................................................................................................... v

TABLE OF CONTENTS............................................................................................................... vii

LIST OF FIGURES..........................................................................................................................x

LIST OF TA BLES..........................................................................................................................xii

CHAPTER

I INTRODUCTION................................................................................................... 1

1.1 Opening Statement....................................................................... 1


1.2 Problem Statement.......................................................................2
1.3 Goals and Research Questions....................................................4
1.4 Expected Contributions.............................................................. 9
1.5 Dissertation Organization........................................................... 9

II OVERVIEW OF LARGE-SCALE INFORMATION SYSTEMS.................... 12

2.1 Introduction.................................................................................12
2.2 Overview of Large-scale Information Systems..................... 12
2.3 Existing Dominant Views of Information Systems................ 16
2.4 The Ensemble V iew ..................................................................19

III DYNAMIC INSTITUTIONAL THEORY AS


A WAY FORWARD.............................................................................28

3.1 Critique of the Socio-Technical Approach and the


Structurational M odel.............................................................. 28
3.2 Overview o f Institutional Theory............................................30
3.3 IS Research and Institutional Theory......................................34

IV RECONCEPTUALIZING LARGE-SCALE INFORMATION SYSTEMS AS


SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS.................................................................................. 38

4.1 Prior Understandings o f Information Systems.......................38


4.2 Information Systems as Social Institutions: Dynamic
Institutional Theory................................................................. 46

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CHAPTER Page

4.3 Premises o f a Dynamic Institutional Theory for Information


System s..................................................................................... 51
4.4 Theoretical and Practical Implications................................... 58
4.5 Conclusion................................................................................. 68

V RETHINKING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN IT AND


ORGANIZATIONS: A MULTI-LEVEL MODEL OF DUALITY OF
TECHNOLOGY.................................................................................................70

5.1 Introduction............................................................................. 70
5.2 Conceptualization o f the Relationship between IS and
Organizations.......................................................................... 71
5.3 Theoretical B asis.................................................................... 72
5.4 A Multi-level Model o f Duality o f Technology.....................76
5.5 Conclusion...............................................................................95

VI REFRAMING THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN EXISTING INSTITUTIONS


AND AGENCY: DUALITY OF PREEXISTING INFORMATION
SYSTEMS........................................................................................................... 98

6.1 Prior Conceptualizations of History (or Preexisting


Information Systems).............................................................98
6.2 Reframing the Interplay between Existing Institutions and
Agency: D IT ...........................................................................101
6.3 Dual Surface of Emergence: Schemas and
Resources............................................................................... 106
6.4 Theoretical and Practical Implications.................................112
6.5 Conclusion.............................................................................. 121

VII TECHNOLOGY ADAPTATION AS DYNAMIC


INSTITUTIONALIZATION: DYNAMIC INSTITUTIONAL THEORY
122

7.1 Introduction............................................................................ 122


7.2 Prior Understandings o f Technology Adaptation................124
7.3 Technology Adaptation in the Case of
Large-scale I S ....................................................................... 126
7.4 Theoretical Basis o f Dynamic Institutional
Theory (D IT ).........................................................................129
7.5 Dynamic Institutional Theory (DIT) for Technology
Adaptation............................................................................ 145

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CHAPTER Page

7.6 Conclusion............................................................................... 150

VIII RESEARCH METHOD AND DESIGN........................................................... 152

8.1 Introduction.............................................................................. 152


8.2 Case S tudy................................................................................153
8.3 Research Design andMethod: A Case Study o f
FAM IS.....................................................................................156
8.4 Data Collection........................................................................ 163
8.5 Data A nalysis........................................................................... 173
8.6 Conclusion............................................................................... 176

DC CASE STUDY..................................................................................................... 177

9.1 Introduction............................................................................. 177


9.2 Case Overview and General Research Findings...................177
9.3 Case A nalysis.......................................................................... 212
9.4 Conclusion............................................................................... 270

X CONCLUSION....................................................................................................272

10.1 Introduction..............................................................................272
10.2 Propositions o f D IT .................................................................273
10.3 Summary o f the Theory and the C a se ................................... 277
10.4 Contributions........................................................................... 284
10.5 Limitations............................................................................... 287
10.6 Directions for Future Research...............................................290

REFERENCES............................................................................................................................296

APPENDIX A ............................................................................................................................. 326

APPENDIX B ............................................................................................................................. 329

V IT A ............................................................................................................................................ 332

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LIST OF FIGURES

FIGURE Page

1. The Contribution o f Chapters IV through VII to the Development of DIT


As a Meta-Theoretical Framework.................................................................................... 6

2. Overview of Dissertation.................................................................................................. 10

3. Giddens’s Duality of Structure (1984)........................................................................... 23

4. Duality of Schemas and IT A rtifacts...............................................................................56

5. Duality of Technology (Adapted from Orlikowski 1992).............................................. 84

6. A Multi-level Model of the Duality o f Technology.......................................................85

7. Two Poles of IS and Institutional Innovation............................................................... 102

8. The Morphogenetic Sequence (Adapted from Archer 1995)...................................... 105

9. Three Alternative Strategies in the Middle Position.....................................................116

10. A Sequential Model of Institutionalization (Barley and Tolbert 1997).......................131

11. Component Processes of Institutionalization


(Adapted from Tolbert and Zucker 1996).................................................................... 132

12. Pressures for Deinstitutionalization (Adapted from Oliver 1992).............................. 138

13. Mechanisms o f Institutionalization (Adapted from Lawrence et al.2 001)..................144

14. A Dynamic Process of Technology Adaptation........................................................... 145

15. Institutional Formation in the Dynamic Process of Technology Adaptation............. 146

16. Institutional Development in the Dynamic


Process of Technology Adaptation................................................................................ 148

17. Institutional Decay in the Dynamic Process of Technology Adaptation.................... 150

18. Deduction, Induction and Retroduction.........................................................................159

19. FAMIS Transition Schedule...........................................................................................196

20. Duality of Schemas and Resources of FAM IS.............................................................217

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xi

FIGURE Page

21. A Multi-level Model o f Duality o f FAM IS................................................................ 224

22. Institutional Formation in the Dynamic Process o f FAMIS Adaptation...................250

23. The Extent o f Institutionalization of FAM IS..............................................................257

24. Transition o f Institutional Modes for FAM IS............................................................. 259

25. Duality o f Schemas and Resources o f FAM IS............................................................278

26. Triadic Reciprocal Interplay of FA M IS....................................................................... 278

27. Structuration Located in the Interplay Across and Within Levels..............................280

28. Structuration Located in the Interplay Between Levels of Both IT and Agency 281

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LIST OF TABLES

TABLE Page

1. Key Characteristics o f Large-scale I S .............................................................................14

2. Assumptions of Discrete-entity M odels..........................................................................18

3. Six Axioms of Information Systems as Social Institutions......................................... 58

4. Process of Building Theory from Case Study Research.............................................154

5. Case Study Tactics for the Quality o f Research D esign............................................. 156

6. A Star List of C odes.......................................................................................................164

7. Data Check M atrix.........................................................................................................166

8. Summary o f Documents Collected...............................................................................168

9. Detailed Interview Schedule......................................................................................... 172

10. Change ofTAMUS Leadership.....................................................................................181

11. A List o f Ten Alternative O ptions ................................................................190

12. Policy of FAMIS Implementation and Change of Leadership................................... 200

13. A List of the Resources o f FA M IS............................................................................... 213

14. Schemas of FAM IS........................................................................................................215

15. The Spirit o f FAM IS......................................................................................................220

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CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Opening Statement

Today we are watching a “paradigm shift” both on the business and the technology

side o f organizations (Markus, 2000a). On the business side we have been seeing business

process reengineering, the management philosophies o f customer management and supply

chain management, electronic commerce, and business-to-business trading exchanges. On the

technology side, there is an emerging trend of moving from standalone or traditional

information systems to large-scale information systems such as enterprise resource planning

(ERP) systems, knowledge management systems (KMS), different IT solutions for enterprise

application integration (e.g. customer relationship management systems), interorganizational

systems (IOS), and standardization (e.g., the Internet, Electronic Data Interchange). Within this

flood o f business and technology innovations, the deployment o f large-scale information

systems is a major trend in corporate world (e.g., Davenport 1998; Braa and Rolland 2000;

Markus 2000b).

Several authors (e.g., Ives and Jarvenpaa 1991; Davenport 1998; Markus 2000a) have

recognized the importance o f large-scale IS or information infrastructure in the context of

information integration, globalization and strategic alignment with business processes. Grover,

Tang and Fiedler (1998) recent study o f IS investment priorities o f large U.S. companies shows

that IS investment priorities today are consistent with the evolution o f IS and its related

technologies over the years and currently infrastructural investments in coordination-intensive

(or corporate-wide) technologies are a high priority with organizations. This investment is

related to organizational restructuring and process reengineering projects. As an example, ERP

This dissertation follows the style and format o f Management Information Systems Quarterly.

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systems have been adopted by over 60% o f Fortune 500 companies in the USA (Milford and

Stewart 2000) and the market is expected to grow to $66 billion by 2003 (Carlino and Kelly

1999).

1.2 Problem Statement

Despite the increase in the design and implementation o f large-scale IS within and

across organizations', in the IS field there is lack o f understanding of exactly what large-scale

1 In this note, some recent surveys o f IT projects are briefly introduced to help readers
understand the costs, failure rate, and user perceptions o f large-scale information systems,
particularly in the context o f ERPs. According to the 2002 ERP & CRM vendor report from
Peerstone Research, enterprise ERP and CRM software packages typically cost $2,000 to
$2,500 per user and up, depending on the number o f modules an organization purchases.
“Vendors charge another 20% or so per year for support and upgrades. Most companies spend
anywhere from one to ten additional dollars on hardware, network infrastructure and
professional services for each dollar they spend on the initial software license. The survey of
163 enterprise application users shows that users think the vendors have great technology, but
they don’t like the payback” (2002 ERP & CRM vendor report from Peerstone Research). Also
according to the report,
• SAP, Oracle, Peoplesoft and Siebel between them average A- for the breadth of their
feature sets and the technical quality o f their software.
• But they average C- for ease o f integration with other applications, and an abysmal D+ for
actual return on investment.
In a word, “there is a huge gap between features and benefit. User companies cut back
on big ticket applications in 2001 because they did not think they were getting a good enough
return for their money. One of the most powerful conclusions o f the survey is that big-ticket
enterprise applications by themselves do not enable firms to compete better. Respondents agree
that these packages have become a minimum requirement for doing business: Organizations
that do not use them will be left in the dust by the competition, but organizations that do use
them cannot expect an easy ride either”.
Several surveys indicated a high rate o f failure o f IT projects. The Robbings-Giola
survey (2001) included 232 respondents spanning multiple industries including government,
information technology, communications, financial, utilities, and healthcare. A total of 36% of
the companies surveyed had, or were in the process of, implementing an ERP system. Fifty one
percent viewed their ERP implementation as unsuccessful. The Conference Board Survey
(2001) interviewed executives at 117 companies that attempted ERP implementations. Forty
percent o f the projects failed to achieve their business case within one year o f going live. The
KPMG Canada Survey (1997) indicated that 61% reported details on a failed IT project. The
Standish Group survey (1995) reported that a staggering 31.1% o f projects are cancelled before
they ever get completed. The survey showed that 52.7% of projects will cost over 189% of
their original estimates. Almost 80,000 projects were cancelled in 1995. Eighty-one billion
dollars was spent for canceled software projects. On average only 16.2% of software projects

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3

IS involve and how they evolve over time. Even though there is a large body of literature on

the topic o f large-scale information systems, particularly on ERPs (e.g., Bancroft 1996; Lee

and Lee 2000; Brehm et al. 2001; Davenport 2000; Ross and Vitale 2000; Holland and Light

1999; Ross 1999; Klaus et al. 2000; Scott and Kaindl 2000), this literature is full of normative

models on how to deploy such systems successfully (Hanseth et al. 2001) which are largely

written from the perspective o f management o f such systems (Howcroft and Truex 2001). Most

empirical studies are positivistic and descriptive, single-shot in design and no longitudinal

studies are found (Dong, Neufeld and Higgins 2002). This situation is very problematic when

we consider the global trend of large-scale IS deployment in profit as well as non-profit

organizations and the high failure rate o f such “mega” projects.

At the same time there have been ongoing debates among IS researchers about the

nature and concept o f today’s information systems, the core subject matter in the IS field (e.g.,

Baskerville et al. 2000; Markus 2000b; Alter et al. 2001; Orlikowski 2001; Russo et al. 2001).

This study extends this central issue by developing a metatheoretical framework in the genre of

“social theory” (Kling 1994) which is specific about the issues around large-scale information

systems in particular and focused enough to be applied not only by academic researchers but

also by practitioners to their imminent large-scale IT projects.

Two influential social theories that have been applied in IS research - actor network

theory (e.g., Callon 1986; Latour 1987) and Anthony Giddens’s (1984) structuration theory -

can provide insights into how an information system comes to be and how the information

are completed on-time and on-budget. In the larger companies, the news is even worse: only
9% o f their projects come in on-time and on-budget. Projects completed by the largest
American companies have only approximately 42% o f the originally-proposed features and
functions. It is expected that the failure rate has increased for the past five years due to the
complexity and size o f IT projects driven by the phenomenon o f large-scale information
systems.

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system evolves and comes to be used, respectively. We believe that actor network theory can

provide an excellent explanation o f how large-scale IS come to be (the development), while

structuration theory can explain how they come to be used. However, while these theories

provide a good starting point for analysis, neither is adequate in its present form to give an

understanding of large-scale IS, as we will show in subsequent analysis.

In order to understand the design, implementation and use o f large-scale IS, this study

offers an alternative theoretical framework that integrates premises from the two theories,

“Dynamic Institutional Theory” (DIT). This framework is grounded in the tenets of

institutional theory (e.g., DiMaggio and Powell 1991; Scott 1995, 2001; Sewell 1992; Offe

1996; Covaleski, Dirsmith and Michelman 1993; Dryzek 1996; Goodin 1996; Hirsch 1997;

Tolbert and Zucher 1996) and draws on different ideas and concepts from other social theories

such as critical realism (Archer 1995; Bhaskar 1979), post-structuration theory (Jessop 2001;

Mouzelis 1995; Pickering 1995), and social studies of technology (Klein and Kleinman 2002;

Russell 1986). It views information systems as “social institutions”2 and the process o f their

change and evolution as a dynamic process o f institutionalization. This institutional framework

provides a way of understanding o f the nature, design, implementation and use of information

systems, particularly large-scale IS.

1.3 Goals and Research Questions

The goal o f this dissertation is to develop an institutional theory for the IS field.

Dynamic Institutional Theory (DIT), as a meta-framework that can provide adequate levels of

explanations for several emerging issues related to large-scale IS. The study addresses this

2 It is acknowledged that this reconceptualization is in line with a long effort (e.g., Kling and
Scacchi 1982; Mumford et al. 1985; Land and Hirschheim 1983; Monteiro and Hanseth 1995;
Lee 1999; Checkland 1981; DeSanctis and Poole 1994) discernible in the IS literature to
establish an understanding o f IS as a notion that does not refer primarily to technology.

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objective by focusing on four specific areas in IS research: the reconceptualization o f IS, the

relationship between information systems and organizations, the design o f new IS and

technology adaptation in the case o f large-scale information systems. A case study o f a large-

scale information system in the Texas A&M University System is used to explore each of these

research questions and to develop DIT in the dissertation. The four areas are addressed in the

following manner:

First, there are diverse perspectives on what an information system is, but no

consensus on this issue. A large number o f studies, on the one hand, take a material or “actual”

view of information system and view it as a purely technical artifact or technology, while on

the other hand, numerous studies adopt a social or “virtual” view that construes an information

system as a social system or a mere “occasion for [social] structuring” without paying much

attention to its objective nature. This dissertation offers an alternative approach by

conceptualizing information systems as social institutions by emphasizing the material and

social elements of information system in a balanced way. The reconceptualization of IS as

social institutions opens a wide range o f new directions for IS research. Specifically, chapter

IV is devoted to this aim through developing DIT for the re-conceptual ization o f information

systems. Having answered the question o f what an information system is and how an

information system should be conceptualized, this chapter becomes the foundation for

investigating several other topics, specifically the relationship between IS and organization

(chapter V), IS design (chapter VI) and IS implementation and use (chapter VII). Chapters V

through VII develop the implications o f the reconceptualization of IS as social institutions that

is presented in chapter IV, as shown in Figure I .

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/ C hV \
The development of a
DIT for the
meta-theory (pfT) to study
relationship between
numerous research topics
US and organization/
of large-scale IS

/ Ch IV T
DIT for the \ Ch VI
reconceptualization o f/* DIT for IS
development

Future research:
DIT for other Ch VII
research areas DIT for technology
adaptation

Figure 1. The Contribution o f Chapters IV through VII to the Development o f DIT As


a Meta-Theoretical Framework

As just noted, a critical issue in IS is the relationship between information systems and

organizations. Building on Chapter IV, chapter V proposes a multi-level model for the

interplay between information systems and organization which complements and extends

existing structurational models o f technology. The extant models, such as Orlikowski's (1992),

tend to state the relationship between technology and organizations too ambiguously by

suggesting that “IT enables/constrains action," without explaining what this means. The

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proposed multi-level model attempts to develop a more specific view o f the technology-

organization relationship by addressing the following questions:

o To what extent and how do information systems (social institutions) enable and

constrain human action and organization?

o To what extent and how does agency produce and reproduce information systems?

o How and why can an information system that appears to be a structural constraint

for one actor appear as an opportunity for transformation to another actor?

o How and why can an information system that appears to be an opportunity at a

particular time appears as a constraint later?

o How do preexisting institutions constrain and enable the development of future

information systems?

Once we have established a model of the relationship o f organizations and technology,

a logically related topic important to the field o f IS concerns the design o f information systems.

Chapter VI explores this critical issue through articulating the implications of DIT specifically

for IS design. The literature suggests that there are two dominant views o f the role of

preexisting information systems in the development o f new information systems. One view

suggests that “history - that is, existing information systems - does not matter” and thus the

development or introduction o f new information systems has no relationship with preexisting

IS. The other suggests that “history matters” and that the development of new information

systems is constrained by preexisting ones. This dissertation proposes the notion o f the “duality

of preexisting information systems” arguing that preexisting information systems both

constrain and enable the development o f new ones. Based on this notion, several implications

for IS design are discussed.

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Once a technology has been designed, the process o f technology adaptation becomes

important. Chapter VII o f this dissertation explores this process from the perspective o f DIT.

Reviewing extant literature on technology adaptation suggests that existing models have been

developed and adapted to traditional, small-scale information systems and communication

technologies. However, recent studies o f large-scale IS seem to suggest that extant models are

not adequate to the task o f explaining technology adaptation in the case o f large-scale IS. DIT

views the process o f technology adaptation in the case o f large-scale IS as a process of

institutionalization that is somewhat problematic, nondeterministic and dynamic, unlike what

most o f the extant models o f technology adaptation seem to suggest. In Chapter VII a three

phase model o f the institutionalization of IS is advanced that attempts to address key issues in

the implementation and use o f large-scale IS.

In summary, four important research questions for the IS field are investigated in

chapters IV through VII through developing DIT for each question. DIT introduced in chapter

4 offers a new way o f viewing information systems as social institutions and opens a door to

investigate several other areas o f IS research. Succeeding what is established in chapter IV,

chapters V through VII attempt to further explore three specific areas o f IS research: IS and

organization, IS design and technology adaptation. The results of chapters V through VII are

DIT for each o f the three areas. They not only demonstrate the usefulness of DIT for the

reconceptualization o f IS, but also strengthen DIT and illustrate the potential of the theory for

other areas o f IS research in future. As a result, DIT developed in chapters IV through VII

provides a meta-theoretical framework that can provide adequate levels of explanations for

several emerging issues with IS and large-scale IS in particular.

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1.4 Expected Contributions

Through addressing the four specific areas in IS research, this dissertation attempts to

make three types o f contributions. First, the dissertation attempts to add to our knowledge of

large-scale information systems like Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (ERP), Knowledge

Management Systems (KMS), and extant legacy systems through providing critiques on extant

approaches and understandings o f such systems. Second, the dissertation attempts to contribute

to theory-building within the IS field through developing a meta-theoretical framework which

considers both local, contingent aspects of sociotechnical change and the broader social

structures at the same time. Finally, the dissertation attempts to contribute to the tenets of

institutional theory by developing a dynamic institutional theory, DIT that adds to our

knowledge o f social institutions and the process o f institutionalization.

1.5 Dissertation Organization

The remainder o f this dissertation is organized in the following manner. Figure 2

graphically illustrates the organization o f this dissertation.

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Extant theory
(The structurational &
Socio-technical model
- Ch II & III A new theory development
(Dynamic Institutional
Theory -Ch IV, V, VI & VII)

Emergent data
(Case study - Ch IX)

Figure 2. Overview of Dissertation

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II

Chapter II provides a background and overview of large-scale information systems and

existing views o f information systems by reviewing extant literatures. Also the implications o f

existing views for the design, implementation and use o f information systems are briefly

discussed. Chapter III introduces the theoretical basis o f this dissertation, which includes two

social theories - Giddens’ theory of structuration and actor network theory - followed by an

overview o f institutional theory in diverse academic disciplines and the application of such

theory in IS field.

The next four chapters discuss institutional perspectives on the design, implementation

and use of large-scale information systems. Specifically, Chapter IV provides a new way of

conceptualizing information systems as social institutions. Chapter V proposes a dynamic

model to understand the interplay between organizations and information technology. Chapter

VI stresses the significant roles o f existing information systems as both enabler and constraint

in the development o f a new information system and several implications are discussed.

Chapter VII proposes a dynamic institutional model for understanding technology adaptation

by viewing the process o f IT adaptation as a dynamic institutional process. The following two

chapters report a case study that was utilized to refine and further develop the theory. Chapter

VIII presents the research methodology and case design and Chapter IX offers the overview of

case study and the case analysis. Finally Chapter X summarizes the results and discusses

several topics for future research.

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CHAPTER II

OVERVIEW OF LARGE-SCALE INFORMATION SYSTEMS

2.1 Introduction

The purpose o f this chapter is threefold. First, it reviews the literature on large-scale

information systems. This review demonstrates the differences between large-scale IS and

traditional, small-scale IS and communication technologies with respect to complexity,

institutional arrangements, cost and consequences. Second, it explores some existing ways of

conceptualizing information systems in order to see their suitability for the conceptualization of

large-scale information systems. This second section points out the limitations with popular

ways o f conceptualizing information systems primarily in terms of technology only and

suggests the need o f a more broad view for large-scale information systems. The final section

identifies two potential models for the need, which have their theoretical basis in two powerful

social theories, Giddens’ theory o f structuration (1979, 1984) and actor network theory (Latour

1987; Akrich 1992; Akrich and Latour 1992; Callon 1991) and furthermore the limitations with

the two models to study the design, implementation, and use o f large-scale information systems

are discussed as well. As a result, chapter II leads to the need of developing a new theoretical

framework for studying large-scale information systems that is further elaborated in the

following chapter.

2.2 Overview of Large-Scale Information Systems

Despite the popularity and the interest surrounding large-scale IS in industry, there

remain many questions regarding what they are, how they can be implemented and managed,

and how they come to be used. Considering the size and the impacts o f these systems on

individuals, organizations and society (Perrow 1999, Churchman 1982), it is imperative to

establish a theoretical framework to understand several new aspects o f large-scale IS.

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In the literature large-scale IS are variously referred to as enterprise systems

(Davenport 1998), global IT infrastructure or information technology (Ives and Jarvenpaa

1991; Ives, Jarvenpaa and Mason 1993), horizontal information systems (Braa and Rolland

2000), and infrastructure (e.g., Star and Ruhleder 1996; Hanseth and Monteiro 1997). Among

IS researchers there is general acceptance that large-scale IS differ from traditional or

standalone IS with respect to its complexity, size, design, cost, purpose, etc (e.g.. Star and

Ruhleder 1996; Hanseth and Monteiro 1997; Markus 2000).

Markus (2000) claims that large-scale IS such as ERP systems are like an

“infrastructure” which is analogous to a city's roads and bridges. Similarly, Rolland (2000)

contends that large-scale IS deployed in an organizational setting should be characterized as

"infrastructures” rather than “tools”, because their deployment is often constrained by an

installed base. According to Star and Ruhleder (1996) infrastructure or a large-scale IS is

“sunk” into, inside of, other structures, social arrangements and technologies and does not

grow de novo. Enterprise systems often become hard to modify due to their complexity and

size (Davenport 1998). Horizontal ISs are different from traditional IS in how they handle

typical support for different communities in the organization or between organizations (Braa

and Rolland 2000; Hanseth and Braa 1998).

The design and implementation of large-scale ISs require huge resources and involve

both organizational and technical risk (e.g., Markus 1999; Robey, Ross and Bourdeau 2002).

For example, it is common for organizations to spend over $100 million to implement an ERP

system and the implementation costs are considerably higher for large-scale IS like ERP than

for traditional IS (e.g.. Glass, 1998; Robey et al., 2002). Further, large-scale IS imply that work

practices as well as different technologies become increasingly interconnected and integrated,

and accordingly, these systems become more vulnerable to unintended side-effects (Braa and

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Rolland, 2000). Failure in one system often has catastrophic spillover effects (Markus 2000).

Markus (1999) illustrates this point:

The differences in scope and risk between traditional IS (e.g., a small financial
software package) and large-scale IS (e.g., Microsoft Corp’s SAP) are vast. Both
systems turn out to be challenging for both technical and organizational reasons. While
the risks associated with traditional IS are relatively minor, the implementation of
large-scale IS involves massive business and organizational risks. Today’s information
systems are often integrated much more tightly with many other systems, increasing
the chances that failure in one system will have catastrophic spillover effects. For
example, Microsoft’s SAP project involved not only enterprise software, but also
internetworking technology, data warehousing, and end-user computing tools

In a recent study, Star and Ruhleder (1996) view large-scale information systems as

information infrastructure by putting emphasis on the social relations constituting

infrastructures. They characterize information infrastructure in terms of several dimensions

(Table 1).

Table 1. Key Characteristics o f Large-Scale IS (Adapted from Star and Ruhler 1996)______
• Embdeddedness. Infrastructure is “sunk” into, inside of, other structures, social
arrangements and technologies.
• Built on an installed base. Infrastructure does not grow de novo; it wrestles with the
“inertia o f the installed base" and inherits strengths and limitations from that base.
Optical fibers run along old railroad lines; new systems are designed for backward
compatibility; and failing to account for these constraints may be fatal or distorting
to new development processes.
• Is fixed in modular increments, not all at once or globally. Because infrastructure is
big, layered, and complex, and because it means different things locally, it is never
changed from above. Changes take time and negotiation, and adjustment with other
______ aspects o f the systems involved.____________________________________________

These complicated, interconnected information systems “tend to grow gradually, accreting

layers of code on top of old code and new modules designed to enhance performance and fix

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problems ... are tightly coupled and subject to nonlinear interactions mediated by commonly

used modules or functions” (Poole 1999).

The purpose for implementing large-scale information systems differs from that of

small scale or standalone IS. For example, ERP represents a class o f software that integrates an

organization’s diverse business (unctions into one system using a single, centralized database

(Hirt and Swanson 1999). While small scale ISs are designed to support individual groups or

functions and traditional IS like GDSS are for coordination o f relatively small groups of

people, the goals o f large-scale ISs are to acquire real-time data access, seamless organization-

wide integration, efficiency, and control (Hanseth and Braa. 2001; Galliers, Newell, Huang and

Pan 2002), all of which are claimed to offer significant cost savings and productivity for

organizations. The role o f large-scale ISs are to support and enable the coordination of

activities across broad expanses time and space and to support the development and use of

various forms offormalized information (Hanseth and Braa 2000, p. 52). Large-scale IS tend to

be packaged software, and the implementation and maintenance o f these packages differ from

those o f traditional information systems. Implementation o f these systems poses difficult

technological and organizational challenges. A typical ERP, for example, contains 8,000 to

10,000 configuration tables and 800 to 1,000 business processes (Alvarez 2002). Maintaining

ERP is likely to be more complex than that o f traditional systems due to the additional

technical and organizational complexity arising from the enterprise-wide integration and the

new roles now played by vendors and often third parties (Hirt and Swanson 1999).

However, despite the popularity and complexity o f large-scale IS, there is a lack of a

theoretical framework to understand and explain them. In the following section I offer an

overview o f existing ways o f conceptualizing information systems. This overview will be used

as a guide to investigate large-scale information systems.

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2J Existing Dominant Views of Information Systems

In recent years, several views o f information systems which rely on different

philosophical underpinnings of organizations and the world have been introduced. A recent

study by Orlikowski and Iacono (2001) o f the full set o f articles published in Information

Systems Research over the past ten years identified five existing views o f information systems:

the tool view, the proxy view, the computational view, the nominal view, and the ensemble

view. The first four views o f information systems tend to share some commonalities and have

been dominant in the IS field. Below the four views are discussed

The tool view represents the “common, received wisdom about what information

systems are and mean” (p. 123). According to this view, an information system is an

engineered artifact, expected to do what its designers intend it to do. What information systems

are and how they work are seen to be largely technical matters. Such a view conceives o f

information systems independently of the social or organizational arrangements within which

they are developed and used and thus they are presumed stable, definable, unchanging and

easily transferable.

The proxy view focuses on “one or a few key elements in common that are understood

to represent or stand for the essential aspect, property, or value” (p. 124) o f the information

system. Such a view assumes that the critical aspects o f information systems can be captured

through some set o f quantitative measures such as people’s perceptions, diffusion rates, or

dollars spent. Information systems are often treated as either an independent or a dependent

variable.

The computational view has as its main focus the information-processing capabilities

of information systems. Similar to the tool view, information systems are treated as technical

artifacts, not taking into account the social and organizational aspects o f information systems.

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A large number o f studies - 25 percent o f all the articles published in a decade o f Information

Systems Research (ISR) - take the nominal view which does not provide any explicit view of

information systems.

The above four views are dominant in the IS field and account for 88 percent of all the

articles published in ISR. They have in common that they take the technical artifact of

information systems seriously and an information system is treated as either a "software

package” or an “appliance” which can be plugged into any place and any time. These four

views may be labeled as what Kling (1987, 1994) called “discrete-entity” models, focusing on

explicit economic, physical, or information processing features o f information systems. The

social context in which the information system is designed, implemented, and used is largely

ignored in these views. While discrete-entity models offer the advantages of analytic simplicity

o f information systems, they provide little help in explaining many problems organizations

face in the design and implementation of information systems and also fail to explain the

impacts of information systems on individuals, organizations, and society (Kling 1987;

Walsham et al. 1988). From these views information systems are treated as value-neutral,

universal and fixed “black boxes” (Latour 1987).

Discrete-entity models (Table 2), which gain simplicity by ignoring the social context

of information systems (Kling and Scacchi 1982), may be able to explain the development and

use of standalone or traditional information systems. These tend to involve a small number of

key actors (human as well as nonhuman) and to be relatively easy to design and configure

compared to large-scale IS. However, these models offer little help in understanding today’s

large-scale ISs.

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Table 2. Assumptions o f Discrete-entity Models___________________________________

1. A computing resource is best conceptualized as a particular piece o f equipment,


application, or technique which provides specifiable information processing
capabilities.
a. Each computing resource has costs and skill requirements which are largely
identifiable.
b. Computer-based technologies are tools, and socially neutral
2. Role o f infrastructure
a. The infrastructure for supporting the focal computing resource and the
organizational procedures by which it is organized and sustained are critical
elements
b. Each computer-based service is provided through a set o f structured
computing resources and organized infrastructure. Deploying, managing, and
setting procedures for these infrastructural resources is separable from
deployment o f the focal computer-based technology. Infrastructure, either
technical or administrative, is a neutral resource.
c. ‘Human factors’ must be taken into account to ensure that people are well
trained and motivated to do what is required. But, ‘human factors’ are
‘organizational problems' which are separable from ‘technical problems’.
3. Control over infrastructure: Organizations have ample resources to support all of their
computing developments and uses simultaneously. Elements o f infrastructure are
necessary for making the equipment or technique available to developers or users, and
they can be counted on to be o f adequate quality and available as necessary.
4. The focal computing resource and any element o f infrastructure can be analyzed
independent of:
a. Its interactions with other computing resources;
b. The social or organizational arrangements within which computer-based
services are developed and provided (infrastructure and macrostructures).
5. Social action:
a. Organizational behavior is best described by the formal goals, procedures, and
administrative arrangements o f the acting units.
b. The use of a computing resource is best described by its formal purposes and
features.

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Based on this summary of the dominant views o f information systems, it seems clear

that the old but still popular view o f information systems primarily in terms o f technology have

several limitations for understanding large-scale information systems, since they lack the

ability to explain organizational, social, and political aspects o f IS. This suggests that we must

understand information systems from a broader perspective.

2.4 The Ensemble View

The ensemble view understands information systems within their social and

organizational contexts and focuses on dynamic interactions between action and technology. A

number o f researchers (e.g., Kling and Scacchi 1982; Hirschheim 1985; Walsham, Symon and

Waema 1988; Newman and Robey 1992; Davis, Lee, Nickles, Chatteijee, Hartung and Wu

1992; Hirschheim and Klein 1994: Myers 1994; Hirschheim, Klein and Lyytinen 1996; Lee

1999) have taken this view by conceptualizing an information system as a social system

(Hirschheim 1985; Walsham et al. 1988), an instantiation o f information technology (Lee

1999), and a “web o f computing” (Kling and Scacchi 1992). From the ensemble view

information systems development (ISD), equally, is a social process (Hirschheim 1985;

Walsham et al. 1988; Hirschheim et al. 1991; Robey and Newman 1996) which “consists of

coordinated sequences o f human actions” (Hirschheim, Klein and Lyytinen. 1991, p. 589) and

involves the use of information technology as part o f that process (Walsham et al. 1988, p.

191).

Hirschheim (1985) considers that “information systems are not technical systems

which have behavioral and social consequences, but are social systems which rely to an

increasing extent on information technology for their function.” Lee (1999) notes that “an

information system is an instantiation of information technology, where the same information

technology can be instantiated in different ways ... There are the rich organizational and

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political processes whereby a given set o f information technology is instantiated and there are

the rich organizational and political processes pertaining to the continual managing,

maintaining, and changing o f the information technology so as to sustain the instantiation" (p.

7). As social systems or instantiations o f information technology, an analysis which treats them

as distinct from their infrastructure and context loses correspondingly in richness of

understanding (Walsham et al. 1988).

Within this view, there are two streams o f research in the IS field: one focuses on how

new information systems come to be and the other how new information systems come to be

used. The first stream of research focuses primarily on the ways in which information systems

come to be developed (with secondary emphasis on use) and the other on how information

systems come to be used in certain ways (with secondary emphasis on development)

(Orlikowski and lacono 2001). We label these two streams of research as the socio-technical

approach and the structurational model o f information systems respectively. While their

primary emphases are different, both the socio-technical approach (e.g., Latour, 1987, Akrich,

1992; Walsham and Sahay, 1999) and the structurational model (e.g., Barley 1986; Orlikowski

1992, 1996; DeSanctis and Poole 1994; Majchrzak et al. 2000) seem to share the following

premises regarding information systems which are offered by Orlikowski and lacono (2001).

1. “Information systems, by definition, are not natural, neutral, universal, or given. They

are shaped by the interests, values, and assumptions of a wide variety o f communities

of developers, investors, and users. This requires a shift o f attention from taking

information systemsfor granted towards explicit theorizing about specific information

systems with distinctive cultural and computational capabilities, existing in various

social, historical, and institutional contexts, understood in particular ways, and used for

certain activities

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2. Information systems are always embedded in some time, place, discourse, and

community. Their materiality is bound up with the historical and cultural aspects of

their ongoing development and use, and these conditions, both material and cultural,

cannot be ignored, abstracted, or assumed ways. This requires that the detailed

practices o f their use be recognized and integrated into extant theories

3. Information systems are usually made up o f a multiplicity of often fragile and

fragmentary components, whose interconnections are often partial and provisional and

which require bridging, integration, and articulation in order for them to work together.

- This requires IS researchers to conceptualize and explain information systems as

multiple, fragmented, partial, and provisional

4. Information systems are neither fixed nor independent, but they emerge from ongoing

social and economic practices. As human interventions, artifacts undergo various

transitions over time (from idea to development to use to modification), while co­

existing and co-evolving with multiple generations o f the same or new technologies at

various points in time.

5. Information systems are not static or unchanging, but dynamic. Even after a

technological artifact appears to be fixed and complete, its stability is conditional

because new materials are invented, different features are developed, existing functions

fail and are corrected, new standards are set, and users adapt information systems for

new and different uses. - This requires IS researchers to understand the emergence and

evolution of information systems as complex and changing sociotechnical processes

existing in time and over time” (p. 131).

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These two streams o f research within the ensemble view o f information systems have

in common that they are related with what Kling (1994) describes as the genre o f “social

theory.” Kling examined five genres about computerization: technological utopianism,

technological antiutopianism, social realism, and social theory, and analytical reduction.

Researchers in the “social theory” genre develop or test concepts and theories that transcend

specific situations. For example, researchers in the socio-technical approach seem to heavily

rely on Latour’s (1987) actor network theory that is bom out o f the interdisciplinary field o f

science and technology studies (STS) (e.g., Bijker. Hughes and Pinch 1987: Bijker and Law

1992; Akrich 1992: Akrich and Latour 1992). On the other hand, the structurational model

relies on Anthony Giddens’s structuration theory (1979, 1984).

2.4.1 The Structurational Model and IS Research

Giddens' structuration theory may be seen as an attempt to resolve a fundamental

division within the social sciences between those who consider social phenomena as products

o f human action in the subjective side (e.g., hermeneutics, phenomenology), and others who

see them as caused by the influence o f objective social structures (e.g., structuralists). The

theory seeks to show how the knowledge agent's action discursively and recursively forms the

sets o f rules and routines which constitutes his or her conception o f structure or institution.

Thus, the main principles o f the theory set out: social practice constituted by the recursive

interaction o f structure and agency replicating and changing over time and space. People

through their actions reproduce and create structures that shape them. Structuration theory

emphasizes that social structures do not exist independently of human action.

Giddens identifies three dimensions o f structure (for the purpose o f analysis), which

are described as signification, domination, and legitimation (Figure 3). Structure of

signification refers to rules o f what make up meaning, domination asymmetries o f resources

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people draw on to exercise power and legitimation norms and rules people draw on in

justifying their and other people's action. These are seen as interacting through modalities o f

interpretative scheme, facility, and norm respectively. Interpretative schemes are “the modes of

typification incorporated within actors’ stocks o f knowledge, applied reflexively in the

sustaining o f communication” (p. 29). The facility represents resources and is enacted as power

in interaction. The facility produces and reproduces social structures o f domination. Norms

communicate a set o f values and ideals about what is approved and what is disapproved. They

produce and reproduce structures o f legitimation.

Structure , Signification < t D omination <............................J Legitimation

Interpretative
(Modality Facility Norm
Schem e

Interaction Communication i Pow er Sanction

Figure 3. Giddens’s Duality o f Structure (1984)

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Even though Giddens's structuration theory does not explicitly discuss information

technology, many IS researchers (e.g.. Orlikowski and Robey 1991; Orlikowski 1992;

Walsham 1993; DeSanctis and Poole 1994) have made reference to structuration in their work

(Jones 1997). Barley (1986), from a structurational perspective, describes how the same

technology led to quite different social organizations in the two nominally similar

environments. Barley (1990) extended his earlier study to examines how technologies change

organizational and occupational structures by transforming patterns o f action and interaction

and argued that a technology’s material attributes have an immediate impact on social

organizations (roles and social networks) which mediate a technology’s structural effects.

Orlikowski (1992) proposes a structural model o f technology, built on structuration theory,

which attempts to overcome both technological determinism and social determinism. From this

model, technology is interpretively flexible so that technology creates and change and also is

created and changed by human action. Her case study (1992) provides an excellent glimpse

into the history o f the use o f CASE tools in a software consulting organization and illustrates

how the information system is constructed and reshaped by human agents in use. In this vein,

DeSanctis and Poole (1994) develop adaptive structuration theory, which explains the process

by which information systems (e.g., group decision support systems) are adapted as consisting

structures, appropriations, and decision outcomes. Orlikowski (2000) propose another

structurational perspective on examining how people enact structures that shape their emergent

and situated use of that technology. In addition to these studies from the structurational model

other researchers (Tyre and Orlikowski 1994; Karsten 1995; Montealegre 1997; Rice and

Gattiker 1999) have investigated the implementation and use o f information systems. In

common they are interested in how technologies are structured by users and other human

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agents in the context o f use - on the way in which information systems come to be used in

certain ways (with secondary emphasis on development).

2.4.2 The Socio-Technical Approach

The most popular theory adopted by IS researchers in the socio-technical approach is

actor network they (ANT). The theory sees the world full o f hybrid entities containing both

human beings and nonhuman actors such as technological artifacts. ANT has the important

assumption of “general symmetry” between the technical and social ones. Agency in actor

network theory is not confined to just humans but to artifacts with human purposes built in.

Thus, the theory offers the notion o f heterogeneity to describe a collection o f different human

and non-human entities.

There are several key concepts in ANT. First the notion o f inscription (Akrich 1992;

Akrich and Latour 1992) refers to the way technical artifacts embody certain patterns o f use.

Akrich (1992) explains the notion o f inscription in the following way:

Designers thus define actors with specific tastes, competences, motives, aspirations,
political prejudices, and the rest, and they assume that morality, technology, science,
and economy will evolve in particular ways. A large part of the work o f innovators is
that of “inscribing" this version o f (or prediction about) the world in the technical
content o f the new object (p. 208).

However, the inscribed patterns of use do not always succeed because of de-scription which

reinvents and reshapes technical artifacts in use (Akrich 1992). The notion o f translation

(Callon 1986. 1991) refers to the creation o f an actor network. This process consists o f three

major stages: problematization, interessement, and enrolment. From ANT, technology design is

translation which creates technical artifacts that would ensure the protection o f certain interests

(Latour 1992). Cation's (1991) notion of irreversibilization refers to the degree of

irreversibility of a translation which depends on two things:

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1. The extent to which it is subsequently impossible to go back to a point where that

translation was only one amongst others; and

2. The extent to which it shapes and determines subsequent translations.

In contrast to many social theories, actor-network theory is both a theory and

methodology combined. Thus, it not only provides theoretical concepts as ways o f viewing

elements in the real world, it also suggests that it is exactly these elements, which need to be

traced in empirical work (Walsham 1997).

Actor network theory has been adopted by many IS researchers to explain how

information systems come to be (with secondary emphasis on their use). The reason for this is

that the theory is somewhat similar to the alignment approach: while the latter focuses upon the

results o f alignments between social and technical aspects, the actor network approach focuses

on the practical constructions of these alignments (Grint and Woolgar 1997). The theory takes

the work o f classification and standardization very seriously (Bowker and Star 1996).

Therefore, studies in IS field use the theory to explain the process o f constructing

technology standards, the diffusion o f different technologies, and the formation of information

systems. For example, Hanseth and Monteiro (1997), using ANT, examined the processes of

the standards are being developed and the way these standards “inscribe” behavior. Also

Bloomfield, Coombs, Cooper and Rea (1992) and Bloomfield (1995) take ANT approach to

explain how a hospital information system in the UK comes to be created. Monteiro (2000)

extends the ANT analysis o f the complex negotiation processes (translation, inscription, and

irreversibility) that surround the development o f a corporate infrastructure. From the ANT

perspective, information systems are seen as “heterogeneous combinations o f artifacts (the

hardware and software), inscriptions (including representations o f organizational phenomena).

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and expectations about groups o f users—all o f these being political in nature" (Bloomfield et

al. 1997, p. 116).

In what follows Chapter III discusses a number of limitations with these social models

of IS for understanding the design, implementation, and use o f large-scale information systems

simultaneously. A new theoretical basis drawn upon the tenets of institutional theory is

proposed as a way forward by preserving those insights gained from the two social models.

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CHAPTER HI

DYNAMIC INSTITUTIONAL THEORY AS A WAY FORWARD

3.1 Critique of the Socio-Technical Approach and the Structurational Model

Both the structurational model and the socio-technical approaches have greatly

enriched our understanding o f information systems. However, several IS researchers have

suggested that each o f the models alone may not be able to adequately explain both how

information systems come to be and how they come to used. Thus some suggest combining the

two approaches for IS research (See Monteiro and Hanseth 1995; Monteiro 2000; Walsham

1997). To understand the grounds for this argument, we must first consider criticisms that

have been registered against the two- approaches. The general criticisms that have been

advanced against the structuration model can be summarized as follows: First, some critics

charge that structuration theory accords too much leeway to action and does not take constraint

and channeling into account (Archer 1995; Clegg 1989, p. 138-148). This criticism has also

been advanced by researchers in the socio-technical approach, more specifically those adopting

ANT. For example, Monteiro and Hanseth (1995) argue that the structurational model takes a

subjectivist stance, as though it assumed that an IS can be interpreted and appropriated

relatively freely; this neglects the constraining effects the IS have on the social process of

interpretation and use. Therefore the structurational model suggests that IT enables/constrains

action but it is ambiguous on how and where IT restricts and enables action.

Secondly, there are few tools for considering broader environment or institutions in

structuration theory. In this line, Walsham (1997) noted that:

Giddens's work, from the perspectives o f an IS researcher, is that it offers little in the
way o f methodological guidelines (p. 473 ).3

3 In fact, this is equally true o f the study o f action.

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This makes it difficult for IS researchers to answer some important questions such as why one

system is successful while another is not.

Thirdly. Giddens himself has written very little that could be seen as directly

discussing IT (Jones 1999), and thus the material world o f technology is not treated in any

depth (Walsham 1997). With few exceptions (e.g., DeSanctis and Poole 1994), most

structurational accounts fail to pay due attention to the specifics o f IT and are lacking in

describing, with a satisfactory level o f precision, how specific elements and functions o f an IS

relate to organizational changes (Monteiro and Hanseth 1995; Monteiro 2000). This may be the

reason the structurational model focuses primarily on how information systems come to be

used while it largely ignores how they come to he developed.

The socio-technical approach has also been criticized on several grounds.. A major

strand of criticism o f ANT is that it addresses the local and contingent, but that it pays little

attention to broader social structures which influence the local (Walsham 1997). ANT cannot

properly deal how institutions shape actions at the same time as the very same actions shape

the institutions (Monteiro and Hanseth, 1995). We believe that this makes it difficult for ANT

to explain “technology or information infrastructure in use” and also how pre-existing

institutions constrain the construction o f a new technology or actor network (Kleinman 1998).

On the other hand, ANT is excellent for explaining how and why the information system

comes to he developed - the construction of the alignments. Also it has been argued that the

ANT approach seems to overlook the possibility that the benefits o f relations in the network

may be asymmetrical. In the ANT approach, “translation implies a kind of ultimate

compatibility of interests in which benefits of alliance are mutual ...[and] ignores the

possibility that enrolled actors may benefit less than the enrollers" (Kleinman 1998, p. 289).

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Monteiro and Hanseth (1995) believe that in order to explain the constitution and

structuration o f information technology in an organization, both structuration and ANT theories

need to be complementary each other. Similarly, Walsham (1997) suggests that “one approach

for IS researchers is to combine the methodological approach and conceptual ideas o f actor-

network theory with insights and analyses drawn from theories o f social structure” (p. 473).

They suggest that a combination o f the work in the structurational model with the methodology

and concepts o f ANT would offer more than either one even though there is no clear guideline

for doing that. One effort (Jones 1999) proposes the “double mangle” model as a way of

combining insights from the two influential theoretical approaches in the IS field.

While we agree with these authors’ suggestions that the two approaches could be

complementary and also believe that a combination o f the two may offer more than either

alone, present analyses give few clear guidelines for merging the perspectives which may

embody conflicting epistemologies (Jones 1997; Rose and Truex 2000). We believe that an

adequate approach requires more than the simple combination o f two somewhat disparate

views, because they are both lacking in one key respect. Since both structuration theory (and

the structurational model) and ANT (and the socio-technical model) are weak in terms of the

role of institutions an integrative approach should incorporate tenets o f institutional theory as

well.

3.2 Overview of Institutional Theory

Institutional theory is one o f the more robust sociological perspectives within

organizational theory (Perrow 1986). Institutional theory goes back to an older tradition of

political economy associated with Thorstein Veblen and John Commons and to the efforts of

sociologists like Emile Durkheim and Mention Selznick (DiMaggio and Powell 1991). The

theory had a revival in organizational studies during the mid-1970s (Meyer and Rowan 1977)

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and has enjoyed a good deal o f popularity within sociology (e.g.. DiMaggio and Powell 1983;

Zucker 1988; Powell and DiMaggio 1991) and political science (e.g., March and Olsen 1984;

Goodin 1996) over the past two decades (Scott 1995a). There are “institutional turns" in

different academic areas (Jessop, 2001).

Institutional theory is a very diverse school o f thought across several disciplines. Each

academic discipline focuses on different institutions (Goodin 1996) such as political,

economical, and regulative institutions, and adopts somewhat different approaches as a result.

In his earlier review article, Scott (1987) suggested that institutional theory was at the stage of

adolescence because there was a lack o f consensus on key concepts and substantial variation

among approaches. In their review o f the state o f institutional theory, DiMaggio and Powell

(1991, p. 13) distinguished between the old and the new institutionalism. In the old

institutionalism, issues o f influence, coalitions, and competing values were central, along with

power and informal structures (Selznick, 1957). This focus contrasts with the new

institutionalism with its emphasis on legitimacy, the embeddedness o f organizational fields,

and the centrality o f classifications, routines, scripts, and schema (DiMaggio and Powell 1983;

Meyer and Rowan 1977).

Hall and Taylor (1996) provide a typology o f three new institutionalisms in political

science: historical institutionalism, rational choice institutionalism, and sociological

institutionalism. Peter’s (1998) book distinguishes among seven different approaches to

institutions in political science - normative, rational choice, historical, empirical, international,

sociological, and mediational institutionalism -. DiMaggio (1998) distinguishes three new

institutionalisms: rational-action, social-constructivist, and mediated-conflict

neoinstitutionalism.

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Revising his opinion from 1987 Scott (1995, 2001) noted that institutional theory had

made considerable progress and the areas in which there was agreement among different

approaches were growing. He provides the most comprehensive review o f institutional theory

in diverse academic disciplines through discussing what he called “three pillars” o f institutional

theory - its cognitive, normative, and regulative aspects. Scott (1995a) argues that there are

three dimensions to all institutions: regulative (legally sanctioned, coercive), normative

(morally right and governed), and cognitive (culturally supported belief systems, mimetic) and

that “institutions consist of cognitive, normative, and regulative structures and activities that

provide stability and meaning to social behavior” (p. 33). These distinctions parallel Giddens’s

(1984) three modalities of structuration.

It should be noted that institutional themes in a variety o f disciplinary contexts are

essentially and importantly complementary (Goodin 1996). For example, Hirsch and

Lounsbury (1997) advocate a reconciliation between these theoretical currents that would

provide a more balanced approach to the interplay between institution and human action. The

three pillars in institutional theory are not independent but interdependent and can contribute to

a powerful social framework (Scott 1994; Hoffman 1999; Hirsch 1997). In this line, Powell

(1998) noted.

Each o f the neoinstitutionalisms has its place, and there are some analytic tasks for
which each is self-sufficiently well-suited. The most productive forms of cross-
pollination, I suspect, are those that flow from common attempts to address significant
problems of explanation that prove intractable from any single perspective (p. 703).

This dissertation adopts these authors' suggestion when developing a meta-framework for IS

research through reviewing various approaches in diverse disciplinary contexts rather than

taking an approach from one particular discipline.

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In order to integrate different views o f institutions, we will take a dynamic view of

institution and institutionalization. But, first we need to consider prevailing understandings of

institutions and institutionalization. One notable tendency in the literature is to see institutions

in terms o f stability and inertia as central defining characteristics. For example, consider the

following definitions and statements:

• Institutions are social structures that have attained a high degree o f resilence ...
provide stability and meaning to social life ... by definition connote stability (Scott
2001)

• Institutions are humanly devised constraints that structure political, economic and
social interaction (North 1990, p. 97)

• Institutions represent a social order or pattern that has attained a certain state and
property (Jepperson 1991, p. 145)

• Institutionalization (Institutions) constrains in two ways: by bringing it within a


normative order, and by making it hostage to its own history (Selznick 1992, p. 232)

• Institutions are formal constraints, such as patent laws, formal criteria for allocating
resources to science, peer review procedures, technical standards and norms, etc. and
informal constraints, such as norms of behavior, conventions, codes o f conduct, etc
(Galli and Teubal 1997, p. 345-346)

• Institutions tend to be transmitted across generations, to be maintained and reproduced


(Zucker 1977)

• Institutions by definition are the more enduring features o f social life ... giving
‘solidity’ across time and space (Giddens 1984, p. 24)

In these statements the concept o f institution connotes stability and persistence (Scott

1995). Institutional theorists stress the stability of organizational arrangements and the

characteristics o f inertia rather than change (Tolbert 1985; Tolbert and Zucker 1983).

Jepperson (1991) insisted that the hallmark o f an institution is its capacity for automatic

maintenance, for self-restoration. This stability of an institution will increase with its

connectedness to other institutions (Zucker 1988). This stability or inertia tends to increase

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over time, what is called ‘institutionalization’ (Tolbert and Zucker 1996). Thus, existing

institutions are seen to constrain the range of institutional alternatives from which actors

choose thereby limiting the extent to which new institutions differ from old ones and mitigating

against more radical and abrupt institutional change. This prevalent view ignores the fact that

institutions are changing and also socially constructed entities (Scott 2001). Structuration

theory, for example, argues that institutions exist due to their production and reproduction in

day to day activity (Giddens 1984; Barley and Tolbert 1997). There is a need to recognize the

potential for change in this social construction (Scott 2001). Therefore, this dissertation

proposes dynamic institutional theory (DIT) as a meta-framework to understand information

systems as social institutions, which can keep the insights gained from the two social models

presented and further provide new insights to large-scale IS. In developing DIT, this

dissertation will focus on several dualities-as duality within institution (e.g., Sewell 1992;

Dryzek 1996; Offe 1996; North 1990), duality o f schemas and resources (Sewell 1992; Jessop

2001; Sabel and Zeitlin 1997; Emirbayer and Mische 1998), duality o f institutions (Mouzelis

1995; Jessop 2001), and duality o f preexisting institutions (Archer 1995; Barley and Tolbert

1997)-as key nexuses o f social organization that shape the creation and implementation of IT.

In addition it will consider the nature o f agency within institutions and the variety o f ways in

which institutions constrain and enable action as regulative, normative and cognitive regimes.

The object is to develop a framework for understanding large-scale IT that addresses each of

the four goals introduced on Ch 1. The best way to lay a foundation for these developments is

to present an overview o f IS research having adopted institutional theory is presented.

3.3 IS Research and Institution Theory

Institutional theory is relatively new in information systems research. In the 1980’s

there were only few studies focusing on the development, use, and management o f information

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systems from an institutional perspective. Kling (1980) criticized a rationalistic approach to

information systems and instead advocated a different approach what he called “segmented-

institutionalist analyses” to understand information systems in the workplace. Laudon (1985)

proposed an institutional model of system development. Through empirical study of a national

computerized criminal history system he suggested that institutional factors play important

roles in the adoption, utilization, and management o f computer systems.

Recently, a number o f studies have adopted an institutional lens to explain technology

innovation, system development, interorganizational information systems (IOS)

implementation, IT diffusion, use, and other IT-related phenomena. With respect to the

diffusion and use of IT, King, Gurbazani, Kraemer, McFarlan, Raman, and Yap '1994) work

has been influential. Considering the role o f institutions as an essential component in any

theory o f technology innovation, they suggested the importance o f the institutional shift for

understanding the evolution o f information technology in production and in use. Several other

studies (e.g., Dholakia et al. 1992; Kling 1996) have adopted an institutional analysis of the

diffusion of information technologies, examining the role of culture and social/political

institutions in shaping the diffusion and use o f information technologies.

In the area o f IT innovation, Swanson and Ramiller (1997) introduce the concept of

“organizing vision" of IT innovation that is central to decisions and actions affecting IT

development and diffusion. The authors note that organizing vision represents the product of

the efforts of the members o f an interorganizational community, comprised o f a heterogeneous

network o f parties with a variety o f material interests in an IS innovation and its development

and influence is determined by various institutional forces. Recently the concept of “organizing

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vision” has been applied to study IS innovation and diffusion by their colleagues and students

(e.g.. Firth 2001: Wang 2001). In a similar context, a growing number o f studies examine the

implementation process o f large-scale IS from an institutional perspective and show that

implementation cannot be viewed solely in instrumental terms. Alvarez (2002) investigates the

implementation o f an ERP system as a social process o f “mythmaking” (Tolbert 1988) in

institutional contexts.

Avgerou (2000) argues that IT innovation cannot be adequately explained as an

enabler o f organizational objectives (Hammer and Champy 1993) or as a contributor to situated

processes o f organizational change (Ciborra 1991, 1996). Instead, using institutional theory,

the author suggests that IT innovation is itself “a process combining technical-rational and

social forces, neither driving, nor subsumed in the forces of organization change, but

interacting with them” (p. 234).

Within the context o f system development, Nicolaoou (1999) adopts institutional

theory and uses the three mechanisms of institutional isomorphism (coercive, mimetic, and

normative) (DiMaggio and Powell, 1991) to examine the symbolic role o f social institutions in

exerting control over information system development decisions. The study demonstrates that

these institutional forces have a strong influence in the case o f system development decisions.

Christiaanse and Huigen (1997) analyzed the implementation o f inter-organizational systems

(IOS) by viewing it as a social and political process in which institutional factors can play an

important role. Taking an institutional perspective, Damsgaard and Lyytinen (1998, 2001) also

studied the creation o f electronic trading infrastructures. Purvis et al. (2001) examined the role

o f institutional forces in the assimilation o f information systems. They concluded that

organizational transformation using new information technology involves a dynamic interplay

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amongst workers, work processes, work structures, tasks, and technologies—an interplay

embedded within multiple institutional contexts.

Most recently, Orlikowski and Barley (2001) note that the:

IS field’s practical interest in the development, use, and management o f information


systems may have diverted analysts to lower levels o f analysis and, hence, away from
studying how regulative processes, normative systems, and cultural frameworks shape
the design and use o f technical systems (p. 19).

They ask the IS community to pursue further study o f the design, use, and consequences of

technologies using institutional theory.

This dissertation is one response to their call, developing Dynamic Institutional Theory

as a framework for understanding large-scale information technologies. In the following four

chapters the four research objectives are presented sequentially and DIT for the four specific

areas of IS research is developed and presented with the relevant concepts. As a result of doing

this, the outcome is the development of a meta-theoretical framework to study the design.

implementation and use o f large-scale information systems.

Specifically, Chapter IV develops DIT for the reconceptualization o f information

systems as social institutions, offers a method to explain general IS phenomenon and finally

becomes the basis to study more specific topics o f IS research in the next three chapters. Based

on what is already established in Chapter IV, Chapter V investigates the relationship between

information systems and organization, Chpter VI IS design and the role o f preexisting

information on the development o f new ones, and chapter VII technology adaptation in the

case of large-scale IS. This was graphically illustrated in Figure 1 in Chapter I.

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CHAPTER IV

RECONCEPTUALIZING INFORMATION SYSTEMS AS SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS

The goal o f Chapter IV is to discuss the limitations of existing views o f information

systems in IS literature for understanding large-scale IS and to propose an alternative way of

conceptualizing large-scale IS as social institutions. Since the extant views of information

systems have been introduced in Chapter II, in this chapter only a short overview of each

perspective is provided, and the focus is on their limitations for understanding large-scale IS.

Following this we propose a new conceptualization and discuss several implications for IS

research.

4.1 Prior Understandings of Information Systems

4.1.1 Discrete-entity Models

As described by Orlikowski and lacono (2001), the dominant views in IS literature -

the tool view, the proxy view, the computational view, and the nominal view - belong to what

Kling (1987) labeled “discrete-entity" models. These view the essence of information systems

to be technologies, even while focusing on explicit economic, physical, or information

processing features o f the technologies. These positions treat information technology as

separable from social and organizational contexts and thus as fixed, independent, natural,

neutral, universal, and static. This is a narrow, rationalistic view o f information systems (e.g.,

Hirschheim 1986; Lyytinen 1987). Despite their advantages o f analytic simplicity, these

positions fall short o f providing adequate explanations for many problems in the design,

implementation, and use o f large-scale IS (e.g., Walsham et al. 1988; Kling 1987; Orlikowski

and lacono 2001). Particularly, these models are not able to provide adequate explanations for

important issues and problems in the deployment o f large-scale IS that have been found and

discussed in empirical studies, including irreversibility and installed base (e.g., Rolland 2000;

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Davenport 1998; Braa and Rolland, 2000; Markus, 2000; Star and Ruhleder 1996; Hanseth and

Monteiro 1998). This is because, as already noted in chapter II, they focus primarily on

technology that is regarded as independent, value-free, unitary and easy-to-change,

4.1.2 Ensemble Models

Over the years, a number of researchers dissatisfied with the discrete-entity models

have proposed different understandings of information systems, described by Orlikowski and

lacono (2001) as the ensemble view. These alternative views of information systems include

information systems as social systems (e.g.. Land and Hirschheim 1983; Walsham, Symons

and Waema 1988). information infrastructure (e.g.. Star and Ruhleder 1996: Braa 2000:

Hanseth and Monteiro 1998), and information systems as complex social objects (Klmg 1987).

Others use the term information technology rather than information systems and view

technology as embodied structure (Poole and DeSanctis 1990, 1992; DeSanctis and Poole

1994; Orlikowski 1992) and emergent structure (Orlikowski 2000). These ensemble views o f

“IT artifacts” seem to share several premises (Orlikowski and lacono 2001).

• IT artifacts, by definition, are not natural, neutral, universal, or given


• IT artifacts are always embedded in some time, place, discourse, and community
• IT artifacts are usually made up of a multiplicity o f often fragile and fragmentary
components
• IT artifacts are neither fixed nor independent, but they emerge from ongoing social and
economic practices
• IT artifacts are not static or unchanging, but dynamic

One important question is whether these extant ensemble views are suitable for conceptualizing

information systems; particularly large-scale ones, by considering both material and social

elements o f information systems.

4.1.2.1 IS as Social Systems

Land & Hirschheim (1983) define an information system as a social system, which

may or may not use information technology to support its operation. Hirschheim (1985)

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considers that information systems are not technical systems which have behavioral and social

consequences, but are social systems which rely to an increasing extent on information

technology for their function. Similarly, Walsham et al. (1988) argued that computer-based

information systems should be conceptualized as social systems in which technology is only

one of the dimensions.

In contrast to discrete-entity models of information systems, this is a very broad view

o f information systems. This broader perspective on information systems offers opportunities

for a deeper understanding o f their development and use. Researchers within this school tend to

take the power-behavioral perspective that stresses the importance o f the political context of

the organization in influencing decision on computer adoption, the selection of technologies,

the development o f systems and the choice o f systems users (Walsham et al. 1988). Within this

view, as implied by Land and Hirschheim’s definition o f information systems, the

material/physical world (e.g., software, hardware, technological features) of information

systems is pushed into the background. Large-scale information systems such as ERP and

KMS bring with them the necessity to deal with large-scale social and organizational contexts

(e.g., installed bases such as existing culture and social arrangements) and complex, integrated

technologies. It implies that a social systems view is less able to account effectively for

infrastructural characteristics (e.g., embeddedness, installed base) of large-scale IS (Star and

Ruhleder 1996; Rolland 2000; Hanseth 1999). Also this view may suggest that large-scale IS

can be “designed” with purposively and that its design may be “controllable.” However,

empirical research shows that large-scale IS often “drift" (Ciborra and Hanseth 1999) and

appear to have a “life of their own" (Hanseth 1999). Since the work of such theorists

(Hirschheim 1985) this social view has not been further developed or studied by other

researchers and thus it may be less useful to explain emerging issues o f large-scale IS (e.g., IT

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standards. ERP systems. EDIs) than recent empirical studies have found. For the same reason

this social view may be less effective in accounting for large-scale technology in use.

4.1.2.2 Technology as Structure

“Adaptive structuration theory” (Poole and DeSanctis 1990, 1992: DeSanctis and

Poole 1994) focuses on the structures (rules and resources) built into such technologies as

group decision support systems. They argue that the effects of a technology must be

understood through the processes by which systems (such as organizations or groups) are

produced and reproduced through members’ use o f rules and resources o f the technology. This

process is termed structuration (Giddens 1984). They noted, “technology presents an array of

social structures for possible use in interpersonal interaction, including rules and resources. ...

there are structures in technology” (p. 125). However this should not be read too literally. As

embodiment, these structures are potential but only actualized by appropriation; they are what

may be termed as “potential structure”. Thus AST is somewhere in between the material

position and Orlikowski’s (2000) virtual position. DeSanctis and Poole further claim that the

social structures provided by information technology can be described in two ways: the

structural features of the given technology and the spirit of this feature set. In the theory

“structural features are the specific types o f rules and resources” (p. 126) like public display

screens, voting procedures, alternative voting algorithms for making group choices, etc. Then

the theory brings in the notion o f spirit, defined as values and goals underlying a given set of

structural features that the technology aims to promote (such as democratic decision making).

Thus, AST suggests that technology is more than material elements.

By adopting Giddens’s duality o f structure, Orlikowski and Robey (1991) posit a

structurational model of interaction consisting of three elements: institutional properties,

information technology, and human actors. The model recognizes four key influences that

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operate continuously and simultaneously in the interaction between technology and

organization: (1) information technology is the outcome o f human action, being developed and

used by humans: (2) information technology is also the means o f other human action, serving

to facilitate the accomplishment o f computer-mediated work or communication; (3)

information technology is built and used within particular social contexts; and (4) interaction

with information technology influences the social contexts within which it is built and used.

Orlikowski (1992) defined technology as “material artifacts (various configurations of

hardware and software)” which are “interpretively flexible” (Pinch and Bijker 1987),

constrained by the material characteristics of that technology and the institutional contexts and

different levels of knowledge and power affecting actors during the technology’s design and

use.

Later, Orlikowski (2000) changed her early position on technology as material artifacts

with embodied structure (Orlikowski 1992) to one that held that technological artifacts have

particular symbolic and material properties, not structure. This view of technology comes from

her own interpretation o f Giddens’s (1984) understanding o f structure, noted as “structure is a

virtual order o f transformative relations ... structure exists, as time-space presence, only in its

instantiations in such practices and as memory traces orienting the conduct o f knowledgeable

human agents” (p. 17).

Researchers within this structurational circle, adopting Giddens’s structuration theory,

use the term (information) technology rather than information systems and focus on

technology-in-use. Compared to the social systems view these structurational models seem to

suggest a relatively narrow view o f information systems by not distinguishing information

systems from information technology. These studies prefer the term “technology or

information technology” rather than information systems.

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Their interest seems to be not in explaining what an information system is but in

understanding the role o f technology in organizational change and other processes as well, such

as how decisions are made and how work is done. In common, these structurational or

emergent models have been applied to small-scale information systems and coordination

technologies such as GDSS and groupware applications. Many studies (Monteiro and Hanseth

1995; Star and Ruhleder 1996; Hanseth and Monteiro 1997; Markus 2000; Davenport 1998) o f

large-scale IS suggest that they significantly differ from small scale ones and groupware

applications with respect to nature, design, malleability (Orlikowski 2000) as well as several

other dimensions relevant to structurational explanations, such as temporal scope, spatial

distribution, complexity, and anchoring to other structures. It is not certain whether extant

structurational models can be utilized to understand both material and social elements o f large-

scale information systems.

4.1.2.3 Web Models

Kling’s web models see information systems as “complex social objects” constrained

by their context, infrastructure and history (Kling and Scacchi 1982). Within this view,

computerized systems are treated as a form o f social organization with information processing,

social, and institutional properties: they are not only flexible information processing tools.

“Their shape, the way they are used, the leverage they provide, and the interests they serve

depend upon the interplay of stakeholders, resources, and social games within which they are

deployed” (Kling 1987, p. 309). The models focus on information systems in large institutional

contexts and they often do not articulate and explore that action under extensive descriptions of

the organizational constraints computing operates under. Kling and Iacono's later work (1989)

shows that large-scale information systems such as MRP have important institutional

dimensions which limit the abilities o f key actors to transform them rapidly. They can be

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exceptionally difficult to replace. More recent studies (e.g., Rolland 2000; Braa and Rolland

2000; Hanseth and Braa 1998; Star and Ruhleder 1996) o f large-scale IS make a similar point.

Kling and lacono view institutions (information systems) as constraints (Walsham and

Han 1991) while viewing them from a macro-level. However, extant empirical studies,

particularly those employing structurational models of technology, offer duality o f structure:

structures are both constraints and enablers. Also studies o f large-scale IS suggest that the

installed base or ‘the social organization o f computing’ (Kling and lacono 1989) both constrain

and enable for the ways new IS are used (Rolland 2000) and new IS are developed (Star and

Ruhleder 1996). While emphasizing the stability and institutional inflexibility of large-scale IS,

this view cannot explain adequately the dynamics of such systems in practice or micro-level.

Large-scale IS may not be as static but more emergent than this view suggests. Any given IS

has interpretive flexibility (Orlikowski 1992; Weick 2001) and tends to drift when put to use

(Ciborra 2000).

4.1.2.4 IS as Information Infrastructure

Researchers (Hanseth and Monteiro 1997; Monteiro 1999; Hanseth and Braa 1998;

Hanseth, Monteiro and Hatling 1996) within this view argue that “over a long period, the focus

of IS work has changed from the development o f isolated information systems towards the

integration o f large numbers o f systems across organizational and geographical borders,

including the “development” o f the Internet, solutions for electronic commerce, EDI networks,

implementation o f ERP’s in large and distributed organizations, etc” (Hanseth 1999). They

argue that these large systems would better be conceptualized as information infrastructure, not

system (Hanseth 1999). This perspective is drawn from actor network theory (Callon and

Latour 1992: Akrich and Latour 1992; Callon 1991) and other approaches (Bijker et al 1987;

Law 1991; Bijker and Law 1992; Williams and Edge 1996; Hughes 1987) in science and

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technology studies (STS). Using key concepts - an actor network, inscription, translation,

irreversibility, and black-boxing - o f actor network theory-they argue that:

(1) information infrastructure is an actor network which is an evolving shared, open,

and heterogeneous installed base

(2) technology inscribes designers' assumptions and it becomes an actor imposing its

inscribed program of action on its users

(3) design is translation: “Users' and others' interests may, according to typical ideal

models, be translated into specific 'needs’; the specific needs are further translated

into more general and unified needs, so that these needs can be translated into one

and the same solution. When the solution (system) is running, it will be adopted

by the users, who translated the system into the context o f their specific work

tasks and situations” (Monteiro 2000, p. 77)

(4) a key feature of information infrastructure is the difficulty of making changes:

information infrastructure has 'momentum’ (Hughes 1987) and may easily

become 'irreversible’ (Callon 1991) as it grows (Monteiro and Hanseth 1995).

Conceptualizing (large-scale) information systems as information infrastructure is a

significant advance from earlier views o f information systems because this conceptualization is

able to account for extant issues and problems found in empirical research on the development

and implementation of large-scale IS such as standards, ERP (Hanseth and Braa 2000:

Monteiro and Hepso 2000), CRM (Ciborra and Failla 2000), and KMS (Braa and Rolland

2000). However, this position has some limitations that result from its theoretical basis in actor

network theory. First, the theory cannot properly deal with institutions (Kleinman 1998)

because it focuses so strongly on actors' relations and processes of construction o f

technological artifacts: how they shape actions at the same time as the very same actions shape

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the institutions (Monteiro and Hanseth 1995). Second, this view cannot account properly for

the openness o f large-scale IS. The theory suggests that an actor-network (or IS) becomes

irreversible when it grows due to numbers o f and relations between the actors, organizations

and institutions involved (Callon 1993; Monteiro 2001; Hanseth and Monteiro 1998).

However, we have seen that existing technologies or IT standards are often changing and new

ones are developed (e.g.. Hard and Jamison 1997; Hanseth, Monteiro and Hatling 1996) and in

technology development diversions and even returns to prior states often occur (Chrisman

2002). Third, as in earlier views of information systems the installed base is seen as constraints

on the modification o f existing IS and the development o f new information systems However,

the installed base or pre-structures always enable and constrain future action (Poole 1983)

rhis review suggests that there are various ways o f conceptualizing information

systems: Some views put overemphasis on one pole - technology - of information systems and

others emphasize the other pole - social and organizational dimensions. Certainly even though

all o f these viewpoints have merits, none o f them appears to be a strong theoretical framework

for understanding the phenomenon o f large-scale IS. To respond, the following section

proposes a new way o f conceptualizing information systems as dynamic social institutions

which emphasize in a more balanced manner the two poles of large-scale systems.

4.2 Information Systems as Social Institutions: Dynamic Institutional Theory

This research proposes an alternative conceptualization o f information systems as

dynamic social institutions which extends and complements extant ensemble views. This

conceptualization distinguishes information systems and information technology by viewing

information systems as a broader term and situating it as the “subject matter o f IS research.” In

this conceptualization, information systems are understood as both material (or actual) and

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cultural (or virtual), not as one or the other: information systems imply both stability and

change: they both constrain and enable human action.

4.2.1 Dynamic Institutional Theory

Institutional theory itself is very diverse and there are various approaches to the

definition o f institutions. Dynamic institutional theory (DIT) draws on extant studies in

institutional theory. The central concepts of DIT, duality within information systems and

duality of schemas and IT artifacts provide a dynamic picture o f information systems that are

both actual and virtual and encompass inherently both stability and change. This way of

conceptualizing information systems is consistent with many findings from recent empirical IS

studies (e.g., Orlikowski 1992; DeSanctis and Poole 1994; Hanseth and Monteiro 1998;

Ciborra 2000), resolves many contradictory consequences o f information technology (e.g.,

Robey and Boudreau 1999), and offers several new insights and avenues for future research.

4.2.1.1 Duality within Institutions

DIT's understanding o f institutions is based on the work o f such writers as Sewell

(1992). Dryzek (1996), Offe (1996), and North (1990), among others, who discern both actual

and virtual aspects o f institutions and equally emphasize both dimensions o f institutions. We

call this aspect of institution as “duality within institutions”. These theoretical reformulations

have generated an increasingly rich appreciation o f the conditions, mechanisms, and processes

that account for durability and change in institutions (Clemens and Cook 1999).

Political scientist John Dryzek (1996) argues that there are two dimensions in

institutions: discourses, which he terms “institutional software," and more formal aspects of

organizational structure, which he terms “institutional hardware”. As he notes (p. 103) “a

discourse is a framework for apprehending the world embedded in language, enabling its

adherents to put together diverse bits of sensory information into coherent wholes. These

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adherents therefore share assumptions and capabilities, which they will typically take for

granted, often unaware even o f the possibility o f alternatives to them”. Thus discourses may be

treated as institutional software while institutional hardware exists in the form of rules, rights,

operating procedures, customs, and principles. He notes,

If, as Robert Goodin (1996) suggests, institutions are metabehavioral entities featuring
continuity, longevity, and stable contexts for action; if they are ... in ‘arrangements
that coordinate the behavior o f individuals in society”; or if they are, as Talcott Parsons
defined them, sets o f regulatory norms; then discourses and institution have much in
common. No institutions can operate without an associated and supportive discourse
(or discourses) (p. 103-104)

Institutional software is more often taken for granted. Dryzek argues that understanding both

discourses and institutional hardware is important for institutional design.

Other institutional theorists understand (political) institutions in terms o f two similar

dimensions; formal and informal (North 1990) and cultural infrastructure and hardware (Offe

1996). Offe (1996) uses the terms “institutional software” (or ‘cultural infrastructure’ of

institutions) and “hardware”. Institutional software tends to be cultural, informal, not easily

exchanged and replaced, and supported by institutional hardware. Formal institutions are such

as rules that human beings devise while informal institutions such as conventions and codes of

behavior (North 1990, p. 4).

A more comprehensive understanding of two dimensions o f institutions can be found

in the work o f Sewell (1992), which is further elaborated in Clemens and Cook (1999). Sewell

(1992) pointed out that Giddens’s definition o f structures as “virtual” (Orlikowski 2000) does

not take into account material resources and argued that all resources are actual rather than

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virtual4. Thus he reformulated a set of institution as schemas (virtual) and resources (actual)

rather than rules and resources.

What Sewell meant to get at by the term schemas is “not formally stated prescriptions

but the informal and not always conscious schemas, metaphors, or assumptions presupposed by

such formal statements” (p. 8). The various schemas are “generalizable procedures applied in

the enactment/reproduction of social life” such as rules o f etiquette, aesthetic norms, and

recipes for group interaction or democratic vote, etc. Schemas can be generalized and

transposed or extended to new situations when the opportunity arises. He argues that this

generalizabiIity or transposability o f schemas is the reason they must be understood as virtual.

“To say that schemas are virtual is to say that they cannot be reduced to their existence in any

particular practice or any particular location in space and time: they can be actualized in a

potentially broad and unpredetermined range of situations” (p. 8). In a communication

perspective, schema may be understood as what Taylor, Groleau, Heaton and Every (2001)

term “frame knowledge”, which is “the sum of acquired understandings that makes it possible

for us to recognize a situation and to formulate our interpretation in language” (p. 84). Thus

4 Most IS researchers seem to believe that Giddens understood structure as “virtual”. This
understanding is based on Giddens’s comments in The Constitution of Society (1994),
“structure is a ‘virtual order’ of transformative relations ... structure exists ... only in its
instantiations in such practices and as memory traces orienting the conduct o f knowledgeable
human agents (p. 17) ... structure exists only as memory traces, the organic basis of human
knowledgeability, and as instantiated in action (p. 377).” However, Stones (2001) argues that
structuration theory’s position on the pre-existence and causally influential role o f structures
can be clarified by looking at Giddens’s different comments on the nature o f constraints upon
agency. “Constraints stems from the ‘objective’ existence of structural properties that the
individual agent is unable to change. As with the constraining qualities o f sanctions, it is best
described as placing limits upon the range o f options open to an actor, or plurality’ o f actors, in
a given circumstance or type o f circumstances [original emphasis]. Stones argues that
structuration theory recognizes the ‘objective’ existence o f structures o f significance,
domination, and legitimation.

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they are community constructs (Taylor, Groleau, Heaton and Every 2001; Hutchins 1995;

Suchman 1996) not located in a particular individual or place.

On the other hand, resources are such material objects as factories owned by

capitalists, stocks o f weapons controlled by kings or generals, land rented by peasants, etc. (p.

10). Also there are human resources such as knowledge and dexterity. They exist in time and

space. Thus all resources are actual rather than virtual. They are observable characteristics in

particular times and spaces. Thus, institutions should be defined as composed simultaneously

of schemas, which are virtual, and o f resources, which are actual. Also resources include

formal rules and procedures (Zhou 1993) such as those policies, regulations, guidelines, formal

routines, etc. which are the storage of organizational memory. Sewell (1992) argues on this

point that “publicly fixed codifications of rules are actual rather than virtual and should be

regarded as resources ...” (p. 8).

4.2.1.2 Duality of Schemas and Resources

Schemas are the effects o f resources, just as resources are the effects o f schemas

(Sewell 1992). For example, a factory is not an inert pile of bricks, wood, and metal but it

incorporates or actualizes schemas, meaning that schemas can be inferred from the material

from of the factory. The factory gate, the punching-in station, the design o f the assembly line:

all of these features o f the factory teach and validate the rules of the capitalist labor contract. If

resources are instantiations or embodiments o f schemas, they inculcate and justify the schemas

as well. Resources are read like texts, to recover the cultural schemas they instantiate. They are

instantiations of schemas in time-space that can be used by actors to generate power.

Schemas are effects of resources also. If schemas are to be sustained or reproduced

over time they must be validated by the accumulation o f resources that their enactment

engenders. Schemas not empowered or regenerated by resources would eventually be

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abandoned and forgotten, just as resources without schemas to direct their use would

eventually dissipate and decay. Thus, we can say that the virtual existence o f institutions

presupposes the actual existence and vice versa (Sewell 1992).

To illustrate, consider recent attempts to introduce the institutions o f a capitalist market

in Eastern Europe (Dryzek 1996). This introduction has run into difficulties in large measure

because there were no cultural schemas available to direct the use of the new market system.

People simply did not know what to make o f these resources, or what it means to behave as an

instrumentally rational, maximizing market actor. Dryzek argues that the resource o f the

capitalist market lacks a supportive cultural schema. “In the discourse (schemas) o f the

capitalist West, people who accumulate personal wealth are entrepreneurs; in the popular

discourse o f Russia, they are mafia” (p. 104).

4.3 Premises of a Dynamic Institutional Theory for Information Systems

Information systems and information technology are not same. Information technology

is part of information systems, but the opposite statement is not true. Like an institution, an

information system has both actual and virtual elements that presuppose one another. Below

are introduced three notions: duality within information systems, duality o f schemas and IT

artifacts, and elements of schemas and IT artifacts.

4.3.1 Duality within Information Systems

The term ‘duality within’ is not the same as the notion o f ‘duality’ o f structure, which

is the main premise o f Giddens’s theory. Rather the term is used to show that two basic

categories - schemas and IT artifacts - in an information system can be regarded as logically

exclusive o f each other. Thus, the term implies the ‘dualism’ o f the two categories. Dualism5 is

5 The notion of dualism used here is different from the traditional notion of Cartesian dualism
that views institutions and action as independent entities (See Stones 1995).

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the form o f thinking in which basic categories are regarded as logically exclusive o f each other

(Parker 2000).

The concept o f duality within information systems identifies prior understandings of

information systems—as either material (IT) artifacts or social things (cultural schemas)—as a

false dichotomy. Information systems are comprised of both IT artifacts or technology, which

are actual, and schemas, which are virtual. The concept implies that they are held to be

irreducible to each other and causally efficacious, yet necessarily interdependent. To study and

understand information systems is to study and understand both dimensions and their

interaction and interdependence.

4.3.2 Schemas of Information Systems

Schemas o f information systems are “generalizable procedures” (Giddens 1984; Sewell

1992) derived from preexisting institutions or “formative contexts” (Unger 1987; Blackler

1990; Ciborra and Lanzara 1994; Lanzara 1999) and applied in the enactment/reproduction of

IT artifacts or technology. In the context of the design, implementation, and use of information

systems, schemas can refer to the installed base, ‘social organization of computing’ (Kling and

lacono 1989), institutional properties (Orlikowski and Robey 1991; Orlikowski 1992), or social

and organizational contexts (Hirschheim 1987). Schemas can be inferred from an array of

extant institutional arrangements and cognitive imageries which include an organization’s (or

group’s, intra-organization’s) structure and history, value systems, norms, organizational

routines and informal procedures, individual and collective memory, culture, and existing

bodies o f rules, laws, and regulations. They are the source for ‘enactment’ (Weick 1990) of

technology.

Different schemas are instantiated in different institutional realms of information

systems such as governance, design, implementation, and use. For example, in the realm o f IS

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design system developers draw on the values and conventions of their organization,

occupation, and training to build information systems while in the realm o f IS use, various user

groups draw on embedded knowledge, assumptions, experiences, and rules (Orlikowski and

Robey 1991; Orlikowski 2000). As a result o f this diverse base o f structures, when huamn

actors interact with information technology between-groups and within-groups o f they draw on

diverse schemas that may be in part contradictory but not totally exclusive o f each other.

Actors also vary in terms of their capability to access schemas. Agency arises from the

actor’s knowledge o f schemas and thus agency exercised by different persons is far from

uniform (Sewell 1992). Different social positions (Mozuelis 1995) or practices and roles

(Bhaskar 1979; Archer 1995) may give people knowledge of different schemas and access to

different kinds and amounts o f resources and hence different possibilities for transformative

action (Sewell 1992). Emirbayer and Mische (1998) discuss differences in agentic capacity.

Actors belonging to multiple social milieu (Whittington 1994) and at the intersections of

multiple temporal-relational contexts (Emirbayer and Mische 1998) can have greater capacities

to access some schemas rather than others. In addition, as actors become more experienced in a

position, they can develop greater capacities for creative and critical intervention in

structuration (Emirbayer and Mische 1998).

To understand an information system, it is important to understand schemas of the

information system first. They consist o f “cultural infrastructure” or “software” of the

institution or information system. In IS design and use, they are agency-specific, multiple, and

even incompatible. These characteristics make an information system very dynamic and rather

unpredictable.

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4.3.3 Resources of Information Systems

Resources o f information systems are actual and can be described in two ways: IT

artifacts (Orlikowski and lacono 2001) and the schemas o f the artifacts. An IT artifact can be

conceptualized as “an ensemble o f equipment, applications and techniques with identifiable

information-processing” (Kling 1987 p. 312) and network capabilities. It includes not only

"material artifacts” (various configurations o f hardware and software) (Orlikowski 1992) and

“the structural features o f the given technology” (DeSanctis and Poole 1994) but also

programming languages and logics, developers’ skills and knowledge, IS development

methods and methodologies, and other non-material but actual resources invested and used for

IS design, implementation and use. A CASE tool, ERP, CRM, or KMS would be examples of

IT artifacts. In case o f a SAP R/3 the IT artifacts may include several modules, client/server

architecture, one centralized or several decentralized database(s), variable interfaces,

middleware architecture, business, workflow, the ABAP/4 development work bench,

correction and transport system, data dictionary, etc. (Bancroft et al. 1998).

Like resources (Sewell 1992), IT artifacts embody cultural schemas. Schemas that can

be inferred from IT artifacts are understood as their spirit in this dissertation. “The factory gate,

the punching-in station, the design o f the assembly line: all o f these features of the factory

teach and validate the rules o f the capitalist labor contract” (Sewell 1992, p. 13). The term

spirit is borrowed from Weber’s terminology in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of

Capitalism (1958). Weber explained the role of Calvinism in the development o f capitalism

through "the spirit o f capitalism". According to him a new morality and its religious framework

of Protestant Work Ethic (PWE) encouraged hard work and productivity. He argued that "the

spirit o f capitalism" was a feature o f Protestant groups and PWE played an important role in

the development o f capitalism in the West (Arslan 2001).

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The spirit o f an institution encompasses a set o f standards, obligations, and

expectations from people and implies moral commitments, codes o f appropriate conduct, a

reasonable measure o f trust in the institution's proper functioning, and the like (Offe 1996).

The term is used similarly in this dissertation in that the spirit is the underlying philosophies of

the IT artifacts and motives for its development. Thus, spirit includes values and goals of its

founder(s) and adopters, assumptions and intentions of designers, 'technical and instrumental’

(Scott 1987) circumstances o f its development, and possibly others. In this sense, spirit is not

entirely actual, but it is in part actual and in part virtual. Spirit can be identified by treating the

IT artifacts as a ‘text’ (Sewell 1992; DeSanctis and Poole 1994; Woolgar 1991) in different or

multiple levels (e.g.. micro, meso, and macro-analysis) such as from structural features of

GDSS (DeSanctis and Poole 1994), organizational behavior inscribed in technology (Hanseth

and Monteiro 1997), a modem business philosophy of control o f global logics behind a shared

SAP installation based on (Hanseth and Braa 2000) and others. It also can come from different

sources such as written texts (e.g., manuals, brochures, promotional material, critical reviews

of others, etc. about the IT artifacts) and unwritten texts (e.g., a historical and interpretive study

including interviews). Therefore, the IT artifact has politics (Winner 1993; Berg 1998;

Bloomfield 1995) and its design has social consequences (Kling 1991).

However, this does not imply technological determinism. The spirit is never entirely

unambiguous. Different parties may get different readings o f the text, depending on their

position. “The form o f the factory embodies and therefore teaches capitalist notions of property

relations. But, as Marx points out, it can also teach the necessarily social and collective

character o f production and thereby undermine the capitalist notion of private property”

(Sewell 1992, p. 19). Those features of the factory can teach and validate something other than

the rules o f the capitalist labor contract. Similarly, to many people the spirit of capitalism is

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never entirely unambiguous. Therefore, the spirit is capable o f being interpreted in varying

ways. The spirit is also capable o f empowering different actors and some actors may explicitly

mobilize the spirit. The spirit of the IT artifacts is not fixed but open to different interpretations

and change.

4.3.4 Duality of Schemas and IT Artifacts

The term ‘duality o f is used here similarly to the notion o f ‘duality o f structure in

Giddens’s theory. Information systems have a dual character. They are defined as composed o f

simultaneously o f schemas and IT artifacts. To understand information systems is to

understand the interplay between the two (Figure 4).

IT artifacts

Figure 4. Duality o f Schemas and IT Artifacts

If information systems are dual in this sense, it is true that schemas are the effects o f

the IT artifacts, just as the IT artifacts are the effects o f schemas. This is the reason that

schemas can be inferred from the IT artifacts and they serve as its spirit. The IT artifacts are

instantiations or embodiments of schemas and therefore they inculcate and justify the schema

as well. We can further say that the IT artifacts are instantiations o f schemas in time-space that

can be used by actors to generate power.

If schemas are to be sustained or reproduced over time, they must be validated by the

accumulation o f the IT artifacts that their enactment brings into existence. Schemas not

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empowered or regenerated by the IT artifacts would eventually be abandoned and forgotten,

just as IT artifacts without cultural schemas to direct their production and use would eventually

dissipate and decay or perhaps be incoherent. The persistence o f this mutuality between

schemas and IT artifacts implies the stability o f information systems, while decrease in

mutuality implies the institutional decay o f the formation system or even the

deinstitutionalization and reinstitutionalization (Jepperson 1991; Scott 2001) of a new

information system.

For instance, democratic structural features in GDSS (DeSanctis and Poole 1994)

without (democratic) cultural schemas to direct their use would less likely be utilized in group

meetings and eventually dissipate and decay. This may imply that attempting to change

organizational culture or structure (e.g., management theories o f IT-enabled changes, BPR)

through new technology may be an attractive idea to management but a very difficult one to

accomplish (due to the incongruence between cultural schemas and new technologies and lack

o f support by cultural schemas for the new resources). This may lead to lack of adoption and

even ignorance o f new IT and resistance by those using the installed base.

However, this does not deny the possibility that technologies are actually used fro

some other purposes that were not planned by designers. For example, ‘modem’ IT-based

control technologies like a shared SAP implementation in a global corporation (Hanseth and

Braa 2001) for control o f global logistics processes may be actually used for cooperation and

knowledge sharing. Collaboration technologies are actually used for individual productivity

(Orlikowski 2000). This is because actors are knowledgeable (Giddens 1984) and existing

schemas allow them the ability to interact with the IT artifacts creatively. On the other hand,

schemas such as existing democratic and cooperative organizational culture need the

accumulation o f resources (e.g., GDSS and/or other resources) to be validated and reproduced.

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Without this process, such cultural schemas would likely be forgotten in practice and replaced

by different ones.

4.4 Theoretical and Practical Implications

The distinction between schemas and resources provide a framework for thinking

about sources o f information systems change (Sewell 1992; Clemens and Cook 1999) as well

as stability: within or among schemas; within or among resources; or between schemas and

resources. This way o f understanding (large-scale) IS offers several theoretical and practical

implications for the design, implementation, and use o f IS, which are summarized in Table 3.

Table 3. Six Axioms of Information Systems as Social Institutions______________________


1. Multiplicity o f Information Systems
2. Incompatibility o f schemas and IT artifacts
3. Transposability o f Schemas
4. Unpredictability o f the IT artifacts’ Accumulation
5. Polysemy of IT Artifacts
6. The intersection o f multiple information systems______________________________

4.4.1 Multiplicity of Information Systems

“Societies are based on practices that derive from many distinct structures, which exist

at different levels, operate in different modalities, and are themselves based on widely varying

types and quantities o f resources” (Sewell 1992, p. 16). The multiplicity o f information

systems means that the knowledgeable social actors whose practices constitute a society are far

more versatile than Bourdieu’s account o f a universally homologous habitus would imply;

social actors are capable o f applying a wide range of different and even incompatible schemas

and have access to heterogeneous arrays o f the IT artifacts. Simply put, human actors, whether

they are planners, developers, and users are simultaneously experiencing not one information

system but multiple ones. Human actors belong to multiple communities o f practice (Brown

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and Duguid 1991; Hutchins 1991; Wenger 1998) or social milieus, which provide them with a

wide range of schemas and different IT artifacts. Schemas and the IT artifacts from an

information system inspire and inform a greater sense of agency (Whittington 1994) when they

interact with others. However they may not always increase agency. It is possible that they

could decrease it as well.

Orlikowski (2000) illustrates the multiplicity o f information systems. For example,

participation in professional or industry conferences often allows people to exchange ideas and

stories about their work practices, including how they use technology in their work practices.

Such awareness o f alternative ways o f using technology may motivate people to make changes

in their technology and the use o f it. Montealgre (1997) makes a similar point through the case

study o f an agro-industrial organization in a less-developed country. Giddens (1984) argues

that people reside in multiple social milieus and can draw on and respond to a multiplicity of

rules and resources. Montealgre's study shows, for instance, that IT implementation leaders

employed at least three sets of structural rule and resources. The first stemmed from external

relations with outside organizations such as academic institutions, the consulting companies,

and the Ministry o f Economy. The second set came from the internal ambiguity and plurality of

the rules governing the firm, including the strategy to become a low-cost sugar company, the

need to improve operational efficiency, the loose control over operational workers, and the lack

of information. The third set o f rules and resources stemmed from the IT tools and systems that

were acquired, developed, and used, as well as from the rules governing the IT organizational

unit, such as IT policies, trial and error practices, the system analysis and design methodologies

that were used, and systems operations. Would it be appropriate to briefly discuss how these

different sets of structures interacted with each other? Readers are likely to be curious about

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this.

4.4.2 Incompatibility of Schemas and IT Artifacts

The term “incompatibility of schemas and IT artifacts" refers to such incoherence

between the two within the information system. Among several potential reasons for this

problem, a main reason is the difference in the temporal pace o f chang

e of these two dimensions o f information systems. As institutional theorists suggest, the pace at

which schemas and resources change differs and this difference may negatively impact on

institution building and transformation. Schemas or cultural infrastructure of institutions tend

to change slowly, compared to resources, which may be changed and replaced quickly. This

aspect o f duality of institutions causes difficulties in institutional building or transformation.

Offe (1996) noted that cultural infrastructure of institutions is not only time consuming to

consolidate, but equally time consuming to abolish. They are not easily exchanged and

replaced, as it is generated by institutional hardware itself in the process in which people “get

used to” and “make sense o f ’ or “cope with” the information systems.

In the case of large-scale IS, the problem with existing cultural infrastructure or the

installed base is becoming more significant since “large-scale” means that not only are

resources large (Grindley 1995; Kling and lacono 1989; Hanseth 1999) but also schemas are

complex, multiple, and anchored in with many other structures. While the IT artifacts may be

changed and replaced quickly, there is always a problem with cultural infrastructure, which

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seems to take a longer time to be developed. The importance o f cultural infrastructure can

never be overemphasized. “If anything, the success and the survival capacity o f the newly built

institutions is likely to depend more on people's trust, compliance, and patience in enduring the

transition costs involved than in the quality of the design o f these institutions themselves”

(Offe 1996. p. 215).

This characteristic o f information systems can have several implications for IS design

and implementation and also for high failure rates of IS projects in reality even when they are

well designed in a technical sense. For IS design, this suggests that there is the need for

systematic approaches to the informal aspects o f IS design. As is well documented by IS

development theorists (e.g., Avison et al. 1998; Galliers and Swan 1997; Hirschheim et al.

1996; Lyytinen and Hirschheim 1988; Avison and Wood-Harper 1990; Newman and Robey

1992; Hirschheim and Klein 1994; Lee 1999) extant ISD methods and techniques heavily rely

on formalism and engineering tradition and thus focus on IT artifacts by ignoring cultural

infrastructure.

There have been attempts to address this issue. One o f them is the concept of

'cultivation' (Dahlbom and Mathiassen 1993). In construction or engineering cultivation is

rather a conservative approach to systems design. In a similar vein Ciborra (2000) also

proposes three concepts o f care, hospitality, and cultivation. Care is the “mood” o f supporting

and taking care o f the design and use of IT applications. Hospitality describes “the

phenomenon o f dealing with new technology as an ambiguous stranger” (Ciborra 2002, p.

110). The concept o f cultivation is like “helping a wound to heal” (Ciborra 2000, p. 31) to

develop a new information system from the installed base. Hanseth (1999) argues that large-

scale systems such as the Internet are not possible to change using a construction or

engineering approach. They must be cultivated. A more systematic approach is needed to

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develop a better comprehension o f how existing frames o f knowledge, institutional contexts,

and histories affect the design o f new ISs (Olsen 2001; Dryzek 1996) and how to utilize them

for the development o f new ISs.

4.43 Transposability of Schemas

Pre-existing cognitive frames and organizational contexts usually prevent designers

and sponsors from seeing and exploiting the potential for innovation (Ciborra and Lanzara

1994). However, schemas are also transposable.

The transposability o f schemas means that the schemas that an actor has access to are

usefully applied across contexts. Bourdieu notes that habitus is “a system o f lasting

transposable dispositions which, integrating past experiences, functions at every moment as a

matrix o f perceptions, appreciations, and actions and makes possible the achievement of

infinitely diversified tasks, thanks to analogical transfers of schemes permitting the solution of

similarly shaped problems” (1977, p. 83). Borrowing the term “transposable” from Bourdieu,

Sewell argues that there is no fixed limit to the possible transpositions of schemas. He notes,

“to say that schemas are transposable. in other words, is to say that they can be applied to a

wide and not fully predictable range o f cases outside the context in which they are initially

learned ... Knowledge o f a rule or a schema by definition means the ability to transpose or

extend it— that is, to apply creatively ... then agency, which I would define as entailing the

capacity to transpose and extend schemas to new contexts, is inherent in the knowledge of

cultural schemas that characterizes all minimally competent members of society" (p. 17-8).

Social actors are capable of applying a wide range of different and even incompatible schemas

and transpose them in developing new institutions. Therefore schemas not only constrain but

also enable the development o f new institutions.

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Human actors do not design, implement or use IT artifacts in vacuum. They always

draw on existing schemas such as past experiences o f different IT artifacts, organizational

culture and politics, norms, etc. When schemas are transposed by human actors whether by

designers, planners, users, or else they both constrain and enable human action. Not is only

technology the medium and outcome of human action (e.g., Orlikowski 1992 and Orlikowski

and Robey 1992), but also the schemas are the medium and outcome of human action.

Schemas are the repertoire o f stability and change o f information systems. Existing

interpretive schemes are the source for IT innovations (Campbell 1997).

4.4.4 Unpredictability of the IT Artifacts* Accumulation

As Robey and Boudreau (1999) noted, “although much contemporary thought

considers advanced information technologies as either determinants or enablers o f radical

organizational change, empirical studies have revealed inconsistent findings” (p. 167), The

contradictory empirical findings both across studies and within studies are very common. In

our view these contradictory findings or outcomes o f information technology in organizations

are not a surprising fact, but rather a very expected output. This is because of what we term as

“unpredictability o f IT artifacts” accumulation.

“The very fact that schemas are by definition capable of being transposed or extended

means that the resource consequences of the enactment o f cultural schemas is never entirely

predictable” (Sewell 1992, p. 18). The resource accumulation is unpredictable because schemas

can create unpredictable quantities and qualities o f resources. This further means that schemas

will be in fact be differentially validated when they are put into action and therefore will

potentially be subject to modification (p. 18). The IT artifacts’ consequence of the enactment of

a cultural schema is never entirely predictable, especially when used in a 'different' realm. It

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means that the deployment or introduction o f the same IT artifact into two different groups and

organizations is likely to produce different outcomes (Barley 1986) and even also different ISs.

Consistent with the results o f Barley’s study. Orlikowski (2000) found that the same

groupware application resulted in three different types of enactment and concluded that

technology use seems to be always situated and emergent. To give another example, even when

there is a democratic organizational culture and structure to direct the use o f democratic

structural features o f GDSS, there is no guarantee that such GDSS features are actually utilized

in practice (DeSanctis and Poole. 1984). It is because of “the unpredictability o f the IT

artifacts’ accumulation”. The institutions o f a capitalist market in US and Eastern Europe are

not same. The implementation o f US capital market in other countries was more unpredictable

(Dryzek 1996) than many people thought and desired. Similarly, a researcher who is

conducting a study of a same ERP technology with two organizations should expect two

somewhat different outcomes and also be aware that he or she is actually studying two

information systems based on the same technology.

4.4.5 Polysemy of IT Artifacts

As discussed earlier, IT artifacts have multiplicity of meaning since they embody

cultural schemas that we have termed spirit. The fact that resources are endowed with cultural

schemas means that their meaning is often ambiguous. This leads to different interpretations of

events, and thus different interactions. Therefore, their meaning is interpretively flexible (e.g.,

Bijker et al., 1987; Orlikowski 1992; Weick 1990). Their meaning would be different among

key groups in organizations such as managers, designers, and user as pointed out by

Orlikowski and Gash (1994). However, while it is expected that the meaning is similar within

key groups (Orlikowski and Gash 1994), it may be the case that the meaning o f the IT artifacts

is agency specific depending on the actor’s capacity to access schemas and IT artifacts. In

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addition to the fact that IT artifacts are capable of being interpreted in varying ways, the

polysemy o f IT artifacts also refers to the actor's capacity to (1) initially constitute the meaning

o f the IT artifact and later (2) reinterpret and mobilize an array o f IT artifacts in terms o f

cultural schemas other than those that initially constituted in the array.

For example, according to Orlikowski (2000), Notes technology was initially designed

by five developers o f the company called Iris Associates.

As a group o f individuals we share the same beliefs about how we’d like to see people
work—the Iris values. And so, we implemented a very different software development
methodology here that relies on distributed management, distributed security, and
distributed development ... Distribution is a value that pervades our philosophy. So
technically and architecturally the product embraced distribution (p. 14)

Therefore, a group o f developers initially constituted the meaning o f the IT artifact. Like that

of other communication-based K.MS, the spirit of the Notes technology was “distribution”,

“coordination”, and “collaboration”. However, as Orlikowski’s case studies show, the IT

artifact was reinterpreted and mobilized differently in terms o f cultural schemas o f those who

used the technology. In particular, the technology was reinterpreted and mobilized as an

individual productivity technology in the cultural schemas characterized by hierarchical and

competitive group culture.

Furthermore, this concept refers to the possibility that the meaning o f a particular

technology is constructed prior to its introduction and even its development. Using the notion

of ‘organizing vision’ Swanson and Ramiller (1997) suggest that institutional processes are

engaged from the beginning o f IS development and diffusion. The development and influence

of an organizing vision is determined by a variety of institutional forces such as the

community’s discourse, business commerce, the IS practitioners’ schemas, the motivating

business problematic, the core technology, etc. Bloomfield and Best (1992) employ the concept

o f the ‘sociology o f translation’ (Callon 1986; Latour 1987) to theorize the process by which

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the organizational problem is constituted and for which the appropriate IT artifact is proposed

as the solution. The meaning of the IT artifact is often constituted by an actor or groups of

actors through the exercise of power (Bloomfield et al. 1992; Bloomfield and Vurdubakis

1997). IT artifacts are designed and introduced with a purpose much more directly linked to

social interests (Russell 1986, p. 337). The first aspect opens the possibility that at the later

stage o f IS development and use, the meaning o f the IT artifact can be mobilized by a new

powerful actor or groups o f actors by the exercise of power. However, it is important to

understand that there are the inherent limits o f potential control over the meaning (Offe 1996)

of the IT artifact.

For example, consider the case o f the UK National Health Service (e.g., Bloomfield,

Coombs, Cooper, and Rea 1992; Jones, 1994; Brown 1995). The NHS’s “reforms” or “visions”

that were articulated through vocabularies o f efficiency, effectiveness, the centrality of

information in management, management by objectives, etc. were translated into specific

organizations o f vision such as a large number o f financial and management information

systems. Thus the meaning of the IT artifacts was already formed in the course of discourse or

corporate strategy (Jones 1994) prior to the introduction o f the IT artifacts. There was

considerable interpretative flexibility surrounding the understandings o f the nature and purpose

of such IT artifacts (Bloomfield, Coombs, Cooper, and Rea 1992). However, Brown’s (1995)

case study with a large Hospital Information Support System (HISS) illustrates that, in their

attempt to gain user acceptance for the HISS, a select group of individuals (the implementation

team) managed to engineer others’ understandings o f the IT artifact through calculated

argument, control over the flow of information, and symbolic acts, so that they viewed it more

favorably than might otherwise have been the case. However, the meaning o f the HISS could

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not be fully controlled. Brown's study shows some evidence that aspects of the system were

subverted, not used, and diverted to other purposes by certain user groups.

4.4.6. The Intersection of Multiple Information Systems

Institutions overlap (Zucker 1988) and are nested within other institutions (Holm 1995:

Goodin 1996). The intersection of information systems means that in general there are multiple

information systems in an organization or a group and as institutions these information systems

interest and overlap and possibly nested. For example, a university system may have multiple

information systems running such as several student information systems, payroll information

systems, accounting information systems, a large-scale system-wide financial management

information system, etc. Certainly, they intersect and overlap. Also these systems would be

nested such that small systems are nested within large-scale financial management information

system. Possibly, an information system in an organization or group may intersect with

information systems in other organizations or groups. The system-wide MIS at a university

intersects and overlaps with other universities’ MIS and also state-wide financial management

IS.

The intersection takes place in both the schema and the IT artifact dimensions (Sewell

1992). Not only can a given array of IT artifacts be claimed by different actors embedded in

different structural complexes (or differentially claimed by the same actor embedded in

different structural complexes), but schemas can be borrowed or appropriated from one

structural complex and applied to another. For example,

This axiom implies that the stability and change o f an information system may be

dependent on other information systems. As argued by Zucker (1988), the stability o f an

information system will increase with its interconnectedness to other information systems.

However, it is also true that a change in an information system affects many other information

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systems. Thus, such interconnectedness in nested information systems sometimes can produce

dynamic change patterns. Depending on the degree o f coupling, changes in one system may

have repercussions in other systems (Holm 1995). All large-scale ISs face this ironic situation

in that interconnectedness contributes both stability and change o f a particular information

system as well as the system as a whole.

4.5 Conclusion

Extant views o f information systems are not adequate to explain the stability and

change of large-scale information systems. Some views largely focus on the resources of

information systems and often lead to managerial approaches to IS design, implementation and

use. On the other hand, others overemphasize the schemas of information systems or social and

organizational contexts by largely ignoring other dimensions of information systems such as

the IT artifact itself and spirit. While more recent developments - structurational and socio-

technical models - offer alternative but better ways of conceptualizing IS, it was argued that

they have some weaknesses that prevent them from providing a comprehensive explanation of

the dynamic nature of large-scale IS and their complexity. They have not resolved yet many

contradictory consequences o f information technology found in the IS literature (e.g., Robey

and Boudreau 1999) and not explained the simultaneity (e.g., both local and global) o f an

information system.

To answer the challenge of the dynamic nature o f large-scale IS, this chapter proposed

Dynamic Institutional Theory which views them as social institutions. DIT first identified two

dimensions of information systems and emphasized both o f them in a balanced way rather than

conflating one side (or reducing one to the other), coining the concept o f duality within

institutions. Then the theory introduced the concept o f duality of schemas and resources to

discuss the inherently dynamic nature o f a typical information system. Like institutions, large-

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scale IS are dual in that they are simultaneously stable and shifting, simultaneously pervasive

and idiosyncratic (March and Olsen 1989), simultaneously micro and macro, simultaneously

empowers and controls, and simultaneously subjective and objective. Drawing upon the theory,

several implications for the design, implementation, and use of large-scale IS are sketched.

Drawing upon DIT. the following chapters attempt to address more specific research questions.

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CHAPTER V

RETHINKING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN IT AND ORGANIZATIONS:

A MULTI-LEVEL MODEL OF DUALITY OF TECHNOLOGY

5.1 Introduction

Earlier we noted that there were two dominant models for understanding the

relationship between information systems and organizations: the technological imperative and

the social imperative (Markus and Robey 1988: Orlikowski 1992). The two models may be

explained in terms o f the objectivist and subjectivist positions in social theory respectively

(Orlikowski and Robey 1991). By pointing out the problems with these positions, Orlikowski

(1992) proposed a structurational model of technology, built on Giddens’s theory of

structuration (1984), to depict the dialectical interaction between technology and organizations.

It appears that many researchers are fundamentally committed to avoiding both the

technological and social imperatives in theorizing the relationship between IT and

organizations. There seems to be a general consensus in the IS field that IT both enables and

constrains action.

This chapter is an attempt to move beyond an “IT enables/constrains” position (e.g..

Barley 1986; Orlikowski 1992) and to propose a multi-level model o f the duality of IT. The

proposed multi-level model builds on the work of “post-structurationalists” (e.g., Archer 1995,

Mouzelis 1995, Sewell 1992; Jessop 1996, 2001). These authors, like other social theorists

including Giddens (1994), are fundamentally committed to avoiding both objectivism and

subjectivism in social theory. All try to show how subject and object are related as equally

essential elements in the structuration process. They all argue that Giddens’s version of social

reality is essentially ‘flat’ and instead they contend that in social reality there are both weak

and strong agencies and strong and weak structures. Drawing on these works, a multi-level

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model o f duality o f IT is developed. That attempts to expand the extant structurational model of

technology and enrich our understanding o f the relationship between IT and organizations.

In what follows, the extant structurational model o f IT is briefly reviewed and the need

for a multi-level model o f IT is discussed. Then the theoretical basis o f the model is discussed

and the model is presented. Following this several implications are drawn from the new model

for understanding the relational interplay between IT and organizations.

5.2 Conceptualization of the Relationship between IS and Organizations

In the theory o f structuration Giddens (1984) rejected the dualism that treats agency

and structure as logically exclusive, and argued that they are mutually constitutive. The

adoption of Giddens’s and other similar structuration theories has led to the wide acceptance in

IS research that IT both enables and constrains human action (e.g.. Barley 1986; Orlikowski

and Robey 1991; Orlikowski 1992; Walsham 1993; DeSanctis and Poole 1994; Roberts and

Grabowski 1996). In IS research this dialectical understanding has meant a significant

advancement over the two deterministic views of the relationship between IT and

organizations.

While acknowledging the insights offered by this approach, there is a need for more

detailed specification o f the dynamic interplay between IT and organizations. For example,

Monteiro and Hanseth (1995) note that an “IT enables/constrains position” is convincing but it

is necessary to push further; to describe in some detail how and whether IT restricts and

enables action. They argue that we need to learn more about how this interplay works, not only

that it exists. They pointed out that the effort o f using structuration theory for grasping IT fails

to pay due attention to the specifics o f IT.

To complement the structurational model Monteiro and Hanseth (1995) attempted to

explain how specific elements and functions o f an IT relate to organizational issues using some

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key concepts such as translation, inscription, and irreversibility in actor network theory. On the

other side, drawing on Giddens’s theory o f structuration DeSanctis and Poole (1994) proposed

Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST). AST is "propositional” to some extent, in that through

using such concepts as structural features o f GDSS, spirit, and appropriation the theory tried to

specify the structuration o f IT in group and organizational contexts.

It is important to explore the interwoven relationship between IT and organizations to

learn, not just that this interplay exists, but how it works (Monteiro 2000). In our view, the

extant "IT enables/constrains action” position tends to overgeneralize IT and actors

respectively: It does not consider the variability o f IT (social structures) and actors (subject)

across specific times and places where structuration occurs.

5.3 Theoretical Basis

Why do the extant structurational models provide only a general view of the duality of

IT and organizations? We understand this through reviewing the critique o f other social

theorists o f Giddens's theory o f structuration, which is used as the theoretical basis o f much

structurational work. This review will offer ideas to develop a more detailed (dynamic) model

o f the duality o f IT.

One criticism o f Giddens’s duality is that Giddens gives an ontological primacy to the

knowledgeable social actor and treats agency and structure asymmetrically (e.g.. Archer 1990;

Mouzelis 1995; Jessop 1996). This is shown in Giddens’s definition o f structure: structure

cannot exist apart from agency and has only “virtual” existence: it only exists in and through

the activities o f human agents (1984, p. 256). In writing o f the duality of structure, he is

concerned with structures underlying human action, rather than any particular set of

institutions. According to Giddens, structures exist only insofar as they are instantiated in

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everyday action. Thus, structure becomes the responsibility o f actors present at any given

time/space position (Archer 1990).

This does not provide us with stringent grounds for the assignment o f logical and

explanatory priority to either structure or agency (Archer 1990: Barley and Tolbert 1997). In

most accounts based on Giddens, actors are seen to choose a course of action more or less

freely and skillfully within structures (Jessop 2001). This is problematic since it is certainly the

case that past institutions (information systems) constrain present possibilities for action (e.g.,

Hanseth 1999; Kling and lacono 1989; also see Poole 1983). New systems do not grow de

novo; they wrestle with the “inertia o f the installed base” (Star and Ruhleder 1996). Ciborra

and Lanzara, using the notion of “formative context” that refers to preexisting structures,

explain the failures o f IT-based innovation and change. They argue that people use formative

contexts for executing and designing routines in situated action. In a case study o f a knowledge

management system deployed in a global company Rolland (2000) also illuminated how

deployment of large-scale IS are constrained by the preexisting structures such as paper-based

documents, information in a database and the related work practices.

Another criticism is tied to Giddens’s methodological individualist position. A central

theme of Giddens’ account is that the concept o f agency implies that a person ‘could have done

otherwise’: ‘an agent who has no options whatsoever’, he insists, 'is no longer an agent’

(Thompson 1989, p. 73). Giddens conceptualizes agency as equi-possible for everyone, at an

every moment, on the grounds that everyone engages in practice and uses rules and resources

on the basis o f knowledgeability (Parker 2000). He attributes power as an existential principle

o f the humanity o f agents irrespective o f position (Parker 2000). An existential ‘given’ of

individuals means that nobody can fail to be an agent (Thompson 1989). In Giddens’s theory,

intentionality is associated with individual choice (Taylor et al. 2001). No one is without power

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in the 'dialectic o f control’ (Parker 2000). Thus Giddens’s theory o f action is centered on the

individual (Taylor et al. 2001). His theory does not address collective agency and power

exercised through struggles, as a mechanism for explaining the structuration o f what he calls

systems. The theory cannot identify collective agents or analyze social integration in terms of

relations between collectivities (Parker 2000).

Jessop (2001) raises a similar point. While noting that Giddens makes two key

innovations: the introduction o f time and space and the connection of institutions with specific

forms o f power and domination Jessop (2001) argues that Giddens gives an ontological

primacy to the knowledgeable social actor. Giddens’s theory shows an exaggerated concern for

individual agents/identities at the expense o f collective agents and organizational identities and

learning. In part this may stem from the fact that Giddens regards language as the archetypal

structure even though its rules and resources are not inherently limited the way that material

structures such as the procedures built into factory machinery are. Thus he overestimates the

range of possible structures that there can be and the degree to which they can be changed.

Giddens’s theory tends to lead to a neglect o f hierarchically-organized collective actors and

their differential contribution to the reproduction and transformation o f social systems

(Mouzelis 1995).

The structurational position could be strengthened by including the concept of

collective agency. This concept underscores the facts that agency is made possible by

collectives, which could be aggregates o f individual agents. Agency is profoundly social or

collective (Sewell 1992) and always operates within and through a social structure (Ratner

2000 ).

The transposition of schemas and remobilization o f resources that constitute agency are
always acts o f communication with others ... the extent o f the agency exercised by
individual persons depends profoundly on their positions in collective organizations ...

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agency characterizes individuals but the agency exercised by persons is collective in


both its sources and its mode o f exercise. Personal agency is. therefore laden with
collectively produced differences o f power and implicated in collective struggles and
resistances (Sewell 1992. p.21).

For example, drawing on Activity Theory, Engestrom (1990) introduces the notion of

community, which tries to include collective actors who are socially related. Also consider

Bandura's (2001) conception o f collective agency. Bandura’s social cognitive theory

distinguishes among three different modes o f human agency: personal, proxy, and collective.

The conception o f proxy agency refers to the socially mediated mode o f agency. “In many

spheres of functioning, people do not have direct control over the social conditions and

institutional practices that effect their everyday lives. Under these circumstances, they seek

their well-being, security, and valued outcomes ... by means o f another to get those who have

access to resources or expertise or who wield influence and power to act at their behest to

secure the outcomes they desire” (p. 13). For example, children turn to parents and citizens to

their legislative representatives to act for them. The social cognitive theory extends the

conception of human agency to collective agency. People’s shared belief in their collective

power to produce desired results is a key ingredient of collective agency. Collective agency is

exercised through socially coordinated and interdependent efforts.

Agency does not precede society and create it as a voluntary agreement o f independent

individuals. Individuals are always socially related (Ratner 2000). Personal agency operates

within a broad network o f sociostructural influences (Bandura 2001, p. 13).

More specifically agency differs in both kind and extent (Sewell 1992). As far as kind,

What kinds o f desires people can have, what intentions they can form, and what sorts
o f creative transpositions they can carry out vary dramatically from one social world to
another depending on the nature o f the particular structures that inform those social
worlds (p. 20-21)

Agency also differs in extent, both between and within societies.

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Occupancy o f different social positions—as defined, for example, by gender, wealth,


social prestige, class, ethnicity, occupation, generation, sexual preference, or
education—gives people knowledge o f different schemas and access to different kinds
and amounts o f resources and hence different possibilities for transformative action (p.
21)

A final criticism o f Gidden’s notion o f structuration is that it has an inherent bias for

stability and reproduction o f existing orders (Sewell 1992) even though structuration does not

guarantee perfect reproduction (Ranson et al. 1980). Weick (1993) asks us to pay attention to

the possibility of reversals o f structuration that is often characterized by the use of descriptive

words such as “continually produced," “recreated in interaction,” and “constituted". Using a

case analysis of the Mann Gulch fire disaster that resulted in the death o f 13 firefighters, Weick

(1993) shows that the structuration between structural frameworks o f constraint and agency

was destroyed rather than constructed one another. He further suggests that structuration is

more unstable than is sometimes supposed.

Thus the notion makes it awkward to deal with change (Sewell 1992). Rather we need

to more carefully respond to empirical evidence of fractures, inconsistencies, deviations from

current routines, emergent properties in the process o f change (Ciborra and Lanzara 1994).

5.4 A Multi-level Model of Duality of Technology

We believe that the extant model is not sufficiently detailed to describe the relationship

between IT and organizations in practice. This makes it difficult to explain several emerging

issues in IS research such as:

• To what extent and how does IT enable and constrain human action and organization?

• To what extent and how does agency produce and reproduce IT?

• Why and how does an IT that appears to be a structural constraint for one actor appear
as an opportunity for transformation to another actor?

• Why and how does an event in design influence the mode o f use and vice versa?

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• Why does technology drift occur?

Issues 1 through 4 are difficult to address since the current “IT enables/constrains” position

does not give much consideration to the variability o f both IT and agency in the model. Issue 5

is difficult to address since (1) the position relies heavily on the notion of structuration as

reproduction and/or routinization and (2) as pointed out early, there is a predisposition toward

stability in structuration theory.

Thus, here we propose a multi-level model of the duality o f IT by postulating inherent

variability in IT and agency across levels. In this model ITs are conceptualized as ‘social

institutions’ (Goodin 1996; Holm 1995; Zucker 1988; Jepperson 1991). The interplay between

IT and organizations is explained by the duality of institutions (Mouzelis 1995; Archer 1996).

Some authors (e.g., Monteiro and Hanseth 1995; Kling 1991; DeSanctis and Poole 1994) have

attempted to be more specific about IT, but they have not considered actors more specifically.

A multi-level model attempts to be specific about both IT and actors (or organizations) through

examining IT in relation to agencies and agencies in relation to IT. In the following we first

discuss two notions that our model will draw on- the variability o f IT and the variability of

agency. Then, a multi-level model o f the duality o f IT is proposed followed by several

implications for understanding the interplay between IT and organizations.

5.4.1 Variability of IT

In the model the variability o f IT refers to three institutional realms within an IT

governance, production, and use. The concept is based on our understanding of institutions as

nested: governance, production, use are nested. Recent studies in institutional theory indicate

that institutions are seen as nested (Goodin 1996; Offe 1996).

From a nested perspective (Holm 1995) a local government is nested within a state

government, which is nested within a federal government. Professional soccer is played on

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teams that operate by rules set down by the internal soccer federation, FIFA. This illustrates

how institutions can vary at different levels (Holm 1995) and implies that there are different

institutional realms, which can be understood as nested and hierarchically organized. The

higher level rules are more powerful than those at the lower levels. Goodin and Klingemann

(1996) note, institutions are “nested within an ever-ascending hierarchy o f yet-more-

fundamental. yet-more-authoritative rules and regimes and practices and procedures” (p. 18).

The more deeply nested rules and resources tend to be more robust than the other lower level

rules and resources since they exercise their influence unobtrusively, passing unnoticed and

unquestioned (Goodin and Klingemann 1996). However, hierarchy does not always prevail.

The specific rules and resources at the lower levels should be seen as a reservoir o f potential

resistance to the contingent pressures o f institutions (Clegg 1990, p. 161-163) and the source of

change at the higher levels.

Three institutional realms - governance, production, and use - within an IT are located

at different levels within the formation and maintenance o f an IT. This is similar to Garud and

Kamoe (2001) who identify three stylized frames - governance, production, and use - in a

technological field. We understand that the three institutional realms are located at different

levels within IT; the realm o f use is nested within that o f production, which is nested within

that o f governance. The institutional arrangements at one level (e.g., production) constitute the

subject matter o f an institutional system at a higher level (e.g., governance) (Jepperson 1991).

Each institutional realm tends to have its rules and resources. For example, the institutional

realm o f governance within an IT includes informal rules (e.g., culture, conventions o f decision

making), formal rules (e.g., organization's IT strategic plan, security guidelines, IT operating

plan) and resources (e.g., project budget, available computer networks, hardware and software

for IT project) while the institutional realm of production includes informal rules (e.g., local

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designing practices, project management practices, programmers’ culture), formal rules (e.g.,

formal IS development methodology, software quality assurance methods and techniques) and

resources (e.g., programming languages and skills, technical knowledge, mainframe computers

or servers).

The rules o f higher institutional realms are more influential on the formation and

maintenance o f IT overall. However, there is not only the downward influence, but also

influence from lower levels to higher. For example, the availability o f new resources (e.g.. web

browsers, internet connection) at the institutional realm o f IT use may lead to changes at the

institutional realm o f IT production due to dropping existing resources (e.g., a 3rd generation

programming language) and rules (e.g., system development life cycle) to adopt new rules

(e.g., object-oriented IS development methodology) and resources (e.g., visual programming

languages and SQL based relational databases). The three levels are closely interwoven in

reality and should only be analytically distinct; there are interconnections among them.

The high level institutional realm tends to be relatively more stable than that of the

lower levels. For example, while the directives o f a company’s IT strategic plan can greatly

influence the rules and resources at the institutional realm o f IT production and use, those rules

are often invisible and/or unnoticed to (or by) individual users and it is rare that individual

users question the rules and resources of the IT governance. However, restructuring is possible

at the macro level (Zucker 1988) or the institutional realm o f governance within an IT.

Discontinuous or radical change (Tyre and Orlikowski 1994) may be possible and is more

likely at the institutional realm o f governance as well design. However, attempts to restructure

institutions at the local level are likely to encounter similar constraints o f ‘path dependence’ or

as Offe puts it, ‘the long arm o f the past’ (1996, p. 219). The founding fathers of the IT are

faced with the task o f deinstitutionalizing old rules, norms, and work practices at the

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institutional realm o f use. However this is always problem at the local level. On the other hand,

once an IT is deployed, the “constant buzz o f change” is likely on the micro level (Zucker

1988). A situated change perspective (Orlikowski 1996) is more appropriate for the

institutional realms o f use. Rather than "iterative modes': the design mode and the use mode

(Orlikowski 1992), which have time-space distanciation, the three institutional realms within

an IT would be better understood as nested.

5.4.2 Variability of Agency

The way in which a multi-level model understands the action' side o f duality o f IT

significantly differs from that of extant models. Most structurational work (e.g., Orlikowski

1992: Orlikowski and Robey 1991; Orlikowski and Gash 1994) tends to group actors as

designers or technologists and users. Discussing technological frames, Orlikowski and Gash

(1994) suggest three key groups in organizations— managers, technologists, and users—and

argue that their technological frames are different.

This analysis relies on the SCOT (Social Construction o f Technology) tradition (e.g.,

Bijker and Pinch 1987; Bijker and Law 1992), specifically the concept of the relevant social

group. Pinch and Bijker (1987) intended to refer to ‘relationships’ between a technological

artifact and social groups. However, as critics suggest, it may also reinforce an impression of

social groups effectively equal in power (Russell 1986) and the assumption that all relevant

social groups are present in the design process. This fails to adequately attend to power

asymmetry between groups (Klein and Kleinman 2002). Along with the concept o f relevant

social group, most structurational work also considers the concept o f ‘interpretive flexibility’.

The concept suggests that technological artifacts are culturally constructed and interpreted ...

there is flexibility in how people think o f or interpret artifacts but also there is flexibility in

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how artifacts are designed’ (Pinch and Bijker 1987. p. 40). This notion recognizes that there is

flexibility in the design, use, and the interpretation o f technology (Orlikowski 1992).

A criticism is that ‘interpretive flexibility' alone is not sufficient to allow

operationalization o f the relationship between the wider milieu and the actual content of

technology. We need to show “not only what different social groups think about an artifacts,

but also what they are able to do about it— their differing abilities to influence the outcome of

its development and adoption. Thus we must relate not only their objectives to their social

location, but also the resources o f knowledge and power with which they can bring about

change to suit those objectives” (Russel 1986).

The new model needs to map out not only the relationship o f social groups to the

technology, but their relations to other structures such as the economic, political and

ideological constraints (Russell 1986). Group capacity should be understood in broadly

organizational or structural terms, as it is such factors that fundamentally shape group capacity

... variation in the structurational characteristics o f producers/developers and consumers can

dictate their relative capacity to shape artifact development (Klein and Kleinman 2002).

Following these arguments, a multi-level model explicitly considers power

asymmetries among agencies. The variability o f agency refers to three hierarchical levels o f

agency, termed macro, meso, and micro by Mouzelis (1995). Agency varies across and within

these levels, and how it is exercised by different actors is far from uniform (e.g., Archer 1995;

Mouzelis 1995; Sewell 1992). We need to bring some precision by conceptualizing agency in

terms of different actors’ power and responsibility for what actually happens (Archer 1995).

Social structures constrain and enable the projects o f agents by creating differential opportunity

costs for people in different positions, and consequently vested interests in change or stability

for those sharing a position o f relative advantage or disadvantage (Archer 1995).

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It is likely that agencies in a technological field have different capacities to influence

IT (e.g., Klein and Kleinman 2002; Russel 1986; Kleinman 1998). We need more precision on

how agency operates in an IT. We need to show not only what these agencies think about an

IT, but also what they are able to do about it—their differing abilities to influence the outcome

of its governance, production, and use. In fact, Williams and Edge (1996) noted that the key

research question that opened up the SCOT program concerns the circumstances and manner in

which technologies may be hard’ or 'malleable’ to particular social groups.

Is everyone in a technological field directly dealing with the institutional realm o f

governance or design within an IT? Obviously, the answer is No. A certain actor or group o f

actors has power and responsibility for the governance of IT, while other actors are responsible

for the design and use of IT. More precisely, a certain actor or group(s) o f actors are in the

institutional realm of IT governance (e.g., CIOs, CFOs) while others prevail in the realms of

design (e.g., programmers, system analysts) or use. To take this into account we need to

consider the variability o f agency in the multi-level model of the duality o f technology.

The hierarchical variability o f agency allows that some actors, because o f their

collectives, by virtue o f their positions in hierarchies and/or by consequent orientations to rules

and resources, may have macroscopic power (Mouzelis 1995). This “macro-agency” is more

powerful than “meso-” and “micro-agency” with respect to its capacity to transform the IT.

Whether an agency is macro, meso or micro may be determined in terms o f its role, practices

and responsibility. The properties o f those agencies are not pre-given, but socially constructed,

and the properties need to be understood interactionally, meaning that the relationships

between technology and actors as well as the interaction among actors should be considered

and for this we should also look directly at social interaction to understand it

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Thus, this suggests that an agency should be examined in relation to IT. For example,

the macro agency (e.g., CIOs, steering committees, advisory councils. CEOs, CFOs) oversees

the acquisition and use of technology within an organization. This agency is generally

responsible for

• Planning information resources investments, operations, and support


• Managing IR human, technological, and financial resources
• Organizing local information resources for efficient and effective uses
• Reporting on IT investment and benefits to executive management and other
higher decision bodies
• Overseeing management o f major IT projects through implementation
• Adopt IT standards, policies, practices, and procedures that address strategic
planning, risk management, disaster recovery, security, and process improvement

The meso agency is those (e.g, system analysts, change management specialists, programmers,

project manager) who are responsible primarily for the production o f IT including logical and

physical design and analysis of information systems and their implementation and post­

implementation. The micro agency refers to different types and levels o f users who do not have

direct control over both the governance and production o f technology. The primary practice of

the micro agency is the use of technology.

Goodin and Klingermann (1996) noted, “as many have recently discovered, even

constitution-writers do not enjoy a completely free hand" (p. 18). In reality even those

“highest” agencies in an organization have to respond to even “higher” actors such as the board

and the State.

Finally, the proposed model posits that the boundaries between different levels of

agency tend to blur and an actor or a group o f actors’ role and responsibilities belong to more

than one level o f agency. No one agent or level o f agency has direct control over diverse rule

and resources o f IT that affect their actions. Thus it is likely that they will rely on the exercise

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o f proxy agency. Also different actors at each level may develop “collective agency” based on

their shared beliefs in their collective power to produce desired results.

The prevalent structurational model (Figure 5) can be depicted as follows, which

indicates that “IT is the medium and the outcome of human action"

T e c h n o lo g y Macro

H u m an a c to r s Micro

Figure 5. Duality o f Technology (Adapted from Orlikowski 1992)

Our model would posit a more complex configuration for the relationship between IT and

agency, which can be depicted as follows (Figure 6).

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» Macro agency
IT G overnance
4

IT Production Meso agency

IT Use « * Micro agency


Figure 6. A Multi-level Model of the Duality o f Technology

This multi-level model considers the variability o f IT and agency at three levels. This

way o f understanding IT, agency and the relationship between the two leads us to several new

insights more than a general “IT enables/constrain action” position. The relationships between

actors and IT vary and different modalities are in operation.

First, when we understand IT and agency in terms of three levels there may be the

ever-present gap or mismatch between the macro, meso, and micro levels that is often pointed

out by institutional theorists (Zucker, 1988; Sjostrand 1993). There seem to be significant gaps

between the social facts institutionalized at the macro level and those present at the micro level

(Zucker 1988).

This mismatch is then explained by the distance between on the one hand the
experiences and thoughts o f the many single individuals on the micro level and, on the
other hand, the content and regulations embedded in the more formalized institutions
on the macro level, reflecting a more holistic perspective on society (Sjostrand 1993, p.
329)

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Thus the pattern of practice at the micro level cannot be completely defined at the

meso and macro level, nor can the pattern of practice at the meso level be completely defined

at the macro level. This has at least two implications: substantial disturbances at the first level

may be absorbed at that level and there sometimes will be institutional drift such that

institutions at the lower levels can be modified without this being noticed or sanctioned at

higher levels (Holm 1995).

The existence o f a mismatch between micro and macro levels is suggested as an

important initiating force in institutional change processes (Sjostrand 1993). Entropy in IT as

an institution is increased by inconsistencies or even conflict between social order at the

macro- and microlevels (Zucker 1988).

The IT strategy literature generally expects a high degree o f reproduction on the micro

level (e.g.. Lederer and Salmela 1996; Reich and Benbasat 1996). However, many aspects of

micro order undermine the macro order (Zucker 1988). For example, the implementation o f a

large-scale knowledge management system which required the standardization of the work

done in different communities o f practice faced challenges from local practices and cultures

(Braa and Rolland 2000). Similarly the case of a large-scale, multi-sites ERP project

implementation launched in Norway illustrates that the project focused on high centralization

using a centrally defined, standardized set of administrative tools and administration had to be

reversed due to diverse local needs and requirements. The tight, top-down control of IT is

attractive but not likely to happen in the real world.

Also the current IT management literature advocating the alignment between IT and

business strategy may be misleading (Bloomfield et al. 1997; Knights et al. 1997; Ciborra

2000). The effort to control and manage at the macro levels will very often lead to institutional

drift. As March and Olsen (1989) noted that actual change often differs from the change that

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was intended. This is because "change rarely satisfies the prior intentions o f those who initiate.

Change cannot be controlled precisely" (March and Olsen 1989, p.65). The six company case

studies by Ciborra and his colleagues (2000) illustrate that large-scale IS or infrastructures tend

to 'drift': they deviate from their planned purpose often outside anyone's influence. As

institutional drift continues and increases, there is a simultaneous decrease in trust in macro

level institutions (Zucker 1988). This results in a "vicious circle” that leads businesses from the

tight, top-down control of the information infrastructure to the actual drift of the infrastructure

itself (Ciborra 2000): The more institutional drift occurs, the less trust in macro level. This

leads to more effort by management to control that is likely to result in further more

institutional drift and less trust.

Second, when we consider an IT and agency in the context o f the three institutional

realms, the change o f IT and organization overall can originate from any of the three levels. If

this is true, there will be less stability in IT and organization overall. For instance, an event

(e.g., a new accounting rule) at the institutional realm o f governance may cause changes in the

realm of production and use and the opposite may also occur. An action at a lower level would

be absorbed at a higher level and can result in changes at the higher level and in the overall

system. New' practices at the micro level of action can be converted to a new power

constellation at the meso and/or macro level and thereby establish a foundation for further

institutional change (Holm 1995). It is likely that micro-changes need to be cumulated in the

long run to the point of producing emergent, con figurative properties in the overall IT and

organization. To study this phenomenon needs a longitudinal case study o f IT use.

For example, Orlikowski (2000) introduces six different cases of technology-in-use:

one of them is about improvisation technology-in-practice in which users "involved their use of

Notes technology to respond artfully to unanticipated problems and unexpected opportunities

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tSiat arose in their work” and another case is about individual productivity technology-in-

practice in which a set o f consultants in an organization used the collaboration technology to

enhance their own individual effectiveness rather than collaboration with other consultants.

Both cases show new practices at the micro level of action. The author can revisit the case site

and see whether such micro-changes actually established a foundation for institutional change

in the IT and organization.

Third, even though change in IT and organization can originate from any of the three

levels it should be noted that actions are hierarchically ordered. In a more general way.

“decisions about rules taken at a certain hierarchical level tend to become taken-for-granted

decision premises at lower hierarchical levels. The decision premises then become the basis on

which lower-placed organizational participants take decisions of a more limited or

circumscribed nature” (Mouzelis 1995). This does not deny the possibility of resistance at

lower levels e.g. lower level agency independent o f meso or macro agency (This aspect is

discussed later in this chapter). Micro agencies face micro IT in everyday activity. The macro­

level IT is relatively hidden to micro (and meso) agencies and thus there is a relatively low

possibility micro agencies can change the macro IT. For example, the decision on the

acquisition o f an ERP from a particular vendor over others is relatively hidden to departmental

users. In most cases these people have little influence on such decisions. Micro agencies are

likely to have relatively less influence on the production o f the macro IT while their actions

tend to engage in the reproduction o f the meso and macro IT. For example, micro agencies

like individual users may not be allowed to participate in the production or creation of the

company’s IT security or strategic plan while their daily actions often reproduce rather than

radically transform such rules.

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On the other hand macro agencies are more powerful in the sense that a decision to

deploy a new IT at the realm o f governance may replace an existing IT, which is regarded as

legitimate and efficient by its primary micro level user groups. For this, the macro agencies

often employ the process termed “sociology o f translation” (Callon 1986; Latour 1987) by

which "the organizational problem is constituted and for which the appropriate IT solution is

proposed” (Bloomfield and Best 1992). The case o f London Ambulance Service Dispatch

System (Flowers 1996; Wastell and Newman 1996; Beynon-Davies 1995) in 1990 is

illustrative. A new Chief Executive Officer of the LAS appointed and supported by the RHA

(Regional Health Authority) problematized the existing system which users were accustomed

to and proposed a new IS as the solution which turned out to be one o f the most notorious IS

failure in UK history. Most user groups had a negative interest (and perspective on) in the IT

project and were against it, but the macro agency was enough powerful to initiate such project

that led many experienced ambulance staff leave the organization. Similar cases in which

macro agencies construct the problem and propose a new IT as the solution are found in other

studies o f UK National Health Service’s information technology (e.g., Bloomfield and Best

1992; Brown 1995).

Fourth, the possibility o f IT being changed and transformed by micro agency can be

also significant. First of all since the micro agency faces the micro IT in everyday activity, thus

the chance o f rules and resources (e.g., technical features) o f micro IT to be challenged and

transformed by micro agency becomes stronger. It may also be true that micro agencies interact

with and reproduce the meso or macro IT. They would interact and influence the meso and/or

macro IT in three ways. First, their action changes the micro IT, which has the potential to

originate some and possibly significant changes in the meso and/or macro IT. Also, they could

influence the meso and/or macro agencies through the exercise o f proxy agency. For example.

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departmental users often turn to senior executives to influence the IT project team for meso or

micro level IT. Thirdly, micro agencies can strategically develop collective agency to compete

with meso and/or macro agencies and influence the production and/or governance o f IT. Fifth,

as the figure 4 indicates there are many possible interactions between IT and agency at

different hierarchical levels. This implies that diverse modalities are operating at those

interactions. To illustrate.

Professional soccer is played by rules set down by the internal soccer federation. FIFA.
Players might be unhappy with the rules. To change them, however, they must engage
in a rather differently structured game than soccer, i.e., that of influencing FIFA’s
policy-making bodies (Holm 1995, p. 400).

While the mode of action by micro agency at the micro level can be characterized as practical,

the mode o f action by the same agency at the meso or macro level may be political (Holm

1995)

The multi-level model suggests that IT represents all three types o f modalities o f

structuration (Orlikowski and Robey 1991). The model also suggests that the modality may be

specific to the type of interaction. While the mode o f action at the micro level can be

characterized as practical, the mode o f action at the meso and/or macro level can be political.

The former (practical) are actions taken within a given framework of understandings,
norms, and rules, serving to reproduce the institutional structure or, at most, and rules,
serving to reproduce the institutional structure or, at most, stimulate incremental
changes. The latter political processes are action taken whose purpose is to change the
rules or frameworks governing actions (Scott 2001. p. 197)

Sixth, the multi-level model suggests that we should distinguish action (of micro

agency) guided by the meso and/or macro IT and action aimed explicitly at manipulating the

meso and/or macro IT. To illustrate, consider the structural model (Orlikowski 1992). The

model argues that IT is the medium and simultaneously the outcome of action. We believe that

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this should be carefully understood since action refers to two different things: action by macro

agencies and action by micro agencies.

It may be argued that IT is the medium o f the micro agency’s action while it is the

outcome o f the macro agency's action. This suggests an important expansion o f structurational

theories, structuration across levels. Orlikowski’s structural model, for instance, argues simply

that technology is the medium and outcome o f human action. "Technology is physically

constructed by actors working in a given social context, and technology is socially constructed

by actors through the different meanings they attach to it and the various features they

emphasize and use” (p. 406). However, if we distinguish levels o f agency it is possible that

technology is primarily the medium o f micro agencies (e.g.. users) structuration and primarily

the outcome of meso agencies (e.g., designers) structuration.

Thus, in her model we are talking about one identical technology but multiple actors

and/or groups of actors. The outcome o f one’s action becomes the medium o f another’s action.

The micro IT is at least the initial outcome of meso and macro agencies. Their action varies in

terms of power and responsibilities. And structuration is not a simple duality, but a duality

spread across levels o f institutions and different agencies that coact in structuration.

Seventh, an IT spans three institutional realms. The use o f IT is the means/resource for

micro agencies while the production of IT and governance IT are accomplished by meso and

macro agencies. But, what is the meaning of the governance o f IT for meso and/or macro

agencies? Is the structure that they draw on for their action? Rather for them the micro IT

becomes the focus. “The same rules can therefore be means/resources at one hierarchical level,

and topics at another, higher level” (Mouzelis 1995, p. 140). The macro and/or meso ITs tend

to be become taken-for-granted premises in the micro IT even though there is still room for

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resistance and decoupling. What is a transformable, malleable structure to a high-level agency

tends to be external, intractable, immutable for lower-level agencies.

Eighth, the variability o f IT does not necessary lead to more changes in the IT. Instead,

if an IT is understood an institution of ‘nested rules and resources’ this may further imply

greater stability for the IT. At each successive level up the hierarchy, the rules are increasingly

costly to change (Goodin 1996, p. 23). This further suggests that the institutional realm o f IT

governance is more costly to change than the production o f IT, which is more costly than the

use o f IT. For example, the decision by the steering committee at a university to replace an old

payroll information system by an ERP system is costly since it often entails a major

restructuration at lower institutional realms, production and use. which have high sunk costs

and experience uncertainty in the face of the change. Thus, without any “compelling reason”

the governance o f IT is hard to change due to the stability and reliability of the more deeply

nested rules and resources.

Another process that lends stability is what we term ‘allowance’. The notion o f

‘allowance’ refers to the potential for strategic use o f ‘decoupling’ and/or drifting. According

to Meyer and Rowan (1977), this situation produces elements of structure ‘decoupled’ from

activities and from each other. Decoupling is the primary method that institutionalized

organizations use to resolve conflicts and inconsistencies in their efforts to conform to

ceremonial rules and technical activities and demands for efficiency. For instance, the

Department of Information Resources (DIR) in the state o f Texas legally requires state

agencies to use a particular IS development methodology and quality assurance for large IT

projects. Several state agencies apparently comply with the letter o f the law but not with its

spint. Then they could claim “we have followed it!” The consequence is institutional drift. The

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concept of drift has been used to represent emergent changes through the introduction of IT

such as groupware (Ciborra 1996) and ERPs (Ciborra 2000; Quattrone and Hopper 2001).

The notion o f allowance implies the exactly opposite situation, where the governance

of IT itself ‘allows’ decoupling by the micro or lower levels. The allowance is often done

‘strategically’ during the governance (and possibly the production) o f IT. For instance, DIR

recognizes some powerful state agencies and strategically allows them to use other IS

development methodologies and homegrown quality assurance programs. Allowance might

occur due to different strategic reasons. For example, this sometimes occurs when the State and

DIR expect strong resistance from one powerful agency or a network o f agencies against those

methods and techniques, which they view as more internal control by the State. In such a case,

the State or DIR explicitly exclude from the legislation any legal statement about the

requirement for a particular IS development methodology or quality assurance technique. This

enables the governance o f IT itself to avoid mobilizing resistance or outcry from lower levels

and thereby escape the need to be explicitly designed anew.

Drift does not necessarily represent ‘outside control’ only, as Ciborra (2000) argues.

Instead, it may be the consequences o f ‘structurally inscribed strategic selectivities' and

‘structurally oriented strategic calculations’6. Then both the purely rationalistic design - IT as

designed -- and emergent view (Ngwenjama 1998) - IT as emergent rather than designed -- do

not seem to provide an accurate description about IT-related organizational change. Instead, IT

may be both designed and emergent simultaneously.

Ninth, the multi-level model developed in this chapter suggests that to explain the

duality o f technology accurately is to study the phenomenon at multiple levels. Privileging one

6 The terms are borrowed from Jessop (2001).

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level of analysis over another leads to overdominance o f its own causal structures by

emphasizing either local practices or macro-organizational changes (Orlikowski and Barley,

2002) and may lead to either technological determinism or social determinism (Misa, 1994).

Instead, the interplay between technology and organizations is neither strictly micro nor macro

in character (Rousseau, 1985). Like others (e.g., Walsham 1998, 2000: Korpela et al. 2001) this

model addresses the need of multi-level analysis to provide an adequate level o f precision in

conceptualizing technology and organizations.

This model may also offer a way of investigating technology and organizational

relations more systematically. Rousseau's (1983) review o f the theoretical and operational

definitions found in technology research reveals the systematic differences in definitions of

technology across individual, departmental, and organizational levels of analysis. An IT as a

system o f nested rules and resources on three levels - governance, production, and use -

potentially provides a compositional model for conducting the multi-level analysis, rather than

using the same definition across levels or different definitions o f technology across levels

which has basis in theory (Rousseau 1985).

Finally, recognizing the possibility o f the variability o f IT and agency leads us to

rethink social responsibilities of those who have social positions and roles to transform IT. As

Kling notes, “not distinguishing more closely between different parts and variants of the

elements of the IS is an instance of the aforementioned convenient fiction (1991, p. 356)... an

unintended consequence of not being fine-grained enough is removing social responsibility

from the designers” (p. 343). Ignoring the variability o f IT and agency may remove social

responsibility from those agencies. All agencies contribute to the formation and maintenance of

IT and changes in IT can be caused by any of the institutional realms o f IT. However, our

model implies that certain agencies are more powerful than others and those rules and

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resources at a certain hierarchical level are more influential than those at lower hierarchical

levels. Thus, this model reemphasizes the importance of ethics and social responsibility in the

development o f information systems and further points out the significant role o f IS planner

and designer in this process (Mason et al. 1995; Boland 1987; Walsham 1993, 2001; Carlson et

al. 1999; Kling 1992; Churchman 1971, 1982).

5.5 Conclusion

Which order should be seen as generative o f IT and organizations? And how do IT and

organizations interact with each other? Most IS studies have assumed a high degree o f

reproduction on the microlevel and thus offered a relatively stable picture o f IT and

organizations. Rather, the duality o f technology (e.g., Barley 1986; Orlikowski 1992), based on

Giddens’ theory o f structuration and/or the SCOT theory, has made a significant contribution

in our understanding o f the interplay between IT and organizations. In a similar vein several IS

studies (e.g., Barley 1986; Orlikowski 2000; Ngwenyama 1998; Karsten 1999; Mitev 2000)

have suggested that macro structures do not control or determine micro-events. However, we

argued that the extant structurational model has some limitations in that the model itself is not

sufficiently detailed to illuminate the dynamic interplay between IT and organizations. These

studies tended to see IT as macro structures and users and their practices as local or micro­

events. Therefore, the interplay between IT and organizations was described as that o f macro

structures and micro agencies. This assumption portrays a relatively static picture o f IT and

organizations and their relationship. In order to understand and explain the dynamic nature of

IT and organizations, this chapter proposed a multi-level model o f the duality o f technology

that draws upon recent studies of institutional theory and/or ‘modified realisnf. In the model

ITs are conceptualized as dynamic social institutions o f nested rules and resources and

structuration is located in the interplay across and within levels. The model assumes that both

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institutions and agencies can be micro as well as macro and it explicitly considering the

variability o f institutions or IT and agency.

The multi-level model adds new insights to our understanding o f IT and has

advantages over extant models. Among them,

• Through conceptualizing IT as an institution o f nested rules and resources the model

illuminates why IT cannot be restricted in “its scope to material artifacts (various

configurations o f hardware and software)” (Orlikowski 1992, p. 403) and why the

increasing large-scale IS or information infrastructure must be understood more than

“multiple technological artifacts” (Orlikowski 2000)

• The model suggests that change in IT and organizations can originate from any level o f IT

and agency rather than either IT or agency. Also an interplay occurs between and within

levels. Then, IT and organizations become more dynamic than has been described in the

literature

• By revealing the hierarchical nature of IT and organizations and their relationship, the

model is capable of explaining why IT and organizations maintain some stability and the

outcomes o f IT can be predictable to some level (DeSanctis and Poole 1994) rather than

“never predictable” and “out o f control”

• The model addresses the key research question that opened up the SCOT research

(Williams and Edge 1996) that concerns the circumstances and manner in which

technologies may be ‘hard’ or ‘malleable’ to particular social groups

• While acknowledging the interpretive flexibility and technology-in-use and -practice the

model addresses the importance of the initial design o f IT. This is because the outcome (an

IS) of someone’s action becomes the structural condition and the medium for the other’s

action.

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• While acknowledging the significant role o f users in the reproduction and transformation

of IT, the model addresses the importance o f social responsibility and ethics in IS

development and IT project, not only for IS planners and designers (e.g.. Mason et al.

1995: Walsham 2001: Kling 1992: Churchman 1971) but also for “users”

• The model illuminates ways o f influencing IT though extending the conception o f human

agency to proxy agency and collective agency and also opens up the potential to use

“collective efficacy” for productive technology adaptations, particularly in the case of

large-scale IS which are often deployed at diverse sites and across communities o f practice

• The model may be helpful for practitioners to develop improved IS development and

implementation strategies that promote the IT project success

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CHAPTER VI

REFRAMING THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN EXISTING INSTITUTIONS AND

AGENCY: DUALITY OF PREEXISTING INFORMATION SYSTEMS

This chapter investigates the significant role of existing information systems in the

development o f new information systems. Following chapters VI and V, in this chapter we

reconceptualize information systems as social institutions, which include not only technology

but also institutional properties in which technology is instantiated. Therefore, information

systems, like institutions, are simultaneously materia! and virtual (Friedland and Alford 1991;

Sewell 1992).

The review of current literature shows there are two main polarized approaches to the

development o f information systems: the “History Does Not Matter” (HNM view) and, at the

opposite, the path dependent (history as constraints or PD) view. The HNM view may refer to

such vocabularies as “architectural”,” ex ante design”, (Lanzara 1999) and typical of much

constitutional engineering or formal IS development while the PD view basically posits

“undesignable” evolutionary dynamics (Lanzara 1999). This study proposes a third approach to

the design and implementation o f IS by viewing history or existing information systems as both

enabler and constraint in the development of future information systems.

6.1 Prior Conceptualizations of History (or Preexisting Information Systems)

A review o f the literature indicates that there are two dominant views on the role of

history on the development o f new information systems.

6.1.1 “History Does Not Matter” (HNM)

This perspective on history is dominant in the IS community in general, and among IS

practitioners in particular. This approach understands information systems as separable from

social and organizational contexts in which they are instantiated, appropriated, and enacted.

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Thus this view tends to view information systems as technical artifacts that are relatively

stable, discrete, independent, and fixed. In this sense this perspective is very close to

“technological imperative” (Markus and Robey 1988; Orlikowski 1992). “decision-making

school” (DeSanctis and Poole 1994), and tool view o f technology (Orlikowski and lacono

2001). Since an information system is understood as independent o f human behavior and

institutional properties, the introduction o f a new information system into an organization is

regarded as unproblematic. History has nothing to do with the development o f new information

systems.

This model o f understanding history has appeared as the technocentric view of

Business Process Reengineering (BPR) and more recently as the wave o f Enterprise Resource

Planning (ERP). The technocentric view omits the issue of human agents and the existing

organizational and social contexts in the introduction o f new technology (Sarker and Lee 2002)

and believes that organizations can be fully “redesigned” through new technology. “Re-

everything or re-engineering is good and possible.” This model can also be found in popular

management perspectives to IS-strategy and information infrastructure deployment and

investment (Ives et al. 1993; Broadbent and Weill 1993). For instance, Broadbent and Weill

(1997) noted, “creating appropriate infrastructure services involves decisions based on a sound

understanding of where a firm is going, rather than on where it has been" (p. 91). These

studies view the development o f new information infrastructure as free from history but rather

fully controllable.

This view is similar to neoclassical economics in which the influence of prior

institutions on human behavior is largely neglected. Instead, a purely individualistic,

instrumental model o f action is emphasized. This model seems to disregard the simple fact that

“history matters” (North 1990; Offe 1996). The model ignores extant empirical findings of

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many studies o f IS development and implementation that new technology is always

problematic when facing the history o f organization (e.g., existing practices, culture,

technologies, users, politics). Simply, this model underestimates the role o f history in designing

new information systems.

6.1.2 Path Dependency (History as Constraints)

Several studies (e.g.. Hanseth and Braa 1998; Ciborra and Hanseth 1998; Monteiro

2000) in the IS field recently have argued that the HNM perspective is overly rationalistic

regarding IS development and implementation. Using actor-network theory (ANT) (Callon

1991; Latour 1987) these studies take a radically different view of information systems

(particularly large-scale information systems such as ERP and KMS) as information

infrastructures that are more than “pure” technology. They are rather socio-technical networks

(Hanseth 1996).

The authors o f these studies argue that one key characteristic o f information

infrastructure is that new infrastructures derive from the installed base - the old infrastructure.

The focus on infrastructure as ‘installed base’ implies that infrastructures are considered as

always established facts: The installed base heavily influences how the new can be designed

(Monteiro and Hepso 2002). History matters here and heavily influences the design of new

information systems. For example, Star and Ruhleder (1996) noted, “infrastructure is ‘sunk’

into, inside of. other structures, social arrangements and technologies and does not grow de

novo; it wrestles with the 'inertia o f the installed base.’ Rolland (2000) studies the difficulty of

deploying a large-scale information system in a global organization due to the installed base.

Some authors go further and suggest “the irreversibility of the installed base” which

emphasizes the difficulty of changing existing systems and viewing the installed base as actor.

Drawing on the work o f such writers as Arthur (1989), David (1986), and Grindley (1995) in

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the field of institutional economy, they discuss self-reinforcing mechanisms (e.g., lock-in, sunk

costs) and path-dependency as key characteristics o f the installed base and information

infrastructure. The most familiar example o f this phenomenon is the QWERTY layout of

typewriter and computer keyboards (David 1986). When a technology has been adopted it will

be impossible to develop competing technologies (Arthur 1989)

In contrast to the HNM view, the PD approach seems to overestimate the role of

history in the development o f new information systems. The path dependence approach is too

linear (Campbell 1997) and insensitive to the situated reflexivity of actors who may adopt a

variety of coping strategies rather than being forced into commitments that may be difficult to

reverse (Sabel and Zeitlin 1997). The PD position views information infrastructures or

institutions as stable and as a constraint for future development by overemphasizing the

process of institutionalization of the old while not investigating the enabling role o f the

installed base on the development o f new information systems. This may be because the

theoretical basis of these studies rests on social (or institutional) theories like Bourdieu's notion

o f habitus and actor network theory that emphasize stability and reproduction (Hanseth and

Monteiro 1998).

6.2 Refraining the Interplay between Existing Institutions and Agency: DIT

The above discussion has been a brief and somewhat critical examination o f extant

understandings o f previously existing institutions or IS. This review reveals that a large group

o f IS researchers has not taken seriously the impact o f pre-existing institutions on designing

new information systems. In this view “existing institutions do not matter.” On the other hand

the PD perspective does consider pre-existing institutions seriously, but focuses largely on how

the selection process is constrained by the old. In this view institutions are seen as stable and

inertia. The role of agency is largely ignored.

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The HNM approach represents one extreme on a continuum o f possible positions

regarding IS and institutional innovation. It represents the voluntarist pole: Actors are free of

preexisting institutions and new institutions can be deliberately introduced and - provided the

design is appropriate and they are effectively implemented - readily and successfully

established. This overemphasizes the design role of deliberate human decision and action,

arguing for the possibility and the necessity o f centralized process guidance (Lanzara 1999). At

the other extreme, the PD approach represents a type of historical determinist view which

assumes that institutional legacies determine the future. Rather they will change in an organic

way independent o f purposeful action (Nielsen et al., 1995). This approach has little place for

collective human will and plans (Lanzara 1999) (Figure 7).

HNM view .
??? PD view

Figure 7. Two Poles o f IS and Institutional Innovation

In this chapter we employ the tenets o f institutional theory to propose a framework for

investigating the relationship between pre-existing information systems and human actors in

establishing new information systems. This framework subscribes to neither o f these polar

positions, but attempts to take a middle position that combines elements o f the HNM and PD.

This framework considers the temporal dimension in institutions and agency and reframes the

interplay between two.

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In what follows, the notion o f ‘duality of institutions' (Giddens 1984) is presented. By

extending the notion, we develop the notion of ‘duality o f existing information systems’, which

is used to explain the significant role played by existing information systems in the

development o f new ISs. The concept ‘duality of existing information systems refers to a dual

role o f preexisting information systems as enablers as well as constraints in the designing o f a

new IS.

6.2.1 Prior Understanding of Duality of Institutions

Institutional theorists (Giddens 1984; Powell and DiMaggio 1991; Scott 1995, 2001)

have conceived institutions as both enabler and constraint. These institutional theorists agree

that institutions have a dual role: institutions are not merely constraints (Jepperson 1991). but

socially constructed templates for action, generated and maintained through ongoing

interactions (Zucker 1977; Meyer and Rowan 1977). Institution is both medium and outcome

o f the reproduction o f practices (Giddens 1984). Jepperson (1991) defines institutions as

“socially constructed, routine-reproduced, program or rule systems” (p. 149).

“All institutions simultaneously empower and control” (Jepperson, 1991, p. 146) and

thus simultaneously constitute and are constituted by human action. Actors and institutions

presuppose one another. Institutions are the outcome o f the behaviors o f the social group or

community (Bums and Scapens 2000). Institutions are not just constraint structures;

institutions represent a constraint/freedom duality (Fararo and Skvoretz 1984). We believe that

most social theorists agree with this dual nature of institution.

6.2.2 Temporal Dimensions of Institutions and Agency

Even though recent studies, discussed above, recognize the duality o f institutions, few

studies understand this duality in terms o f preexisting institutions. These studies are relatively

inattentive to the relation between institution and agency in time. However, the proposed

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dynamic institutional model for the development o f new IS makes a temporal distinction

between institution (information system) and agency to explain how preexisting institutions

and agency interplay each other in developing new institutions.

We propose the notion of duality o f preexisting institutions, which is based on extant

understanding and agreement on duality o f institutions and adds to this the temporal distinction

between institutional realm and action realm. The notion of preexisting or predecessor

institutions contains meanings in both time and space. They can be both previously existing

institutions at the same or nearly the same place and those spatially distant. For example, in the

context o f institutional change in several East-European countries in 1990's, both former

socialism having existed for several decades in their countries and capitalism imported from

Western countries became predecessor institutions for post-socialism (e.g.. Stark 1996;

Nielsen. Jessop and Hausner 1995).

Recent work (e.g.. Archer, 1995; Barley and Tolbert 1997; Reed 1997; Stones 2001) in

institutional theory suggests that institutions exist prior to action. For example. Barley and

Tolbert (1997) argue that

Institutions are historical accretions o f past practices and understandings that set
conditions on action. Unless an institution exists prior to action, it is difficult to
understand how it can affect behavior and how one can examine its implications for
action or speak o f action’s subsequent affects on the institution (p. 99)

Archer takes a strong position on this matter, arguing that “institution and agency work

on different time intervals, however small the gap between them” (1990, p. 83). Her

morphogenetic approach is more explicit about this temporal distinction between institution

and agency and advances two propositions: that institution necessarily pre-dates the action(s)

which transform it: and that institutional elaboration necessarily post-dates those actions. The

morphogenetic analysis (Figure 8) allows the investigation o f the temporally defined interplay

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between institution and agency: between institutional conditioning (time 1), social interaction

and its immediate outcome (times 2 and 3) and institutional elaboration (time 4).

Structure

T1
Interaction

T2 T3
Structural elaboration

T4

Figure 8. The Morphogenetic Sequence (Adapted from Archer 1995)

Stones (2001) argues that agency draws on the social structures o f domination,

legitimation and signification (Giddens 1984). “These structures must either pre-exist the

moment in which the agent draws upon them or, at the very least (and to a lesser degree), exist

at the moment the agency draws upon them” (p. 181). He argues that Giddens also recognizes

structural constraints and the preexistence o f structures.

Constraint stems from the "objective’ existence of structural properties that the
individual agent is unable to change. As with the constraining qualities o f sanctions, it
is best described as placing limits upon the range o f options open to an actor, or
plurality o f actors, in a given circumstance or type o f circumstance (Giddens 1984, p.
176-7)

All these theorists contend that we need to see the temporal dimension o f duality of

institutions. The notion o f duality of institutions would not be valid unless institutions preexist

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action. For instance, a language has to preexist interaction so actors enact and reproduce or

transform the institution (Fararo and Skvoretz 1984). Then the preexisting institution

(language) not only constrains but also enables human action. “The past shows its face as both

restrictions and possibilities” (Hakansson and Lundgren 1997, p. 166). In contrast to those two

dominant views o f the role o f existing IS introduced earlier, we posit that existing IS are pre­

existing institutions that simultaneously both enable and constrain the development of new IS.

Rather than whether it works, the relevant question is then how does this work?

6.2.3 Duality of Preexisting Information Systems

The temporal dimension in the duality o f institutions suggests that institutions always

precede agency. Then agency builds a new institution (or information system) upon the old

ones. The old ones always both enable and constrain the development of a new institution. No

institution is created de novo (Ricker 1995; Lanzara 1998). “Designed" institutions are almost

always “successor” institutions. They are not built on a tabula rasa. Successor institutions are

affected by the long arm o f their predecessors (Offe 1996, p. 217). Institutions always have a

history o f which they are the products (Berger and Luckmann 1967). At any point in

institutional development, humans start with some preexisting customs that influence new

departures. Most o f the institutions observable in civilized life are also observable in

contemporary primitive societies, though o f course in rudimentary form (Ricker 1995). Clearly,

institutions do not emerge in a vacuum; they always challenge, borrow from, and, to varying

degrees, displace preexisting institutions (Scott 2001). Thus, preexisting institutions are a path

as well as repertoire for the development o f new institutions.

6.3 Dual Surface of Emergence: Schemas and Resources

According to Pickering (1995), who borrowed a concept “surface o f emergence” from

Foucault, scientific inquiry is a kind o f "dance o f agency" in which the scientist acts and nature

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responds. What makes it possible for the respective agencies to interact at all is that they meet

on a common "surface." The surface is provided by what has already been going on, so that

scientific inquiry is always highly contingent. Using the concept, Pickering stated his idea of

how existing (technical and social) institutions prediscipline the extended temporality of

human intentionality.

Building on Pickering (1995), we propose two concepts: material surface o f emergence

and virtual surface o f emergence. The material surface of emergence refers to the temporarily

emergent aspects o f the material element (resources) of preexisting information systems while

the virtual surface of emergence the temporarily emergent aspects o f the cultural elements

(schemas) o f IS. These two concepts are used to illustrate how preexisting information systems

both enable and constrain the development o f a new IS and how new IS are built with the old

ones.

6.3.1 Material Surface of Emergence

“If the field o f existing machines serves as a surface o f emergence for the goals of
scientific practice, then human intentions are bound up and intertwined (in many ways)
with prior captures o f material agency in reciprocal tuning o f machines and disciplined
human performances ... the world o f intentionality is, then, constitutively engaged
with the world o f material agency, even if the one cannot be substituted for the other”
(Pickering 1995, p. 20)

IS developers can be never free from the material aspects o f preexisting IS. Instead,

they have no option but to combine and/or mobilize the preexisting resources (or IT artifacts)

when designing a new IS. When they try to develop a new IS, the existing material elements

such as existing programming language, software modules, and IS development methodology

emerge as the material surface.

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No IS can be designed and implemented from scratch. Designers start building up with

the materials they have at hand (Lanzara 1999; Star and Ruhleder 1996). For instance, the case

o f the development o f Post-it Notes shows that the designer did not invent such a new

technology by mistake or from scratch. But the designer described his discovery as a cultivated

breakthrough from combining and mobilizing existing ways o f mixing molecules (Garud and

Kamoe 2001). This is similar to Schumpeter’s idea of combinations. Schumpeter (1934)

considered entrepreneurship as acts reconstituting existing resources to create new ones.

Similarly, Usher (1954) argued that innovation is a cumulative synthesis o f evolutionary ideas

that lead to revolutionary outcomes. Schumpeter defines production (new institutions) as the

combinations or materials and forces that are within our reach. The producer is not an inventor.

All components that are needed for the production, whether physical or immaterial, already

exist and are in most cases also readily available.

In the study o f CSCW systems in Denmark and Japan, Taylor and his colleagues

(2001) found the process of designing a new IS to have its own systemic logic. Each new

design becomes in turn a surface o f emergence on which designers build another generation o f

artifacts. From the case study they show that each new technology becomes the basis for yet

another: an accumulation of artifacts, each bearing a family resemblance to its predecessor.

The material surface of emergence often occurs spatially (Offe 1996). Most often

designing new institutions occur through the replication of (or being imported from) spatially

distant ones (Offe 1996). Offe contends that imitation or ‘'mimetic isomorphism” (DiMaggio

and Powell 1983, 1991) is a powerful device o f institutional innovation. For example, countries

in East Europe borrowed an institutional model, capitalism, from spatially distant ones such as

the US.

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This process always operates through combining with preexisting resources. Analyzing

the resulting failure o f attempts to create capitalism in East and Central Europe, particularly in

Hungary, for example. Stark (1996) observes that the collapse of the formal structures o f the

socialist regimes does not result in an institutional vacuum. Instead, a wide range o f resources

such as organizational forms, routines, and social ties might block or redirect attempts to

introduce new institutions; but they could also become assets, resources, the basis for credible

commitments and coordinated actions. He notes,

We examine how actors in the postsocialist context are rebuilding organizations and
institutions not on the ruins but with the ruins of communism as they redeploy
available resources in response to their immediate practical dilemmas, Such a
conception o f path dependence does not condemn actors to repetition or retrogression,
for it is through adjusting to new uncertainties by improvising on practice routines that
new organizational forms emerge (p. 995).

IS designers always rely on the availability of programming languages, technologies

(e.g., ERPs, CRMs, DB technology), IS development methodology, and other material

elements of IS. When they develop a new IS, these existing materials o f IS that are spatially

distanced from them or their organizations emerge as the surface that both enables and

constrains the development of a new IS. As Taylor et al.’s (2001) study shows, CSCW systems

in Denmark are often designed using participative design methodology. This methodology is

borrowed from a spatially distant country, Norway. Sweden and other countries in Scandinavia

also borrowed the schema o f IS from Norway also. In contrast to that, CSCW systems in Japan

are designed more in the engineering tradition. Korea picks up the similar IS development

methodology from Japan and US.

Also, the ready-to-hand instrumentalities were profoundly different (even though

training in software engineering skills is the common property of both). In the Danish group,

such instrumentalities include a mixture o f technology, philosophy, and sociology and a

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reliance on techniques o f social animation they have developed to facilitate interaction with

workers. In Japan, on the other hand, instrumentalities include a mixture o f software and

hardware engineering practices, undiluted by sociological influences. In Scandinavia, iterative

design models and usability testing are integral components o f basic computer science,

education, and philosophy and ergonomics are common subjects. In Japan, basic computer

science and engineering is weighted much more to mathematics and physics (Taylor et al.

2001).

6.3.2 Virtual Surface of Emergence

The virtual elements of IS to which actors have access can be applied across a wide

range of circumstances (Sewell 1992). Existing schemas always emerge as the virtual surface

when a new IS is developed. This virtual surface both enables and constrains the development

of a new IS.

For example, in his work Campbell (1996) stresses that the development o f new

institutions is constrained by preexisting institutional arrangements, power relations, political

struggles, state actions and cultural traditions, whence institutional path dependence. In later

work Campbell (1997) discusses the enabling role of institutions, particularly schemas, in

developing new institutions. He argues that institutions provide schemas and patterns of

interaction that influence how actors define their problems, interests and solutions in ways that

facilitate evolutionary change - something that most evolutionary theories neglect due to their

preoccupation with constraints (p. 11). Existing interpretive schemes always emerge as the

virtual surface when actors define the problem in a new situation. They have a bearing on

institutional change because the way actors define problems when confronted with a pressure

for change influences the outcome. Specifically, he points out that changes in interaction and

focus o f interaction can precipitate changes in defining problems and interests. Extant

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institutions do not just impose constraints on innovation: they “are also enabling to the extent

that they provide a repertoire o f already existing institutional principles (e.g.. models,

analogies, conventions, concepts) that actors use to create new" institutions. Thus, new

institutions differ from but resemble with old ones (Douglas 1986).

Agencies enact the storage o f existing schemas (Weick 2001). The virtual surface of

emergence may be agency-specific, multiple, and even incompatible. Potentially, agencies

have different levels of the capacity to transpose or extend it (Sewell 1992). Some actors are

capable o f applying a wide range o f different and even incompatible schemas and transpose

them in developing new institutions while others are limited in terms o f the ability (Sewell

1992).

The virtual surface o f emergence explains why IS are designed differently in different

contexts. From empirical studies, we know that different IS planners and designers develop

different IS using the same or at least similar material surface of emergence. This is because

the virtual surface of emergence is different in different contexts such as different groups,

organizations, and nations. Taylor and his colleagues (2001) argue that the surfaces of

emergence for their CSCW systems in Denmark and Japan were very different in the first

place: already installed systems in an ordinary working environment in Denmark, and

abundantly funded engineering laboratories in Japan. The differences between the two

environments can be explained by the very different social, cultural, philosophical and political

premises on which the designers are building. Danish CSCW systems reflect a deep concern

for democratic process and a view o f work as self-management. The systems tend to stay close

to current work practices, eschewing more radical innovations. In contrast to this, Japanese

CSCW systems are different, imbued with a preoccupation with the subtle dynamics of

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interpersonal interaction. This reflects deeply engrained cultural assumptions about sense-

making, the exercise o f power, and what is legitimate in a social setting.

6.4 Theoretical and Practical Implications

This chapter has proposed that information systems always preexist human action and

that the schemata and resources of information systems emerge as virtual and material surfaces

in the process o f developing a new IS. These surfaces always both enable and constrain the

development o f a new IS. Through this way of conceptualizing the existing ISs, we can

overcome the limitations o f both the HNM and the PD perspective on the role o f the existing

ISs while gaining the insights from them. Below several theoretical and practical implications

for the design and implementation of IS are discussed.

6.4.1 Dilemma of IS Design

The idea that no IS is created de novo implies that IS design suffers either from

‘hyperrationality’ or from ‘the long arm of the past’. Hyperrationality refers to “willingness

what cannot be willed” (Offe 1996). This kind o f dilemma often appears with IS designers and

planners in the HNM tradition who tend to believe that the design and implementation of IS

can be fully designed and planned and its outcomes are predictable and controllable: simply a

‘switch over” is possible.

However, IS designers and planners are not those ‘economic men’ who make perfectly

rational decisions with complete information; they are limited by bounded rationality. All IS

design and implementation are inherently incomplete. Thus, the design of new IS cannot be

willed “because it is seen as willed, it will be more controversial and less binding than if it is

seen as a legacy or imitation” (p. 214). At any rate, too much ‘tinkering’ with ISs, an excessive

effort to design and redesign them in order to make them turbulence-proof and fit for their

purposes will almost certainly have the unintended effect of both undermining trust and

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committing the founding fathers of such innovations to ever more and ever hastier

readjustments (Offe 1996). Furthermore this could unintentionally cause excessive rule change

and instability (Zhou 1993: Lanzara 1998). Hyperrationality may lead to an instance o f self-

defeating plans.

Ciborra (2000) captures this aspect in IT infrastructure design. He portrays this process

as the ‘vicious cycle’ that leads business from the tight, top-down control o f the information

infrastructure to the actual drift of the infrastructure itself. Infrastructure design and

implementation deviate from their planned purpose for a variety o f reasons often outside

anyone’s influence. As March and Olsen (1989) imply, IS design ‘rarely satisfies the prior

intentions o f those who initiate it. Change cannot be controlled precisely’ (p. 65-66).

The other dilemma ‘the long arm of the past or the installed base’ has to do with the

fact that “designed” IS are almost always “successor” IS. They are not built on a tabula rasa.

Successor ISs are affected by the long arm of their predecessors or ‘formative context’ (Ciborra

and Lanzara 1994; Hanseth 1998; Braa 2000; Star and Ruhler 1996). Designers in the HNM

school often tackle the ‘the long arm of the past’ by undercutting the validity o f old routines in

an effort to create a kind o f tabula rasa as a prelude to winning the loyalty o f constituents to

the newly designed institutional arrangements or IS. This is attractive but dangerous. As Offe

(1996) implies, if the design and implementation o f a new IS is too rapid and too

comprehensive, this situation may easily overtax the support o f those affected by them, or it

will frustrate the expectation generated by the restructuration process itself that rapid

transformation also means rapid success.

The development tn the PD tradition may suffer from a different kind o f dilemma.

Researchers and practitioners do not conform to a notion o f tabula rasa and tend to stress the

necessity of evolutionary IS design, not deprived from the installed base. This approach may

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lead to less sunk costs, unpredictability, and political conflict (Genschel 1997). As Offe implies

(1996), however, if newly designed ISs can be depicted as being not so new after all, but rooted

in some respectable past, that may add to their obligatory power from that past, they will be

constantly asked by people what’s new? This approach is likely to become effective in the

short run but self-destructive in the long run (March 1991; Lanzara 1998).

6.4.2 IS Design as Learning

The discussion above seems to suggest that IS designers and planners need the

capacity to learn from both the past and the future, whose process would be named as

exploitation and exploration in organizational learning (March 1991). In fact, this is a middle

position between the HNM and the PD view of the preexisting IS that offers the answer to the

dilemmas that those planners and designers face in practice.

Organizations engage in exploration - the pursuit of new knowledge, o f things that

might come to be known (Levinthal and March 1993). This includes things captured by terms

such as search, variation, risk taking, experimentation, play, flexibility, discovery, and

innovation (March 1991). And they engage in exploitation - the use and development of thing

already known (Levinthal and March 1993). This includes such things as refinement, choice,

production, efficiency, selection, implementation, and execution. The HNM view o f IS design

and implementation tends to overemphasize exploration in organizational learning in system

design. On the other hand, the PD view emphasizes exploitation in organizational learning.

While each is needed and valuable in system design, overemphasizing one at the expense of the

other results in self-destructive outcomes in IS development both in the short and long run.

Organizations that engage in exploration to the exclusion of exploitation are likely to

find that they suffer the costs o f experimentation without gaining many o f its benefits, while

systems that engage in exploitation to the exclusion o f exploration are likely to find themselves

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trapped in suboptimal stable equilibria (March 1991). Maintaining an appropriate balance

between exploration and exploitation is a primary factor in the success o f an IS project. This is

complicated not only by the difficulty o f determining what the appropriate balance should be,

but also by several ways in which learning itself contributes to imbalances. Finding an

appropriate balance is made particularly difficult by the fact that the same issues occur at levels

o f a nested system (March 1991 )-at the macro (IT governance), meso (IT production), and

micro (IT use) system level. In IS development, learning could lead organizations into

dynamics o f accelerating exploitation or exploration, and learning makes negative as well as

positive contributions to competitive position (Levinthal and March 1993).

6.4.3 Strategies in the Middle Position

Based on the preceding analysis, three alternative strategies - transposition, patching-

up, and anticipated IS - for balancing exploitation and exploration in the development o f IS are

presented (Figure 9). These strategies consider the fact that preexisting IS both enable and

constrain the development o f IS. Thus, this is important to pursue both path dependence and

path finding at the same time (Garud and Kamoe 2001; Hauser et al. 1995). These strategies

are based on the belief that the inertia of institutional structure closes some avenues for

institutional adjustments but at the same time it opens others (Genschel 1997). Thus they

presume that new ISs are built with (the ruins of) existing IS rather than on (the ruins of) old IS

(Rao and Singh 1999) or nothing.

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HNM view Anticipated Patching-Up Transposition PD view


Institution

Figure 9. Three Alternative Strategies in the Middle Position

6.4.3.1 Transposition

Bourdieu notes that habitus is “*a system o f lasting transposable dispositions which,

integrating past experiences, functions at every moment as a matrix of perceptions,

appreciations, and actions and makes possible the achievement o f infinitely diversified tasks,

thanks to analogical transfers o f schemes permitting the solution of similarly shaped problems”

(1977. p. 83). Borrowing the term “transposable” from Bourdieu, Sewell argues that there is no

fixed limit to the possible transpositions o f schemas. He notes, “to say that schemas are

transposable, in other words, is to say that they can be applied to a wide and not fully

predictable range o f cases outside the context in which they are initially learned ... Knowledge

of a rule or a schema by definition means the ability to transpose or extend it—that is, to apply

it creatively ... then agency, which I would define as entailing the capacity to transpose and

extend schemas to new contexts, is inherent in the knowledge o f cultural schemas that

characterizes all minimally competent members o f society” (p. 17-8). Social actors are capable

of applying a wide range of different and even incompatible schemas and transpose them in

developing new institutions. Therefore schemas not only constrain but also enable the

development o f new institutions. The schemas to which actors have access can be applied

across a wide range of circumstances (Sewell 1992).

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Borrowing the term “transposable”. Genschel (1997) shows how stable structures can

be adapted to evolving conditions by transposing them to new functions. He called this process

as transposition. The process o f transposition bears close resemblance to Levi-Strauss‘ concept

of bricolage. The bricoleur makes do with what’s there, with what he encounters. In that, he

differs from the engineer (Louridas 1999). The process of transposition is marked by backward

looking and improvisation and starts with retrospection. The designers turned back to already

existent institutions and tried to figure out who could be used to tackle whatever was the new

problem at hand.

Using this concept o f bricolage, Lanzara (1999) contends that no system can be

designed and implemented from scratch but designers start building up with the materials they

have at hand. They start small and rely on preexisting arrangements. This strategy privileges

combinatory logics, loose coupling, and garbage can processes. It exploits the properties of

existing structures for interactive and generative purposes, it successfully mediates the

dilemmas o f hyperrationality and the long arm of past (Lanzara 1999).

Ciborra and his colleagues (2000) conducted a research project which investigated the

dynamics o f IT infrastructure at six companies in seven different countries, including the USA

and found that in fact bricolage is one o f the most frequent approach in the company cases,

irrespective o f whether management was planning or strategy oriented, or inclined to react to

contingencies. Based on the findings o f a field study that explores the process o f executive

information systems (EIS) development in a large organization Nadhakumar and Avison

(1999) argued that traditional ISD methodologies are best suited to building large-scale

application from scratch in a low-level language but they are not appropriate to EIS

development, where much o f the work involves the enhancement of an established package

using fourth generation languages. They argue that then it would suggest that there is likely to

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be a growing problem in supporting effectively the increasing proportion o f IS (e.g.. Web-

based applications) that are more similar to the EIS than traditional IS. The concluded that the

improvisational character o f the developers’ work practices would seem to be similar to the

bricolage in the development o f systems.

6.4.3.2 Patching-up

Transposition is a conservative approach to IS design and implementation. Patching-up

is a less conservative strategy while following the same combinatory logic. It refers to patching

old structures (or information systems) up with new structures. Unlike transposition, patching-

up looks forward to solving new problems by creating new institutions (Genschel 1997).

However, rather than trying to undercut the validity o f old routines in an effort to create a kind

of tabula rasa or keeping old inefficient structures due to lock-in mechanism and path

dependency, this strategy aims at relieving specific bottlenecks and deficiencies o f the existing

IS through patching up them with new IS (either or both of schemas and resources o f IS).

Consider, for instance, a case in which an airline company has been running an old

reservation system for almost two decades. This kind o f system may have specific bottlenecks

and deficiencies like lack o f web presence and integration of internal and external business

operations. Rather than simply replacing the old system with an ERP or other web-based

integration systems, the company patches up the old system with new gateway or middleware

technologies such as XML, EntireX Broker and the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).

Patching up tends to proceed in a decentralized manner in that all initiatives to make up

for the deficiencies of an existing IS by adding new ISs tend to be organized locally. There

may be less central coordination with patching up the old IS with new ones. It seems likely that

patching up takes precedence over a switchover (Genschel 1997). For instance, consider an

organization with multiple divisions and units that has developed a large-scale financial and

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accounting information system. Even though this system offers centralized financial

management, it may not meet the need of individual divisions and units for local accounting

practice. This creates the specific bottleneck and deficiency o f the large-scale IS. In this

situation, the central coordination for patching up may be very difficult or even not allowed.

Rather all initiatives for patching up are likely to be organized locally. In the design o f a large-

scale IS there may be no single design or designer. There may be lot of localized attempts at

partial design cutting across one another (Goodin 1996).

Patching up does not mean the total replacement o f the existing IS, which results in

high sunk costs and political conflict. Instead, patching-up strategy seeks less noise and

confusion in the transformation, less uncertainty than a switchover to a totally new IS, and less

political conflict than a switchover to a new IS may cause. Patching up diffuses conflict by

allowing for inconsistency (Genschel 1997).

6.4 J J Anticipated Institutions

The third strategy, “anticipated institution,” is more radical than the two previous

strategies. While maintaining the combinatory logic, this strategy focuses on path-finding

(Hauser et al. 1995) or path creation (Garud and Kamoe 2001) rather than path dependence. It

understands the limitation o f “design de novo", but at the same time stresses the need of

considering a teleological character of transformation (Federowicz 2000) or the importance of

intentionality (Goodin 1996) in the design.

While Federowicz (2000) recognizes that the idea o f institutional path dependencies is

valuable, he criticizes its exclusive stress on institutional legacies as obstacles to change and its

limited capacity to explain radical changes. He suggests that post-socialist institutional change

can only be properly understood by taking into account, alongside path dependent processes,

the teleological role o f what he calls “anticipated institutions”. He argues that these “future

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oriented mechanisms o f mobilization of social resources” or “blueprint ideas, no matter

whether true or false, simplistic or sophisticated” partly explain institutional change. This

strategy suggests that no deep change necessary for the development o f a new IS is possible

without a future oriented turn in people’s minds and behavior. People (planners, designers, and

users) need to develop their expectations o f the plausible institutional change. People’s

expectations matter not only at the cognitive level and at the behavioral level for the success of

IT project. Thus, this strategy may offer a way o f higher order learning to occur in the process

o f system development (Stein and Vandenbosch 1996).

As many empirical studies suggest, IS design and implementation always entails

unexpected outcomes, side effects, drifting, emergence, accidents, etc (e.g., Dahlbom et al.

2000; Ciborra and Aailla: Orlikowski 2000; Hanseth and Braa 2000). Simply they are

unpredictable and uncontrollable. Like institutions, they evolve according to a logic of their

own, in ways altogether impervious to intentional intervention and direct human design.

However. Goodin (1996) argues that

Accidents happen: but the frequency and direction o f accidents can be significantly
shaped by intentional interventions o f social planners ... What theories o f social
change as accident or evolution are telling us is that social outcomes themselves are
not directly subject to intentional change, design, or redesign. Such theories strive to
limit the scope for intentionality in descriptive, or hence prescriptive, models o f social
life. Whatever their aims, however, what these other theories are actually pointing to
are possibilities of design and redesign at one level up. Outcomes may be the product
of accident but accident rates might be intentionally altered. Outcomes may be the
product o f evolutionary forces, but the selection mechanisms that guide that evolution
might be intentionally altered. Design and redesign might still have some scope, even
in those less intentional social worlds (p. 29).

Thus, it is important to understand that IS planners and designers not only “play” within the

existing framework o f rules defining the pre-given opportunities, but also they can choose

strategically “where to go” within the limits defined by the inherited constraints and can even

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formulate the rules of the game to eventually eliminate certain constraints over time (Hausner

etai. 1995).

Institutional change through anticipation and intentionality helps to understand why radical

change can happen in spite of the path dependent factors constraining it and of the

fundamentally stabilizing role of existing schemas and resources o f IS in the development of a

new IS. While the two earlier strategies underline the importance of recombination in the

search process to understand IS design and implementation, the third strategy “anticipated

institution” adds that teleological elements may come into play in the search mechanism and

recognized the significant role of intentionality o f IS planners and designers in the life of IS.

6.5 Conclusion

This chapter aims at illuminating the role o f preexisting IS in the development o f new

ISs and ultimately proposing the strategies for the successful IS development. For this, we

explored two existing views of preexisting IS in the development of new ISs and argued that

they represent two extreme (the voluntarist and historical determinist pole) on a continuum of

possible positions regarding ID and institutional innovation. Instead, by extending the concept

“duality o f institutions” and suggesting “duality o f preexisting IS”, information systems always

preexist human action, which will lead to the development of new ISs. Thus, borrowing the

concept “surface o f emergence” from Pickering (1995) we argued that existing information

systems always enable and constrain the development o f new ISs. Finally several theoretical

and practical implications for IS design and implementation were presented.

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CHAPTER VII

TECHNOLOGY ADAPTATION AS A DYNAMIC PROCESS OF

INSTITUTIONALIZATION: DYNAMIC INSTITUTIONAL THEORY

7.1 Introduction

This chapter aims at investigating the process of technological adaptation in the case of

large-scale information systems. Since the deployment of large-scale information systems is

relatively new, the process of technological adaptation o f such systems has not been the focus

of many IS researchers and practitioners.

According to Tyre and Orlikowski (1994) there are several reasons that it is important

to understand the process of technological adaptation. First, users’ adaptations of technologies-

in-use often help to shape further development and research activities (von Hippel, 1988).

Second, efficient operation ultimately achieved with a new technology depends heavily on

users’ modifications since several empirical studies (e.g., DeSanctis and Poole, 1994;

Majchrzak et al., 2000; Poole and DeSanctis, 1990) indicate that users are not passive receivers

of technology but actively choose to appropriate given technology structures in different ways.

Third, modifications affect not just the technology-in-use, but also its physical and

organizational context to overcome any misalignments through a dynamic process of mutual

adaptation between the technology and its environment (Leonard-Barton, 1988). Therefore, by

understanding how such adaptations occur we can begin to build more adequate theories of

technological change in organizations.

Despite its significance, however, the adaptation process for new technology in general

is not yet well understood (Majchrzak et al., 2000; Tyre and Orlikowski, 1993, 1994). Some

earlier models (e.g., Cooper and Zumd 1990; Markus 1990) of technology adaptation took a

rather deterministic approach and assumed a liner and stepwise process of technology

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adaptation. Several empirical studies have shown that the process o f technology adaptation is

neither deterministic nor linear (Barley 1986: DeSanctics and Poole 1994). Later, several

different models of technology adaptation viewing technology adaptation as emergent have

been suggested and their utility has been shown in different studies (e.g. Leonard-Barton 2000:

Orlikowski 1996; Majchrzak et al. 2000). However, these models have been extensively

applied to traditional information systems and coordination technologies (e.g.. Ciborra, 1996:

DeSanctis and Poole, 1994; Griffith, 1999; Karsten. 1995. 1999: Majchrzak et al., 2000;

Orlikowski, 2000). None o f them has been applied to large-scale information systems,

integration and control technology, or information infrastructure. Also we believe that these

emergent models are less capable o f dealing with complex institutional arrangements in which

large-scale IS are designed, implemented and ultimately used.

In the meantime several studies in the area o f large-scale IS have recently suggested

that large-scale IS are very different from traditional, small-scale IS with respect to complexity,

institutional arrangement, degree o f flexibility, etc. (e.g., Hanseth and Braa 1998: Ciborra

2001). Several studies have implied that the technology adaptation of large-scale IS may be

quite different from that o f traditional, small-scale IS (e.g., Orlikowski 2000: Majchrzak et al.

2000; Pinch and Bijker 1987; Star and Ruhleder 1996)

In this chapter it is claimed that extant models o f technology adaptation cannot provide

adequate levels o f explanation about the technology adaptation o f large-scale IS. What is

required is a more complex model that can reflect insights gained from extant models while

overcoming their limitations. Thus, this chapter starts with a review o f extant models of

technology adaptation and investigates the process of technology adaptation o f large-scale IS

through developing an institutional model o f technology adaptation. Following chapters 4

through 6, the new model conceptualizes information systems as social institutions and views

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the process of technology adaptation as a process o f institutionalization. The new model is

developed through an extensive review o f literature on institutional theory, particularly on the

topic o f institutionalization (e.g.. Barley and Tolbert 1997; Tolbert and Zucker 1996;

Hasselbladh and Kallinikos 2000).

7.2 Prior Understandings of Technology Adaptation

7.2.1 Diffusion and Infusion Approaches

Several adaptation models based on diffusion perspectives (Cooper and Zmud, 1990;

Kwon and Zmud, 1987; Rogers, 1995) and critical mass theory (Markus, 1990), are found in

the literature. These models view information technology implementation as part o f the

organizational diffusion process, with the innovation as the focal technology (Scheepers and

Rose, 2000). They tend to assume a linear technological adaptation and view technology

deployment as a stepwise process that starts with awareness and ends with adoption and

adaptation to the user’s needs. In the population of users, this individual adoption builds to a

point o f critical mass, at which point the technology use “takes off” and is firmly established.

This perspective views users as reactive in their relationship with technology, failing to

recognize human action as a possible predictive factor (e.g., Barley, 1990; Orlikowski and

Robey, 1991).

7.2.2 Emergent Approaches

On the other hand, in the emergent perspective (Markus and Robey, 1988) on

technology adaptation, there are several different understandings o f how the adaptation process

unfolds. Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST) (DeSanctis and Poole, 1994) based on Giddens’

(1984) structuration theory, explains the process by which technologies are adapted as

consisting o f structures, appropriations, and decision outcomes. The theory focuses on the

structures built into such technologies as group decision support systems. According to the

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theory some aspects o f pre-existing structures become incorporated in the new technology as it

is implemented and appropriated by users. These organizational structures can become

reinforced or modified through technology use, leading to new structures within the

technology. The technology becomes a structure for social interaction, which then influences

the organizational structure. DeSanctis et al (2000) maintain that general predictions regarding

technology use and outcomes can be drawn using AST.

Leonard-Barton (1988) suggests that the technology adaptation should be viewed as a

cyclical, spiral-shaped process o f misalignments, followed by alignments, followed by more

but smaller misalignments, gradually evolving to a state in which the technology, the delivery

system and the performance criteria are aligned. She views technology adaptation as a mutual

adaptation between technology and user environments. Taking a situated change (1996) or

practice lens perspective (2000), Orlikowski argues that people can (and do) redefine and

modify the meaning, properties, and applications o f technology after development. Grounded

in micro-level changes, technological adaptation is ongoing, emergent and continuous rather

than planned and discontinuous. Some other researchers suggest that the use o f the technology

itself is emergent (Ngwenyama, 1998) and characterized by improvisations o f various sorts

(e.g., Ciborra, 1996, 1999).

A recent study by Majchrzak et al (2000) reviews extant structurational models of

technology adaptation and investigates the process o f technology adaptation in the case o f a

computer-supported inter-organizational virtual team. They propose a modified model o f

technology adaptation based on the findings o f the study, including

• If a workgroup is allowed to modify its structures, it is possible that all structures


may be changed, including the technology’s initial spirit (DeSanctis and Poole
1994).

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• Pre-existing structures do not constrain but instead the structures are in fact
changed; the notion of pre-existing structures constraining the adaptation process is
too simple.

• In the context o f unpredictable work environments, having the opportunity to


modify existing structures is not enough to eliminate the need for further
adaptation; indeed some groups may never converge on a set of revised
adaptations, spending most o f their effort in adjusting, and finally achieving limbo,
failure, or dissolution.

• Leonard-Barton's (1988) model o f a gradual reduction o f misalignment is too


simple for the virtual team in the study; Tyre and Orlikowski's (1994) model of
discontinuous adaptations responding to windows o f opportunities did not fit well
to the virtual team they studied: The discrepant events did not occur in batches;
they occurred sporadically.

Even though these studies differ in terms of their position on the specifics of

technology adaptation, they share the same assumptions. The implementation and use o f new

technology are not deterministic: technology has interpretative flexibility and users of the

technology are engaged in its constitution during development or use (Orlikowski, 1992); users

of a technology are a source o f innovation (von Hippel, 1988) and reinvention (e.g., Johnson

and Rice, 1984). Thus the technology is appropriated in diverse ways by diverse users

(DeSanctis and Poole, 1994; Orlikowski, 1992, 2000). These models tend to assume that the

process o f technological adaptation is ongoing and continuous rather than discontinuous,

radical and often so much periodic developments (Tyre and Orlikowski, 1993, 1994).

7.3 Technology Adaptation in the Case of Large-scale IS

Our question is whether these models can well explain the process of technology

adaptation of large-scale IS, for example integration and control technology (ERP), since they

have been mainly applied for traditional IS and groupware applications. This question is raised

based on many authors’ claim that large-scale IS differ from traditional IS with respect to its

complexity, purpose, design, institutional arrangements, etc (Davenport 1998; Braa and

Rolland 2000; Markus 2000; Hanseth and Braa 1998; Star and Ruhleder, 1996).

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These studies o f large-scale IS, enterprise systems or information infrastructure lead us

to investigate if the process o f adaptation o f such systems may differ from that for traditional

IS. In fact, some authors have implied that the process o f adaptation o f large-scale IS may

differ from that o f coordination technologies and traditional IS. For example, Orlikowski

(1996) notes that the change process for a more rigid, fixed-function technology may be

different from more open-ended, generic, and user-customizable tools what Malone et al.

(1992) refer to as radically-tailorable tools or to groupware applications. Also Majchrzak et al.

(2000) maintain that technology adaptation may become discontinuous when the costs of

change are very high, and when the technology is large and complex (e.g., ERP or integration

technology): but when the costs to not adapt are high, and when the technology (e.g..

groupware, coordination technology) is more malleable, the adaptations may become ongoing,

if not continuous. Volkoff (1999) suggests that the implementation o f large-scale IS like ERP

is fundamentally different from traditional IS, and is also distinct from system use: since an

ERP does have a basic built-in structure the technology adaptation o f software and

organizational processes is an iterative process that is constrained by both the structural

properties of the organization and the built-in properties of the software. The implementation is

a long-term and complex process with a high degree o f interdependencies and a mandatory

context for its users (Pozzebon, 2000). Orlikowski (2000) notes that in larger technological

systems or infrastructures such integration is likely to reduce the degrees o f freedom available

to users to experiment with and modify their technological artifacts in use. As users become

more dependent on using integrated technologies, the variety of technologies-in-practice that

they will enact may decrease (restriction in malleability). Further she suggests that there is the

need for an empirical research about whether such restriction in malleability actually occurs in

any situation.

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These authors seem to be assuming that large-scale or integrated IS tend to be less

flexible and restrict users' interpretive flexibility. Therefore, the process o f technology

adaptation of large-scale IS which are complex and often rigid differs from that o f flexible or

non-integrated technologies. In a similar vein. Pinch and Bijker (1987, p. 40) refer to the notion

o f the interpretative flexibility o f technology, not just to the “flexibility in how people think o f

or interpret artifacts, but also [the] flexibility in how artifacts are designed.” Therefore

technologies vary in their level o f interpretative flexibility (Orlikowski, 1992). From a systems

theory perspective Hughes (1994) argues that “a technological system can be both a cause and

an effect: it can shape or be shaped by society. As they grow larger and more complex, systems

tend to be more shaping of society and less shaped by it.” Drawing from actor-network theory,

information infrastructures or large-scale IS are seen as more than pure technology; rather they

are socio-technical networks (e.g., Rolland, 2000) and develop through extending and

improving the installed base (Star and Ruhleder. 1996). Thus large-scale IS may be hard to

change due to the inertia of the installed base (Monteiro, 1998) and could constrain redesigns

and modifications (Braa and Rolland, 2000). A number o f other empirical studies (e.g.,

Hanseth and Braa, 1998; Kling and lacono, 1989; Leonard-Barton, 1988; Newman, 1989;

Rolland, 2000) illustrate similar points by addressing the difficulties o f redesigns and

modifications o f large-scale IS caused by the inertia o f the installed base, their technical

complexity, the inherent nature o f inflexibility, etc.

These studies seem to imply that (1) in cases o f large-scale IS implementation

organizational changes predominate, while technical changes are relatively less important

(Leonard-Barton, 1988), (2) characteristics o f large-scale IS tend to make local adaptation of

the technologies very hard, even though it is necessary for effective the implementation

(Cordelia and Simon, 1998). (3) large-scale IS can often be institutionalized before the system

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is deployed in the focal organization (Rolland, 2000). (4) when time passes the use of

technology becomes habitual or "routinized" and the adaptation drops off (Tyre and

Orlikowski. 1993, 1994). and (5) finally technology adaptation is likely to reach closure, while

the technology itself gains momentum (Hughes, 1994) and stabilization (Pinch and Bijker.

1987) or becomes a black-box (Latour, 1987). This closure may be or need to be broken by

external forces (Hughes. 1987) or discrepant events (Tyre and Orlikoswski, 1993, 1994) such

as the introduction of new systems, adoption of new versions o f the system or IT standards, or

mergers and acquisition. These events may initiate another large-cycle adaptation (Leonard-

Barton. 1988). Large-scale IS, like “technological momentum” (Hughes, 1994), is not

irresistible. It can be challenged and redesigned and frequent adaptations, if not reinventions, of

the initial solution are required in the implementation of large-scale IS (Ciborra 2000).

Based on these basic understandings of large-scale information systems and the

adaptation process of such systems, we may argue that the technological adaptation o f large-

scale IS can be best understood as the process of institutionalization. To adequately portray this

process, dynamic institutional theory (DIT) for technology adaptation is proposed.

7.4 Theoretical Basis of Dynamic Institutional Theory (DIT)

The concept of institutionalization is located in the tenets o f institutional theory (e.g.,

Scott 1995; Powell and DiMaggio 1991; Giddens 1984). Many prior studies have understood

institutionalization with the self-reproducing nature of institutions that exhibit stability and the

end of institutionalization as routinization and stabilization (e.g., Tolbert and Zucker 1996:

Barley and Tolbert 1997). Thus, isomorphism and homogeneity are encountered in almost all

accounts o f the effects of institutionalization (e.g., Meyer and Rowan 1977; Tolbert and Zucker

1983). In the IS field, for example, using structuration theory Orlikowski (1992) sees the

reconfiguration process as linear, by predicting the institutionalization of technology over time.

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Hanseth and Monteiro (1998) linked infrastructure (e.g., ERPs, network technologies) to

institutions by emphasizing the aspects of their stability and reproduction.

Our understanding o f institutionalization differs by following recent advances in

institutional theory in general and in explaining the process o f institutionalization as somewhat

unpredictable, problematic, and dynamic rather than pre-determined, liner, and static (Barley

and Tolbert 1997; Tolbert and Zucker 1996; Hasselbladh and Kallinikos 2000; Oliver 1992).

DIT for technology adaptation is developed to explain as a process o f institutionalization the

process o f technology adaptation in the case o f large-scale IS. This theory does not grow de

novo but is developed based on prior studies o f institutionalization (e.g., Meyer and Rowan

1991; Covaleski et al. 1993; Jepperson 1991; Barley and Tolbert 1997; Tolbert and Zucker

1996; Hasselbladh and Kallinikos 2000; Oliver 1992). In the following sections, those studies

of institutionalization which DIT for technology adaptation is drawn from are briefly

introduced.

7.4.1 Institutionalizations as Structuration

The dynamic interaction between institutions and human action is well explained by

Barley and Tolbert’s (1997) recursive model of institutionalization based on Giddens’s concept

of structuration (Figure 10). Since Giddens’s models do not incorporate historical time (Bums

and Scapens 2000) and are implicitly temporal (Barley and Tolbert 1997). Barley and Tolbert

(1997) translate Giddens’s static portrayal of structuration into a more dynamic model that

describes the relationship between agency and institutions over time.

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Institutional
Realm

Scripts at T i Scripts at T2 Scripts at T3

T2 T3
TI
Realm of Action

Key: a = encode, b = enact, c = repiicate or revise, d = externalize and objectify

Figure 10. A Sequential Model of Institutionalization (Barley and Tolbert 1997)

This model has been widely used by different authors (e.g., Barley 1986; Yates and

Orlikowski 1992; Caglio and Newman 2001). A modified version o f the model is proposed by

Bums and Scapens (2000) for studying management accounting change. While Barley and

Tolbert’s model is mainly composed of diachronic elements, their modified framework

combines both synchronic and diachronic elements: “whereas institutions constrain and shape

action synchronically (i.e. at a specific point in time), actions produce and reproduce

institutions diachronically (i.e. through their cumulative influence over time)” (p. 9-10). The

significant insight o f this work is that the process of this dynamic interplay between the two is

understood as institutionalization.

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7.4.2 Processes of Institutionalization

Following Zucker (1977), institutionalization is defined as both a process and a

property variable. In a process-based approach to institutionalization like Barley and Tolbert

(1997), “institutionalization is almost treated as a qualitative state: structures are

institutionalized or they are not." (Tolbert and Zucker 1996, p. 175). Consequently, the

determinants o f variations in levels o f institutionalization and o f how such variation might

affect the degree of similarity among sets of organizations are not addressed (Tolbert and

Zucker 1996).

The insight of Tolbert and Zucker’s work for our proposed dynamic model is its

account for varying levels o f institutionalization. Drawing on the work of Berger and

Luckmann (1967) which identified institutionalization as a core process in the creation and

perpetuation o f enduring social groups, the authors offer a set o f sequential processes -

habitualization, objectification and sedimentation (Figure 11).

Habitualization -------------------- m Objectification J Sedimentation 1


!
I
i
l
!
i
!
!
’ :

Figure 11. Component Processes o f Institutionalization (Adapted from Tolbert and Zucker
1996)

Studies (e.g., Peters 2000) on the extent of institutionalization can complement extant

structurational or process models o f institutionalization. As suggested by many prior studies on

technology adaptation, as time passes, technology tends to become taken-for-granted in use.

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For example, by using Giddens' theory of structuration Orlikowski (1992) sees the

reconfiguration process as linear, by predicting the institutionalization of technology over time.

The use o f information technology encourages its institutionalization and reification. In studies

o f science and technology. Pinch and Bijker (1987) stress the concept of closure. An area of

technology is closed when all ‘relevant social groups’ attribute the same meaning to it. There is

no ‘interpretive flexibility’ after closure, and everyone involved regards all fundamental

problems connected with this technology as being solved. They claim that there is no dissent

after stabilization has taken place. The insight from these studies is that DIT must consider the

extent or degree o f institutionalization in the technology adaptation.

7.4.3 Formation of Institution in Institutionalization

Extant studies on the process o f institutionalization often neglect the formation of

institutions, the early stage o f institutional process (Hasselbladh and Kallinikos 2000). There

would, roughly speaking, be three basic ways in which social institutions might arise, through

accident, evolution, and intention (Goodin 1996). In the formation of institutions the role of

self-interested individual or collective actors is critical. Institutions are created to resolve

conflict among self-interested parties who are interdependent in a world of scarcity. These

institutions are created through bargaining, partisan mutual adjustments, arbitration, and

ultimately the courts o f law among conflicting parties (Van de Ven I9xx). In a similar vein,

DiMaggio (1988) asserts that new institutions arise when organized actors with sufficient

resources see in them an opportunity to realize interests that they value highly (p. 14). Thus,

what self-interested agents intentionally do (or fail to do) is important even in modeling the

emergence of social institutions as essentially accidental (Goodin 1996). Thus institutions are

social arrangements which are designed to settle potential conflicts (Offe 1996). Purely

accidental instances of emerging new social institutions are unlikely. Any actual instance of

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emerging new social institutions is almost certain to involve a combination o f all three of these

elements (Goodin 1996). Thus, any instance of new institutions is political due to its highly

competitive nature (e.g.. the involvement o f self-interested actors).

Hasselbladh and Kallinikos (2000) argue that extant approaches to institutionalization

cannot address the fundamental issue o f how institutions come into being due to various forms

and practices of objectification. The study conceives institutions as consisting of basic ideals

that are developed into distinctive ways o f defining and acting upon reality (i.e. discourses),

supported by elaborate systems o f measurement and documentation for controlling action

outcomes” (p. 704). Thus, they suggest an analytical distinction between ideals, discourses and

techniques o f control. Ideals are stable, pervading and valorized ideas that delineate social

expectations. Narrative knowledge provides the stability that makes it possible to communicate

ideals in new contexts. When ideals are developed and specified into elaborate systems of

relationships and causal models, they are transformed into a discourse. Discourses achieve both

a kind o f closure in the significative content or meaning o f ideals and the specification o f the

relations and items involved. A discourse is primarily constructed by means of written

language. Techniques o f control are usually expressed in numerical or other forms of

codification such as software packages and accounting systems. Thus, the process of

institutional formation involves (1) ideals, (2) discourses, and (3) techniques of control.

Extant models o f technology adaptation assume that the process of technology

adaptation begins with the moment o f technology introduction in an organization by neglecting

early stages in the process o f technology adaptation. With the exception o f a few studies (e.g.,

Poole and DeSanctis 1992; DeSanctis and Poole 1994; Majchrzak et al 2000), these models do

not consider the impact o f prior structures on the process o f technology adaptation. This is

problematic since the adaptation o f a new technology is always constrained (Hanseth and Braa

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2000: Braa and Rolland 2000) and also enabled by the installed base. In our view, technology

adaptation begins prior to the moment o f technology introduction. The institutionalization of

technology can often occur even prior to its introduction (Swanson and Ramiller 1997). DIT

explicitly considers the formation o f institutions (or information technology) as one o f the

major phases in technology adaptation.

7.4.4 Decoupling as a Component of Institutionalization

According to Meyer and Rowan (1977/1991) prevailing theories o f formal structure

assume that the rationalized formal structure arose as it was the most efficient form, and that

coordination and control of activity are the critical dimensions on which formal organizations

have succeeded in the modem word. However, this study argues that organizations do not

actually function according to their blueprints. Many formal organizational structures arise as

reflections o f rationalized institutional rules. Institutional rules function as myths which

organizations incorporate, gaining legitimacy, resources, stability, and enhanced survival

prospects. In their study institutionalization is viewed as involving the processes by which

social processes, obligation, or actualities come to take on a rule-like status in social thought

and action. They argue that there are conflicts between ceremonial rules and efficiency that can

be resolved through employing decoupling. “Because attempts to control and coordinate

activities in institutionalized organizations lead to conflicts and loss o f legitimacy, elements of

structure are decoupled from activities and from each other” (p. 1977, p. 357). Decoupling

enables organizations to maintain standardized, legitimating, formal structures while their

activities vary in response to practical considerations.

Other institutional theorists point out that institutional theories, by virtue o f their focus,

have tended to limit their attention to the effects of the institutional environment on structural

conformity and isomorphism and have tended to overlook the role of active agency and

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resistance in organization-environment relations (Covaleski and Dirsmith 1988; Covaleski et

al. 1993; DiMaggio 1988; Kondra and Hinings 1998). Strategic responses such as decoupling

are more common than used to be believed (Zucker 19881; Oliver 1992; Greenwood and

Hinings 1996; Westphal and Zajac 2001: Goodstein 1994). Structuration does not produce

perfect reproduction (Rason et al.. 1980; Goodrick and Salancik 1996). “The use o f descriptive

words in structuration theory such as "continually produced’, "recreated in interaction’,

'constituted', and "constitutive’ directs attention away from changes in frameworks and losses

of meaning" (Weick 1993, p. 645). This fugitive quality o f meaning and frameworks in Mann

Gulch suggests that that the process of structuring itself may be more unstable than we realize

(Weick 1993).

In the process o f technology adaptation, human actors are not passive to preexisting

and new structures; they are reflexive, capable of reformulating within limits and able to

engage in strategic calculation about their current situation (Jessop 1996). Misalignment

(Leonard-Barton 1988) is unlikely to be completely resolved but rather tends to persist in the

process o f technology adaptation. The goal o f achieving alignment between technology and

organization is “hunting for the treasure at the end of the rainbow" (Hanseth and Braa 2001).

Not only is decoupling a strategic response o f actors against institutions, but also an

institution or information technology itself can employ decoupling as a strategy for survival.

There is an ever-present gap or mismatch between the social facts institutionalized at the macro

level - information technology - and those present at the micro level (Zucker 1988).

This mismatch is then explained by the distance between on the one hand the
experiences and thoughts o f the many single individuals on the micro level and. on the
other hand, the content and regulations embedded in the more formalized institutions
on the macro level, reflecting a more holistic perspective on society (Sjostrand 1993, p.
329)

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Under this reality a too rigid institution or IT implementation is expected to face

intense resistance from various actors at the micro levels, especially from those actors with

resources and power. Thus, rather than enforcing structural conformity on every actor, the

institution strategically allows decoupling to certain actors to minimize potential resistance,

which could reduce the power of the institution or even threaten its status and authority.

7.4.5 Deinstitutionalization in Institutionalization

Structuration often implies ‘convergence’ (Star 1997) o f structure and social action (or

reproduction o f social patterns). Star points out that lack of convergence often occurs in reality.

DiMaggio (1988. p. 12) argues that institutional theory tells us relatively little about

‘institutionalization’ as an unfinished process (as opposed to an achieved state). Covaleski et al

(1993) argue that institutionalization is political, not just a neutral ongoing process.

Sedimentation (Tolbert and Zucker 1996) may not be the end o f institutionalization.

“The persistence and longevity o f institutionalized values and activities may be less

common than the emphasis in institutional theory on cultural persistence and the diffusion of

enduring change implies” (Oliver 1992). Using language proposed by Giddens, institutionalists

have focused attention on structuration processes but have neglected processes leading to

destructuration or restructuration (Scott 2001, p. 1821-182). Institutionalization never becomes

complete (DiMaggio 1988, Zucker 1988). Institutions are neither eternal and immutable

(Goodin 1996; Hodgson 1999) nor irresistible. At the end o f institutionalization, there is

always deinstitutionalization (Oliver 1992), reinstitutionalization (Jepperson 1991), or

destructuration (Scott 2001) (Figure 12).

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Entropy
Pressures
Political
Pressures
1
Dissipation
Functional ♦ Or rejection + Deinstituti Erosion or
Pressures onalization discontinuity

I
Social Inertial
Pressures Pressures

Figure 12. Pressures for Deinstitutionalization (Adapted from Oliver 1992)

Unlike diffusion and critical mass theory suggesting technology deployment as a finite

process with a progressive succession o f steps leading to diffusion and critical mass, DIT

considers the process o f institutional decay in technology adaptation.

7.4.6 Three Mechanisms of Institutional Change & Three Institutional

Elements in Institutionalization

DiMaggio and Powell (1983, 1991) made a contribution in understanding

institutionalization. They identify three mechanisms through which institutional isomorphic

change occurs - coercive, mimetic, and normative. Scott (2001) noted, “institutions are

composed o f cultural-cognitive, normative, and regulative elements together with associated

activities and resources, provide stability and meaning to social life” (p. 48). These elements

are highly interdependent and not separable in practice. Institutions comprise and are

comprised of all three elements or sub-institutions. Scott’s thee sub-institutions tend to

correspond to DiMaggio and Powell’s three mechanisms o f institutional change - regulative

institutions and coercive mechanism, normative and normative, cognitive and mimetic.

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Regulative institutions (or information systems) include regulative principles which

“organize most o f the activities of individuals in a society into definite organizational patterns

from the point o f view o f some of the perennial, basic problems of any society or ordered life

(Eisenstadt, 1968). Regulative institutions represent institutional rules, laws, and politics which

expose surveillance and resistance in social interaction. Force, fear, and expedience are central

ingredients o f regulative institutions (Scott 2001). Johnson (1992) defines [regulative]

institutions as “sets o f habits, routines, rules, norms and laws, which regulate the relations

between people and shape human interaction” (p. 26). North defines an institution as:

"Regularities in repetitive interactions, ... customs and rules that provide a set o f incentives

and disincentives for individuals" (1986. p. 231) and ”[H]umanly devised constraints that

structure political, economic and social interaction" (1990, p. 97). Regulative institutions

operate through “coercive” mechanisms (DiMaggio and Powell 1983), the regulative process

which involve "the capacity to establish rules, inspect or review others’ conformity to them,

and as necessary, manipulate sanctions—rewards or punishments—in an attempt to influence

future social behavior" (Scott 1995, p. 35). Coercive processes stem from political influence

and the problem of legitimacy (DiMaggio and Powell 1983).

“To emphasize the normative aspects o f institutions (or information systems) is to give

priority to moral beliefs and internalized obligations as the basis of social meaning and social

order” (Scott 1995, p. 15). Normative institutions can be seen as “organized patterns o f socially

constructed norms and roles, and socially prescribed behaviors expected o f occupants o f those

roles, which are created and recreated over time” (Goodin, 1996, p. 19). Normative systems

include both values and norms. “Values are conceptions o f the preferred or the desirable,

together with the construction o f standards to which existing structures or behavior can be

compared and assessed and norms specify how things should be done: they define legitimate

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means to pursue valued ends. Normative systems define goals or objectives but also designate

appropriate ways to pursue them” (Scott 2001. p. 54-55). “Normative systems are typically

viewed as imposing constraints on social behavior, and so they do. But they also empower and

enable social action. They confer rights as well as responsibilities, privileges as well as duties,

licenses as well as mandates” (Scott 2001. p. 55). The mechanism o f constraining and enabling

social behavior by these institutions turns out to be “normative”, employing DiMaggio and

Powell's (1983, 1991) typology, in that values, norms, social obligations, rights, etc. stem from

memberships or associations.

Cognitive institutions are symbolic, cultural, and meaning systems. To emphasize

cognitive elements o f institutions (or information systems) is to take seriously the cognitive

dimensions o f human experiences o f institutions: the shared conceptions that constitute the

nature o f social reality and the frames through which meaning is made. Cognitive institutions

are not so much bundles of regulations or collections of norms (Scott 1995) as noted by Powell

and DiMaggio (1991, p. 15) “not norms and values but taken-for-granted scripts, rules and

classifications are the stuff of which institutions are made”. However, they should be treated

not simply as subjective beliefs but also symbolic systems perceived to be objective and

external to individual actors (Scott 2001). Thus they control behavior by controlling our

conception o f what the world is and what kinds of action can be taken by what types of actors

(Scott 1995) and further play an essential role in providing a cognitive framework for

interpreting sense data and in providing intellectual habits or routines for transforming

information into useful knowledge (Hodgson 1988). The mechanism o f constraining and

enabling social behavior by cognitive institutions is “mimetic” (DiMaggio and Powell 1983,

1991) rather than “coercive” in the sense that wider belief systems and cultural frames are

imposed on or adopted by individual and collective actors. Compliance occurs because other

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types of behavior are inconceivable and certain social behaviors are taken for granted as “the

way we do these things." (Scott 2001).

This way o f understanding institutions and institutional change in institutional ization-

deinstitutionalization is expected to provide new insights on the interplay between information

technology and organizations. So far, many studies (e.g., Orlikowski and Robey 1991;

Crowston et al. 2001) in information technology and organizational change have adopted

Giddens’ theory o f structuration in general and his three modalities of structuration

(interpretive scheme, resources, and norms) in particular. These studies seem to suggest that an

information system will have all three institutional elements, regulative, normative and

cognitive (Roberts and Scapens 1985: Alam et al. 1997; Macintosh and Scapens 1990;

Orlikowski 1992). They seem to assume that those three modalities operate with equal force at

any time and space and that those three corresponding structures - structure of significance,

structure o f domination, and structure o f legitimation - are also experienced by all actors at all

times.

Recent studies suggest that while the regulative, normative and cognitive institutions

are connected and not analytically and operationally distinct (Scott 1995; Giddens 1984; Hirsch

1997). transitions among the three are possible (Hirsch 1997; Hoffman 1999). For example,

through a study that measured changes in the constituency o f an organizational field centered

around the issue o f corporate environmentalism in the period 1960-93, Hoffman (1999)

suggests that institutions evolve over time and that there are transitions among the three sub­

institutions. He found four historical stages - ( 1 ) a questioning o f prior institutional fields, (2) a

regulative institution, (3) a normative institution, and (4) a cognitive institution - and during

each stage, there was the dominant institution. Also sub-institutions other than the dominant

institution were still noted as active and were sometimes at odds with and sometimes consistent

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with the dominant institution. Thus, we believe that one institutional aspect may be dominant at

any given time and space in the process of institutionalization (Hoffman 1999). Institutions are

time-specific (Jessop 1996, 2001). For example, at an early stage o f institutionalization, a

regulative institution could be dominant while a cognitive institution would be the dominant

one at a later stage in institutionalization.

Also, institutions are agency-specific (Jessop 1996, 2001). All three institutional

aspects might not be experienced by all actors involved in technology adaptation. An

institution at any given time may privilege some actors and actions over others (Jessop 2001).

Attempts at strategic guidance on one level of agency can appear as an evolutionary trajectory

on other levels of agency (Perkmann 1998). In other words, it seems likely that what appears to

be a structural constraint for one actor appears as an opportunity for transformation to another

actor (Jessop 1996). Perhaps the type of institutional aspect experienced relies primarily on two

factors: time (when) and space (where or agency).

Also it is important to see the relationships—interaction, conjoint effects, conflicts—of

regulative, normative, and cognitive institutional aspects (Scott 2001) in technology adaptation.

The interactions among cognitive, normative, and regulative elements might vary in different

mixtures (Hoffman and Ventresca 1999). In complex situations o f technology adaptation,

individuals or organizations may be confronted by conflicting institutional requirements and

standards and they find it difficult to take action (Scott 2001).

Along with this, one key issue in developing DIT for technology adaptation is the

degree to which the three types o f institutional elements—regulative, normative, and cognitive-

can be distinguished, or whether they act in terms o f one another7. Once this question is

7 Two approaches to institutions are recognized: one is an inclusive model (Hoffman 1997;
Hirsch 1998; Scott 1994) and the other is an analytical approach by (Scott 1995; 2001). I

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answered, DIT considers specifically what is the dominant institution at a given time and

whether this varies among different actors and may be able to answer why this happens in

institutionalization or technology adaptation.

7.4.7 Temporal Dynamics of Institutionalization

Finally, DIT for technology adaptation considers the temporal dynamics of

institutionalization. Recent studies in institutionalization examine the relationship between time

and processes of institutionalization. Institutionalization is presumed by most researchers to

occur along something like an S-Shaped curve that characterizes most diffusion paths

involving both contagion and noncontagion processes (Rogers 1995; Strang and Tuma 1993).

As discussed above, recently researchers stress the process of institutions being weakened

(Scott 2001; Scott et al. 2000).

Recently there have been a few studies that explicitly recognize the temporal dynamics

of institutionalization. Lawrence et al (2001) argue that pace and stability, two temporal

dimensions o f institutionalization, depend on the mechanism used by agents to support the

institutionalization process. Drawing on the power framework, they develop different types of

mechanisms—influence, force, discipline, and domination (Figure 13). When

institutionalization is supported episodically and the target is assumed to have agency, the form

o f support is influence. Episodic support o f institutionalization that objectifies the target

involves force as the institutional mechanism. When agency o f the target is assumed and power

is systemic, rather than occurring on an episodic basis, institutionalization is supported in the

form of discipline. Finally, when institutionalization is supported in a systemic manner by a

expect that rather than either, both approaches are required to understand technology adaptation
as institutionalization. My expectation is that three elements are distinguishable and also they
act in terms o f one another.

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form of power that treats the target as an object, the institutional mechanism at work is

domination.

Target as subject
Target as object

Influence Force
• Decision making • Incarceration
Episodic • Non-decision making • Seizure o f property
• Manipulation • Dissolution o f
• Coercion corporations
• Physical violence
Discipline Domination
• Surveillance • Material technologies
jysiciniL
• Normalization • Actuarial practices
• Examination • Systemic discrimination

Figure 13. Mechanisms of Institutionalization (Adapted from Lawrence et al. 2001)

They argue that (I) each type will produce a distinctive pattern o f pace and stability,

and (2) more complex patterns of pace and stability will result from the combined use of

multiple mechanisms. Jepperson (1991) distinguishes four major types o f institutional change:

institutional formation, institutional development, deinstitutionalization, and

reinstitutionalization. Institutional formation is an exit from social entropy, or from

nonreproductive behavioral patterns. Institutional development represents institutional

continuation rather than an exit. Deinstitutionalization represents an exit from

institutionalization, toward social entropy or nonreproductive patterns. Reinstitutionalization

represents exit from one institutionalization, and entry into another institutional form,

organized around different principles or rules.

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The insights from these studies in institutionalization suggest that DIT for technology

adaptation should consider various stages in the process, like diffusion models of technology

adaptation, but unlike them, the model also needs to include the stage o f institutional decay.

7.5 Dynamic Institutional Theory (DIT) for Technology Adaptation

Based on the insights gained from existing studies on institutionalization, DIT for

technology adaptation is developed through synthesizing those insights. DIT considers three

phases in the process of institutionalization or technology adaptation - institutional formation,

institutional development, and institutional decay (Figure 14). The theory presupposes a highly

dynamic and non-deterministic nature o f the process o f institutionalization or technology

adaptation in the three phases. Also it suggests that different generative mechanisms operate in

the three phases and different types o f dynamics are resulted from that.

c
o
CD
N

c 2 Institutional
x £ Development
ixi 2
(/)
c

Tim e

Figure 14. A Dynamic Process of Technology Adaptation

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The first phase, institutional formation, explicitly takes the formation o f a new

technology into account in explaining technology adaptation. This phase focuses on the period

prior to the actual implementation o f the technology in organizations. The formation of

technology is understood in the following sequence: ideals, discourses, and techniques of

control (Hasselbladh and Kanllinikos 2000). In any case of a new IT development and

implementation, first, the ideals o f the new IT are developed and communicated and discourses

are constructed through different genres. Then, techniques of control are expressed in the

formation o f the new IT (Figure 15). This early phase of technology adaptation is expected to

have significant implications for the second phase, institutional development.

Forms of
Social States
Objectification
Ideals Discourses Techniques of control

Oral language

VUitten language

IT artifacts

T1 12 13

Figure 15. Institutional Formation in the Dynamic Process o f Technology Adaptation


(Adaptedfrom Hasselbladh and Kanllinikos 2000)

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It is argued that the phase o f institutional formation is very influential on the next

phases in the process o f technology adaptation. At this phase, even though the technology has

not been formally introduced and is not in use, it is possible that actors already enact the

technology (Weick 1990) and that their technological frames (Orlikowski and Gash 1994) for

the technology are already formed. Thus it seems likely that either congruent or incongruent

technological frames are already established prior to the development o f the technology. For a

practical purpose, we may need early articulation, reflection, discussion, negotiation, and

possibly change of inconsistencies and incongruence to reduce the likelihood of unintended

misunderstandings and delusions around the implementation, use (Orlikowski and Gash 1994),

and design o f a new IT.

Even though user-centered design or participative design principles are becoming more

accepted in system design and implementation, significant benefits have not been found

directly from using such IS development methodology (e.g., Gasson 1999; King and Lee 1991;

Kappleman and McLean 1992; Cavaye 1995). To refer to this situation, some studies suggest

that even though the idea is good a user-oriented or participative design approach is not

rewarding. However, it is likely that when a participatory approach is adopted, users and the

micro agency might be encouraged to be involved in the sequence o f techniques of control in

the form of formal “requirement analysis”. On the other hand, in practice they tend to be

excluded from the social states o f ideals and discourses which precede techniques o f control.

Most often, they either do not realize the fact or are not informed that there were the sequence

of ideals and discourses. DIT implies that for successful IT adaptation various actors need to be

included in the state of not only techniques o f control but also ideals and discourses.

The second phase can be explained though considering temporal and spatial

dimensions of institutions (Jessop 1996. 2001), decoupling (Meyer and Rowan 1977/1991),

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transitions o f three institutions (Scott 2001) over time (Hoffman 1999), and three mechanisms

of institutional change (DiMaggio and Powell 1983, 1991) in the process o f structuration

(Barley and Tolbert 1997) (Figure 16).

IretiUicnEi
icom
— ►
11
11
11
11
11
11
11
11
5 a 11
11
11
11
11
11

i 11
h i w

14 15
Action

Figure 16. Institutional Formation in the Dynamic Process o f Technology Adaptation

Arrow A illustrates that the institution is agency specific and thus the technology may

be constraints to some actors while enablers to others. A also illustrates that the same

technology could mean a different one o f the three institutions - regulative, normative, and

cognitive - to different actors. Arrow B illustrates that since different actors enact the same

technology in different ways and their actions to the technology could vary. Arrows C l, C2,

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and C3 represent the transitions among institutions over time. For example, the technology

may be enacted by most actors mainly as a regulative institution at T2 & T3 (early stages of

technology adaptation), as 3 normative institution at T5. and as a cognitive institution at later

stages. Arrows D l. D2, and D3 represent different modes o f actions to the technology as a

regulative, normative, or cognitive institution. Arrow E represents the occurrence of

decoupling. Actors may strategically employ decoupling while interacting with the technology.

Also the technology and the actors in charge o f the governance o f the technology may

strategically allow decoupling to minimize any potential, strong resistance from powerful

actors or users. Arrow E can be placed at any given time, meaning that actors take strategic

responses at any given time during technology adaptation.

The third phase, institutional decay, suggests that the process o f technology adaptation

is always an unfinished one. This phase can be explained through considering three general

types of pressures toward deinstitutionalization: functional, political, and social (Oliver 1992)

in the process o f structuration (Barley and Tolbert 1997). Functional pressures are those that

arise from perceived problems in performance levels associated with the technology. Political

pressures result from shifts in interests or underlying power distributions that provided support

for the technology and existing institutional arrangements. Social pressures for change often

deinstitutionalize established IT use in the absence of an organization's conscious recognition

or control o f these changes or in the spite o f contrary organizational intentions to sustain the

status quo (Figure 17).

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Institutional
Realm

Functional Pressure

Political Pressure

Social Pressure

T20 T21 T22 T23 T24 Realm of


Action

Figure 17. Institutional Decay in the Dynamic Process o f Technology Adaptation

The figure illustrates that in the third phase, institutional decay, the pressures for

deinstitutionalization increase over time and there is a weaker form o f reproduction of the

technology. In this phase, the institution or the technology faces all the “logic of collective

action” problems (Jepperson 1991). In this phase, “actions” are becoming stronger and for the

institution to secure its persistence, proponents of the technology need to repeatedly

(re)mobilize and (re)intervene in the process of structuration. In this phase, those proponents

are always in danger o f “promising too much,” thereby inadvertently encouraging the quest for

the formation of a new IT (Offe 1996).

7.6 Conclusion

This chapter offers an understanding o f the dynamic process o f technology adaptation

in the case of large-scale information systems. First, this study discusses the insights and

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151

limitations o f extant approaches to explain the process o f technology adaptation in the case o f

large-scale information systems. Then, the study argued that large-scale information systems

differ from small scale, traditional, and standalone information systems and proposed a

dynamic institutional theory that sees technology adaptation in the case o f large-scale IS as the

dynamic process o f institutionalization. The nondeterministic model o f institutionalization

developed in this chapter may be useful in different contexts other than technology adaptation.

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152

CHAPTER VIH

RESEARCH METHOD AND DESIGN

8.1 Introduction

This study employs qualitative research methods to conduct a case study o f large-scale

IS development of the Financial Accounting Management Information System (FAMIS) in a

major US university. Qualitative research is “a field o f inquiry in its own right and it crosscuts

disciplines, fields, and subject matters” (Denzin and Lincoln 2000, p. 2). Qualitative research

involves the systematic use and collection of a variety o f empirical materials—case studies;

personal experiences; introspection; life stories; interviews; artifacts; cultural texts and

productions; observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts (Denin and Lincoln 2000).

In the IS field the acceptance of qualitative research had been slow but recently many

researchers have used it to study the complex phenomenon surrounding the design,

implementation, and use of IS (Nissen et al. 1990; Lee et al. 1997; Trauth 2001). Several

different methods have been employed in IS qualitative research. Examples include case study,

ethnography, action research, and critical social theory (Markus 1997). Among them, this

dissertation uses case study research, which includes a single case study o f Financial

Accounting Management Information Systems (FAMIS) at the Texas A&M University

System.

In order to decide on a research method from among several major research strategies

(e.g., experiment, survey, archival analysis, histories, case studies), according to Yin (1994),

three conditions need to be considered: (a) the type of research question posed, (b) the extent of

control an investigator has over actual behavioral events, and (c) the degree o f focus on

contemporary as opposed to historical events. The FAMIS case did not require control over

behavioral events but focused on both contemporary and historical events. As presented earlier,

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also the form o f research questions was "how” and “why” rather than “who” and “where”.

Thus, a case study method was considered appropriate for the purpose o f the study. Another

important consideration was the goal o f the dissertation. As noted earlier the dissertation was

aimed at understanding large-scale information systems and building a theory - Dynamic

Institutional Theory (DIT) -- from the FAMIS case. For the purpose of building theories, case

study research is considered an appropriate method by many authors (e.g., Eisenhardt 1989; d

Strauss and Corbin 1998; Yin 1994; Miles and Huberman 1984). Since the study required both

historical and contemporary data case study research with combination of archival analysis was

considered an appropriate method.

This chapter consists o f two sections. The first section offers an overview o f case study

research by reviewing relevant literature and the second section presents the actual research

design and method used for the case study o f FAMIS.

8.2 Case Study

The design of this case study followed the guidelines offered by Yin (1994) and

Eisenhardt (1989). Yin (1994) provides the details o f designing case study research. Eisenhardt

(1989) describes the process o f developing theories from case study research.

According to Yin (1994) a case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a

contemporary phenomenon within its real life context, especially when the boundaries between

phenomenon and context are not clearly evident. Case studies are the preferred strategy when

how and why questions are being posed and the researcher has little control over events.

The case study strategy can be contrasted with the ethnographic approach to qualitative

research. Some qualitative research follows ethnographic methods and seeks to satisfy two

conditions: (a) the use o f close-up, detailed observation o f the natural world by the investigator

and (b) the attempt to avoid prior commitment to any theoretical method. However,

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ethnographic research does not always produce case studies, nor are case studies limited to

these two conditions. Instead, case studies can be based on any mix o f quantitative and

qualitative evidence. In addition, case studies need not always include direct, detailed

observations as a source o f evidence (Yin 1994, p. 14). The process o f conducting a case study

is well presented by Eisenhardt (1989) in Table 4.

Table 4. Process of Building Theory from Case Study Research (Adapted from Eisenhardt
1989)_______________
Step Activity
Getting Started Definition of research question
Development o f a priori specification o f constructs
Selecting Cases Retain theoretical flexibility
Specify population to constrain extraneous variation
Crafting Instruments and Protocols Multiple data collection methods
Qualitative and quantitative data combined
Multiple investigations
Entering the Field Overlap data collection and analysis, including field
notes
Analyzing Data Within-case analysis
Shaping Hypotheses Iterative tabulation o f evidence for each construct
Replication, not sampling, logic across cases
Search evidence for ‘why’ behind relationships
Enfolding Literature Comparison with conflicting literature
Comparison with similar literature
Reaching Closure Ends process when marginal improvement becomes
small (theoretical saturation)

In general terms, a research design is “the logic that links the data to be collected (and the

conclusions to be drawn) to the initial questions o f a study” (Yin 1994, p. 18). For case studies,

According to Yin (1994), five components o f a research design are especially important.

1. A study’s questions: The form of the question— in terms o f “who," “what,” “where,”
“how,” and “why”—provides an important clue regarding the most relevant research
strategy to be used. The case study strategy is most likely to be appropriate for “how” and
“why” questions, so the initial task is to clarify precisely the nature of the study questions
in this regard.

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2. Its propositions, if any: In addition to these “how” and “why” questions, it is often
necessary to state some propositions. However, some studies may have a legitimate reason
for not having any propositions, for instance, inductive studies.

3. Its unit(s) o f analysis: This component is related to the fundamental problem of defining
what the “case” is. As a general guide, the definition o f the unit o f analysis is related to the
way the initial research questions have been defined. Thus selection o f the appropriate unit
o f analysis results from accurately specifying the primary research questions.

4. The logic linking the data to the propositions: One promising approach for this task is the
idea o f “pattern-matching”.

5. The criteria for interpreting the findings: There is no precise way o f setting the criteria for
interpreting the findings (Yin 1994). For this, the study implicitly followed the principles
of interpretive study proposed by Klein and Myers (1999).

To establish the quality o f any empirical social research, four tests have been

commonly used: construct validity, internal validity, external validity, and reliability (Yin

1994). The four tests also are relevant to case study research. Construct validity refers to

establishing correct operational measures for the concepts being studied. This test is especially

problematic in case study research since “subjective” judgments are used to collect the data.

Internal validity is a concern for causal case studies to determine whether event x led to event

y. If the investigator incorrectly concludes that there is a causal relationship between x and y

without knowing that some third factor—z—may actually caused y, the research design has

failed to deal with some threat to internal validity. For case study research, the concern over

internal validity is extended to the broader problem o f making inferences. External validity

deals with the problem of knowing whether a study’s findings are generalizable beyond the

immediate case study. This concern arises in a single case research design. Reliability is to be

sure that, if a later investigator followed exactly the same procedures as described by an earlier

investigator and conducted the same case study all over again, the later investigator should

arrive at the same findings and conclusions. In case study research some general tactics can be

used to increase these validity and reliability tests (Table 5).

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Table 5. Case Study Tactics for the Quality o f Research Design (Adapted from Yin 1994)
Phase of
Tests research in
Case study tactic
which tactic
occurs
• Use multiple sources of evidence Data collection
• Establish chain o f evidence Data collection
Construct validity
• Have key informants review draft case study Composition
report
• Do pattern-matching Data analysis
Internal validity
• Do explanation-building Data analysis
External validity • Use replication logic in multiple-case studies Research design
• Use case study protocol Data collection
Reliability
• Develop case study data base Data collection

Yin discussed six sources of evidence: documentation, archival records, interviews,

direct observations, participant-observation, and physical artifacts. These sources have their

comparative strengths and weaknesses. No single source has a complete advantage over all the

others. In fact, the various sources are highly complementary, and a good case study will

therefore want to use as many sources as possible - triangulation (Yin 1994; Eisenhardt 1989).

Analyzing case study evidence consists o f examining, categorizing, tabulating, or otherwise

recombining the evidence to address the initial propositions o f a study. Every investigation

should start with a general analytic strategy—yielding priorities for what to analyze and why.

Within such a strategy, four dominant analytic techniques should be used: pattern matching,

explanation-building, time-series analysis, and program logic models (Yin 1994).

8.3 Research Design and Method: A Case Study of FAMIS

8.3.1 Design of the Study

Two elements o f research design are discussed in this subsection: the research question

and the unit o f analysis. The research question came out o f reviewing the extant literature on

large-scale information systems such as ERP, K.MS, and large-scale accounting systems. The

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research question is used in this study to direct data collection and the construction of a

historical narrative. O f interest is the period o f design and development of a large-scale

information system, FAMIS. As discussed in Chapters 1 through 3, this study is to study how

large-scale IS come to be and to be used and our specific questions, developed in Chapters IV

through VII are:

1. In what way should we conceptualize large-scale information systems? (Chapter IV) -


The point o f this question is to understand the nature o f large-scale IS and their
differences from small scale IS.

2. How do large-scale information systems interrelate to organizations or human actors?


(Chapter V) - The point of this question is to understand the relationship between
large-scale IS and organizations.

3. How does a new large-scale information system come to be developed? What are the
roles o f preexisting information systems? (Chapter VI) - The point o f these questions
are to understand the design of large-scale IS.

4. In what way can the technology adaptation of large-scale information systems be


understood? (Chapter VII) - The point o f this question is to understand technology
adaptation in the case of large-scale IS.

Different research questions require different units o f analysis, and several units of

analysis were used in this study. For the general questions specified in Chapter II, the unit of

analysis is the design and implementation context o f FAMIS, from the earliest inception o f the

system (going back to late 1980’s) to the present. For question 1, the unit o f analysis is same as

that of the general question. The system has connections with several other information

systems (e.g., student information systems, executive information system, accounting

information systems, budget & payroll systems) owned by the state of Texas and the

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components o f the Texas A&M University System. The unit of analysis for the second research

question is the interaction between FAMIS and the 18 components o f the university system

including universities and state agencies. The unit o f analysis for question 3 is the interplay

between old information systems having existed prior to FAMIS and FAMIS. “Old”

information systems include several similar information systems implemented at other

university systems and ones existed with the Texas A&M University System prior to FAMIS.

The unit o f analysis for question 4 is same as that o f question 2 - the interplay between FAMIS

and the components o f the university system.

8.3.2 Research Strategy: Retroduction

Regarding the design o f case study this dissertation adopts some o f the general

guidelines offered by Yin (1994) and Eisenhardt (1989), which may be considered as in the

positivist tradition. However, the ontological and epistemological basis o f this study would be

interpretive rather than positivistic. Also there are some other differences between my own

research design o f this case and their guidelines.

There are several approaches for conducting and evaluating case studies. Among them,

there are two main ones: induction and deduction. Deduction implies that theories without facts

are possible. Popper’s writings have been very influential in this respect in this respect, with

his proposal that we should ‘guess’ about a theory and then see whether it can be falsified

(Diesing 1991). Deductive approaches use theory to specify expected categories, which are

then written into rules (Poole et al., 2000).

The notion of induction implies that data can be decoupled from theory (Ragin 1994).

This assumes that there exist data that are not theory laden (Churchman 1971). Inductive

approaches go first to the data and sift through the various instances, deriving categories from

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the group up, using the constant comparative method (Poole et al. 2000). In this tradition many

studies make reference to Glaser and Strauss (1967) and Strauss and Corbin (1998).

In this study, instead a “retroductive” approach is used (Figure 17). According to Poole

et al. (2000, p. 115), Peirce (1955) defined retroduction as “the inference in which we posit a

theory or substantive hypothesis to explain previously observed patterns”. Retroductive

research strategy combines inductive and deductive strategies to capitalize on their strengths

and minimize their weaknesses (Wallace 1979; Ragin 1994). In fact what field researchers

actually do when they use analytical induction would be described more properly by

philosophers of science as "retroduction" than as induction or deduction (Poole et al. 2000;

Goulding 1998) (Figure 18). “A retroductive approach includes a literature search to derive a

synthetic category scheme that seems to fit what the researcher sees in the data, then

adjustment of categories in view of what is workable and informative after trying them out on

the data ... another retroductive approach is to generate a set o f categories based on theory and

then refine and adjust them as they are applied to data. This permits the theoretically driven

scheme to grow and to adapt in response to the exigencies o f the data” (Poole et al. 2000, p.

143).

Retroductive

Deductive
Theory 4 Data
Inductive

Retroductive

Figure 18. Duduction, Induction and Retroduction

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This study started after reviewing the literature on large-scale IS. Two social theories -

Giddens' theory o f structuration and actor network theory (ANT) — were identified as

theoretical guides for conducting and evaluating the case study. While data collection and

analysis was done simultaneously, the strong need for a different theoretical framework, rather

than the two social theories and the combination o f the two, was identified to explain and

understand the nature o f large-scale IS. This need led to the development o f a framework

drawn from the tenets of institutional theory. The process has been iterative.

8.3.3 “Interpretive” Case Study

Qualitative research can be done with a positivist, interpretive, and critical stance

(Chua 1986; Klein and Myers 1999). This depends on the underlying philosophical

assumptions of the researcher (Myers 1997). Generally speaking, according to Orlikowski and

Baroudi (1991), IS research can be classified as positivist if there is evidence o f formal

propositions, quantifiable measures of variables, hypothesis testing, and the drawing of

inferences about a phenomenon from a representative sample to a stated population while as

interpretive if it is assumed that our knowledge o f reality is gained only through social

constructions such as a language, consciousness, shared meanings, documents, tools, and other

artifacts. The goal of interpretive study in the IS field is to understand the context of the

information systems and the process where by the information systems influences and is

influenced by the context (Walsham 1993).

In the IS field, interpretive case studies have been adopted in a growing number of

studies (e.g., Orlikowski 1993: Walsham 1993; Myers 1994; Walsham 1995). Thus, the study

tries to capture the details o f the case and provide ‘thick’ description o f the case. In IS field

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Klein and Myers (1999) provide a set o f principles for the conduct and evaluation of

interpretive research in IS.

1. Fundamental principle o f the hermeneutic circle: posits that human understanding is


achieved by iterating between consideration o f the independent meaning o f the parts and
the whole that they form.

2. Principle o f contextualization: needs critical reflection o f the social and histoncal


background o f the research setting, so that the intended audience can see how the current
situation under investigation emerged.

3. Principle of interaction between researchers and subjects: needs critical reflection on how
the research materials (or ‘data’) were socially constructed through the interaction between
the researchers and participants.

4. Principle of abstraction and generalization: require relating the idiographic details revealed
by the data interpretation to theoretical, general concepts that describe the nature o f human
understanding and social action.

5. Principle of dialogical reasoning: requires sensitivity to possible contradictions between


the theoretical preconceptions guiding the research design and actual findings with
subsequent cycles o f revision.

6. Principle o f multiple interpretations: requires sensitivity to possible differences in


interpretation among the participants as are typically expressed in multiple narratives or
stories o f the same sequence o f events under study.

7. Principle of suspicion: needs sensitivity to biases and systematic distortions in the


narratives collected from the participants.

These principles are interdependent and create a “whole”. They cannot be applied

mechanically. It is incumbent upon interpretive scholars to appropriate them and use their own

judgment as to their specific application (Klein and Myers 1999). These seven principles

presented above are implicitly followed while conducting and analyzing the case study.

As for the principle “fundamental principle o f the hermeneutic circle,” the study

iterated between the separate sentences and even words o f individual e-mail messages and

interoffice memorandums as parts and the global context of FAMIS that determines the full

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meaning o f the separate segments to interpret the memos and e-mail message exchange as a

whole.

As for the principle o f contextualization, the study attempted to be ‘rich' in the

description o f the case by collecting and interpreting a large volume o f contemporary as well as

historical data from diverse sources such as individuals, vendors, the state of Texas and others.

Also the study presents the multi-level analysis of data.

As for the principle o f interaction between researchers and subjects, the primary

investigator tried to become self-conscious and questioned his earlier assumptions which came

from the reading of structuration and ANT-based studies on large-scale information systems.

Also his advisor has played a role o f devil’s advocate during the informal and regular meetings.

The self-conscious activities improved the overall understanding o f large-scale information

systems and helped to an alternative framework to be emerged.

As for the principle o f abstraction and generalization. Initially the study tended to

generalize to social theories such as structuration theory and actor network theory, but after

making some progress on data collection and analysis a number o f abstract categories from the

tenets o f institutional theory emerged and were given greater prominence in the analysis. The

principle o f dialogical reasoning helped the primary investigator to confront his preconceptions

(prejudices) which guided the original research design with the data that emerged through the

research process.

As for the principle o f multiple interpretations, the study includes the discussion o f the

multi-level and multi-site analysis and introduces different and even contradictory

interpretations of the FAMIS system. Finally, even though there is considerable disagreement

among interpretive researchers concerning the extent to which social research should be critical

(Klein and Myers 1999) the study had to follow the principle o f suspicion. It was because the

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study was aimed at investigating not only Giddens’s structures o f signification and

legitimization but also domination. As presented earlier, particularly in Chapters V and VII, the

study used the lens o f “social construction of technology” but also “modified realism” and

showed how social constructions o f reality can favor certain groups and interests. In following

this principle, the self-conscious activities and his advisor helped the primary investigator to

maintain a balanced position and consider the existence of Giddens's “dialectic o f control”.

8.4 Data Collection

The literature review on large-scale IS and extant studies in IS using two social

theories, structuration theory and ANT, provided a starting point for analysis. Therefore our

approach was different from purely inductive approaches. Miles and Huberman argue that a

start-list helps to orient the researcher to the conceptual purposes of the study. “The risk is not

that o f imposing a self-blinding framework, but that an incoherent, bulky, irrelevant,

meaningless set o f observations might be produced, which no one can (or even wants to) make

sense o f ’ (Miles 1983, p. 119). As noted earlier, the research strategy for this study is

retroduction rather than induction and deduction. Thus, the start-list for the study was

developed informed by some combination of prior knowledge of the FAMIS system,

speculation, and literature review on structuration theory, actor network theory, and

institutional theory. The start-list consisted of codes and code definitions in a matrix table

(Table 6).

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Table 6. A Star List of Codes


Creation o f Institutions
Cl: Motives CI-MO
Cl: Plan CI-PL
Cl: Event Chronology CI-EC
Cl: Actors CI-AT
Cl: Change of Scope CI-CS
Cl: Old System CI-OS
Cl: Technical needs CI-TN
Regulative Institution
RI: Governance System RJ-GS
RJ: Power System RIPS
RJ: Authority Systems RI-AS
RI: Objects W/ Mandated Specifications RI-O
Normative Institution
NI: Protocols NI-PT
NI: Standard Operating Procedures NI-SOP
NI: Roles NI-RO
NI: Objects W/ Conventions, Standards NI-O
Cognitive Institution
Cl: Cognitive Frames CI-CF
Cl: Widely Held Beliefs CI-WHB
Cl: Shared Values CI-SV
Cl: Objects W/ Symbolic Value CI-O
External Forces
EF: State Agents EF-SA
EF: State Laws EF-SL
EF: General Accounting Principles EF-GAP
EF: Reporting Requirements by Other Systems EF-RROS
EF: Other Higher Institutions EF-OHI
EF: Industry Trends e f - it
EF: Other Legislators EF-OL
EF: Others EF-OT
Internal Forces
IF: Board o f Regents IF: Board o f Regent
IF: Rationale of One System IF: Rationale of One System
IF: Users IF: Users

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Table 6. Continued
Institutionalization (Adoption Process)
IN: Event Chronology - Planned IN-ECP
IN: Event Chronology - Actual IN-ECA
IN: Critical Events IN-CE
IN: Actors IN-A
IN: Resistance IN-R
IN: Leadership (Chancellor) IN-L
IN: State Audit IN-SA
Decoupling
DP: WTAMU DP-WTAMU
DP: TEEX DP-TEEX
DP: TEES DP-TEES
DP: Leadership (Chancellor) DP-L
DP: Independence (Budget) DP-I
DP: Departmental Information Systems DP-DIS
Deinstitutionalization
DI: General Accounting Principles DI-GAP
DI: Actors DI-A
DI: User DI-U
DI: ERP (& SIMS, Payroll, HR System) DI-ERP
DI: Reporting Capability DI-RC
DI: Web-based Interface DI-WI
DI: Board o f Regents DI-BOR
Reinstitutionalization
RI: State Laws RI-SL
RI: General Accounting Principles RI-GAP
RI: Leadership RI-L
Level (Degree) o f Institutionalization
LI: Autonomy LI-AT
LI: Adaptability LI-AP
LI: Complexity LI-CP
LI: Coherence LI-CH

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While conducting data collection, the status o f data collection was checked informally

using a similar matrix table (Table 7)

Table 7. Data Check Matrix (an example)


Level of Collection4 Low Medium High
Creation o f Institutions
Cl: Motives X
Cl: Plan X
Cl: Event Chronology X
Cl: Actors X
Cl: Change o f Scope
Cl: Old System X
Cl: Technical needs X

Regulative Institution
RI: Governance System X
RI: Power System
RI: Authority Systems
RI: Objects W/ Mandated Specifications
*The terms Low, Medium, and High were used to indicate the amount of data collected.

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Data collection was guided by an informal protocol derived from one general and the

four specific research questions (Yin 1994). As suggested by Yin (1994) and Eisenhardt

(1989). all six sources o f evidence: documentation, archival records, interviews, direct

observations, participant-observation, and physical artifacts were sought in data collection.

Specifically, we collected:

• Documentation: Internal memorandums, agendas, minutes o f meetings, documents


o f systems analysis and design, project management plans, implementation plans,
software manuals, e-mail messages, and other written reports o f events.

• Archival records: Organizational charts, personal records, record o f historical


events.

• Interviews: Interview subjects include founders o f the system, project directors,


programmers, representatives o f each agency, users, system auditors.

• Direct observations: Indirect observations o f the system through informants.

• Participant-observation.
• Physical artifacts: Interaction with FAMIS.

In particular document collection was accomplished through follow-ups on interviews, private

collections o f selected key individuals, site-visits at the department o f internal system audit,

library search, archival research at the FAMIS project site, contacting the Department of

Information Resources in the state of Texas and software vendors, and WWW search (Table 8).

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Table 8. Summary o f Documents Collected


Number of
Title Type
Pages
Agency Strategic Plan (all universities and agencies o f
Archival records 950
TAMUS)
Other sponsored research and purchasing system related
Archival records 980
documents (year 1989 - 1995)
The State Auditor’s reports (1994, 1995, 1996, 1998) Archival records 300
General documents (e.g.. software assurance) from
Department of Information Resources (DIR) in the state ol Archival records 200
Texas
TAMUS internal audit report Archival records 200
Other USAS, SPA related documents Archival records 100
Documents from SCT Corporation Archival records 100
USAS Review Archival records 60
The state’s DIR goals, objectives and strategies Archival records 50
Connecting Texas in the Digital Age Archival records 50
Documents from Software AG Archival records 50
Texas A&M University System Integrative plan Archival records 47
University of Texas Information Resources Strategic Plan
Archival records 31
1999-2003
University of Texas Information Resources Strategic Plan
Archival records 22
2003-2007
The State Auditor's reports on University of Houston Archival records 20
Agency history and background Archival records 20
Individual resumes Archival records 10
General Description o f FAMIS service Archival records 10
Texas Connection Consortium Overview Archival records 8
Financial Management Service Mission Statement Archival records I
TAMUS organizational chart Archival records 1
Organizational chart o f SAGO Archival records 1
Organizational chart o f Financial Management Service Archival records 1
FAMIS priority E-mail messages 1
Other inter-office memoranda E-mail messages 10

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Table 8. Continued
Number of
Title Type
Pages
Implementation
FAMIS implementation schedule 13
document
Implementation
FAMIS System member module status 4
document
Proposed Training program for TAMU colleges and Implementation
4
departments on the FAMIS purchasing system document
Implementation
FAMIS implementation training guidelines 3
document
Planning document for implementation o f purchasing Implementation
system at TAMU departments 2
document
Implementation o f FAMIS with engineering research Internal
agencies 50
memorandum
Recommended FAMIS system priorities for Texas A&M Internal
4
University memorandum
Internal
Texas A&M University FAMIS advisory Council 2
memorandum
Interoffice
Texas State Board o f Public Accountancy 2
memorandum
Government code - Chapter 2054 Legal document 30

Board's Minutes o f Meeting Minutes o f meeting 50

Programming
NATURAL Programming Standard 30
language Manuel
Advanced Certification Document FAMIS System document 350
Request for Proposal Financial Accounting Management
System document 100
Information System
Budget/Payroll/Personnel System General description System document 40
Data warehousing architecture & presentation System document 10
Comprehensive training & user services plan Training document 14
FAMIS Training Course & Topic List Training document 7
Purchasing module training scope document Training document 3
FAMIS training Manuel User Manuel 100
Documents from Peoplesoft Vendor document 20
Documents from Software AG's affiliates Vendor document 3
+ 100 or
Others
more

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The total number o f interviews conducted as of today is 25. The interviews have been

conducted with the founders o f the FAMIS system. CFOs o f TAMUS’ components, members

of steering committees, agency-level and department-level users, directors of IT departments in

a number o f member organizations, system analysts o f the FAMIS system, the former and

current project leaders and a system auditor. The average duration o f the interviews was 76

minutes.

The format o f the interviews was semi-structured in that each participant was asked

some general, open-ended questions and there was no formal questionnaire. The study used

three types of interviews together: interview guide approach, standardized open-ended

interviews, and dialogic interviews (Rossman and Rallis 1998). The purpose of guided

interviews is to elicit the participant's worldview. We identified a few broad topics (e.g.,

design, implementation, use o f FAMIS) and framed them as questions to uncover the

participant’s meaning. Also since we conducted a multi-site case study, the standardized open-

ended interviews were needed. We had a number o f fixed questions that were asked of many

participants in a particular order. Finally, we combined dialogic interviews that are “true

conversations in which researcher and participant together develop a more complex and

understandings of the topic” (p. 125). In each interview the three types were used in

combination.

In general each interview contained three parts. First, the participant shared with the

researchers the circumstances in which they were or have been involved with the FAMIS

system and their perceptions and understandings o f FAMIS. Then, they were also asked some

general questions such as “what drives FAMIS to change”. The primary investigator and his

advisor could leam each participant’s role and responsibility from the second interview with

the FAMIS manager and a senior system analyst. This allowed the primary investigator to

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develop a list o f questions for each participant in terms o f his or her (former or present) role

and responsibility in the context o f FAMIS. For example, to the former director o f the FAMIS

project we asked questions like “why was a particular software package chosen rather than

others” and “why was a particular database management system chosen”. Finally, the

participant freely shared their insights and other information not covered by the questions.

As for construct validity the study has attempted to seek triangulation among different

evaluators (investigator triangulation) (Yin 1994, Eisenhardt 1989). Most interviews were led

by the primary investigator. However, several major interviews with current project manager

and senior system analyst were conducted by the primary investigator and his advisor. After

interviews the two investigators have had time for discussing findings and understandings of

the data collected. The duration o f data collection was about 10 months from October 2001 to

present. It will be continued without any specific ending date (Table 9). Future data collection

will be used to strengthen and/or revise the institutional frameworks developed in this

dissertation.

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Table 9. Detailed Interview Schedule


Interview Duration
Date Interviewee Current Affiliation & Title
No."’ (Minutes)
The FAMIS Manager
t 10/04/01 60
Senior system analyst
2 The FAMIS Manager
1/15/02 100
Senior system analyst
3 1/31/02 90 Senior system analyst
4 2/02/02 30 Departmental accountant
5 2/05/02 80 CFO o f Texas Tech
Assistant Vice President for
6 2/07/02 100
Financial Service Management
7 2/08/02 150 Director o f CIS
Associate Vice Chancellor for
8 2/15/02 120
TAMU Strategic Plan
TEEX deputy chancellor
9 2/18/02 70 Controller o f Finance, TEEX
Director o f IT, TEEX
Director o f Financial Reporting &
10 2/19/02 60 Comptroller o f Accounting &
Budget Office
Assistant Vice President for
11 2/25/02 90 This information
Finance, TAMU
is disguised fo r
12 2/27/02 60 President o f A&M Foundation
confidentiality
Associated Dean & Executive
13 3/05/02 60
MBA Director
Comptroller o f Accounting &
14 3/11/02 60 Budgeting Office, TAMU-
Commerce
15 3/12/02 60 Vice Chancellor, TEES
Director o f IT. Admission &
16 3/25/02 90
Records, TAMUS
17 4/04/02 60 SIMS Project Manager
18 4/03/02 30 Internal System Auditor
19 4/04/02 60 Internal System Auditor
20 4/09/02 60 Internal System Auditor
21 4/05/02 60 Senior Training Specialist, FAMIS
Director o f Data warehousing
22 4/17/02 90
Project
The FAMIS Manager
23 6/12/02 90
Senior System Analyst
24 6/21/02 90 Director o f CIS
25 7/19/02 90 CIO o f TTI

9 Chapter 9 presents the case analysis which includes many quotations from the interview data.
We developed a citation system for the quotations. Each quotation in Chapter 9 includes a
citation number. For example, 1.1 refers to interview #1 and paragraph #1, 2.5 refers to
interview #2 and paragraph #5 and so on.

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8.5 Data Analysis

Two approaches to qualitative data analysis - Strauss and Corbin’s (1998) version of

grounded theory and Miles and Huberman (1994) tabular methods —were used to guide data

analysis. These approaches were not mechanically applied in this study; rather they were

adapted in this study. The overview of these approaches is provided below.

Grounded theory means theory that was derived from data, systematically gathered and

analyzed through the research process (p. 12). Strauss and Corbin emphasize that data

collection, analysis, and eventual theory stand in close relationship to one another. A researcher

should not begin a project with a preconceived theory in mind (unless his or her purpose is to

elaborate and extend existing theory). Rather, the research begins with an area o f study and

allows the theory to emerge from the data. In this method, data analysis is the interplay

between researchers and data and thus it is interpretive in nature. The grounded theory

approach specifies three coding procedures - open coding, axial coding, and selective coding -

and a range of heuristic strategies for them.

Open coding is “the analytic process through which concepts are identified and their

properties and dimensions are discovered in data” (p. 101). This process involves breaking

down, examining, comparing, conceptualizing, and categorizing data in terms of their

properties and dimensions and then later relating categories through hypotheses or states of

relationships. Growing out o f and feeding back into open coding is the process o f axial coding.

It refers to ‘the process of relating categories (identified in open coding) to their subcategories”

(p. 123). Selective coding is the process by which a fully grounded theory emerges. The

process involves the identification o f the “core category” and linking the different categories to

the core category using the paradigm model. The procedures involved are rather like those used

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in axial coding. The difference is that they take place at a higher level o f abstraction. Selective

coding begins with the attempt to establish a story line.

Miles and Huberman (1994) argue that qualitative research is iterative in character. For

them qualitative analysis is inherently cyclical. Patterns, hypotheses and themes are discovered

inductively. Possible verification o f the emerging patterns is then sought using deductively

strategies. This in turn potentially yields further inductive insights. Miles and Huberman

suggest that a wide variety o f tactics is appropriate to this iterative process. Such strategies

range from noting emerging themes in the data, through the making o f contrasts and

comparisons between analytic elements, to the construction of an extensive and coherent

conceptual and analytic schema. In Miles and Huberman’s (1994) approach there are three

linked processes for data analysis.

Data reduction is an initial process by which material is selected and condensed on the

basis of an emerging conceptual framework. The use o f summaries o f various kinds, coding,

and review procedures is suggested. Coding is a fundamental part o f data reduction. They

distinguish between first-level and second-level coding. The aim of first-level coding is to

produce a working set o f codes. The research begins second-level coding by looking for

threads, leads, commonalities or recurrences that suggest some underlying pattern. They

suggest creating a start-list o f codes prior to fieldwork. Data display is the ‘organized,

compressed assembly o f information’ (p. 428) - “think display’ (p. 240). Devices used

included structured case summaries and synopses, the use o f vignettes, network diagrams and

matrix displays. Two major formats for data display are matrix displays in which data are

arrayed in rows and columns and network display, which is graphical representations made up

o f nodes and links. Network displays are particularly useful for showing flows and structures.

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Conclusion drawing/verification is the process o f drawing broad, but substantiated,

interpretations from displayed data.

Data analysis was done in both informal and formal sessions. Informal data analysis

started as soon as the first interview was conducted in October 2001. In fact, the investigators,

particularly his advisor, had pre-knowledge about FAMIS through his interactions with people

involved directly and indirectly with the system. Also a large amount o f data collection on

large-scale information systems had been done through the literature review and the analysis of

multiple secondary case studies during the year o f 2001. Specifically, the following secondary

case studies were reviewed and the research findings o f these studies were implicitly compared

with that of this case study.

• Large-scale information systems in the UK National Health Service (Bloomfield et

al. 1992: Bloomfield et al. 1992: Bloomfield and Vurdubakis 1994; Jones 1994:

Bloomfield 1995; Brown 1995; Bloomfield and Vurdubakis 1997; Bloomfield

1997)

• A large-scale information system in a New Zealand hospital (Doolin 1999a, 1999b,

1999c. 2001a, 2001b; Lowe and Doolin 1999)

• A SAP ERP case at Norsk Hydro in Norway (Hanseth and Braa 1998, 2000)

• Information infrastructure at Statoil (Monteiro and Hepso 2000)

• Information infrastructure development at Astra Hassle (Cordelia and Simon2000)

• The case o f Customer Relationship Management System in IBM (Ciborra and


Failla 2000)

This pre-data collection from extant literature had allowed the primary investigator to

have some theoretical conceptions or knowledge about the phenomenon o f large-scale IS. As

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already noted, the theoretical conceptions behind this study were drawn from two social

theories, structuration theory and ANT. However, the iterative process - open coding and axial

coding - -between literature and the data from the actual case study resulted in the emergence

of four “core categories” (Strauss and Corbin 1998) which later became the four specific

research topics presented in Chapters IV through VII. The emergence o f these four core

categories helped more specific questions to be framed and further the questions were

constructed to guide later analysis.

In order to organize information, different data display techniques were used (Miles

and Huberman 1994). In particular a number o f matrix displays, tables, and timelines were

used for data display (Appendix I and Chapter IX). Authors (Strauss and Corbin 1998; Miles

and Huberman 1994) suggested that memos are a fundamental tool for data reduction or coding

procedures in qualitative analysis. In this study memos were used for different purposes. They

served as a repository for “instant” ideas and research questions after interviews, a

communicative tool for conveying initial research findings and analytic ideas to and getting

comments and suggestions from the secondary investigator, and interim case summaries at

different stages o f the case study.

8.6 Conclusion

The methods and procedures presented in this chapter guided the collection and

analysis of the large volume of data for this study. The interpretations from displayed data are

presented in the following chapter

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CHAPTER IX

CASE STUDY

9.1 Introduction

This chapter presents a case study of the Financial Accounting Management

Information Systems (FAMIS) o f the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS). This chapter

consists o f two main sections: the first section offers an overview o f this case study with

general research findings and the second section presents the discussion of the case in terms of

the framework of Dynamic Institutional Theory (DIT), which was developed in the preceding

chapters. Thus, the first section aims at offering a big picture o f the case, while the second

section presents the details o f the case by viewing FAMIS asa social institution and the

process of development and implementation as a dynamic processof institutionalization.

9.2 Case Overview and General Research Findings

9.2.1 Organization Overview

The Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) is one o f the more complex systems of

higher education in the nation. Currently TAMUS consists of nine universities, eight State

agencies and a health science center that serves over 94,000 students and reaches more than 4

million people each year through its service mission. Research projects under way today by

system universities and research agencies total roughly $400 million. The system employs

more than 23,000 faculty and staff members located throughout the State and serves all 254

Texas counties. The annual budget for the TAMU System is approximately $2.0 billion9.

9 Cited from the TAMUS’ web page.

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The State established its first college in 1876 and named it the Agricultural and Mechanical

College of Texas. This marked the beginning o f the Texas A&M University System. The

"system," although not officially recognized as such until 1948, began as a group o f institutions

focused on agricultural and mechanical training for Texas youth. In addition to A&M College

(now Texas A&M University), the Texas Legislature created a branch college at Prairie View

(now Prairie View A&M University), which opened in 1878. John Tarleton College at

Stephenville (now Tarleton State University) joined the system in 1917.

As of October 1988 (when the FAMIS project was officially launched) TAMUS was

comprised of 4 universities and 7 agencies:10

1. System Administrative and General Offices (SAGO)


2. Texas A&M University (TAMU)
3. Tarleton State University (TSU)
4. Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU)
5. Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG)
6. Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES)
7. Texas Agricultural Extension Service (TAEX)
8. Texas Animal Damage Control Service (TADCS)
9. Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES)
10. Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX)
11. Texas Forest Service (TFS)
12. Texas Transportation Institute (TTI)

In 1989, the A&M System" experienced significant growth when three South Texas

universities joined the system: Texas A&M International University (formerly Laredo State

University) in Laredo, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (formerly Corpus Christi State

University) and Texas A&M University-Kingsville (formerly Texas A&I University). In 1990,

10 Cited from Advanced Certification Document Financial Accounting Management


Information System 1988.
11 It should be noted that there is Texas A&M Research Foundation, an independent non-profit
service organization whose focus is to facilitate research and development within TAMUS.
This organization is a user o f FAMIS also.

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West Texas State University in the Texas Panhandle city o f Canyon joined the A&M System

and adopted the name West Texas A&M University in 1993.

The A&M System continues to grow and expand its reach in Texas. In September

1996, three additional institutions joined the A&M System: Baylor College o f Dentistry in

Dallas. Texas A&M University-Commerce (formerly East Texas State University-Commerce),

and Texas A&M University-Texarkana (formerly East Texas State University-Texarkana).

A strong commitment to health education and community service led the way in 1999

to the establishment o f the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, comprised

of Baylor College o f Dentistry, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology in Houston, and

the College of Medicine, School of Rural Public Health, and Graduate School o f Biomedical

Sciences, all located in College Station. The following timeline summarizes recent growth:

1989 Texas A&M International University (TAMIU)


Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMCC)
Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMK)
1990 West Texas A&M University (WTAMU)
1996 Baylor College o f Dentistry in Dallas (BCD)
Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC)
Texas A&M University-Texarkana (TAMUT)
1999 Health Science Center (HSC)

9.2.2 Organizational Culture & Internal Environment

The system is described as a young organization in comparison to many systems of

higher education. Many o f the system’s universities had long histories before joining the A&M

System and have been part o f the system for a decade or less. In addition to the youth of the

system, its members vary greatly in mission and purpose. Each member of the system has its

own goals, traditions, and culture. The system values diversity and honors the principle “one

size doesn’t fit all”12.

12Cited from The Integrative Plan of The System.

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While focusing on the unique missions of the institutions and agencies of the system,

the more general issues related to the overall quality o f the system are addressed in The

Integrative Plan.

Too often, progress in one system or individual institution has been achieved
independent o f consideration for other institutions or for the enterprise o f higher
education in Texas as a whole. Long-term progress will only be achieved when the
whole o f higher education is improved. One o f our fundamental principles is that the
quality o f each component o f the A&M systems is dependent on the other components
(p. 13, The Integrative Plan o f The System)

One respondent described TAMUS as a confederated system. He compared TAMUS

with UT System, by noting “if UT System is said to be more centralized, our system (A&M) is

more decentralized.” Traditionally there had been a decentralized culture within the system,

even though everyone component is under one umbrella each is different and wants to maintain

its uniqueness and independence. On the other hand, at the system level collaboration among

member organizations has been emphasized and sought. The document called Agency Strategic

Plan for the fiscal year 2001-2005 by SAGO contains the following Statement,

The Texas A&M University System is strong when each university and agency pursues
its own mission with urgency and determination within the overall system mission.
The A&M System will achieve its greatest strength when the complementary but
distinctive missions interact in a more tightly coupled manner than is found among
free-standing organizations in a loose federation. Collaboration creates
interdependence, and it is desirable that all institutions within the A&M System have
this mutually dependent relationship with each other. Such interdependence will lead
to a stronger and more mature organization (p. 5).

Another respondent pointed out that there have been some changes in the culture o f the

system overall. Before 1994, most Chancellors came from TAMU. For example, Dr. Perry L.

Adkisson, who served between 1986 and 1990 as the Chancellor o f the System, was from the

College o f Agriculture at TAMU. The next two Chancellors, Dr. Herbet H. Richardson (1991-

1993) and Dr. William H. Mobley (1993-1994), were from the College of Engineering at

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TAMU. Therefore, the view and culture o f TAMU has been very influential on other parts of

TAMUS and the System as a whole. This changed after Dr. Barry Thomson (1994-1999), who

was the President o f WTAMU, became the Chancellor in 1994. Since he came from a different

part than TAMU, he encouraged coordination with other agencies and started fostering the

value o f other agencies (Table 10).

Table 10. Change o f TAMUS Leadership _________________________________


Chancellor Background Serving Year
Dr. Perry L. Adkisson TAMU (Agriculture) 9/1986-8/1990
Dr. Herbert H. Richardson TAMU (Engineering) 1991-1993
Dr. William H. Mobley TAMU 1993-1994
Dr. Barry Thomson WTAMU 1994-1999
Howard D. Graves Army General 1999-Present

Also this was time when the State planned only three or four University systems within

the State. Thus, individual universities and State agencies had to join one. TAMUS wanted to

be attractive to them by showing “TAMUS is flexible and values uniqueness”. This also led

the culture o f the system to value uniqueness and differences among member institutions.

9.2.3 FAMIS Overview

FAMIS is a large-scale information system that responds to financial regulations

applicable to the members o f the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS). FAMIS integrates

systems of 30 databases that function as a unit across 5 interdependent modules or subsystems.

This data base system supports the financial and business functions for the most of the agencies

and universities of the A&M system. The primary users are the administrative functions

supported by the system. This database system is updated online by most o f the agencies and

universities of the A&M System.

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FAMIS Services is responsible for the development and support o f FAMIS since 1990.

The FAMIS Services Department, formerly known as The MIS project team and now part of

the Department of Information Resources (DIR) within Texas A&M University System

Administrative and General Offices (SAGO), is mainly in charge o f the management and

maintenance o f FAMIS. This department has to report directly to the DIR within SAGO. The

SAGO DIR also oversees the following functions: Budget, Payroll, and Personnel (BPP) and

Microcomputers and Network Support. The SAGO DIR directly reports to Office o f the Vice

Chancellor for Business Services which directly reports to Chancellor of TAMUS.

FAMIS was first brought to production in September 1990 for Fiscal Year 1991. Three

components - SAGO, TAMU and TVMDL - began to utilize the basic functionality provided

by FAMIS. Since then, fifteen additional members of TAMUS and the Texas A&M Research

Foundation (RF) have gone through FAMIS adoption and implementation. Currently the

FAMIS system supports more than 4,000 users in 9 universities, 6 agencies, HSC, BCD, and

SAGO within the System and RF, an independent non-private organization.

Currently the FAMIS system consists of five major subsystems: Purchasing System

(PS), Financial Records Systems (FRS), Fixed Assets (FFX), Sponsored Research (SPR), and

Annual Financial Reporting (AFR). FRS is the most commonly used subsystem. Within FRS

there are several modules including the financial accounting module, accounts payable module,

accounts receivable module, payroll module, and budget preparation module:

o Financial Accounting - transactions relating to financial operations such as


budgets, revenues, expenses, and journal entries
o Accounts Payable - transactions relating to vendor payment including
preparation o f checks and files for State o f Texas warrants
o Accounts Receivable - transactions relating to billing and payment receipt for
goods or services rendered
o Payroll Distribution - processes relating to the distribution o f payroll expenses
for research projects

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o Budget Preparation - processes relating to the preparation o f the annual budget


to be presented to the TAMUS Board o f Regents13

The FFX subsystem meets all inventory needs. This subsystem is especially useful for

property managers who need to research inventory information. The SPR subsystem meets

grants and proposal needs. Only Contract Administration and Financial Management Services

at research agencies receive access to SPR. Finally the AFR subsystem meets State reporting

needs. Only Financial Management Services (in the Division o f Finance of each member

organization) receives access to AFR. The purchasing susbsystem supports transactions

relating to ordering, receipt and initiation o f payment of goods and services. The FAMIS

system has continuously evolved through the introduction of new accounting rules, laws and

regulations mandated by the State, and additional features and functionality as defined by the

user community. Current development plans include a departmental bookkeeping module, a

travel module, and increased automation of production control among others.

9.2.4 Pre-FAMIS

Prior to FAMIS, the academic institutions within TAMUS were, for the most part,

running in-house systems that were developed at Texas A&M University. A former top

administrator o f TAMU fiscal office recalled:

Around 1972 or 1975, the first automatic accounting system called Vantage was
developed. This system was coded by only one person in a small office room at
YMCA or somewhere. IT took about 2-3 years to do that. The system was developed
in Fortran. The system was good computationally, but not user friendly

This system traces its roots and methodology, in an accounting sense, back to 1959 or

before. In the late sixties, a technology upgrade was made, but the base accounting concepts

remained intact. This system had been converted or transported to run at Tarleton State

13Cited from the User Manuel of FAMIS.

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University, Prairie View A&M University, and Texas A&M University at Galveston. This

accounting system, over the years, had also evolved into separate systems supporting agency

accounting. This separation occurred in the late sixties and early seventies. Both TAES and

TEES had separate accounting systems running on the IBM Mainframe (3090-200E) at Texas

A&M University that supported the functionality required by their agencies.

The agency accounting systems did not emulate the Texas A&M University

accounting system. Instead, TAES enhanced its system with a departmental “shadow”

bookkeeping system running on a PRIME computer system. Four individual stand-alone

systems were running to support TAEX, TFS, TEEX, and TTI14.

9.2.5 Background of FAMIS Development

Several internal and external factors and institutional arrangements contributed to the

emergence o f the FAMIS system. Internally, in 1970s and 1980s, the TAMUS had experienced

tremendous growth in terms of several major areas: student enrollment, research expenditures,

and the TAMUS budget. Growth in student enrollment increased by 22% between 1977 and

1986. Actual research dollars spent at TAMU increased 193% and the budget increased 115%

during the decade. Also, as shown in the preceding section, the university system was

expecting more growth: since 1989, eight institutions joined TAMUS.

The growth o f the system led top administrators and particularly the TAMUS’ Board

of Regents to recognize the need for comparable and consolidated information to properly

manage the $800 million annual operation in late 1980s. The proper level o f coordination and

control among (and over) member institutions became the most important concern to system

administrators. However, the existence o f separate financial management systems supporting

14 Cited from Advanced Certification Document Financial Accounting Management


Information System 1988.

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diverse accounting rules and practices throughout the TAMUS created a major barrier for

enterprise-wide integration and control. In the mid-1980s the president o f TAMU and high

officials in fiscal and budget office at TAMU recognized the need for a large-scale fiscal and

administrative information system as the solution for the fiscal and administrative problems at

TAMU. They initiated the project to develop such a system with the capabilities o f decision

support, executive reporting, online purchasing, budgeting and planning, investment

management, streamlined integration across departments and colleges, and other functions.

Initially the idea was to develop such a system for TAMU only. This initial idea was adopted

by the System’s administration and the scope of the project was expanded from TAMU to all

members to develop a large-scale financial and administrative information system for all parts

of the TAMUS system. According to a top official o f the TAMU fiscal office, this was the

most significant change in the history of FAMIS, and it later created a lot of politics and

resistance from other members. There were several direct and indirect reasons for this shift.

First, there was the issue of costs to develop the large-scale information system. The initial

acquisition cost for such information system was expected to be over $ 1 million at that time.

When considering the costs for the full implementation and maintenance, the overall cost

appeared too high for a single university. Therefore, an information system for all parts of

TAMUS was an attractive idea for TAMU, since now the cost could be distributed to and

shared by other parts o f TAMUS. Secondly, the development o f “one integrated large-scale

fiscal and administrative information system” was part of the long-range plans of TAMUS and

thus satisfied the long-term objective o f the System and the Board o f Regents for one uniform

accounting system and centralized management of the rapidly-growing System.

These internal factors were also closely interwoven with the external environments and

institutional arrangements within which the TAMUS resided. Specifically, there were several

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186

external pressures from the State, competition with other higher institutions in the State and

nation, and the emergence of new technological ideas or concepts such as Decision Support

Systems. Executive Information Systems, and computer use for centralized management.

The most direct external pressure came from the State, particularly the State auditors

and the development o f Uniform Statewide Accounting System (USAS). The State auditors

had found in their audits of the TAMUS system that proper fiscal procedures had not been

followed throughout the System and that there were inconsistencies in the way the various

parts of TAMUS reported certain financial transactions on their annual financial reports.

Along with this, the State had been continuing to emphasize the use o f automated

information systems by governmental bodies. First, the legislative and executive branches of

the State believed that advanced information systems could improve productivity and

efficiency. Also, they looked at advanced financial information systems as the means to

improve coordination, integration and control. The State auditors and top administrators of the

TAMUS believed that changing procedures are often very dependent upon computerized

information systems and systems like FAMIS would give TAMUS the opportunity to follow

uniform fiscal procedures across the System.

In 1987, the 70u> Legislature enacted legislation that required the State Comptroller’s

Office to make uniform the collection and reporting o f statewide payroll and personnel data. At

the direction o f the 70lh Legislature, a Uniform Statewide Accounting Systems (USAS) was

being designed for the Comptroller’s office. One original objective o f USAS, among others,

was to meet state agencies’ general accounting requirements and thus reduce the number of

separate accounting systems in the State. In fact, the best scenario for the State would be to

have “one financial information system” in the State by replacing all agencies’ financial

information systems with USAS, but the State recognized this was not possible because o f the

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variability among state agencies in terms o f their size and the diversity and uniqueness o f their

needs. Thus, the Comptroller’s office proposed two approaches to the State agencies: either

using USAS or maintaining their own information systems and interfacing them with USAS.

The latter approach was supported by both the USAS team and TAMUS. This state

requirement became a "compelling reason” to replace existing in-house computer systems with

a large-scale fiscal and administrative information system. The FAMIS project was welcomed

by the USAS project team since such large-scale information system could provide the

Comptroller's office with a single channel to communicate with all parts o f TAMUS.

Also the trend of deploying large-scale financial accounting and management

information systems among other universities or university systems contributed to the

emergence of FAMIS. For instance, the University o f Texas had invested a great deal of time

and effort in developing a Departmental Financial Information Network (DEFINE) System,

which aimed to support departmental financial management. The University o f Texas Health

Science Center had a large-scale financial information system, which was a modified version

o f American Management Systems, Inc.’s (AMS) College and University Financial Systems

(CUFS) and aimed to integrate its several campuses. Texas Tech University has a customized

version o f the American Management Systems College and University Financial System

(CUFS). Higher institutions outside the State such as University o f Arizona, Arizona State

University, University of Kentucky at Lexington, and West Virginia University System had

already installed large-scale financial information systems from two major vendors, either

American Management System (AMS) or Information Associate (LA).

Several actors who were deeply involved in the development and implementation of

FAMIS pointed out that the emergence o f FAMIS cannot be properly explained without

considering what happened in the computing industry in 1980s. From 1970s to late 1980s new

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188

concepts and technologies including model-oriented DSS. query and reporting tools, OLAP,

and Executive Information Systems were emerged and adopted by organizations. All these

technologies were very attractive to organizations and their management since they seemed to

promise the increase in productivity and efficiency. In the 1980’s these computer systems were

mainframe-based. After the concepts o f MRP in the 70s and mid 80s, the idea o f enterprise-

wide software, nowadays we call ERP, was developed rapidly through the vendor community

including SAP. Baan, JD Edwards, and PeopleSoft. The development o f the SQL relational

database management system by vendors such as IBM and Oracle in the late 1970s made it

possible for the concept o f enterprise-wide integration and enterprise software to be established

and become popular in user groups including private businesses and institutions o f higher

education. The role of one particular vendor, SCT, was recognized in the industry o f higher

education. SCT was established in 1968. In 1970s SCT marketed a commercial student system

for higher education. In 1980s they had promoted the concept o f enterprise software for higher

education. In 1989 SCT integrated an ERP system on RDBMS-Banner.

The ”founders" o f FAMIS were aware o f these technology trends and planned to

develop an enterprise information system which was aimed to support not only financial

management but also other administrative functionalities, including contracts and grants

management, purchasing, office automation and communication, cashiering, requests for travel

advances, enterprise and departmental accounting. State interfaces, ad hoc reporting, and

information management. Also they planned a centralized staff for all parts o f TAMUS so each

part would no longer need to dedicate computer/information systems personnel to support its

financial information systems. They believed that modifying the accounting systems to respond

to environmental changes such as the State laws and regulations would need to be done only

once, not many times by each agency, as was required with pre-FAMIS systems. One large-

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scale information system for everyone was a very attractive idea to senior administrators in

TAMUS. Finally, in April 1987 the TAMUS Board o f Regents recognized the major strategic

role information systems would have in the future of TAMUS and delivered its directive for

the development o f FAMIS.

9.2.6 Design Process

As a result o f this resolution, the MIS project was initiated. The director of the MIS

project for FAMIS development was hired in October 1987. In November 1987, a survey

questionnaire was distributed to all parts of TAMUS to solicit input as to their management

information system needs. This survey was also distributed to all major departments within

TAMUS. The survey demonstrated the significant need, both real and perceived, to

substantially improve financial accounting management information within TAMUS. The

results o f the survey led to the formation of an implementation team to work on the

development of the Financial Accounting Management Information System (FAMIS). The

team was formed in March 1988. Four senior systems analysts were hired for the project. Three

o f them had been working for The Student Information Systems (SIMS) project since 1979 and

joined the new project (FAMIS. One senior analyst was previously worked for the Computing

Services Center (CSC)15 at TAMU.

From mid-November to December 1987, the MIS Survey was distributed to all parts of

the TAMUS system and completed. The team’s first task was to interview approximately

seventy-five key users. The interviews resulted in the compilation o f a Needs Inventory, the

baseline o f what was needed for TAMUS. With the recognition o f the need for a large-scale

information system, ten alternative approaches to meet the need were investigated (Table 11).

15 The Computing Information Services (CIS) department was not formed until Sept. 1993.

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Table 11. A List o f Ten Alternative Options1 6 ___________________________________


Alternative options________________________________________________________
1. Install a system currently existing at another institution o f higher education within
the State
2. Use the Uniform Statewide Accounting System
3. Install a public domain software accounting system from out-of-State that could
be altered to fit the TAMUS system’s needs
4. Install a commercial system, adapting it to become a college, university, and
agency accounting system
5. Install one o f the computer systems currently existing within the TAMUS system
and tailor it to meet the System’s needs
6. Do nothing at all
7. Design and write a system in-house
8. Install a college and university financial system that was designed and written by
an outside vendor, making no modifications to the package
9. Modify and enhance a packaged system that has been purchased from a college
and university vendor
10. Install a college and university financial system designed and written by an
outside vendor but enhanced and modified to meet the TAMUS’, the Uniform
______ Statewide Accounting System’s, and the State’s requirements._________________

Site visits to other universities were made and detailed evaluations o f the various

information systems were performed. The last approach “Install a college and university

financial system designed and written by an outside vendor but enhanced and modified to meet

the TAMUS’, the Uniform Statewide Accounting System’s, and the State’s requirements” was

chosen as the best option available to TAMUS by considering functionality, risk, time of

implementation, and six other evaluation criteria. According to the former director the MIS

project team was asked to work on the project at a reasonable time frame, which meant one

year. The team was required to report the progress o f the project to the Steering Committee

consisting of 11 top administrators representing member institutions and the Board o f Regents.

16 Cited from Advanced Certification Document Financial Accounting Management


Information System 1988.

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In June 1988 the next task was conducted to prepare needs document which formed the

basis of the Request for Proposal. In October 1988 an over 300 page document. Advanced

Certification Document o f FAMIS, was submitted to the State o f Texas Automated

Information and Telecommunications Council (ATTC) for approval. At the same month, the

Request for Proposal was finalized and in November the team received the State AITC

approval to purchase a software package.

After Request for Proposal (RFP) and the evaluation of vendor proposals, in 1989 the

contract was signed with Information Associates17 for the Software AG

NATURAL18/ AD ABAS version o f the software. This was a three-way agreement among

TAMUS, Information Associates, and Software AG. TAMUS requested this agreement for the

purpose of acquiring a NATURAL/ADABAS version of the highly popular financial

information system developed by Information Associates. IA ’s COBOL based Financial

Records System (FRS) was redesigned and re-engineered using NATURAL, Software AG’s

fourth generation language and the ADABAS data management systems. The redesign of

NATURAL/FRS was completed in 1991.

In this selection process, the MIS project team had to make technical commitments to

existing information systems and computing environment of TAMU. In the mid 1980s TAMU

had made two major information system procurements affecting administrative computing.

Both SIMS and the IBM 3090-200E System had a functional impact on the approach to

17The Information Associates software, a company based in New York State, is now owned by
the SCT Corporation (www.sct.com) since 1992.
18 Launched in 1979, NATURAL now has an installed base of more than 3000 corporations. It
was designed specifically for building mission-critical applications. Natural applications
support many leading platforms and can be integrated with many major database systems
(ADABAS, DB2, Oracle, etc.). Developed in 1969 by Software AG, ADABAS is a popular
database management systems, which is currently installed on many organizations including

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192

handling administrative functions. The basic system o f SIMS (Student Information

Management Systems) was purchased in 1984 and the project was implemented by 1986. The

system was in line with the focus o f long-range planning that was being redirected toward the

financial information system. The system included processes from admissions, registration,

student financial aid, billing, grading, transcripts, degree audit, and loan repayment. The

system used Software AG’s ADABAS as the main database system and COBOL and

NATURAL as the main development language. This procurement cost over $1.6 million. Also

FAMIS had to be based on the IBM 3090-200E mainframe computer, which was purchased

and installed in August 1987 and cost over $ 8.2 million. Also an upgrade to an IBM 3090-

400E (or its equivalent) was being planned by 19921'’. The project had to make technical

commitment to NATURAL as the main programming language since hired system analysts and

programmers were trained and had experience with NATURAL, among other 4Ih generation

languages, from the SIMS project. These resources available with existing information systems

could not be changed.

Also these commitments were interwoven with both the philosophy o f the MIS project

team and time pressure from the Board o f Regents and the steering committee o f the project.

The former project director noted that:

People (users) had little tolerance for changing and flexibility means not much to users.
It is not something what users want. They want what they are familiar with so we tried
to do as few changes possible

IS implementation has to be fast. The reasonable time for system implementation to me


is one year. Why? “Because key players leave and are changed. That’s a big problem.
You lose “focus” and then “give up”

FBI, EPA’s Office o f Information Resources Management, UPS, Merrill Lynch, and
University o f Texas.
w Cited from Advanced Certification Document Financial Accounting Management
Information System 1988.

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193

In late 1988 administrators o f TAMUS, TAMU and other parts started to be concerned about

the implementation o f FAMIS and asked whether FAMIS would eventually be implemented.

The time pressure was very strong at that time. However, the selection o f vendor, which was

done in April 1989, increased confidence that FAMIS would be implemented. After the

modification of the purchased software package, FAMIS went live with the FRS (Financial

Record Systems) subsystem for 3 component parts - TAMUS, SAGO, and TVMDL - in

September 1990 for fiscal year 1991. In September 1990, the Sponsored Research (SPR)

subsystem went live with limited functionality. In September 1992 the Fixed Assets (FFX)

subsystem went live for 6 component parts - TSU, PVAMU, TAES, TAMUG, TAIU and

TAMU. In 1993 the purchasing system went live for TAMUS and in 1998 the Annual

Financial Reporting (AFR) system went live. Below some major dates for the development of

the FAMIS system are summarized.

10/87 Hired Director o f MIS Project for FAMIS Implementation


03/88 Hired 4 Senior Systems Analysts for the Project
06/89 Contract signed with Information Associates for the Software AG
NATURAL/ADABAS version o f the software
09/89 Hired 4 entry level programmers
11/89 Initial Code delivered
09/90 System went live with FRS (Financial Accounting and Accounts Payable) and FAR
(Accounts Receivable) for 3 component parts
09/90 SPR (Sponsored Research) module went live with limited functionality
09/93 Begin implementation o f first phase o f Purchasing module at Texas A&M University
Purchasing Department (Requisitioning and Purchase Orders)
01/94 TAMU began entering all departmental purchase orders into Purchasing system
02/98 Begin Budget Module implementation.

However, the current form of FAMIS is different from what was planned by the MIS

project team, the Board o f Regents, and the founders in the late 1980s. In contrast to the initial

grand plan of the project to develop “a fully integrated large-scale information systems" as the

solution for fiscal and administrative problems, the full development of FAMIS was not done

until 1990 when only FRS subsystem went live with three parts of TAMUS. Even though later

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194

several additional subsystems were developed and integrated as part o f FAMIS, the present

form of FAMIS is not a fully integrated enterprise-wide fiscal and administrative system to

meet the needs of all levels of users from System-level to departmental-level and all parts of

FAMIS from large universities and research agencies to small universities. It turned out that as

of today the original intent and purpose o f FAMIS have been partially, but not completely

fulfilled.

For example, one o f the original objectives o f FAMIS was to provide the capability of

executive information systems to meet the information needs o f System-level users, such as the

Board of Regents and the System Administrative and General Offices (SAGO). However, the

1996 State audit of management controls at TAMUS pointed out the lack o f a comprehensive

management information system. The report recommended that:

System management should reevaluate the overall intent and purpose of FAMIS and
how best to meet the management reporting needs o f the Board and executive
management. Consideration should be given to the depth o f accounting functions that
FAMIS will provide, including general ledger, project accounting, and management
reporting. Alternative methods for meeting management reporting needs should be
fully identified and evaluated (p. 4)

To respond to the recommendation that “alternative methods” be adopted TAMUS

initiated the data warehousing project to develop an executive information system, rather than

altering FAMIS. This system went into operation in 2000. The system is loosely coupled with

FAMIS and other systems at TAMU and the System-level.

9.2.7 Implementation Process

The implementation process turned out to be the most difficult task for the MIS project

team and the founders) o f FAMIS as well as all parts of TAMUS. At the beginning of the

project the MIS project team and the founder(s) expected about 4 years for the full

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195

implementation o f the full designed FAMIS at all parts of TAMUS. The initial projection of

impact assumed an implementation schedule20 as follows:

Year 1 - Implementation of TAMU (Fiscal Year 1990-91)


Year 2 - Implementation of a second university and a major research agency
Year 3 - Implementation o f a third university and a major research agency
Year 4 - Implementation of all other parts

At the initial stage o f FAMIS implementation, it was very clear that FAMIS would become “an

integrated fiscal and administrative information system” for “all” parts o f TAMUS. The

official document. Advanced Certification Document, recognized the importance of the “full

implementation” to realize substantial savings and many benefits from FAMIS.

Thus, the MIS project team visited each member institution and informed them of its

strong position about the mandatory implementation by all parts o f TAMUS. The former

director of the MIS project noted that:

The TAMUS’ and MIS Project Team’s initial position was that no waiver allowed and
no other option but FAMIS. We told them that for the members there were no options
but to adopt FAMIS

The mandatory policy for FAMIS implementation was supported by the Chancellor and the

Board of Regents at that time. However, the next Chancellor was not supportive of the

mandatory policy. In fact, he favored policy that made FAMIS implementation optional. The

implementation policy has been changed over the years depending the TAMUS’ leadership,

among other elements, which resulted in unpredictability and delay o f FAMIS implementation

over the past decade (Figure 19).

20 Cited from Advanced Certification Document Financial Accounting Management


Information System 1988.

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196

JU91 Apr93 N»94


QretlordFAMS OnecJthefardas InptaiErtabonof
prqectleft left TAMJS purtBsmg stfsystem

1991
X 1992
X
1998 1994
♦ 1995 1996 1997
, •

1996 1999
I

2000
1990 2001

TFS
TADCS TAMJC
.WMBC

Figure 19. FAMIS Transition Schedule

Below some of the major dates for the implementation o f FAMIS are summarized.

09/90 System went live with FRS (Financial Accounting and Accounts Payable) and FAR
(Accounts Receivable) for 3 component parts
09/90 SPR (Sponsored Research) module went live with limited functionality
01/91 Fixed Assets went live with conversion data from 3 component parts
09/91 Additional component parts (6) went live with FRS (Financial Accounting and
Accounts Payable), FAR (Accounts Receivable) and SPR (Sponsored
Research)
09/92 Fixed Assets current for 6 most recent component parts
09/92 Additional component parts (CCSU, TADCS. TFS) went live with FRS (Financial
Accounting and Accounts Payable), FAR (Accounts Receivable) and SPR
(Sponsored Research)
09/92 Begin Annual Financial Report preparation for nine parts
12/92 Begin Fixed Asset Training and Conversion for the new 92-93 components
04/93 Fixed Assets current for TFS
06/93 Fixed Assets current for TAES, TFS
06/93 Begin Fixed Assets conversion for TADCS, TAEX, and TTI
08/93 Complete installation o f remaining portions o f Sponsored Research Module
09/93 Additional component parts (TAEX, TTI) to go live with FRS (Financial Accounting
and Accounts Payable), FAR (Accounts Receivable) and SPR (Sponsored
Research)
09/93 Begin Annual Financial Report preparation for twelve parts
09/93 Begin implementation o f first phase o f Purchasing module at Texas A&M University
Purchasing Department (Requisitioning and Purchase Orders)
01/94 TAMU Begin entering all departmental purchase orders into Purchasing system
03/94 Begin Fixed Asset conversion for CCSU
06/94 Official Fixed Asset conversion for CCSU
11/94 Begin implementation o f Purchasing module at Texas A&M University departments
and Texas A&M University-Kingsville
01/95 Begin implementation o f departmental download capability
02/95 SAGO became its own business office

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197

09/95 Texas A&M Research Foundation went live on FAMIS


09/96 Baylor College o f Dentistry went live on FAMIS
02/98 Begin Budget Module implementation.
07/98 Begin automated Annual Financial Report (AFR) Module implementation2

The original objective was full implementation within the projected four years (by

1994) in all parts o f TAMUS. However, like the design, the implementation o f FAMIS has

been long delayed due to several complex and interwoven elements such as local politics,

leadership change, the resignation of the former director o f the MIS project, strong resistance

from members, rules and policy changes mandated by the State, increases of user requests

regarding system maintenance and enhancements, user dissatisfaction with non-GUI interface,

functional deficiencies, lack o f resources, and the rapid pace o f technology change. Unlike the

selection process, the implementation of FAMIS had to face various challenges stemming from

technical (e.g., technical deficiencies of FAMIS) and institutional (e.g., changes o f leadership)

environments. Even though the key initiators o f the MIS project expected some level of

resistance from individual users and possibly member institutions, politics played a key role in

the FAMIS implementation, and resistance from a few member institutions was very strong.

This situation hindered progress on the MIS project for several years. Those challenges ranged

from minor ones like individual users’ dissatisfaction with FAMIS’ non-GUI interface to major

ones like refusing to adopt FAMIS by some parts o f TAMUS. These challenges were sourced

from internal environments (e.g., departmental users) as well as external environments (e.g.,

the State auditors, the availability o f new technologies).

9.2.7.1 User Reaction and User Resistance

Initially, there were two kinds of reactions by member organizations. Generally small

universities and agencies with lack of computer and financial resources were relatively

21 Cited from an internal document.

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favorable to the implementation of FAMIS since it provided them with the interface with the

State’s Comptrollers' office, which was a requirement at the direction o f the 70,h Texas

Legislature. However, in the 1990s people started to use graphical user interfaces. Thus, a

common complaint from users was that FAMIS was not user friendly. On the other hand, a

number o f members, particularly engineering agencies TEES and TEEX and the newly joined

university WTAMU were strongly against the FAMIS implementation. This resistance was

based on more complex reasons than lack o f GUI interface. Even though they shared with

SAGO, the MIS project team and the Board the need for consolidated reports for System-level

management, they preferred to use their own financial systems and interface them with

FAMIS.

For example, WTAMU already had a new student information system and a financial

information system and did not want FAMIS. Two engineering research agencies - TEES and

TEEX - were strongly against FAMIS adoption. They advocated the need for maintaining

their own information systems based on two arguments. First, they pointed out the functional

deficiencies in FAMIS to support their needs o f contract and grant management and other

research related functionalities. The second argument was that as research agencies they

differed from other parts o f TAMUS.

In particular, TEES did not share the idea o f “one system for everyone” and expressed

concerns about FAMIS. Top administrators and the IT manager of the research agency argued

that FAMIS is not better than their own computer system, which was based on the Oracle

database. Moreover, they noted that FAMIS initially designated research (e.g., research

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199

contract and grant management subsystem) as a low priority in terms o f implementation. A top

administrator o f the research agency insisted that

We will be asked to pay for a system we do not need nor want. We will be asked to pay
for a system that at the very best, will be mediocre. The TEES system can be interfaced
with the FAMIS system to provide required data on a monthly or more frequent time
period

Most respondents recognized and described the conflict between these agencies and the MIS

project team and SAGO over the issue of FAMIS implementation as “the battle". A top

administrator o f IT department at TAMU observed that

From the beginning of FAMIS implementation in 1990 until July 1995 when these
agencies were officially wavered from using FAMIS, there was a six-year battle
between the System and them. It was an unhappy time for everyone

The result of the battle was that in 1995 two research agencies, TEES and TEEX, and one

university, WTAMU were officially allowed to establish an interface with FAMIS rather than

adopting it as their main system.

9.2.7.2 Leadership and Politics

This battle was tightly interwoven with the change o f leadership in the System. Among

many events in the history of FAMIS, the resignation o f the former director o f the MIS project

team had significant impacts on the process o f FAMIS implementation. The former director

had been in charge o f the project team from the beginning in 1987 and left TAMUS on July

1991. His resignation caused serious problems on the continuation of FAMIS implementation.

Also another event made FAMIS implementation very difficult. One o f the founders of

FAMIS, who was Executive Deputy Chancellor o f TAMUS, left TAMUS. This series of events

- lack o f “sponsors or promoters” - negatively impacted on the continuation of FAMIS

implementation.

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From 1986 to present there have been five Chancellors. Interestingly each Chancellor

had different visions for FAMIS have had significant impacts on the life o f FAMIS (Table 12).

A senior system analyst in the MIS team noted:

Every time a new Chancellor is in the office, things are changing. FAMIS shifts
depending on who the Chancellor is at that time. Vision of Chancellor is the powerful
source (3.2)

Table 12. Policy of FAMIS Implementation and Change o f Leadership


Chancellor Background Serving Year
Implementation
1st TAMU (Agriculture) 1986-1990 Mandatory
2nd Favor to engineering agencies
TAMU (Engineering) 1991-1993
&To be neutral to FAMIS
3rd TAMU 1993-1994 Mandatory
Favor to WTAMU
4th WTAMU 1994-1999
& To be neutral to FAMIS
5th Non-TAMUS 1999-Present No Interest

The MIS project was officially established during Is' Chancellor’s regime. The Chancellor and

the Board were very supportive of FAMIS design and implementation. He strongly supported

the mandatory policy for FAMIS implementation by all parts of TAMUS. Finally in 1990 three

parts joined the FAMIS.

In 1991 TAMUS had a new Chancellor, who was formerly Deputy Chancellor for

Engineering of TAMU. This event also threatened the continuation of FAMIS project. A

founder o f FAMIS noted that:

He initially saw FAMIS as “bad” and I had to convince him not to stop what we had
done so far. After becoming the Chancellor, he changed his view a little bit and put his
foot on both sides (us and engineering). He tried to take a neutral position but
understood engineering side more. That’s why TEEX and TEES could avoid using
FAMIS

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In 1991 six more parts became the user of FAMIS and in 1992 three other parts joined the

FAMIS. During the regime o f 2nd Chancellor, the implementation tended to be optional.

This optional position for the FAMIS implementation was changed dramatically when

TAMUS the 3rd Chancellor, who was formerly President of TAMU, took over. He was

formerly on the steering committee of the MIS project and thus very supportive o f FAMIS. He

brought the mandatory position again and announced, “Everyone must be on FAMIS”. This led

a lot o f conflicts between the MIS project team and SAGO and those who wanted to avoid

FAMIS. A top IT administrator at TAMU recalled that "it was not a happy time for everyone".

However, the third Chancellor's regime lasted for only one year. In 1994 the Board of

Regents appointed the president of WTAMU as the new Chancellor. He was a non-TAMU

person and stressed the importance o f uniqueness and autonomy of each university and agency

of TAMUS. While he was not against FAMIS implementation, he experience had come at

WTAMU. Sensitive to local needs, he decided that WTAMU could avoid using FAMIS. He

also officially waived the two engineering agencies from using FAMIS.

This led a number o f those involved in the development and implementation of FAMIS

to believe that FAMIS implementation was very “political. Several respondents said.

If you want to understand FAMIS implementation you need to see how politics has
played over time in the history of FAMIS ... A lot o f local politics was played in
FAMIS adoption ... Politics was very powerful in the implementation o f FAMIS

9.2.7.3 Outside Institutions

For the past decade, there had been a few State audits and many new rules and policy

changes were mandated by the State. All these had been very influential on the design and

implementation o f FAMIS. Particularly the USAS that went into effect on September 1, 1993

for a limited number o f small state agencies have been influential in the maturity stage of

FAMIS implementation. Since this date, all parts o f TAMUS had to report information to the

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202

central USAS database daily which has been controlled and managed by the State

Comptroller’s Office. This system was designed to maintain accounting data consistent with

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and National Association of College and

University Business Officers (NACUBO) standards. The system provides accounting services

to all State agencies using a uniform chart o f accounts. Also, USAS reflects any changes in the

State legislatures and policy. Thus, in the implementation and maintenance of FAMIS, priority

had to be given to processing requirements and maintenance requests that were mandated by

law or policy changes.

For instance, in 1999 the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB)

Statements No. 34 and No. 35. Basic Financial Statements and Management's Discussion and

Analysis for State and Local Governments and Public Colleges and Universities, were issued.

For the first time, accrual accounting was required for all government activities and all capital

assets had to be depreciated. Thus, from fiscal 2002, the State is required to implement these

new rules. In response to this requirement, FAMIS had to develop depreciation capabilities to

report the depreciation of fixed assets. Priority had to given to this kind of mandated

requirements and policy changes rather than user requests.

Also, FAMIS was required to respond to the recommendations of management

controls by the State auditors. In the 1980s the State auditors found that consistent fiscal

procedures had not been followed throughout the System. This audit also contributed to the

development o f FAMIS. The State audit report 1995 pointed out that FAMIS did not provide

useful information at the departmental level.

The reporting capabilities of FAMIS have not been fully realized since the annual
financial report preparation is completed through a personnel accounting application
computer spreadsheet software. Even though FAMIS has had a general accounting
ledger since 1991, University departments have continued maintaining, purchasing,
and developing individual departmental accounting systems ... module implementation

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was given a lower priority in favor of including more System parts on FAMIS ... (the
State auditors expect that) planned additions include purchasing, payroll interface,
departmental budgets, and support accounting (p. 38)

FAMIS responded to the recommendations o f the State audit in a number o f ways.

Immediately after the State audit FAMIS began the implementation of departmental download

capability. TAMUS finalized licensing agreements for a software package that allowed end

users to download FAMIS data to their microcomputer environments so that data could be

processed to meet end user’s needs. In 1998 FAMIS began the implementation of budget and

automated Annual Financial Report (AFR) subsystems. Recently, there has been an effort for

the conversion of the Budget/Payroll/Personnel (BPP) system to the same processing

environments (ADABAS) as the FAMIS system to develop the interface between the two

systems.

9.2.7.4 Different Users and Different Needs

As the original objective o f FAMIS, “one IS for everyone,” indicates FAMIS was

directed by a desire for centralization. The Board and the founders o f FAMIS believed that one

IS for all parts of TAMUS was good and could be realized. However, as the design and

implementation were proceeding, the size and diversity o f TAMUS emerged as a critical issue.

Every part had its own chart o f accounts and the accounting practices throughout

TAMUS were very diverse. Few wanted to change their accounting. FAMIS had to adapt to the

diversity o f their accounting practices. Also each part placed priority on different things. For

example, research agencies requested contracts and grants/research accounting capabilities in

order to administer programs and to assure compliance on sponsored research projects. They

argued that FAMIS initially designated research as the last priority and these capabilities were

virtually non-existent in FAMIS. TAMU, which had initially made a significant investment on

the acquisition o f the software package for FAMIS requested many other functionalities and

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204

subsystems (e.g., purchasing, departmental-level accounting and administration) to be added

into FAMIS.

It turned out that different members had different needs and requested different things.

The situation resulted in many problems in the full design and implementation o f FAMIS.

According to the State audit report in 1996, as o f 1995 there was a backlog o f over 250 user

requests for system maintenance and enhancement, some o f which dated back to 1990 and

1991. According to TAMUS' management response to the State audit report, since September

1995. the FAMIS support staff had completed 219 service requests. During the same period, an

additional 271 maintenance items were identified by various system users.

Until 1991 the eleven-person steering committee, composed o f members from

universities' fiscal management, System parts, and the FAMIS team, played the role o f priority

setting. From late 1991 the “Gang o f Five,” the five top administrators from University fiscal

management, SAGO and the FAMIS team, took on this task and tried to set the priorities for

FAMIS. However, the complex and interwoven elements in FAMIS design and

implementation made it difficult for the group to perform this task. This is partly because every

component o f TAMUS including TAMU wanted to declare their project to be the top priority

and the group was not considered CIO in corporate world. This appeared in a e-mail message

sent from a member o f “Gang o f Five” to a top administrator at TAMU’s fiscal office.

It is important that there be a single priority setting group or process. Otherwise,


everyone will declare their project to be the top priority and no real progress will be
made. This is the situation that we are in now. This I think that the “Gang o f Five” is
the priority setting group for FAMIS

Since 1991. the FAMIS’ position has been that a priority has to given to those projects

that result in improved reporting and/or processing for “all” users o f FAMIS. With the

recognition o f the diversity of TAMUS the FAMIS team adopted a “customer-oriented” rather

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than “enforcing" approach and tried to accommodate different needs o f different members.

According to a number of respondents the unintended consequence was that (by quoting the

statement o f a former member of Gang o f Five):

After accommodating all the differences and tailoring FAMIS. it turned out that
different information systems at different parts o f TAMUS are running under the name
o f FAMIS

9.2.8 Interconnection with other information systems

Also over the past decade the FAMIS system has become interconnected with several

other information systems in the TAMUS system and those owned by the State. This has added

more complexity to the development and maintenance o f FAMIS. As presented earlier, these

interconnections with diverse information systems have been caused by a number o f factors

such as the recommendations of the State audits, rules and policy changes mandated by the

State, and the effort to meet the original objectives o f FAMIS development. Information

systems interconnected with FAMIS are BPP, SIMS, EIS. ABBPBIS. USAS, and more. These

systems have both constrained and enabled each other.

9.2.8.1 BPP

The Budget/Payroll/Personnel (BPP) System is an integrated data management system

through which personnel operating budgets are created and maintained, payrolls are produced

and recorded, and personnel demographic data is maintained and reported. The basic concept

of this computer system is to provide a centralized administrative computer system to support

data processing and reporting requirements for these three functional areas. The primary users

are the administrative functions supported by the TAMU system.

The design concept for the BPP system was developed in the mid-1970s with the full

implementation occurring on July 1, 1979. COBOL was the development language for the BPP

system. The BPP System originally used the MVS computer system in the Computing and

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Information Services (CIS) department at TAMU operating under IBM’s Information

Management System (IMS) data management software. Via batch mode, data collected are

electronically transmitted to the State Comptroller's Office in Austin, and shared by FAMIS.

The staff of the B/P/P Operations Center supports the system. Input into the system

occurs in an on-line environment through a series o f B/P/P ‘workstations’ or Payroll. Budget,

and/or Human Resource offices, each o f which is responsible for a segment o f the employee

population for a different university or agency. The B/P/P System is designed to allow

maximum flexibility for report generation to meet the processing needs o f each particular

System member. This allows for independent processing for a substantial portion of the payroll

cycle. However, most major processing (i.e., the actual gross-to-net calculation process) is

done for the entire Texas A&M University System as a whole. Many enhancements and new

functions have been added to the system since the initial implementation. The number of

payroll deductions has more than doubled. Added features include the Extended Pay Plan,

Direct Deposit o f pay checks, a method to estimate net pay and insurance coverage costs, the

ability to find employee records by name rather than social security number, and a

comprehensive insurance benefit billing system23.

From the early days o f FAMIS, these two systems have been interacting with each

other through sharing data. Until quite recently the process of sharing data was done in a

batching mode, which takes about two days for data to move from the BPP system to the

FAMIS system. Recently there has been an effort for the conversion of the BPP system to the

same processing environments (ADABAS) as the FAMIS system. There is a growing need to

share data between these two systems in a real-time manner. Now the BPP system and FAMIS

system are closely integrated. Data transaction between the two systems has become easier.

23 Cited from BPP Operations and User Manuel

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207

9.2.8.2 SIMS

By 1986, the Student Information Systems (SIMS) project has been implemented and

the focus o f long-range planning was being redirected toward the financial information system.

The SIMS supports administrative processing o f student records for TAMU and TAMU at

Galveston. It is composed o f eight major modules - student records, telephone

registration/grades, admissions, student billing/receivables, student financial aid, degree audit,

and information distribution. The system includes processes from admissions, through

registration, student financial aid, billing, grading, transcripts, degree audit, and loan

repayment. The system use Software AG’s ADABAS as the main database system. The main

development languages are COBOL and NATURAL. In addition to the two languages, other

development languages such as FORTRAN, GML, IBM 370, NOMAD2, Cold Fusion, and

Visual Basic are used.

Accounting transactions are transmitted from SIMS to the FAMIS. Various data files

are transmitted to the FAMIS also. Various data files are transmitted and received from

Housing, Food Services, Health Center, Athletic Office, Bus Operations,

Parking/Transit/Traffic Services, Measurement & Research Services, Office of Institutional

Studies and Planning, Association o f Former Students, College o f Engineering, College o f

Business Administration, College o f Liberal Arts. SIMS reads data from the TAMUS B/P/P

System.

There are ongoing enhancements to SIMS as university requirements dictate (i.e.

federal changes involving Student Financial Aid, incorporating use o f the World Wide Web,

etc.). This system may be replaced during the latter part o f this planning period (year 2001-

2005).

9.2.8.3 Executive Information System

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EIS is an integrated system o f multiple databases that support an integrated data

warehouse function for financial, human resource and academic information for all agencies

and universities in the TAMU system. This data warehouse supports the top executive and

administrative levels at each member organization for information query and data mining. The

system uses NCR’s Teradata database designed for decision support. A project team with 5

members is in charge o f the development and maintenance o f EIS. This is in operation since

2001.

The direct cause for developing EIS was the results o f State Auditors Management

Control Audit over the TAMU system in 1995. The report pointed out the ‘lack o f a

management information system’ and the ‘lack o f a user friendly ad-hoc reporting system’. In

response to the suggestions made by the report, the Management Information Systems Task

Force was formed, which was chaired by CFOs o f the member institutions. The MIS task force

was in charge o f developing a plan of action to address the need for a management information

system. The vision o f the EIS was that ‘the resulting system should address the information

needs of the Board o f Regents, System executive management, and the member institutions

and agencies’. In other words, the goal was to develop an executive-level decision support

system, with emphasis on ad-hoc query capability, summarization and aggregation o f millions

of records. In one of the documents about this project it was noted that EIS is not another

‘transaction processing system’ with set screens and reports and not a replacement for any

existing transaction processing systems such as FAMIS, BPP. SIMS, etc.

9.2.8.4 Automated Bookkeeping/Budget Preparation/Building Inventory


Systems

The Automated Bookkeeping System provides budgeting, purchase order, voucher and

payroll processing for individual departments in four TAMUS parts: TAES, TAEX, TAMUK,

and TAMU. The ABBPBIS system was initially developed for agricultural agencies in the

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TAMU system by Computing Information Services (CIS) at TAMU. In its early days the

FAMIS did not provide the support for departmental level accounting and thus the computer

system is built on the top o f FAMIS. The ABBPBIS is a front-end system; the FAMIS is a

back-end system.

All information in ABBPBIS is real-time; customers generate reports on their own

using the report selection menus. The Budget Preparation System is used to define and create

the budget for all TAES departments for each fiscal year. The information from the Budget

Preparation System is used to establish the budget data in the Automated Bookkeeping System.

The Building Inventory System tracks critical information about the TAES owned buildings.

The Automated Bookkeeping Systems uses data provided by FAMIS.24 In turn. FAMIS uses

data from the Project Records database in the Bookkeeping System. Agencies using this system

are now planning to go back to the FAMIS since the FAMIS now provides more support than

the ABBPBIS.

9.2.8.S USAS

The Uniform Statewide Accounting System (USAS) began operation on September 1,

1993. and has been used as a statewide accounting system. USAS is a general ledger

accounting system that tracks both revenues and expenditures and compares them with agency

and university appropriations. The State Comptroller’s Office is responsible for developing,

implementing, and maintaining USAS. USAS provides both GAAP (Generally Accepted

Accounting Principles) and cash-basis accounting, and satisfies both State and agency

accounting requirements. USAS captures accounting activities supplied by State agencies and

institutions of higher education in Texas. Financial data in USAS is used by the Comptroller’s

office to produce State payments, agency reports, legislative reports, and reports for

24 Cited from SAGO Information Resources Strategic Plan 2001-2005

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appropriation management and Statewide budgets. USAS also performs specialized functions,

such as budgetary and encumbrance accounting, cost allocation, payment processing, and

document tracking.

The idea for USAS was developed in late I980’s and the design o f the system was

going on around that time. USAS was part o f the efforts by the State o f Texas to continue to

emphasize the effective, efficient, and economical use o f automated information systems by

governmental bodies. More specifically the development of USAS was driven by the intention

of improving management and accounting control over State agencies and institutions of higher

education by the State and the Comptroller’s Office.

Thus, the MIS project team had to consider USAS as one o f several alternatives to

meet the need for a large-scale financial information system for TAMUS even though USAS

was not a favorable alternative to TAMUS for a number o f technical as well as political

reasons. According to the Advanced Certification Document (ACD), which was submitted to

Automated Information and Telecommunications Council (AITC) on October 1988, the USAS

accounting functionality was aimed at the smaller agencies. Larger agencies and higher

education require more specific and complicated accounting needs such as:

• Student accounts receivable support


• Full purchasing support from initial purchase requisition to property inventory
• Document tracking support
• More detailed budgeting and general accounting support
• Auxiliary enterprise accounting support
• Project / contract / grant research accounting
• Departmental accounting support-3

Also using USAS means a greater exposure of the internal operations of the TAMU

system to the State and the State Comptroller’s office. This was neither necessary nor desirable

for the TAMU system. Through several visits with the USAS project team by the MIS project

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team, the following approach was agreed by both teams that large State agencies like the

TAMU system maintain their own accounting systems and instead interface them with USAS.

This approach was actually adopted and since the beginning date o f USAS the FAMIS system

has been feeding accounting data to USAS daily. Changes in USAS caused by the changes in

accounting rules and State legislation had significant impacts on the FAMIS system.

In addition to USAS, the FAMIS system maintains interfaces with other State systems,

including the Texas Identification Number Systems (TINS) and the State Property Accounting

(SPA) system. All vendors paid with State funds must have a valid record in TINS. In addition,

the State now requires that all requests for (1) creation o f new vendor records, (2)

modifications to records o f existing vendors and (3) vendor hold updates be processed

electronically. The FAMIS system sends one daily batch feed to State with the all TINS

records.

9.2.9 Impacts of FAMIS on other institutions of higher education

After the implementation at the TAMU system, Software AG began to market the

mainframe-based software to its existing client base which consisted o f many higher-education

institutions running NATURAL and ADABAS system software. Several more colleges and

universities purchased the financial records system (FRS) from Software AG. Today,

NATURAL/FRS has been installed at several higher institutions, including the TAMU system,

Cornell University Medical College, University of Houston, Brown University. University of

Hawaii, and Charles County Community College.

So far this subsection presented an overview of the FAMIS case and discussed several

general findings from the case study. The following subsection offers more specific findings

25 Cited from USAS User Manual

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from the case and presents the discussion o f the case in terms o f the institutional framework of

Dynamic Institutional Theory, particularly the four research questions.

9.3 Case Analysis

As indicated, this study focused on two general questions: (1) how large-scale

information systems come to be developed and (2) how they come to be used. These two

questions led us to conduct the case study with FAMIS in a retroductive manner. While

conducting data collection and analysis simultaneously, four “core categories” (Strauss and

Corbin 1998) were identified: the reconceptualization o f large-scale IS as social institutions:

the multi-level relationship between large-scale IS and organizations; the design o f large-scale

IS as institution building and the role of preexisting IS; and Technology adaptation as the

process o f dynamic institutionalization. This second section presents the research findings with

the focus on these four core categories particularly: FAMIS as social institutions: duality of

FAMIS; duality of preexisting information systems; and FAMIS development and

implementation as a dynamic process of institutionalization. The theoretical basis for this

analysis was developed in Chapters 4 through 7.

9.3.1 FAMIS as an Institution

From its beginning FAMIS has been a complex and large-scale information system in

terms o f both virtual and material elements. FAMIS consists o f both schemas and resources.

The resources of FAMIS as an institution are actual and can be described in two ways: IT

artifacts and the spirit o f the artifacts. As an IT artifact, FAMIS include five subsystems, one

centralized database based on Software AG’s ADABAS, mainframe architecture based on IBM

mainframe computer, user interface, other TAMU’s computing resources (e.g.. workstations),

and network resources (e.g., ATM backbone data network). In addition, it also includes other

actual resources including the NATURAL programming language, formal user training, formal

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security rules and procedures, stocks o f programmers’ and the MIS project directors’ technical

knowledge o f software development and cultural knowledge o f TAMUS’ conventions, values,

culture, and politics, the formal system development methodology (e.g., NASA model) used

and many other formal rules from accounting body, the State, and other institutions (e.g.. Chart

of Accounting standards, standard funding accounting, formal contracts and grants rules and

procedures, general accounting rules based on GAAB, GASB, formal reporting rules for

Annual Financial Report and the Legislative Appropriation Requests, the State guidelines for

purchasing).

Table 13. A List o f the Resources of FAMIS________________________________________


Resources of FAMIS_________ ______________________________________________
• IT Artifacts - five subsystems. ADABAS, mainframe architecture, user interface, other
TAMU’s computing resources (e.g., workstations), and network resources (e.g., ATM
backbone data network)
• Formal rules - NATURAL programming language, formal user training, formal security
rules and procedures, stocks of technical knowledge of software development and
cultural knowledge o f TAMUS’ conventions, values, culture, and politics, formal
system development methodology (e.g., NASA model) Chart of Accounting standards,
standard funding accounting, formal contracts and grants rules and procedures, general
accounting rules based on GAAB, GASB, formal reporting rules for Annual Financial
Report and the Legislative Appropriation Requests, the State guidelines for purchasing
• Spirit - the multiple interpretations of the philosophy and motive o f FAMIS
development ______

One interesting finding from the case study is that while FAMIS includes many formal

rules, policies and procedures imposed by the State and other institutions outside the TAMUS

system, there have been not many formal (or written) rules, policies, and procedures as far as

system design, implementation, and use. Several respondents including the former and current

direct of the MIS project said.

FAMIS does not have much documentation and actually the management o f FAMIS is
more informal than formal (18.2)

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Project tracking is hard to do when things change and when the Board directives and
new Chancellor change the directions o f FAMIS. We keep track o f the project but not
using a formal system but this is rather done more informally (2.26)

This aspect is also found in the State auditor's reports. For example, the 1995 report pointed

out the lack of formal policies and procedures for system development, maintenance, and

control by noting

Without standardized policies and procedures for systems design, acquisition, and
support ... System documentation will reduce system maintenance costs ... Security
over end-user computing is necessary because of personnel changes, disk drive failure,
and a lack o f audit traits ... Security for personal computers is required in the
Information Resources Security and Risk Management Policy. Standards, and
Guidelines published by the Department o f Information Resources [in SAGO]

Also after reviewing FAMIS operation the State auditor’s 1998 report noted.

SAGO management does not have a comprehensive system development methodology


... lack of documentation ... incomplete documentation o f standards and applicable
quality review procedures for programming, coding, design, testing, promotion,
maintenance, and post implementation ... incomplete policies regarding access
security for SAGO’s key information systems ...

TAMUS published the Computer Security and Data Ownership: Rights and Responsibilities

document in 1992. The policy was revised and issued in 1995 and distributed to all TAMU

departments. This is not a formal rule at the system level, and is not complied with by all parts

of TAMUS. A senior FAMIS trainer said

Each part has different rules for security. In fac things are very different throughout the
TAMUS. Different parts have different user training program (21.1)

According to a senior system analyst in the FAMIS team, different parts have developed their

own training manuals since their business practices and procedures differ from others.

These quite interesting aspects with the resources of FAMIS need to be understood in

conjunction with the duality o f schemas and resources in FAMIS. The schemas o f FAMIS have

been changing and growing while the system became larger and more interconnected with

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other information systems and more mandated rules and regulations by the State and other

accounting bodies and user requests had been incorporated into FAMIS. Those schemas

include TAMUS’ structure, history, culture, value systems, many informal rules, routines and

procedures, and other individual and organizational memory embedded on the FAMIS system.

They were identified from studying an array o f institutional arrangements and social and

organizational contexts where the system has been designed, implemented, and used over the

years. The schemas of large-scale IS like FAMIS are very large and complex and thus cannot

be easily identified by the researcher because o f the complexity and size o f such systems.

Table 14. Schemas of FAMIS


Schemas o f FAMIS
• TAMUS’ organizational structure
• Organizational culture, value system and history
• The MIS project team’s culture and history
• Many informal rules
• Routines and informal procedures
• Key individuals’ and organizational memory embedded on the FAMIS system

They also have made FAMIS different from the similar kind o f large-scale IS

implemented at other higher institutions or in the corporate world. As noted earlier, TAMUS

has a distinct cultural infrastructure, which is different from another large University system in

the State. It is a young organization and many of the system’s members had long histories

before joining the System. Thus, they greatly vary in mission, purpose, and culture. This has

led the culture o f the System to be more “decentralized”. The Integrative Plan for the System,

released in 2001, shared the view o f TAMUS’ decentralized culture by noting the uniqueness

of each university and agency. Several respondents shared the same view. Among them,

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A&M is more decentralized and “consensus-based" while Austin is centralized and


“more-directed” (18.4)

TAMUS is a “confederated” system. I mean not a real hierarchical organization but


looser than union because o f this consensus-based culture and organizational structure,
FAMIS became a confederated system (20.8)

Higher institutions differ from private sections as far as IS is concerned. The


University is governed by committees so the attitude is “convince us” of why we need
such an information system. Therefore the design and implementation become tougher.
There is a lot less commitment by members (4.32)

These aspects of the schemas o f FAMIS have been interacting with aspects o f the resources of

FAMIS - lack of formal rules and procedures. Also they had significantly contributed to the

delay o f FAMIS development and the institutional drift o f FAMIS. For example, an auditor

who has greater experience o f accounting and IT in TAMUS commented.

There is no information strategic plan at the system level. Instead each part of TAMUS
has a different kind o f CIO [different from organizations in the corporate world].
However there is no CIO at system-level. The management o f information resources in
general and FAMIS particularly is very decentralized. Kevin [the name o f the primary
investigator], do you know who is responsible for FAMIS? Probably you may not be
able to find the answer. Probably no one knows who. Culture and politics overrule
formal rules and regulations. Each part maintains its own vendor list and chart of
accounts. Why? Again there is no CIO at system level. It's the culture of TAMUS!
(18.1, 18.4, 18.5)

Since its beginning, the formative contexts of FAMIS have been characterized by decentralized

culture, agency autonomy, and unique mission and purpose. These have made it very difficult

for SAGO and the MIS project team to develop any formal rules and procedures at the System

level. The resources o f FAMIS such as charts of account, income codes and accounting

procedures became the effects o f schemas of FAMIS and vice versa over the years (Figure 20).

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S c h e m a s of R e s o u r c e s of
FAMIS FAMIS

Figure 20. Duality of schemas and resources o f FAMIS

Furthermore, the schemas o f FAMIS offer insights about why FAMIS differs from

those large-scale IS with other higher institutions and organizations in the corporate world. For

example, the other university system in the State has displayed different value systems and

culture - centralized and directed organizational culture and structure - partly due to the long

history of that system. The large-scale IS of that university system, which was developed upon

the same technologies (e.g., ADABAS, NATURAL), has been quite different from FAMIS in

the way the system was designed, maintained, and controlled. It is more like a centralized and

directed information system controlled and maintained by one office that sets the strategy,

priorities, and agenda o f the information system.

On the other hand, it is expected that a ERP recently implemented at a large university

system, which shares the similar value systems, organizational structure and culture, and

history with TAMUS may be more like FAMIS in terms o f the characteristics of its design,

implementation, and use, while the ERP is based upon different technologies such as oracle

database and client/server architecture.

The spirit o f FAMIS was identified from interview data with the founders of FAMIS

and various official documents including the Board’s 1987 meeting documents and The

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Advanced Certification Document submitted to Automated Information and

Telecommunications Council in the State by the MIS project team and TAMUS in 1988. One of

the founders o f FAMIS said:

We had noticed our System growing rapidly and expected more universities and
agencies becoming part o f our System. Also there was high pressure for efficiency and
productivity from the State. Everyone knew that the pressure would be increased in the
future. The State wanted to have better control over us and other State agencies.
Similarly we (the Board and SAGO) wanted to have better control over our parts. At
that time, to the State one system for every State agency was very attractive, even
though they never tried ... they might have tried through the development o f USAS but
USAS was not for large State agencies like TAMUS. To TAMUS one system for all
parts o f the System was very attractive (12.4, 12.10, 12.15)

In regards to FAMIS, the Board o f Regent’s 1987 resolution stated the following directive for

TAMUS:

"Whereas there is a growing recognition that increased State investments in higher


education and research are critical to the diversification and future growth of the State
economy. And Whereas in conjunction with its requests for increase State
appropriations for higher education and research, the higher education community has
a concurrent obligation to continue its efforts to insure that our management of
physical, fiscal, human and information resources are as strong and cost-effective as
possible”

"Whereas Coopers and Lybrand recently completed a management audit of State’s


higher education for the Select Committee on higher education. And whereas their
report contains a number o f recommendations regarding resource management in
higher education that are worthy o f consideration”

“Whereas to demonstrate the continued commitment o f the Texas A&M University


System to effective resource management and cost-effectiveness, the Chancellor, with
the support o f the Board o f Regents, the assistance o f the Chief Executive Officers of
the System parts, and external expertise as needed, will initiate and/or accelerate a
number o f analyzes and actions designed to insure strong and effective fiscal and
resources management.

“Therefore be it resolved that the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University
System commends the executives, managers, faculty, and staff of the System parts for
their past efforts in attaining strong fiscal and resource management, reaffirms the
Board o f Regent's commitment to the continuing efforts to seek out and implement
strong fiscal and resource management, and authorizes the Chancellor to initiate and/or
accelerate the following analyses and actions:

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“Centralize cash and investment management functions and procedures to insure


optimal returns within objectives and policies approved by the Board o f Regents ...
Require monthly reports from System parts to the Chancellor o f unappropriated
balances on hand with detailed analysis o f anticipated uses ... Design and implement
management information systems that will insure compatibility and consolidatabilitv
o f accounting and fiscal information, analysis, and reports from all System parts”

However, the spirit of FAMIS was never entirely unambiguous (Table 15). A group of

respondents shared the view that the motive o f FAMIS was technical. According to one

member o f “Gang o f Five”, the spirit o f FAMIS was clear in that the motive of FAMIS

development was purely technical and aimed at overcoming technical deficiencies of old

information systems in TAMUS. Several other respondents shared the view that the philosophy

of FAMIS was centralization through technology. In a memorandum to the Chancellor of

TAMUS in 1993, one top administrator of a research agency stated:

It is important to clarify the directives of The Texas A&M University System Board of
Regents ... Centralization seems to be effective in smaller State systems with less
diversity o f missions. But the size and complexity o f TAMUS make centralization a
formidable task at b e s t... Traditionally, the System Administrative and General Office
(SAGO) had maintained a very workable interpretation o f its role by providing
overview and governance where a global perspective is necessary and where shared
services reap benefits to the TAMUS members. But the autonomy o f the System
members to exercise their authorities and means at which to do a good job is one that
members have long cherished. In my opinion, the current FAMIS philosophy threatens
the traditional role of the SAGO and threatens to share service even when such
services are costly to some System members. Such a change in philosophy could not
be implemented overnight. If such as a change was in order, then it should be
communicated as such and simply not be the results o f the [FAMIS] initiative ... the
autonomy o f the TAMUS members is their strength and their means o f attaining their
goals

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Table 15. The Spirit o f FAMIS25__________________________________________________


___________________ Different interpretations o f the spirit o f FAMIS___________________
1) The motive of FAMIS development was purely technical and aimed at overcoming
technical deficiencies o f old information systems in TAMUS
• Replacement o f old information systems
• Compatibility and consoliditability o f accounting and fiscal information, analysis,
and reports for “all System parts”
2) FAMIS as an initiative for the centralization o f the System
• Increasing power o f SAGO
3) Consoliditability o f accounting and fiscal information, analysis, and reports for “the
System administrators” only
• System-level control
• Uniformity o f management practices o f different parts
• “Bureaucracy”2 6 _______________ ____________________________________

Therefore, the spirit o f FAMIS was not only ambiguous but also contradictory among different

actors. This became more complicated and confusing when actors interpreted differently the

directives of the Board, as reflected in the following remark:

Design and implement management information systems that will insure compatibility
and consolidatability of accounting and fiscal information, analysis, and reports from
all System parts

For SAGO, the MIS project team, and the steering committee, the directive was quite clear to

develop one large-scale IS that is used by all parts o f TAMUS, without any separate fiscal and

administrative information systems within TAMUS. In a memorandum to one research agency

in 1993, the comptroller o f finance wrote:

25 It is noted that even the founders of FAMIS had different understandings about the system
and they had different approaches to FAMIS development. For instance, a former director of
FAMIS noted, in the late 1980s and early 1990s there were two major actors: Both shared a
similar vision for FAMIS which came from different backgrounds. One mainly concerned
about losing control over the members and had more institutional reasons for FAMIS
development. There was fear of losing control. The other saw the potential of technology to
improve people’s productivity. The latter believed that technology can improve efficiency and
productivity.

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It is mv understanding that ... the Board directive is very clear. Their directive calls
for The System to coordinate the joint development o f an administrative system
(FAMIS) that would benefit and meet the needs of each member. Additionally they
have directed that efforts and costs should be expended for the development and
operation o f FAMIS and not to develop maintain and operate independent
administrative accounting systems

However, the interpretations of other agencies were very different. They argued that the

directive did not mean one system for everyone. In a memorandum one top administrator of a

research agency responded that:

It is our understanding that The TAMUS Board of Regents directed that a management
information system be implemented that satisfies the need for consolidated financial
information. Additionally the MIS was to be in compliance with USAS guidelines as
issued by the State. (Our agency] wishes to comply with the Board’s directive via the
“compatibility option" by remaining on its current accounting system (SCT Banner)
and providing [our agency] data on a monthly basis to the System Offices (SAGO) in
“FAMIS” format. ... The fact that we are utilizing a separate accounting system should
be invisible to System administrators and the Board for these purposes

These members argued that they could meet the Board’s directive through “interfacing” their

separate information systems with FAMIS. On a different memorandum, another top

administrator representing engineering research agencies wrote to the Chancellor, “Gang of

Five”, and the MIS project team:

We fully agree that the Board directive is quite clear ... [Our] proposal [interfacing]
coincides exactly with the Board direction to implement systems to ensure compatible
and consolidated information ...

Here we can see that different actors tried to mobilize the spirit to meet their own interests and

objectives. Small universities and agencies had followed the interpretation o f the SAGO and

the MIS project team. When time had passed, the spirit became more open to different

interpretations and changing rather than fixed. Throughout the history o f FAMIS the diverse

26 A former member o f the steering committee stated, “Bureaucracy at the top led to the design
o f FAMIS. This was a big problem. Actually this became the main problem with later FAMIS
development”.

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and even conflicting interpretations o f the spirit o f FAMIS made the design and

implementation o f FAMIS very difficult and delayed. That became one of the drivers of

institutional drift on FAMIS design, implementation, and use.

9.3.2 Relationship between IT and Organizations: A Multi-level Model of

Duality of FAMIS

The relationship between FAMIS and different agencies can be explained using the

multi-level model o f duality o f technology introduced on Chapter V. Due to the increasing

complexity and size of the FAMIS system the relationship between the technology and

organizations has been very dynamic and there is not any straightforward way to explain such

dynamic interplays.

FAMIS as a social institution contains diverse and complex rules and resources which

are embedded in many other institutions such as accounting principles, the State laws and

policies, the field of information systems, higher institutions, TAMUS’ and member

organizations’ culture, the community o f IS professions, and more. Since its initiation FAMIS

also has included and interacted with many human actors who have been directly and indirectly

involved in the development, implementation and use of that technology.

Some o f the rules and resources embedded in the FAMIS system had great impacts on

TAMUS and all parts o f the System throughout its history, while others did not. The rules and

policy changes mandated by the State exemplify this in that the Comptroller o f Public

Accounts’ Annual Financial Reporting Requirements fo r Colleges and Universities changed

FAMIS, while security rules for personal computers required in the Information Resources

Security and Risk Management Policy, Standards, and Guidelines published by the Department

of Information Resources (in the State) did not have much impact. Similarly, some actors (e.g.,

SAGO) have been very influential on the formation and transformation o f the FAMIS while

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others (e.g., small universities) tended to be passive. FAMIS is best understood as a system o f

nested rules and resources at different institutional realms and the various actors involved in

the FAMIS system are hierarchically located. In this sense the multi-level model of duality o f

technology is a useful explanatory tool to understand the dynamic interplay between FAMIS

and actors.

FAMIS varies across the three institutional realms of governance, production and use.

Each institutional realm contains sets o f rules and resources located at different levels so that

the rules and resources o f the institutional realm o f use are nested within those o f the

institutional realm of production, which are nested within those o f the institutional realm o f

governance. They are closely interrelated and can be analytically separated as shown in Figure

21.

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Rules and policies mandated by the


State; the MIS project team's, individual
chancellors', SAGO's position on the
FAMIS implementation; culture,
conventions, value systems of the IT Governance Macro agency
governance group and key actors in the
group, and others; TAMUS' IT long- The State (the Comptroller's
range plans; TAMUS' and member Office);
organizations' Information Resources the Chief Financial Offices for
Strategic Plans; the Board of Regent's each part in the TAMUS:
directives; formal IT governance rules SAGO Director of
from the State's Department of Information Resources:
Information Resources (DIR); SAGO: the Board of Regent:
the chancellors.
the steering committees.
cultures and conventions of the "Gang of Five”, the State's
MIS project team; in-house IS DIR
development methodology;
project management methods
and techniques; software quality
assurance program, Produc The MIS
programming tools (e.g.. Meso agency
NATURAL); database project team
technologies (e.g.. ADABAS);
CASE tools, and other existing
hardware, computer network
resources, and operating
svstems

culture, values systems, local


accounting practices and TAMU;
procedures; localized security rules TEES; TEEX
and user manuals; •‘shadow'’ TAEX; TAES;
information systems serving as
front-end systems; IT department Other parts of TAMUS
of each agency and university; ix u „ 4
+ Micro agency
window98/2000 based
workstations

Figure 21. A Multi-level Model of Duality o f FAMIS

The governance of FAMIS is organized around a multitude of informal, formal rules

and resources. The informal rules include diverse unwritten rules including the MIS project

team’s position on FAMIS implementation in all parts of TAMUS; individual Chancellors’

positions on FAMIS implementation in all parts of TAMUS; SAGO’s position on FAMIS

implementation; the implicit assumption o f “one system for every part o f TAMUS” by the

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225

State Comptroller’s Office, the State auditors, and the State’s Department o f Information

Resources: the State’s general philosophy o f “cost-efficiency” regarding most IT projects by

state agencies and universities: culture; conventions: value systems of the governance group

and key actors in the group; and others not listed here. The formal rules include: TAMUS’ IT

long-range plans: TAMUS’ and member organizations’ Information Resources Strategic Plans;

the Board o f Regent’s directives: formal IT governance rules from the State's Department of

Information Resources (DIR); the lists o f priority on the FAMIS development from the steering

committee. "Gang o f Five” and other macro agencies: formal rules and policies mandated by

the State: accounting rules and formal procedures (e.g., GASB 34 & 35): the State auditor’s

reports; IT security and network management plans: disaster recovery/Business continuity

plan: and other not listed here. Resources at the governance level include: IT budgets;

administrative knowledge and skills: USAS; state funds: the State’s audit; and others not listed

here.

The rules and resources o f FAMIS production include: the cultures and conventions of

the MIS project team: in-house IS development methodology; project management methods

and techniques; software quality assurance program; programming tools (e.g., NATURAL);

database technologies (e.g., ADABAS); CASE tools; and other existing hardware, computer

network resources, and operating systems.

The institutional realm o f FAMIS use refers to very diverse rules and resources with

different parts of TAMUS and departments of each agency and university. They include:

culture and value systems; local accounting practices and procedures; localized security rules

and user manuals: “shadow” information systems serving as front-end systems; IT department

of each agency and university; window 98/2000 based workstations; and others not listed here.

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These rules and resources are nested: for example, localized security rules and user

training are nested in IT security and network management plans and the System-level training

program is nested within SAGO’s Information Resources Strategic Plan. The rules and

resources o f FAMIS governance tend to affect a large community of actors. For example,

USAS is an institutionalized resources limited to all o f the agencies in the State, while a

“shadow” information system at TTI is an institutionalized resource limited to that particular

agency.

This hierarchy does not always prevail: those localized security plan and training

programs often deviate from higher level rules at the governance and/or production level of

FAMIS. Another example can be found in the State law. The State believes that:

Information and information resources possessed by agencies of state government are


strategic assets belonging to the residents o f this state that must be managed as
valuable state resources (Cited from the State’s Government Code Chapter 2054,
Subchapter 2054-001)

The same Government Code, the Information Resources Management Act, requires that each

state agency “develop and implement its own internal quality assurance (QA) procedures. “

According to the Department o f Information Resources (DIR) in the State, it has been

determined that these should “make use of widely adopted, non-proprietary standards, guides,

and templates wherever possible”. A few standards such as ISO 90000 Quality Management

and Quality Assurance Standards and The Software Engineering Institute’s Capability Maturity

Model for software are recommended by the State’s DIR. The DIR released the State Internal

Quality Assurance Guidelines that include six basic procedures. However, these formal rules

do not always overrule the rules at the institutional realm o f production. The DIRs of different

state agencies and universities tend to maintain their own rules and procedures for quality

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assurance for software and IT projects, and which set o f rules will apply is sometimes

contested.

Also, the resources o f the lower levels often differ from those at higher levels. For

example, such a “shadow” information system has become a barrier to realizing the objective

of FAMIS to be a fully integrated information system. In fact, one shadow information system

within TAES was considered as an alternative for the grant and contract management

subsystem of FAMIS. The resources such as workstations with GUI and web interfaces at the

institutional realms o f use have had an impact on considering the adoption o f middle-ware

technologies at the institutional ream o f FAMIS production. Currently, the MIS project team is

studying different middleware technologies for web-based interfaces for departmental users.

It is also recognized that higher level rules and resources tend to be more stable than

those at the low level. Those formal rules and resources that appear on SAGO’s Information

Resources Strategic Plans tend to persist over several years. Higher level rules tend to be more

“formalized” and “written” than those at the lower level. When rules are formalized, this tends

to lead to unintended consequences that make deviations possible, and this sometimes

contributes to institutional drift. Referring to the government rule above, one of accountants in

TAMUS who has greater experience in both accounting and IT commented:

(By referring to the subchapter on Internal quality assurance) legislators are trying to
say that state agencies must follow certain management practices for IT projects. In my
opinion, this is kind o f dangerous since management practices are changing quickly.
Legislators try to make this as a law but it’s difficult to see how they are going to
enforce this new law to IT projects by state agencies ... this is a new law. DIR does
collect information from state agencies but does not do auditing or not have
enforcement power. State comptrollers’ office does not have time to oversee whether
agencies follow this law. Before this kind o f law, auditors had to be persuasive but
now they can say “here is law you need to follow and you got to follow, if not, you
need to do this because this management practices are “mandated” ... In general many
people (IT managers) don’t follow management practices. If you do not keep records
[about IT projects] then there is “no way to measure your performance”. Most people
don’t write. Even if there is such a law, people don’t meet the spirit o f such laws,
instead they tend to follow these laws by putting some necessary documents on the

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shelf and say “we are following the law" but actually they are not following the law ...
they don't meet the spirit but follow the form" Making such things as formal rules is
very dangerous because state agencies have local practices (21.14)

Even at the same level rules are often found contradictory. For example, the belief (informal

rule) of the State’s Comptroller's Office on the mandatory nature o f FAMIS implementation

became contradictory with the formal rule o f the TAMUS when the former Chancellors

reversed their positions from mandatory to optional.

The variability o f agency is evident in the case. Different actors involved in the

evolution o f FAMIS tend to possess different agentic powers, and there are power asymmetries

between actors and/or groups o f actors. They not only had different interpretive flexibility but

also different abilities to influence the outcome o f FAMIS development and adoption. Here the

variability o f agency refers to three hierarchical levels o f agency, macro, meso, and micro in

the FAMIS system. These different agencies can be explicitly identified by their recognized

and/or formalized roles, practices, and responsibility in FAMIS design and adoption.

In this case, macro agency tends to occur mostly in the institutional realm o f IT

governance. Macro agents include the Chief Financial Offices for each part in the TAMUS,

SAGO’s Director of Information Resources, SAGO, the Board o f Regents, the State

Comptroller’s Office, the Chancellor, the steering committee, “Gang o f Five”, the State’s DIR,

and possibly others. Note that this list includes both individual and collective agents. To take

one example of a macro agent, SAGO’s general role and responsibilities are:

Under direction o f the Chancellor ... coordinate the activities of the component
universities, agencies, and the health science center within the System; initiate,
monitor, approve, and coordinate long-range planning for the System; approve short-
range institutional plans for operations and expenditures; ... perform such duties as
may be delegated by the Board (cited from SAGO’s Agency Strategic Plan)

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More specifically, one o f SAGO’s objectives is to provide and support technology systems

such as FAMIS and BPP that enable the improved maintenance, manipulation, and exchange o f

information for strategic and operational decision making.

On the other hand, the level o f meso agency in this case is mostly vested in those

whose role and responsibilities are the development and maintenance of FAMIS. The MIS

project team has been representing this agency since the beginning of FAMIS. In a public

document, it can be found that

The FAMIS Services Department [the MIS project team] is part of the Department of
Information Resources (DIR) within the Texas A&M University University System
Administrative and General Offices (SAGO). FAMIS Services is composed of
individuals who are responsible for maintaining and developing the FAMIS and for
providing user services support to all TAMUS members who have chosen to
implement FAMIS in order to meet their accounting needs. Nineteen TAMUS
members and the Texas A&M Research Foundation utilize the functionality of
FAMIS.

In the case micro agency tends to occur in the institutional realm o f FAMIS use. It

appears that most parts of TAMUS except SAGO are micro agents.. They consist o f nineteen

TAMUS members and the Texas A&M Research Foundation utilizing the functionality o f

FAMIS with more than 4,000 users.

Some parts of the TAMUS have been very influential on the design and adoption of

FAMIS. For example, TAMU had initiated the idea o f a large-scale fiscal and administrative

information system that later was adopted by the System and expanded to all parts o f TAMUS.

Almost all respondents agreed that TAMU was the most powerful actor in the design and

evolution o f FAMIS. The CIS department of TAMU had made signficant contributions to the

design o f FAMIS and for the past two decades there had been the transer o f technical and

administrative knowledge from the CIS department to the FAMIS project team (this will be

discussed later). Also, the engineering and agricultural agencies have been powerful actors in

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the TAMUS for many decades and in fact they were quite influential at early stages o f FAMIS

design and adoption. For example. TAES was asked to develop its own grant and contract

management information system as a front-end system for FAMIS by 1993. In this sense.

TAES could be considered as a meso agency for a short period of time.

In addtion to roles and responsibilities, the agency’s practices (e.g., Bourdieu 1977;

Cook and Brown; 1999) are used as the basis for identifying micro agency. Practices are the

recognizable patterned actions in which both individuals and groups engage (Bourdieu 1977).

The term “practices” can refer to the coordinated activities o f individuals and groups in doing

their "real work” as it is informed by a particular organizational or group context (Cook and

Brown 1999, p. 387-388). Thus, practices are neither a mechanical reaction to rules, norms or

models (Bourdieu, 1977) nor behavior and action that is seen as behavior imbued with meaning

(Cook and Brown 1999). They mean doing real work: the practice of system analysts, senior

managers, physicians, programmers, etc. (Cook and Brown 1999). Thus we understand that in

the context of FAMIS, TAMU’s and the research agencies’ practices are “using” the FAMIS

and “making requests” for maintenance and upgrading to the MIS project team (even though

their practices in the use o f FAMIS create and recreate the technology).

Agencies in FAMIS have different capacities to influence the technology. The rules

and resources at the institutional realm o f FAMIS governance tend to be malleable to the

macro agencies while they are more difficult to change for other lower level agencies, The

micro agencies, particularly small universities and small agencies have very limited capacities

to influence the formation and maintenance o f FAMIS.

It appears that some actors emerged as powerful at a certain period o f time but later

lost their agentic power. For example, the steering committee that was formed in the late 1980s

was a powerful group in the development o f FAMIS from 1987-1990. However later the

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group's roleand responsibilities were succeeded by a new group called “Gang o f Five”

composed of five individuals from TAMU and SAGO. Now the Chief Financial Offices for

each agency and institution in the TAMUS have significant input in defining resource

allocation for major discretional projects (those not mandated by law or regulation).

It is also the case that actors within the same agency have different agentic power. As

noted earlier, TAMU is at the micro level o f agency, the same as other parts o f TAMUS were.

However, TAMU’s agentic capabilities were quite different from other parts, particularly from

small universities, non-engineering and non-agricultural research agencies, and the Research

Foundation (RF). Also, the Chancellor’s Office, which is at the macro agency level is

responsible to another higher agency, the Board o f Regents consisting o f nine regents

appointed by the State governor for staggered six year terms.

It is interesting to see the role of proxy agency and collective agency in the case of

FAMIS. For example, WTAMU, a small university, tried to influence macro (SAGO) and

meso (the MIS project team) agencies through the exercise of proxy agency (the former

Chancellor serving between 1994 and 1999). The university joined TAMUS in 1990 and had to

adopt FAMIS. The FAMIS adoption was not optional for small universities. However, the

university had already implemented its own student information system and a small-scale fiscal

and administrative system. Thus, the university was against FAMIS implementation. However,

the two recently implemented ISs could not be an excuse since FAMIS implementation was

mandatory at that time. The university delayed FAMIS implementation and in 1994 the

president of that university became the Chancellor o f the TAMUS. The university turned to the

Chancellor and in 1995 was finally allowed to use its own ISs rather than FAMIS. Research

agencies, particularly the two engineering research agencies used both proxy and collective

agency. As was noted earlier, they were very against FAMIS adoption and insisted on using

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their own information systems. First, these two agencies had shared beliefs in their collective

power to produce desired results. A former IT manager of one o f the research agencies said:

[In the late 1980s] I was invited to several meetings by the MIS project team. My boss
and I firmly believed that FAMIS was being designed based on old technologies.
Particularly we pointed out the lack o f a research module in FAMIS. That was the
main reason we did not want to adopt FAMIS. The team did not have much resources
to develop the subsystem to support research activities such as grant and contract
management, investment management ... We knew it will take a long time to develop
such a subsystem. They [The team] knew this too. So our agency was allowed to
purchase a software from SCT Corporation which was based on advanced technologies
such as Oracle database and GUI interface. The director o f the MIS project team said
that it is temporary. When we develop the research subsystem you [our agency] got to
be on FAMIS. He said it is temporary! But we knew it would be permanent! (25.2,
25.13)

These two agencies shared the belief that they were different from other parts o f TAMUS. A

respondent said

We are not universities. We are research agencies that are very different from
universities. FAMIS is for universities not for us (9.3)

The development o f collective agency was supported by the exercise o f proxy agency when the

Dean of engineering at TAMUS became the Chancellor in 1991. A member o f the steering

committee said:

The Chancellor came from the engineering side so he understood the two agencies
well. That’s why they [the two engineering agencies] could avoid FAMIS (12.4)

However, in contrast to our initial prediction that proxy agency and collective agency would

tend to be formed or exercised by micro agencies, they were found with macro and meso levels

o f agency also. For example, the FAMIS system as “the solution for fiscal and administrative

problems” for TAMU and later “one system for everyone” represent an interesting

development o f management discourse. A single person could not bring this idea and interest

into realization: rather, the founders o f FAMIS had to develop “collective agency” through the

process of translating (Callon 1986, 1991) their interests. They enrolled different actors such as

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the Board o f Regents, the USAS project team, TAMU fiscal office and others in an “actor

network” (Latour 1987). Collective interests were developed and the actor network began to

exercise a powerful collective agency. However, this actor network had all resources except

one. technical knowledge of IT. They turned to an individual actor (proxy agency) with enough

technical knowledge and strong leadership which was strongly needed to implement the

ambitious, large-scale project. A member o f “Gang of Five” said:

We [the founders o f FAMIS] had enough experience o f different areas such as


accounting, procurement, legal aspects, and so on but not on technical things. We hired
a technical person and he became the director of FAMIS (11.3)

A system analyst who worked with the director recalled him:

He was very dynamic, visionary, always pushed hard. He is the person who works 80
hours per week. He always demonstrated a strong leadership in the team and FAMIS
development (2.20)

“In this socially mediated mode o f agency [proxy agency], people try by one means or another

to get those who have access to resources or expertise or who wield influence and power to act

at their behest to secure the outcomes they desire” (Bandura 2001, p. 13). The actor network

required the exercise of proxy agency to secure the outcomes o f the FAMIS project. However,

it is not clear from the case data whether micro agency used meso agency as a proxy agency to

influence FAMIS. If meso agency is often used as proxy agency by macro agents only but not

by micro agency then it seems to suggest that in this case information systems represent power

and domination (Kling 1974: Orlikowski and Robey 1991; Macintoch and Scapens 1990). The

design and deployment o f information systems would in this case constitute a system of

domination (Orlikowski and Robey 1991; Sewell and Wilskinson 1992) o f macro agency.

Information systems embody (“inscribe”) the world o f the designers (Akrich, 1992). As IS

designers' expertise is commodified (Scarbrough, 1993) and they are often in the position

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where expected to facilitate or “translate” (Latour 1992) the interests of macro agency (e.g., top

management) to the design, IS designers can reproduce systems of domination in technical

designs (Scarbrough 1993; Myers and Young 1997; Bloomfield et al., 1997).

However, macro agency cannot exercise “absolute power” over micro agency because

(1) their resources and status often come from and/or need to be supported by micro agency

and (2) macro agency is often responsible for providing good “customer service” to micro

agency. In this context a top official of an agricultural agency who was a member of the

steering committee noted that:

Actually the State wanted every state agency to use USAS but things in universities
were very different so it was impossible to use USAS. Kevin [the primary
investigatory], your boss [the State] cannot tell you [TAMU] directly what to do,
maybe indirectly (8.18)27

Another respondent also said that:

We (TAMU] are a big customer to the State. They [the State] ask us “what can we do
to help you” (4.27)

Macro agency has power over and at the same time is responsible to micro agency. SAGO is

another example. For example, revenue sources for SAGO (macro agency) include 53 percent

from assessments to System members for services provided by SAGO. For that macro agency

the satisfaction of users with FAMIS is an important outcome measure for one of its objectives.

27 Different respondents informed different understandings o f USAS implementation. For


instance, a number o f respondents believed that the original objective o f USAS was not to be
an information system for all agencies of state government. It must be noted that Uniform
Statewide Accounting Project (USAP) design project was completed in August 1988.
According to the state auditor’s report on USAS in 1996, the original report by the USAS
project team to the USAS Committee in December 1988 recommended a design for an
automated accounting system which could be used by all agencies of state government,
including institutions o f higher education like TAMUS. According to a member o f Gang of
Five, a similar kind o f information systems has been actually designed and implemented in the
state of Florida and used by all agencies o f state government, including universities.

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When an information system like FAMIS becomes large in terms o f the complexity

and size, it tends to include diverse, even contradictory rules and resources and diverse, power-

asymmetric human actors, who are located at different hierarchical levels. This situation leads

to a dynamic interplay between those rules and resources and actors between and within levels.

It is clear that this dynamic interplay within large-scale IS tends to add more complexity and

difficulty to the design, implementation, and maintenance of these systems. This subsection

offered a more comprehensive picture o f this relatively new phenomenon with large-scale IS

using the multi-level model o f duality of technology.

9.3.3 Duality of Preexisting Information Systems

FAMIS has been built with preexisting information systems. The initial project idea to

develop a “fully integrated fiscal and administrative information system” for all parts of

TAMUS implied a major transformation and radical changes from existing information

systems at TAMU and other parts of TAMUS. However, it turned out that the actual

development o f FAMIS was less radical or transformative, but rather more conservative

through combining new development with preexisting information systems. This indicates that

FAMIS was not only constrained but also enabled by previous systems. There were several

information systems that preexisted and influenced the design of FAMIS. They include those

installed previously and being designed prior to FAMIS at TAMUS, other universities within

and outside the State and in the State, such as:

• The Budget/Payroll/Personnel (BPP) System and the Student Information Systems


(SIMS) at TAMU

• USAS in the State that was being designed in late 1980s

• Financial accounting management information systems installed at other


universities in the State

• Several large-scale financial accounting and management information systems at


other universities or university systems outside the State

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The above information systems predated the FAMIS project. For example, BPP was

fully implemented at TAMU in 1979 by the CIS department and SIMS was put into operation

in 1986. While USAS began operation in 1993, the design of the system was going on around

the late 1980s and the MIS project team had to develop the interface between FAMIS and

USAS. In the mid 1980s several higher institutions in Texas, including the UT system and

Texas Tech had already developed large-scale financial information systems. Many institutions

outside the State also had large-scale information systems from two major vendors, American

Management Systems (AMS) and Information Associates (IA). Also a large set of rules and

resources (e.g., culture, organizational structure, hardware and software, programming

languages) were in place prior to the new IS project. The project team had to draw on those

informal and formal rules and resources when they designed the FAMIS system.

Thus, FAMIS was not developed “from scratch,” in the true sense o f the term. FAMIS

as a new institution had several information systems as its predecessors, and FAMIS, to

varying degrees, challenged, borrowed from, and displaced them.

9.3.3.1 Material Surface of Emergence

The FAMIS project could not develop independent o f material aspects of preexisting

IS. The developers had to combine and/or mobilize preexisting resources (or IT artifacts) in

design of the FAMIS system. It is recognized that several material structures emerged both

spatially and temporally.

The design of new ISs occurs through the replication o f old ones. The material surface

of emergence occurred temporally and the first material surface emerged from ISs existing

within TAMU. In designing FAMIS, the project team had to make technical commitments to

SIMS and the computing environments o f TAMU, particularly the IBM mainframe computer.

The SIMS project was initiated and implemented in line with TAMUS’ long range strategic

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plan. The system used Software A G 's ADABAS as the main database system. The former

director o f the MIS project said:

We had one important technical commitment which was “ADABAS” This was the
database and could not be changed (4.9)

The SIMS project had cost TAMU almost $ 1.6 million already. Purchasing another database

was not an option for TAMU, TAMUS. and the MIS project team.

The existing human resources, system analysts and programmers and their technical

knowledge emerged as another powerful material surface o f emergence in the FAMIS system.

Initially four senior system analysts were hired in 1988, three from the SIMS project and one

from the CIS department at TAMU. Those system analysts had worked at TAMU since the late

1970s and had participated in the SIMS project. The main development language of SIMS was

NATURAL from Software AG. Therefore, they were more familiar with ADABAS and

NATURAL programming language rather than Oracle or other relational database management

systems and other fourth generation programming languages, which in late 1980s were

relatively new to universities.

The IBM 3090-200E system emerged as another material surface of emergence. The

mainframe computer was purchased and installed at TAMU in 1987. It cost $8.2 million at that

time. In fact the mainframe computer and SIMS were the major IT investments by TAMU until

that time. These material surfaces were so powerful that those resources could not be changed

but had to be combined with new resources in the development of FAMIS.

The design of FAMIS occurred through the replication o f spatially distant ISs. The

material surface o f emergence occurred spatially also. The important task for the MIS project

team was to discover “a good model” for the new, ambitious, large-scale, multi-site IT project.

The team traveled a lot and studied several information systems at universities in and outside

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the State. Through this process, they identified several alternative models for the MIS project

and combined them with the team’s own visions for the new IS. This was the process of

“learning from others" or “learning from successful examples”. In fact, it is often the case that

this approach is not just an option to IS planners and designers, but rather the only viable

source of new ideas in the development of a new IS. It is a powerful device for IT innovation in

practice. However, as Offe (1996) notes, this approach may create an appearance o f clarity

about a solution without really testing its applicability to the present context.

First, the MIS project team investigated financial accounting MISs installed at several

universities in the State in order to identify one that might fit TAMUS’ needs. Three financial

information systems were identified among many as having less stringent restrictions from

software vendors and the team studied the three information systems in depth:

• The University o f Texas Departmental Financial Information Network (DEFINE)


System
• The University o f Texas Health Science Center’s Financial Information
Management System
• Texas Tech University’ Financial Information Management (TECHFIM) System

Even though these three systems did not meet TAMUS’ more complicated needs and they were

relatively small scale compared to the TAMUS’ planned enterprise software, they gave the

project team a solid understanding of what FAMIS would like and would not be.

Also, USAS became another material surface o f emergence. The MIS project team

studied the system in depth as an alternative for FAMIS. The early intention o f USAS was

“one system for all state agencies,” even though this was later changed and applied to small

state agencies only. However, one thing the MIS project team had to consider was interfacing

the new IS with USAS, because this was mandated by the State.

USAS as the material surface led the MIS project to consider and include the capability

to track detailed status information at the departmental level. In fact, this capability lacked with

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USAS so TAMUS could say that USAS is not for large universities. However, as a top official

of TAMU pointed out, it later turned out that '‘FAMIS is geared at getting details, but not

reporting”.

A member o f “Gang o f Five” made a comment:

FAMIS promised too much and delivered too little and at the same time it delivered
too much and details which users don’t understand and don’t know how to utilize than
it promised. This is a contradiction but it is true (13.2)

The fact that FAMIS delivers "too much detail" was related to the characteristics o f fund

accounting, which emerged as the material surface o f emergence in the design process. All

parts of TAMUS as state agencies have had to follow this accounting practice, which is

different from that o f private organizations. A respondent explained:

Fund accounting and general private accounting are different in that basically you get
money from state, the state is interested in where money came from and how it is spent
Fund accounting requires detailed descriptions o f each account. It is not profit-oriented
accounting. When you look at private accounting and you will see two columns, profit
and expenses. However, fund accounting is a lot more complex than that (20.3)

This fund accounting was the powerful installed base the MIS team drew on in software

selection. Most commercial software that were designed for private organizations is not

suitable for state agencies whose accounting and fiscal management are based on fund

accounting rules. Several respondents pointed out this issue. A founder o f FAMIS said that

Kevin, do you know the differences between fund accounting and private accounting?
Fund accounting has many little pockets, multiple restrictions from state laws, donors,
grants, etc. and is very different from private sector. Thus popular commercial software
is not capable o f doing funding accounting (12.6)

In addition, another material surface occurred spatially within the sector o f higher

education. The information systems that were installed at universities outside the State were a

powerful material surface o f emergence. The MIS project team studied information systems

already installed at three large universities and a large university system: University o f

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Arizona, University o f Kentucky at Lexington, Arizona State University, and West Virginia

Board o f Regents.

University o f Arizona’s Financial Records System (FRS) was purchased from

Information Associates, was running on IBM 3090-180 mainframe computer and IDMS-R

database, and built in COBOL. It was found that there were two reasons that led the decision to

purchase software from LA: one was the concurrent need for a student information system and

second was the decree from the University administration that both packages be bought from

the same vendor to support integration between the two systems. University of Kentucky’s

Financial Record System (FRS) was purchased from LA and running on an IBM 3084 Q and

VASM database. Arizona State University was running American Management System’s

College and University Financial System (AMS CUFS), which was running on an IBM 3081

KX and IDMS-R database. The University mentioned that, from an operational standpoint,

they preferred IA’s FRS because it takes less disk space (no ratio) and that IS had a new

version written in native IDMS; but the users preferred AMS CUFS West Virginia Board o f

Regents was running AMS CUFS for all universities in that state, running on an IMB 3081 KX

and VS AM database.

The material surface o f emergence from the four information systems was two

vendors, the vendors’ software and those systems’ hardware, database technology, and

programming languages. The two vendors. LA and AMS, limited the MIS team to their

software. FRS and CUF, the mainframe as the server operating system, and COBOL as the

application programming language. In particular the two popular software vendors and their

products were the powerful material surface of emergence. It can be further said that the

technology availability in 1980s became the material surface o f emergence. The team drew on

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these material surfaces to develop the model for the new IS. The model was “imported” from

spatially distance ones rather than “invented”.

The MIS project team combined all the available resources that were within TAMU

and borrowed from other universities and IA. They challenged the imported model by changing

the old programming language (e.g., COBOL) and database (e.g., IDMS, VASM) to the

relatively advanced ones - NATURAL and ADABAS - available within TAMU. These

resources of the preexisting information systems within and outside TAMU had both

constrained and enabled the design of FAMIS. Those material resources limited the available

choices to the MIS project team but at the same time they provided a path as well as repertoire

for the development o f FAMIS. Without these preexisting resources, the FAMIS project itself

would not have been possible. The former director of the MIS project team explained this:

I was asked to work on this project for a reasonable time frame. It means one year.
With the one year goal systems analysts were selected. At the time no one wanted to
write system requirements. Everyone said “no time”. I was told from people “I don’t
care how you do it" ... “just go out and build it”. We had to make commitment to the
database, [considering the time pressure and emerging local politics] that wasn’t a bad
decision. No changes in both DB and basic server saved a lot o f time and efforts.
Otherwise the project could take at least 6 months or 1 year longer. Kevin, remember
FAMIS was supposed to be fully operation by August 1990 for fiscal year 1991 (4.3,
4.7, 4.9)

9.3.3.2 Virtual Surface of Emergence

System developers draw on the values and conventions of their organization,


occupation, and training to build information systems ... they are informed by systems
development methodologies and knowledge about their organization to build
information systems (Orlikowski and Robey 1991, p. 159)

The preexisting cultural infrastructure o f TAMUS and the IT group at TAMU as well as the

experiences and frames o f individuals in the MIS project team emerged as a powerful virtual

surface in the designing o f FAMIS.

As it was noted earlier, the former director o f the MIS project team was very

influential in the design o f FAMIS, particularly during the period o f 1988 to 1991. He had

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previously served as vice president o f information systems with an airline company in private

industry and as a senior financial official with a number o f universities. Also he received his

college and graduate education from TAMU from 1965 to 1972. Therefore, he was quite

familiar with TAMU’s culture. He could be brought up to date on TAMUS’ administrative

culture and politics from diverse individuals, particularly a founder o f FAMIS who had known

him well and hired him for the project.

The former director drew on the “wisdom" gained from his previous experiences and

training. His technological frame is evident in the following comments

Users had little tolerance for changing (4.10)

Flexibility does not mean to users ... it is not something users w a n t... they want what
they are familiar with ... try as few changes possible ... so we [the project] team didn’t
want a lot o f changes ... tried to do as few changes as possible ... (4.10)

Large-scale information systems don't come to be alive on time (4.12) (the


development o f large-scale information systems is difficult and seldom meets the
original plan)
The technological frames in his experiences seemed to lead to a relatively conservative

approach to the MIS project through creating as few changes as possible in the preexisting IS at

TAMU. An IT manager of a research agency said:

... the MIS project team was in on the vendor selection ... they were less interested in
a brand new system but more with a system which is compatible with SIMS ... they
were considering two vendors AMS and IA ... did anyone mentioned about SCT in
the interview? No [the primary investigator said} ... actually SCT was under
consideration ... I supported that vendor and technology (SCT Banner financial
module) ... to me, SCT was the best ... it was based on advanced technologies not like
“Green Screen” [meaning non-GUI interface] ... They were looking at “Green
screens” and “ADABAS and Natural" ... They argued with me that SCT is not good
because it is risky and their approach was less risky ... (25.25, 25.26)

Most organizations like a large university system and the State have bureaucratic

organizational structure at the top level. The decision on the new project was made at the top

level: the Board delivered the directive and SAGO had to execute the directive. The decision

was “one system for everyone” and that adoption of FAMIS was mandatory for all parts of

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TAMUS. Thus the MIS project team played a critical role as a proxy agent by going out and

saying to TAMUS’ parts “you got to be on FAMIS. This is not an option. No alternative is

allowed”. The value and discourse about “one system for everyone” emerged as the virtual

surface.

Thus, the MIS project team was forced to design an “average” system for everyone, no

matter whether they were large or small universities or research agencies, not an integrated

enterprise software for TAMUS. The former director pointed out, in fact “one system for

everyone” is “nothing for nobody” (4.21).

As was noted before, TAMUS' culture emphasized decentralization, and this served as

another powerful virtual surface. The MIS project team had to draw on this decentralized

culture. As a result, later on the MIS project team came to adopt the more “customer or user-

oriented” approach to FAMIS design. A system analyst and the FAMIS manager said

The system’s motto is “here to help”. Our team tried to accommodate individual
members’ needs into the FAMIS design as much as possible (23.7)

This is quite different from the initial approach the project team took, which followed the

hierarchical organizational structure and attempted top-down change. This led to strong

resistance from TAMUS’ decentralized organizational culture, which emphasized the

uniqueness o f each member and strong local autonomy. As the State audit report 1995 shows,

in its early days the design process for FAMIS was more top-down and steering committee-

dnven.

While the expertise of these individuals [different committees for IT project] is needed
in the system’s design, the user o f the system can also provide valuable input. Without
this input, the risks increase that a system will be designed and implemented that does
not meet the user’s needs. This has already been evidenced by the evolution o f the
University’s central financial system, FAMIS

Any IS department or group has conventions or “the way we do the work”. The senior

system analysts came from the CIS department at TAMU. They had worked for several years

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together and developed different software applications for users at TAMU and other parts o f

TAMUS. Conventionally, IT projects at TAMU were managed “informally” rather than

following any “strict” or “formalized” IS development methodology, project management

techniques or quality assurance program. Like IT groups in most organizations, the department

used its own homegrown IS development methods and project management techniques. These

methods and techniques were rather “informal” in the sense that the IT professionals did not

keep much documentation, but instead relied heavily on their tacit knowledge and improvised

group work. The director o f the department said

In my view CMM [the standard for software quality assurance from DIR of the State]
is not a method, but a model. We have our own method and our method is “CMM like”
but not ‘CMM” [rather than using any formal IS development methodology like
SDLC] we can use a more informal one like “fit-gap analysis" to decide how much
will change though a new technology (24.10)

The MIS project team drew on the conventions and internal culture o f the TAMU’s IT

department in designing FAMIS. A system auditor commented, it is very difficult to find any

documents about FAMIS. The State auditors also found this, as noted earlier. A respondent in

the MIS project team also said:

We don’t keep much documentation. In practice it is not needed much. For example,
using project tracking software may be good but it may take more time to track than to
do “real work”. We tried to structure the team but always it crossed out. We are like a
matrix organization (2.26)

9.3.3.3 FAMIS design as transposition and patching up

The founders of FAMIS were initially in the HNM ("History No Matter”) tradition.

However, as discussed in the preceding subsections, their initial view drifted (and was

strategically shifted) to the PD (Path Dependency) perspective. As a result of institutional drift,

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what actually has happened in FAMIS design was transposition and patching up28, rather than

the “pure” HNM or PD.

Transposition can refer to multiple terms including bricolage, improvisation and

backward looking. The founders and the MIS project team did not build FAMIS from scratch.

Actually they turned back to already existing information systems and tried to figure out where

they could use those systems to tackle the new situation - enterprise-wide integration -- at

hand. In fact, as noted earlier, they could not be free from the resources (e.g., IBM Mainframe,

ADABASE) and schemas (e.g., bureaucratic organizational structure, experiences o f the

members o f the MIS project team, culture o f the IT department at TAMU) from the preexisting

information systems inside and outside TAMU that emerged as powerful material and virtual

surfaces in the design of FAMIS. This strategy was observed in the early phase of FAMIS

development.

In addition to the strategy o f transposition, patching-up was an important strategy in

FAMIS design from the late 1980s through the present. This less conservative approach to IS

design refers to patching old information systems with new structures. The MIS project team

considered ten alternative options29 and chose the approach to “Install a college and university

financial system designed and written by an outside vendor but enhanced and modified to meet

the TAMUS, the USAS, and the State requirements”. They recognized the specific bottlenecks

and deficiencies o f the existing IS (e.g., the IT solutions o f Information Associates and

American Management Systems), and they attempted to patch the old systems up with new

structures such as NATURAL and an upgrade of the IBM mainframe.

28 These concepts were introduced in Chapter VI.


29 For details, readers are referred to the section 9.2.6 and Table 11.

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This strategy was not a one-time use limited to the early days o f FAMIS development,

but actually used frequently in the history o f FAMIS development and became a common

approach in the maintenance and governance o f the system. For example, one major deficiency

o f (and complaint about) FAMIS was lack o f departmental user support. In order to relieve

these specific bottlenecks and deficiencies in 1995 software for departmental download

capability was purchased and combined with FAMIS rather than altering it. Also there was a

need to respond to the State auditor’s 1996 report that pointed out the lack o f the capability of

executive information systems to meet the information needs of System-level users. Rather

than altering FAMIS, the governance group in TAMUS purchased NCR’s Teradata database to

develop an executive information system that has a loose interconnection with FAMIS. Over

the years the macro and micro agency of FAMIS have attempted to handle some bottlenecks

and deficiencies of FAMIS through the strategy of patching-up. Most recently, the MIS project

team considers patching FAMIS up with the utilization o f middleware technologies such as the

EntireX Broker.30

Also the strategy o f patching-up has tended to proceed in a decentralized manner.

Different parts o f TAMUS have used the strategy to make up for the deficiencies o f FAMIS to

meet their specific, local needs. For example, as already noted, in its early days the FAMIS did

not provide the support for departmental level accounting. The ABBPBIS system was initially

developed for agricultural agencies in the TAMU system by Computing and Information

30 It should be noted that recently TAMU has developed a web-based information system that
allows thousands of students to register for classes through WWW. The project team also
determined that it would be best to use something it was comfortable with - in this case,
another tool from Software AG that would augment the university's existing investment in
ADABASE. The team ultimately settled on EntireX Broker, which would act as a gateway,
allowing developers to work with code from a variety o f sources, re-use existing code to speed
development time, and reduce errors - all in a Web-based framework. A similar pattern is
expected in the near future o f FAMIS. This is another case o f transposition and patching-up.

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Services (CIS) at TAMU. The ABBPBIS system is built on the top o f FAMIS. The ABBPBIS

is a front-end system, while FAMIS is a back-end system. In addition, according to several

respondents, different parts o f TAMUS had initiatives to develop “shadow” information

systems that are combined and used with FAMIS. For example, according to the CIO of a

research agency. Research Foundation (RF) has its own system called Crystal Reports31 for the

reporting purposes. In the development of FAMIS there was no single design or designer.

Instead there were many localized attempts at partial design cutting across one another.

In contrast it is recognized that the strategy of “anticipated institution” was largely

missing in FAMIS design. The concept of anticipated institution is different from the idea of

“rationalistic, top-down IS design” or “strategic alignment o f IT and corporate strategy” which

is in the HNM tradition. The latter ignores the fact that “history matters in the design of a new

IS”. However, the former emphasizes the need of path-finding or path-creation in IS design

while recognizing the inevitability of path-dependency in IS design. The strategy refers to

“future-oriented collective process” of developing the expectations of the plausible institutional

change and FAMIS. In a similar vein, a former member of the steering committee and “Gang

o f Five” observed,

I would say the main problem with FAMIS design was the “incompetent
management”. What I mean is, for example, incompetent Chancellor and top
management. The management did not know what they were doing. In my opinion,
this caused the unsuccessful design o f FAMIS. Top people didn’t know what they
needed and what to ask to the MIS project team and other IT people. There was no
clear future plan for FAMIS. No blueprint ideas for FAMIS! There was no beginning
point and no ending point for the project. As you know, FAMIS was geared to know
“numbers”. Top people didn’t want to know things like purchasing, inventory and
property management, grant and contracts management and risk management. They
wanted to know “numbers”. That’s it!. That’s why it turned out that FAMIS has been
designed for executive reports rather than for departmental users. I would say no one
was truly understanding what’s going on with TAMU, FAMIS, etc. (8.2, 8.11, 8.15)

31 This software is produced by the company named Crystal Decisions that develop different
kinds of so-called business intelligence technologies.

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It is our belief that even though institutional drift is a fact of the life for any

information system, the lack o f such strategy in FAMIS design had ever increased the

institutional drift o f FAMIS over the past 15 years.

9.3.3.4 FAMIS as a Preexisting Information System

FAMIS later became an important predecessor to systems at several other universities.

After the implementation in the TAMU system, several universities including Cornell

University Medical College. University of Houston, Brown University, University o f Hawaii,

and Charles County Community College have implemented Software AG’s FRS. It appears

that FAMIS has become a model for their new information systems. FAMIS both constrained

and enabled the development of these new ISs; FAMIS provided them a path as well as

repertoire for the development of such new systems.

An IS design rarely fully satisfies the intentions of those who initiate it. The founders

of FAMIS had a very ambitious goal to design "an enterprise-wide information system” that

seemed to require the utilization of more advanced technologies and radical organizational

changes. In the Request for Proposal was a list o f many new and advanced capabilities that

could not be found with any of those preexisting information systems at other universities. The

initial view of the founders o f FAMIS and the MIS project team was consistent with the

"History Does Not Matter" (HNM; discussed in Chapter VI) tradition that is often advocated

by senior management and IT project teams in industry.

However, the installed base of information systems had emerged as a powerful

influence in the design o f FAMIS. The MIS project team (particularly the former director) and

the founders of FAMIS had to face the dilemma o f "the long arm of the past.” They took a

more conservative approach in the development o f FAMIS. The FAMIS system turned out to

be an "average” IS, as several respondents pointed out, and an IT manager of a research agency

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argued “what’s new?” Somewhat ironically, the initial HNM view eventuated in development

that was most consistent with the Path Dependency (PD) view as a result o f having to work

with the installed base and institutional drift.

9.3.4 The Evolution of FAMIS as a Dynamic Process of Institutionalization

The evolution o f large-scale IS like FAMIS appears to be much more complex and

dynamic than is suggested in previous approaches to technology adaptation and in descriptions

o f the process of institutionalization found in the literature on institutions.

9.3.4.1 Institutional Formation

Even though FAMIS was introduced to three parts of TAMUS in 1990 for the first

time, the institutional formation o f FAMIS, particularly its ideals and discourse, had started

much earlier. In the early 1980’s actors at the system level recognized the need for advanced

information systems to improve the efficiency and productivity in the area o f fiscal and

administrative management. This is evident in the long range plans submitted to the Automated

Information and Telecommunications Council (AITC) in these years.

The Automated Information and Telecommunications Systems (AITS) Plan submitted

in 1984 set the future direction of TAMUS with respect to administrative computing. It stated.

The application o f modem automated information systems technologies to the


solutions o f fiscal and administrative problems ... TAMUS will continue to take
advantage o f new technologies to increase efficiency and effectiveness in fiscal
operations, administration, programming, and communication

TAMUS recognized that efficiency and productivity in the area of fiscal and administrative

management allowed important resources to be applied to the enhancement o f the educational

and research functions.

In the subsequent 1986 AITS Plan, these goals were further delineated. By 1986, the

Student Information Systems (SIMS) project has been implemented and the focus o f long-

range planning was being redirected toward the financial information system. TAMUS noted

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the initial consideration o f the goal o f the acquisition and/or development of an integrated

financial system. Concurrent with this goal was consideration of upgrading automated office

operations through the use o f microcomputers. The goal o f designing and implementing the

integrated financial system was to improve the productivity of the management process and to

reduce the amount of paper required by routine business. One member of the steering

committee said that:

I became a senior official at TAMU in 1983. Around this time PCs began to appear
(primarily among faculty members). The president [of TAMU] called and told me and
the director of Admission and Records that we are expecting an increasing enrollment
and need a new registration system. I remember it was fall 1983. However, we agreed
that doing registration is not enough but developed the Student Information Systems
(SIMS) ... later I became Deputy Chancellor o f Finance in SAGO. We realized the
need of a large-scale information system which can support different functionalities
including payroll, administrative tasks, decision support, management and executive
support and more ... the idea was having a uniform accounting and financial system in
TAMUS (12.2, 12.4)

Forms of
Social States
Objectification
Ideals Discourses Techniques of control

Oral language

Written language

IT artifacts

Time
1983 -1984 1984 - 1987 1987 • 1990
Figure 22. Institutional Formation in the Dynamic Process of FAMIS Adaptation

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These ideals became formal discourse when the Board o f Regents directives were

formally established (Figure 22). Immediately after these directives the director of the MIS

project team was hired. The 1988 AITS Plan further specified the direction that administrative

computing should take.

Encouraging administrative users to move toward “integrated systems” has been made
feasible because o f such technological advances as relational databases. 4th generation
languages, networking, and distributed processing. FAMIS was believed to address
"the solutions of fiscal and administrative problems, explain the access to interactive
computing, and "introduce new modes of computing.” In the document containing the
system’s goals for the 1990’s, it is stated, “managing without a plan is analogous to
traveling without a map. With unlimited resources, unlimited time, and no mission, a
map may not be necessary. With limited resources, limited time, and a mission, a map
is imperative. A “fully implemented management information system” is a stated goal
o f TAMUS for 1993

Thus, while the IT artifact or “techniques o f control” (Hasselbladh and Kanllinikos 2000) of

FAMIS was introduced in and after 1990 to different parts o f TAMUS, the development and

implementation of FAMIS had started much earlier in the form o f ideals and discourses, which

later had significant impacts on the development o f the IT artifact of FAMIS and its

implementation and use. A small group o f top administrators o f SAGO, TAMU, and other

parts was in the formation o f the ideals and discourses. In the course o f formulating these

ideals and discourse many rules were already informally set such as the mandatory policy for

FAMIS implementation and use by all parts of TAMUS. Even prior to the introduction o f the

IT artifact of FAMIS. different individual and organizational users had already enacted the

FAMIS system and their technological frames had already been established. Those not

involved in the formation o f ideals and discourses tended to take very different views o f the

FAMIS system from those involved.

For example, among research agencies, those whose representatives were included in

the steering committee, such as the agricultural agencies or whose needs received the priority

reacted quite different than those who did not adopt the FAMIS system, such as the

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engineering agencies. Engineering agencies were strongly against FAMIS based on a number

o f technical and managerial issues, as introduced previously. Several respondents noted

“Agricultural agencies were much more “accepting” than engineering agencies”.

From the course o f ideals to discourses to techniques o f control, the role o f organized

actors with sufficient resources was influential. It would be said that the development of

FAMIS was shaped by technical reasons rather than institutional ones. However, in the case we

observed that all instances o f FAMIS development later became highly political, since FAMIS

development necessarily included “heterogonous networks” (Callon 1992) of actors, their

diverse, conflicting interests and needs, and technical artifacts. These actors were competitive

by nature and thus the situation became more competitive; there were those self-interested

actors supporting its implementation and those against it; there were those whose needs and

interests were very different from each other;; and also there were those who supported

existing technologies and those against them.

For example, the concrete idea of FAMIS came out o f TAMU and the University

funded all costs related to the FAMIS package acquisition and the initial FAMIS development.

However, later TAMU was dissatisfied with FAMIS development since their needs, such as the

purchasing subsystem and grant and contract management system, were not placed among the

top priorities of the FAMIS development effort. As noted earlier, there was also a backlog o f a

large number of user requests from different parts o f the system, which also made TAMU

unhappy. In a memorandum, a senior vice president and provost o f TAMU wrote to several top

officials in TAMUS, SAGO and several other individuals on the TAMU FAMIS Advisory

Council

The purpose of the Texas A&M University Advisory Council is to list, in priority, the
efforts for development and implementation o f FAMIS as they relate to the needs of
Texas A&M University. This list of efforts should become the basic working list for
the FAMIS staff. While we continue to support the goal o f an integrated financial and

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management information system for all parts o f the Texas A&M University System, it
is also recognized that the continued development o f FAMIS must address the critical
needs o f Texas A&M University and our end-users

Other agencies had different needs and interests. For instance, a research agency argued

through a memorandum that

The FAMIS solutions for handling indirect cost currently fall short o f providing the
flexibility that our agency needs to distribute indirect cost on inter-disciplinary
research projects. The Pre-Award/proposal tracking component o f FAMIS has not been
designed yet. Our needs are not on the top priority of FAMIS design

Among members o f the steering committee existed different opinions with respect to

the MIS project as a whole. A former member o f the committee noted.

Most members shared the vision o f the chair o f the committee. They wanted to develop
an information system for the Board since the Board wanted to look at numbers. I
personally believed that we should have developed a system for departmental users.
For example, there were 52 departments at TAMU. If you save SI from each
department, the total saving will be S52. On other hand, they developed FAMIS to
save SI from general ledger and executive report. I was very against about most
decisions made within the committee (8.11)

Thus, the institutional formation of FAMIS became very difficult. The “translation” (Callon

1992) of ideals to discourses to IT artifacts was not very successful as different individual and

collective actors attempted to contest their own translation. From this, it seems to be clear that

FAMIS adaptation actually began prior to the introduction o f “techniques of control” which

happened in 1990. FAMIS had already existed in the early and mid 1980s in the form o f oral

and written language and/or in the social state o f ideal and discourses. Subsequent discussion

will show that the phase o f institutional formation was very influential on the next phases in the

process of technology adaptation in the case o f FAMIS.

9.3.4.2 Institutional Development of FAMIS

The institutional development of FAMIS started in early 1990s when it went live with

the three parts. From the beginning, FAMIS has impacted as well as been impacted by different

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actors including universities, research agencies, the MIS project team, the State and more. This

process can be partly understood as structuration where FAMIS as an institution both has

enabled and constrained the actions o f those actors by privileging some actors, some strategies,

and some actions over others: those actors have produced and been produced by FAMIS

depending their agentic power.

FAMIS has largely presented constraints to some actors while being an enabler for

others. For example, it seems evident that FAMIS was primarily an enabler for TAMU, SAGO,

the State’s Comptroller’s Office and some small universities and agencies. TAMU was the

most powerful agency in TAMUS and was one o f the main drivers of FAMIS development.

TAMU saw FAMIS as the solution for USAS compliance and other fiscal and administrative

problems. FAMIS enabled SAGO to exercise its authority and provided the office with the

means to have control over all parts o f TAMUS. This led to a significant role change of the

SAGO from the traditional role of a coordinator and service office for all parts o f TAMUS to

the new role o f regulatory agency. Prior to FAMIS, the State Comptroller’s Office had to

contact all parts o f TAMUS individually regarding any accounting and financial issue, and

individual universities and research agencies had to provide the office with accounting and

financial data and reports. However, the introduction o f FAMIS changed this in that SAGO

became the contact point for all parts o f TAMUS and the Comptrollers started to make requests

to all parts of TAMUS through the SAGO. FAMIS allowed the SAGO more efficient and

effective governance of TAMUS.

FAMIS also enabled small universities in a number of ways, both functional and

institutional. A CFO o f a small university that implemented FAMIS in 1996 noted:

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There are many new mandates from the State. After FAMIS, for new State mandates,
we do not need to respond to them individually. A high level o f professionalization is
required for both IT and accounting. Thanks to the FAMIS we don’t need staffs for this
anymore. Also SAGO people represent us to the State. This is good for us (14.9)

The former director o f the MIS project team explained that:

Small universities don’t have much power to exercise over the State officials. They are
just small customers to the State. For example, there is a university whose budget is
about S4 million. For this university, the State Comptroller may say “you’ve got to fix
this and that”. The university has to fix them. In contrast, TAMU with S 1.2 billion
budgets is a big customer. The State officials may ask, “What can we do to help you”.
They are treated differently. Under the umbrella o f FAMIS. small universities are
treated better (4.27)

At the same time FAMIS served primarily as a constraint to others such as engineering

agencies and WTAMU. Many parts of TAMUS did not want to use FAMIS. One member o f

the steering committee and “Gang o f Five” noted that

In general all parts of TAMUS and particularly engineering agencies were scared that
the University system had come to know too much about their operations. They
thought that FAMIS could expose their own operations to the University system. They
didn’t like it. They wanted to be more independent as far as operations. There is a kind
o f institutional logic behind this kind o f resistance. The TAMUS system didn’t want
their operations to be overseen by the State through USAS and similarly, members o f
the System did not want their operations viewed and controlled by the System.
Everyone had “ego” and they felt losing control over their operation. They didn’t want
it (13.14, 4.26)

For example, one research agency clearly saw FAMIS as the constraint that would lead it to

abandon their own information systems and expose its operations to others. It was noted in

different memoranda from the research agency to the SAGO, the MIS project team, and

Chancellor:

The FAMIS solutions for handling indirect costs currently fall short of providing
flexibility that [our agency] needs to distribute indirect costs on inter-disciplinary
research projects ... Technically speaking, [our agency] does not have the database and
software constraints inherit at the System level

... In many State systems, centralization is well justified as the official accountability
to the State is at the system level. Funds are appropriated to the system offices from
which institutions within that system are allocated their respective monies. In these

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types o f environments, the State holds the State system accountable for all funds
appropriated. This, o f course, is not the situation with TAMUS.

[Our agency’s information] system should be invisible to the System, Board and State

As an institution FAMIS tended to privilege certain actors, particularly the macro agencies

such as the State, TAMU and SAGO over others. Law and policy changes at the State level

have been very influential in the development and maintenance o f FAMIS over the years.

Thus, priority had to be given to processing requirement and maintenance requests from the

State. In fact, those changes were mandated for FAMIS. Also TAMU has been the most

important customer for FAMIS, and this gave TAMU leverage. As noted earlier, TAMU

established the TAMU FAMIS Advisory Council to list the efforts for FAMIS development as

they related to the needs o f TAMU. They contended that the needs of TAMU and their end-

users must be in priority. On the other hand, in 1992 and 1993 a research agency expressed that

FAMIS offers no support to the component [contract & grants and investment
management] as priorities are defined by the University [TAMU] and other parts o f the
System ... The FAMIS staff is small and changes would have to be prioritized with
[our agency] competing with the University. FAMIS initially designated research as
the last priority. There is probably little chance that this would change

[Our agency] should not be blamed for the lack o f progress on the FAMIS research
accounting development. And since 3.5 years have gone by with virtually no progress

From the discussion above, we can see that FAMIS has been mainly produced by certain actors

such as the State, the board, and TAMU (even though it is recognized that the action o f every

actor has contributed to the production and reproduction o f the FAMIS system) while it tended

to be a given influence to other actors including small universities and agencies.

Also we can see an increase in the extent o f institutionalization o f FAMIS over time

through a set of sequential processes- habituralization, objectification and sedimentation

(Figure 23). Despite various challenges from some parts o f TAMUS, the State, and other

institutional arrangements, in the 1990s FAMIS continued its development and

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implementation. For fiscal year 1991-1992 five universities and agencies joined FAMIS. In late

1994 FAMIS reached its “critical mass” when it became larger with the implementation of a

new subsystem of purchasing at TAMUS departments and TAMU-Kingsville. For fiscal year

1996-1997 three new components (BCH, TAMUC, and TAMYT) that joined TAMUS in 1996

became users.

Habitualization Objectification Sedimentation

Early 1990s Mid 1990s Late 1990s

Figure 23. The Extent of Institutionalization of FAMIS

In early 1990s, FAMIS tended to be a regulative institution for parts of TAMUS. There

was no written policy for the mandatory implementation, which was mostly because of the

culture o f TAMUS. However, there was an understanding among many members, the Board,

SAGO, the MIS project team, and the State that FAMIS will be a fully integrated system for all

members o f TAMUS. As discussed above, there was administrative intent to require all

agencies and universities of TAMUS to utilize FAMIS as their financial and administrative

system. The former director o f the FAMIS team explained that:

Around 1988 Austin people [the State and specifically the State’s Comptroller’s
Office | pushed to develop one common and large IS for every State agency. This was a
huge institutional force. The idea was “one system for everyone” in the state. I met

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Austin people and convinced them that I can develop a big system [FAMIS] which
support all parts o f TAMUS and provide the interface with the State systems. They just
liked it! Thus, the mandatory implementation by all parts was the official position at
the system level (25.24)

Similarly, an accountant in TAMUS who has greater experience o f accounting and IT recalled

that

FAMIS was not an option, but the mode was “had to” in the early 1990s. If you are
member o f TAMUS, you got to use FAMIS (19.8)

Even though the regulative institution was the dominant institution at that time, the

normative institution as a sub-institution was active also and actually supported the regulative

institution. For example, when TSU joined FAMIS in 1991, the FAMIS system seemed to be a

regulative institution as well as a normative institution. Prior to 1989 there were only three

universities - TAMUS, TSU and PVAMU - in the System. TSU, which was established in

1889, had been a system member since 1929. The long-time membership o f TSU seemed to

bring increased expectations and moral obligations. In this case the regulative and normative

aspects o f institutions are mutually reinforcing. The most common instance o f this involves the

use of authority. in which coercive power is legitimated by a normative framework that tends

to support it (Scott 2001). According to Scott (2001), Weber argued that power becomes

legitimated as authority to the extent that its exercise is supported by prevailing social norms.

Without the support o f the normative institution it is difficult to sustain the regulative

institution. This was the case for the three non-users o f FAMIS. According to a respondent,

WTAMU was directed by the State to join TAMUS in 1990 and the University did not develop

much of a feeling o f being part o f TAMUS. There were neither the binding expectations nor

moral obligation to use FAMIS. The situation was somewhat different for the two engineering

agencies. They both had been the System members since 1910s. However, both tried to

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distance themselves from TAMUS by contending that they were different from other parts of

TAMUS. For example, one agency argued that

Our revenue comes from our own services, not from the State. 14% of our budget
comes from the State and 86% from grant, contract, seminars, training, and other
services. Therefore. FAMIS is not for agencies like us. FAMIS was geared to
academics like TAMU, not agencies like [our agency] (9.3)

They strategically denied binding expectations and moral obligations o f being a System

member. We can see the lack of normative aspects of institutions with these three parts. For

them the regulative institution could not be legitimated as authority.

K
Regulative Regulative Regulative

Normative Normative
Normative
Cognitive Cognitive Cognitive
- .v

Late 1980s - Early 1990s Early 1990s - Mid 1990s Mid 1990s - Present

Time

Figure 24. Transition oflnstitutional Modes for FAMIS

Also it was noticed that there was the transition of FAMIS among the three sub-institutions

(Figure 24). When the extent of institutionalization increased, the FAMIS system was

perceived by later adopters as a cognitive institution with support o f a normative framework

rather than the regulative institution. For fiscal year 1996-1997 three universities became

System members and joined FAMIS. At this time, FAMIS became taken-for-granted by these

new members of TAMUS. A CFO of the university that implemented FAMIS in 1996 noted:

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The FAMIS implementation was not mandatory to us. I believe we were allowed to
choose something different but we did not. In fact there was no real selection process
for a new information system. It was not needed. FAMIS was our choice. It was
natural. At the time many State's higher institutions had implemented and been using
FAMIS so we thought that FAMIS would be the best for us (14.1)

At later stages o f FAMIS implementation, FAMIS became a cognitive institution

supported by moral obligations and binding expectations rather than a regulative institution. As

noted by the State auditor’s 1996 report, since 1994 there has been no administrative intent to

require all agencies and universities to utilize FAMIS as their fiscal and administrative system.

Since then FAMIS implementation became more easily accepted by new members because

FAMIS use became part o f the shared logics of action for new members: Using FAMIS

became culturally supported.

In the process of FAMIS design, implementation and use, decoupling was found more

frequently than is reported in the literature. In fact, the case study of FAMIS seems to suggest

that decoupling is an important part of institutionalization for two reasons. First, as the

literature (e.g., Westphal and Zajac 2001) suggests, decoupling is more likely to occur when

subjects have enough power to avoid institutional pressures for change and when social

structural or experiential factors enhance awareness among powerful actors of the potential for

organizational decoupling. As noted above, this seems to be the case for such members as

WTAMU and the two engineering research agencies. Secondly, the strategic uses of

decoupling that we termed “allowance” in Chapter V were found in the FAMIS case. Star

(1997) noted, “anomie32 may arise when the system is overly rigid, allowing for no tailoring or

32 This is Durkheim’s concept. Mary Douglas (1986) used the term to represent “nonfit” or
“lack of convergence”. She notes that there will always be [local] elements that do not fit the
classification system. Here Star (1997) uses the term “convergence” to represent a result o f the
consolidation o f social institutions. “Convergence is a process in which status, cultural and
community practices, resources, experience, and information infrastructure work together to

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customizing to individual needs in a place o f practice”. Later by changing their early rigid

position on FAMIS development and implementation, the governance and production of

FAMIS had strategically “allowed” decoupling among users. There has also been much

tailoring and customization o f FAMIS to meet the needs of different parts o f the TAMUS.

While this increased the appeal of FAMIS to new users, an unintended consequence was

having several information systems running under the name of FAMIS, as a number of

respondents noted. One o f top IT persons in TAMUS explained this:

FAMIS is a confederated information system, where 6 or more information systems


are running under the name of FAMIS (13.6, 13.7)

A similar effect can be found in the case (Hepso et al. 2000) of the largest SAP ERP

project in Northern Europe. The authors studied a very ambitious ERP project implementation

on a large-scale across multiple-sites. The project team, abbreviated BRA (in Norwegian:

Better and Faster Administration) was launched in 1996. The project focused on high

centralization using a centrally defined, standardized set of administrative tools - ERP. A

manager o f BRA in 1997 made it clear that absolutely no decentralization or locally adopted

solution would be tolerated. However, this position had to be reversed and they had to open up

the strict standardization policy when meeting with local requirements and opposition from the

traditionally fairly autonomous and self-confident sites. Both too much rigidity and too few

standards seem to result in “anomie” or lack o f convergence (Star 1997). If decoupling and/or

allowance is an inevitable phenomenon due to the ever-present gap or mismatch between

individual circumstances and larger social rules or structures (Star 1997; Zucker 1988;

Sjostrand 1993), then those in the institutional realm o f the governance and production o f IT

need to have a balanced approach to IS development and implementation. Then while the

produce transparency within an information world”. Star uses the term “anomie” here to

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institutional drift always occurs in IS design, implementation and use, the phenomenon may

become much more predictable and manageable.

9.3.4.3 Institutional Decay

Many IS studies or studies in SCOT (e.g., Pinch and Bijker 1987; Latour 1987;

Orlikowski 192; Hughes 1994; Hanseth and Braa 1998) seem to neglect the phase of

institutional decay in the process o f institutionalization. Rather they seem to assume a

relatively complete and uncontested institutionalization of technology or information systems.

They seem to suggest that at the end of institutionalization, the technology or information

system tends to reach “closure" or “ultrastabilization”. The case o f FAMIS seems to be

suggesting that (1) closure or stabilization is not a finished stage and (2) it contains opposing

forces for institutional entropy and inertia. Here, the institutional decay refers to the

phenomenon that the institutionalization o f FAMIS is an unfinished process. While FAMIS has

enjoyed the stability and longevity over the years, throughout the history it had experienced

three general types of pressures toward deinstitutionalization: functional, political and social

(Oliver 1992) in the process of structuration (Barley and Tolbert 1997). Deinstitutionalization

refers to “the erosion or discontinuity o f an institutionalized organizational activity or practice”

(Oliver 1992, p. 563) or represents an exit from institutionalization, toward social entropy or

nonreproductive patterns (Jepperson 1991). Studies of institutional theory in general and

deinstitutionalization in particular tend to assume that those pressures or antecedents of

deinstitutionalization appear at the last phase of institutionalization. These three pressures

together determine the probability o f either dissipation or rejection o f an institutionalized

organizational practice (Oliver 1992).

represent a failure to converge.

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The findings o f the case study suggest that three pressures appear in the process of

institutionalization. However, unlike the extant understanding o f deinstitutionalization, they do

not necessarily appear during a later phase of technology adaptation. In fact they would appear

at any point o f the entire process o f institutionalization. Furthermore, they do not necessarily

lead to either dissipation or rejection. The inertia of technology tends to impede the process of

institutional decay. Political pressures for the institutional decay of FAMIS have been a

product of two types of factors: intra-organizational factors and environmental factors.

Specifically, the inter-organizational factors include the appointment o f new Chancellors

whose view o f FAMIS was not favorable and losing “sponsors” or “promoters” o f FAMIS such

as the former director o f the MIS project team. These factors led to changing power

distributions. Another intra-organizational factor was a growth in the criticality or

representation o f organizational members whose interests or beliefs conflict with the status quo

of FAMIS. The two engineering agencies would be an example of this. Environmental

pressures caused TAMUS to question the appropriateness of further developing and

maintaining FAMIS. For example, the State audit report o f 1996 recommended that:

System management [of TAMUS] should reevaluate the overall intent and purpose of
FAMIS and how best to meet the management reporting needs of the Board and
executive management ... Implementation o f FAMIS at other System components
should continue to be delayed until decisions are reached about the overall intent and
purpose o f FAMIS ...

A top IT person at TAMU noted:

In 1995 the State auditors came in and found several serious problems. The University
[TAMU] made a contract with Tenneco Gas Company to build an energy plant by not
following the formal procedures. Also they found that the University was falsifying the
purchase o f alcohol. The State law says you can use state money to buy alcohol. They
pretended to purchase “cups and ices” not alcohol. This was caught by the State
auditors. The Secretary of the Board was convicted for that. The State Chief Auditor
was known to dislike TAMU. They were going to get on us. They were trying to find
something. TAMU had to say “Yes” to every request by the office o f state audit at that
time. This is not common, but we were caught by it. The State auditors forced us to
move toward developing a user-oriented system [by replacing FAMIS]. However,

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because o f the magnitude of the FAMIS project, there was no wav to replace FAMIS
... not much budget for developing a new tS (7.12)

Functional pressures that raised doubts about the instrumental value o f FAMIS came

from both inter-organizational and environmental level. At the inter-organizational level,

different user groups had pointed out functional deficiencies with FAMIS. Research agencies

had been concerned about technical deficiencies of FAMIS on research activities such as grants

and contract management. At more general levels, users complained that FAMIS was not user

friendly, not utilizing databases, and had slow response times for user requests. At the

environmental level, the emergence of new technologies such as GUI, 4th generation

programming languages, and client-server architecture led to functional pressures by different

user groups in the early days of FAMIS. More recently, there have been some functional

pressures from environments. For example, the industry has clearly moved to embrace SQL as

the standard query language. SQL databases like Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server are

becoming much more popular than ADABAS. Also it is very difficult to find programmers

familiar with ADABAS. Currently there is an ongoing effort to replace SIMS, the payroll

system, and the human resource system with an ERP, which is expected to cost approximately

S35 million. This project is becoming another source for technical or functional pressures for

the institutional decay o f FAMIS.

However, ADABAS/NATURAL is like to stay around for the next 5-7 years.

Furthermore, the BPP system has been converted to ADABAS/NATURAL, so opportunities

for improved information sharing between FAMIS, BPP, and other systems are improving.

Also, FAMIS has continued being upgraded to meet rules and policy changes mandated by the

State. These facts have counteracted the functional pressures just discussed and contributed to

the inertia of FAMIS.

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Social pressures for the institutional decay of FAMIS come under different conditions

such as normative fragmentation, historical discontinuity and structural changes to the TAMUS

system and/or the FAMIS project team. For example, normative fragmentation includes strong

“detraction” from some agencies, dissent inside the steering committee, and differences in the

opinions on priority of FAMIS among member organizations, within FAMIS user groups and

TAMUS. There were a number o f disruptions to the FAMIS and TAMUS’ historical

continuity. The examples include leave o f “sponsors” or “promoters” o f the FAMIS project and

changes in state laws that prohibit or discourage the perpetuation of FAMIS (e.g., the State

auditor' report). These social pressures have existed with FAMIS from the early days o f the

FAMIS development to present. However, these pressures have not resulted in any kind of

action which is strongly against FAMIS. All the actions (e.g., resistance, pressures) have taken

place “under” FAMIS, not “about” the institution. It seems to appear that FAMIS has never

faced all the “logic of collective action” (Jepperson 1991) problems until the present.

9.3.4.4 Inertia of FAMIS

Those different types of pressures for the institutional decay o f FAMIS were much

stronger in early and mid 1990s than late 1990s and the present. Now it seems to appear that

FAMIS has gained its momentum after having a large number o f members as their members

and experienced the “convergence” (Star 1997). It is difficulty to achieve convergence or

transparency, but once achieved, FAMIS has acquired considerable inertia and even coercive,

normative, and mimetic power. Now, while there are relatively strong, particularly functional

and social, pressures for the institutional decay of FAMIS the equally strong inertial pressures

seem to exist and they seem to allow FAMIS “an institution-like longevity”.

Three very common and powerful sources of inertia can be discussed in this context:

costs, uncertainty, and political conflict (Genschel 1997). Institutions cause large initial set-up

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costs. Actors have to leam new rules, codes, and conventions. They also have to develop

particular skills, competencies, and tools. All these take time, money and effort to build up. A

member of “Gang o f Five" explained:

There were proposals for replacing FAMIS even in 1994, 95, 96 ... but these ideas
were not materialized at that time. It was very difficult. The most difficult task to
change to a new IS would be training people. Online help may be available, but for
effective training people have to be together. You know training costs a lot of money.
In fact no one wants to do this. This is a too big and difficult task for anyone (13.12)

The capital investment for the new institution has to start from scratch. Fresh resources

have to be spent, and it takes some time and transitory confusion until the new institution is

fully operative (Genschel 1997, p. 47). Given this high cost to build a new IS it is often

rational to stick to old institutions or information systems even after new and potentially better

ones have become available. A member of the steering committee of the ERP project to replace

SIMS, BPP and human resource system said that:

While looking for replacing SIMS, payroll system, and human resources system, we
also looked at large-scale financial and administrative systems [ERP] since those
vendors are providing them. But we are not going to replace FAMIS in the short term.
It is not possible in the short term. It is so expensive (11.17)

Another member on the same steering committee explained this:

The replacement o f FAMIS will cost almost S50 million. The magnitude o f the project,
it is no way to replace FAMIS (6.10)

Uncertainty about a new information system or institution is a powerful source for the

inertia of FAMIS. “In a world o f bounded rationality and limited attention, the knowledge

about institutional choices is necessarily incomplete. Often it is difficult to even conceive of

alternatives to the institutional status quo. But even if models of alternative institutions are

available, their effects are much more difficult to predict than the effects of existing

institutions. It is unclear how they will perform, when they will be fully operative, and how

they will affect the relative position o f different actors. As a result, any changeover from an old

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to a new institution involves an element o f uncertainty and risk. If the stakes are high and there

is some risk aversion, actors may stick to their old institutions even if they suspect that there

are better alternatives” (Genschel 1997). A respondent who was “Gang o f Five" noted that:

We considered the replacement o f FAMIS before. However people agree “FAMIS


plays a large role o f reporting to the State. People are saying “FAMIS is functioning
OK” and “FAMIS is serving OK”. FAMIS will be staying around more years (11.17)

Another respondent said

FAMIS is not OK from an end-user perspective, but this cannot be the reason to
replace FAMIS. This is not a “compelling reason”. “Inconvenient” use cannot be a
good compelling reason. There was nothing compelling force which could lead to
realize the idea of replacement. On the other hand there is a compelling force for
replacing SIMS. SCT [software vendor] drops to support financial module after 2002.
This is something compelling (7.12)

The uncertainty of outcomes for the new system is matched by the certainty of procedures,

rules, and parameters for the existing one. Rather than choosing a new IS with the uncertainty

of outcome, people have continued to support FAMIS which provides some certainty of

procedures, rules, and parameters: “FAMIS is OK”. This leads to an increase in the inertia o f

FAMIS. As long as institutions function properly and continue to generate tolerable levels o f

outcomes, there is no perceived need to think about, and even less to try to implement the

potentially costly process of innovating institutions or of introducing institutional alterations

(Offe 1996).

The third powerful source is the potential of political conflict from the development o f

a new information system. Institutions often have a distributive bias which systematically

makes it easier for some actors to achieve their goals than for others. This potential for

partiality makes a switch to new institutions prone to conflict. There is an issue of who will

initiate the replacement o f FAMIS and who is in charge of that initiative. It is very likely that

the replacement o f FAMIS will expect the same kind of political turmoil, which existed from

late 1980s to mid 1990s in the System. A respondent explained this indirectly:

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The new [ERP] project for replacing the payroll system was initiated by TAMU, TEES
and TAES to replace the existing old system. But now the system [SAGO] came in and
asked to consider a larger one for every component of the System. If developing a
large system for everyone will take forever and we don’t want this. Recently TAES
wanted to pull out from the project. There must be some influences from the System
level. Again politics is playing here. A similar cycle of the FAMIS is going on here
again. Kevin, do you see? (15.22)

Another respondent said:

The system office [SAGO] seems not to like this project. This project is HR and SIMS
for a large university like TAMU. For all parts of TAMUS it takes a long time and it is
almost “impossible”. Small universities and large universities are different. SAGO is
not in charge o f the ERP project. They shouldn’t be ... (24.1)

In this situation, no matter who initiates the replacement of FAMIS, the founder(s) of the new

IS should expect the possibility o f a great deal of political conflict. This is a disincentive to be

the founder(s) and instead they may wait and see the emergence o f the founder(s) of the

successor.

Sunk costs, uncertainty, and potential conflict put a premium on the inertia of FAMIS.

They reduce the attractiveness o f alternatives and thus act as a barrier against a switchover to a

new IS. In fact, over time these barriers have grown so high as to make escape virtually

impossible. It appears or at least is perceived that FAMIS turns to what Hegel called “second

nature”. Despite their man-made origin they are perceived as something that is exogenously

given and resistant to willful change (Offe 1996; Genschel 1997). A top official of a research

agency commented that:

Some people have been talking about the replacement of FAMIS, but they don’t know
what they are talking about. In my opinion they have no idea o f the complexity and
scope of FAMIS. If they knew it they would never talk about the replacement of
FAMIS. You know what! FAMIS cannot be easily pulled back. It has its own life!”
(9.6)

The three types - functional, social and political —o f entropy pressures could have lead to the

failure o f institutionalization o f FAMIS at any point during its history o f FAMIS.

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The planners and designers of a new large-scale IS should pay attention to those

entropy pressures and identify the sources o f those pressures. Thus, it is important to define

institutionalization o f an IS as both a process and a property variable. For institutionalization of

an IS as a process, extant process models o f ERP (e.g., Markus and Tanis 2000: Ross and

Vitale 2000: Koh et al 2000) and other types o f IS might be useful. However, as Robey et al

(2002) noted, these process models tend to conceive the implementation of large-scale IS as a

sequence of four stages (Markus and Tanis 2000; Koh et al. 2000), five stages (Ross and Vitale

2000: Ross 1999). or three major stages in the DIT model. These models should include not

only sequences o f events during the IS life cycle but also the interplay between the two

opposing pressures - three kinds o f entropy and inertial pressures - in the sequence. The

identification of the sources o f entropy pressures may allow the project team and “sponsors” to

strategically avoid them and possibly lead to the successful institutionalization o f IS. For this,

the DIT model needs to incorporate a dialectic theory (Van de Ven and Poole 1995) or “logic

of opposition” (Robey and Boudreau 1999). The case study suggests that there are always these

two opposing forces in the technology adaptation that lead to both stability and change over

time.

The replacement o f the legacy system is and will be a big issue by considering the

shortened system life cycie. Particularly studying the interplay between two opposing pressures

- three kinds of entropy and inertial pressures - and particularly the sources o f inertial

pressures at later stages o f system life cycle would effectively deal with many problems with

the replacement of legacy systems and change management.

The institutionalization o f FAMIS would not be correctly represented by the traditional

institutionalization curve like an S-shaped curve that characterizes most diffusion parts

involving both contagion and noncontagion processes. As Lawrence et al (2001) observe, the

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institutionalization curves o f different ISs could be diverse. For example. Lawrence et al

(2001) provide two dimensions of power - its mode (episodic and systemic) and its

relationship to its target (target as subject and target as object) - as the basis for a typology o f

institutional mechanisms that forms the foundation o f the temporal dynamics of

institutionalization and propose six alternative institutionalization curves. There are different

typologies o f institutional mechanisms possible for IT institutionalization, such as using three

entropy and inertial pressures. I expect that FAMIS is less likely to experience the incremental

decay of its regime, which the traditional S shaped curve seems to suggest. Rather, I expect

that FAMIS will be replaced by a new generation o f ERP at a certain point o f time later this

decade as a result o f collective decisions which are influenced by numerous internal and

environmental forces or pressures.

9.4 Conclusion

This chapter introduced a case study with Financial Accounting Management

Information Systems (FAMIS) in The Texas A&M University System (TAMUS). FAMIS is

the case o f a large-scale information system that has been implemented at multiple-sites within

TAMUS.

The fist section presented the case overview and some general research findings from

the case. The goal o f the MIS project was to develop “a fully integrated large-scale fiscal and

administrative information system" for the large University system that includes almost twenty

universities and research agencies. The history o f FAMIS offers a simple but important lesson

for IS scholars that the development o f large-scale information systems is very complex and

that it is difficult to accomplish the original goal o f the founders. Large-scale ISs are rather

“social institution like".

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The second section presented more specific findings from the case and offered a case

analysis using the four core categories introduced earlier in this dissertation: FAMIS as a social

institution; duality o f FAMIS; duality o f preexisting information systems; and FAMIS

development and implementation as a dynamic process of institutionalization. The history of

FAMIS offers an important lesson for IS scholars that the development o f large-scale

information systems includes much complexity and dynamic interactions among different

institutional arrangements within which such systems reside. To properly explain their design,

implementation and use, large-scale information systems need to be conceptualized as social

institutions and their development as the development o f social institutions rather than

software.

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CHAPTER X

CONCLUSION

10.1 Introduction

The goal of this dissertation has been to build Dynamic Institutional Theory (DIT) as a

meta theory for understanding different aspects o f large-scale information systems such as

enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, knowledge management systems (K.MS),

interorganizational information systems (IOIS), information infrastructure standards and e-

commerce solutions. It was noted that the deployment of large-scale information systems is a

major trend in corporate world, but in the IS field there is lack of understanding of exactly what

they involve and how they evolve over time. It was argued that there is a need for theory

building for large-scale information systems considering the size and the impacts of such

systems on individuals, organizations and society.

The study had two broad questions: how do large-scale information systems come to

be developed and how they do they come to be used. This study started with a review of the

literature on large-scale IS and we selected the case research strategy to build a theoretical

framework to answer those two general research questions. Initially two social theories -

Giddens' theory of structuration and actor network theory - were identified as theoretical

guides for the study. The study reviewed extant IS studies - the structurational model and the

socio-technical model -- drawn from these two theories and identified some limitations inwith

these studies. The main limitation of the two models and social theories was that they both

cannot properly deal with institutions and change.

While data collection from the FAMIS case and several secondary cases o f large-scale

information systems development and analysis were being conducted, the need for a different

theoretical framework to explain and understand the nature of large-scale ISs became apparent.

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This led to the development o f a framework drawn from the tenets o f institutional theory. The

theory emerged in an iterative process o f retroduction. After making some progress on data

collection and analysis a number o f abstract categories from the tenets of institutional theory

emerged and were given greater prominence in the analysis. As presented in Chapters IV

through VII those abstract categories were the conceptualization of IS as social institutions, the

relationship between large-scale IS and organizations, the design o f large-scale IS and

technology adaptation in the case o f large-scale IS.

The purpose o f this chapter is five-fold. First, the chapter offers an overall statement

and the theoretical basis of Dynamic Institutional Theory and some o f the major propositions

o f the theory holds. Secondly, the chapter summarizes the theoretical frameworks o f DIT

introduced from Chapter IV through VII and assesses the meaning of the case for the

frameworks. Thirdly, the contributions o f this dissertation to the literature of large-scale

information systems, theory-building within the IS field and the tenets o f institutional theory

are presented. Fourthly, the chapter discusses the limitations with the research method and

design in the study. Finally, directions for future research are explored.

10.2 Propositions of DIT

DIT is an institutional theory developed in the IS field for understanding and studying

the design and implementation of large-scale information systems. This theory is adapted from

extant institutional theories in several academic disciplines such as political science (March

and Olsen 1989; Offe 1996), sociology (Berger and Luchmann 1967; DiMaggio and Powell

1991; Weber 1958; Zucker 1991) and economics (Hodgson 1988; Hodgson 1999) and the

theory o f critical realism (Archer 1995; Bhaskar 1979) and borrows several useful ideas and

concepts from Giddens’ structuration theory, actor network theory, social studies of

technology, and the work of others (Pickering 1995; Weber 1958).

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A number o f characteristics about the theory are noted in this section. First, the theory

is epistemologically interpretive and to some extent critical. An “interpretive theory” assumes

that "people create and associate their own subjective and intersubjective meanings as they

interact with the world around them” (Orlikowski and Baroudi 1991, p. 5) and a “critical”

theory aims “to critique the status quo, through the exposure o f what are believed to be deep-

seated. structural contradictions within social systems ...” (p. 5-6). DIT offers an

understanding o f an information system as a social institution that is an “intersubjective” rather

than purely “subjective” or “objective” entity and also the theory opens a door to investigate

not only Giddens' structures o f significance and legitimation but also domination.

In this similar vein the theory is “realistic” in that it presupposes the pre-existence of

institutions or information systems in understanding agency and the theory tends to be

explanatory rather than descriptive. The ontological basis o f the theory is that agents are

hierarchically located and in line with this the theory emphasizes the variability of institutions

and agencies. Also the theory is “dual” in the sense that it assumes the duality o f (and with)

institutions and human actors using such concepts as “duality within institutions”, “duality

within agency”, and “duality o f preexisting institutions”.

Also, the theory would be considered “multi-level” in the sense that it assumes non-

separability o f local and global and aims specifically for multiple level analysis of social reality

and IS phenomenon. The theory itself is “retroductive” rather than either “grounded” or

“deductive” in that it can be used as an initial guide to design and data collection and further as

a meta-framework for data analysis. Finally, the theory is “institutional” in that it opposes

purely individualistic understandings and approaches to IS phenomenon and research

respectively: Organizations (and individuals) and information systems are situated in

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institutional contexts and hence many topics in IS research such as IS design, implementation,

use, and technology innovation need to be studied and understood within institutional contexts.

Finally the theory advances four major propositions which can be derived from

Chapters IV through VII.

1. Information systems, like social institutions, should be understood in terms of both

material and virtual dimensions. Furthermore, because of this, information

technology should be conceived as part o f information systems. As an institution,

an information system is simultaneously stable and changing, simultaneously local

and global, and simultaneously pervasive and idiosyncratic. Thus, the paradoxical

findings from different cases of IT deployment are quite understandable. It is also

proposed that (1) the congruence of the schemas embedded on the IT and the

schemas (the virtual dimension) of the IS is important in the development of

information systems and (2) it relates to effectiveness and hence positively

contributes the outcome of the IT deployment (Chapter IV).

2. “The duality o f technology" that depicts as IT as macro structures and human

actors or organizations as micro agencies cannot provide an accurate picture o f the

relationship between IT and organizations. DIT proposes that there is the

variability in o f both IT and agencies in that: both IT and agencies can operate at

multiple levels. Then, the interplay between IT and agencies becomes much more

complex and dynamic than what extant structurational models suggest.

Conceptualizing IT as social institutions implies that it is agency-specific: IT may

both enable and constrain human action differently. Actors have different agentic

power to influence IT. Higher rules and resources are more stable and agencies at

higher levels are more influential on the overall picture o f IT. Finally, the theory

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posits the existence of different types of agencies such as individual, collective and

proxy agency (Chapter V).

3. DIT posits that information systems are precursors o f human action. The theory

incorporates both the notion o f dualism and the notion of duality33. Information

systems and human action are conceived as two different entities and can be

understood separately for analytical purposes (analytic dualism). The development

of a new information system is enabled and constrained by preexisting information

systems: they are a path as well as providing a repertoire for the development of

new institutions (duality). The development o f a new information system occurs

through the replication of old and spatially distant ones. A new information system

emerges as well as is designed: no IT-related change rarely satisfies the prior

intentions of those who initiate and such change cannot be controlled precisely

(Chapter VI).

4. Technology adaptation of large-scale information systems can be understood as a

process of institutionalization which is nondeterministic in nature. Unlike extant

understandings o f institutionalization in the IS field (e.g., Orlikowski 1992; Kling

and lacono 1989; Hanseth and Monteiro 1998) DIT asserts that the process of

institutionalization (or technology adaptation) is rather unpredictable, problematic

and dynamic rather than pre-determined, linear and stable (Chapter VII).

33 This notion acknowledges a temporal division between structural preconditions and the
moment o f agency (Archer 1995). According to Stones (2001), the notion of analytic dualism
and the notion of duality (Giddens 1984) are comparable with one another, “although they do
have implications for each other that have not been fully drawn out (p. 179). A reader should
be noted that the notion o f dualism here differs from the traditional notion of dualism that
restrains from acknowledging the close, hermeneutically informed, interlinking of structure and
agency. This notion of dualism is rejected by both Giddens and others in institutional theory.

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10.3 Summary of the Theory and the Case

In this study extant ways o f conceptualizing information systems were presented and

their limitations for understanding large-scale information systems were discussed. The study

has proposed an alternative conceptualization of large-scale information systems as social

institutions. The study developed two concepts, “duality within information systems” and

“duality of schemas and resources of information systems”. The concept of duality within

information systems refers to the fact that information systems have a dual character in that

they are composed simultaneously of schemas and IT artifacts. The concept of duality of

schemas and resources of information systems refers to the assertion that schemas are the

effects of the IT artifacts while at the same moment IT artifacts are the effects of schemas.

Another concept, “spirit,” has been proposed as an important tool for depicting the

philosoph/es and motives embedded in information systems. This new conceptualization of

information systems argues that previous conceptualizations of IS as either material artifacts or

social facts is as a false dichotomy. Following these new concepts, the study proposed six

axioms concerning information systems which can serve as tools for understanding the

dynamic phenomena in the development, implementation and use of large-scale information

systems. The FAMIS case was analyzed using this framework, particularly the three concepts

“duality within information systems,” "duality of schemas and resources,” and "spirit”. First of

all, case analysis suggested that FAMIS cannot be constructed solely as a technological

artifact, but should be understood and explained in both virtual and material dimensions as a

social institution. We found that much of what makes FAMIS an effective system is composed

o f formal rules and schemas rather than just hardware and software. In fact, case analysis

seemed to reveal that there are more complex interplays among the IT artifact, formal rules,

and the schemas o f FAMIS, possibly suggesting that there is a duality of involving the IT

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artifact, formal rules and schemas rather than the simpler duality of schemas and resources

originally posited by in DIT. Thus. FAMIS may be better understood in terms o f a triadic

reciprocal interplay. In terms o f DIT. we initially understood FAMIS as illustrated in Figure

25.

S c h e m a s of R e s o u r c e s of
FAMIS F A M IS

Figure 25. Duality of schemas and resources o f FAMIS

However, the triadic reciprocal interplay may be represented as following (Figure 26):

IT Artifacts

Formal R ules S ch em as

Figure 26. Triadic reciprocal interplay o f FAMIS

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In the same vein, case analysis suggested that the spirit o f FAMIS should be defined as

the philosophies and motive5 rather than the philosophy and motive of the information system.

The spirit o f FAMIS was found as to be multiple and possibly contradictory. Even though the

spirit of FAMIS might encompass (and/or function as) Giddens’s structures o f signification,

legitimation and domination (DeSanctis and Poole 1994) as instantiated in FAMIS, these

structures were considered only "potential” structures and in fact, different actors tended to

draw on different aspects o f structure based on their interpretation of FAMIS's spirit during

FAMIS adoption and implementation and their interpretation of the spirit. In its current

version, DIT has not dealt with this interesting aspect o f spirit.

Next, DIT was applied to the interplay between IT and organizations. It was argued

that the extant “IT enables/constrains action" position tends to overgeneralize IT and actors

respectively: It does not consider the variability o f IT (social structures) and actors (subjects).

A multi-level model o f duality o f IT was proposed. The variability of IT referred to three

institutional realms - governance, production and use — in an IT and the variability o f agency

distinguished three hierarchical levels - macro, meso and micro —of agency in terms o f actors’

roles, responsibility and practices in the relationship with the IT. This model emerged largely

during data collection and analysis o f the FAMIS case.

It is our belief that the multi-level model is much more complex and dynamic than the

extant structurational model and can provide a better account for the dynamic interplay

between IT and organizations. Consistent with our projection, FAMIS included nested rules

and resources that interacted with each other. Their interplay extended across a large number o f

actors who were hierarchically located in a power-asymmetric social world system that was

very dynamic and complex. This is partly because there was a dynamic process o f structuration

located in the interplay across and within levels (Figure 27). This is what the current

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structurational model has been missing since they focus structuration on only one level: the

interplay between IT as macro structure and organizations as micro actors.

Case analysis suggested that the interplays o f rules and resources of IT between levels

were continuous and dynamic (Arrow a in Figure 28). Also the case suggested that there were

active interplays of agencies in different hierarchical levels were active (Arrow b in Figure 28).

These two aspects were not addressed at an adequate level in the multi-level model even

though in the model structuration is located in the interplay across and within levels.

Macro IT Macro agency

Meso IT Meso agency

Micro IT Micro agency

Figure 27. Structuration located in the interplay across and within levels

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Macro IT Macro a g e n c y

a b

Meso IT Meso a g e n c y

Micro IT
▼ ▼
Micro a g e n c y

Figure 28. Structuration Located in the Interplay Between Levels of Both IT and Agency

It appears that the concept o f duality o f preexisting information systems in DIT

accurately explains what usually happens in designing a new information system. Case analysis

indicated that the installed base o f preexisting information systems had emerged as powerful

material and virtual surfaces in the design o f FAMIS. This became a powerful source of

institutional drift in FAMIS development and implementation. Because of this, the initial HNM

view by the founders of FAMIS and the MIS project team drifted to the PD view, which led

implementers to build an “average" system rather than an enterprise system. Case analysis

suggested that transposition and patching up were actually used as important tactics in FAMIS

development. The FAMIS case also illustrates the axiom o f DIT that “IS design rarely fully

satisfies the intentions of those who initiate it".

What was lacking in the design o f FAMIS was the strategy of “anticipated institutions”

which has teleological elements and focuses on path-finding or path creation in the design of

new ISs. Case analysis suggested that there was lack o f shared expectations o f the plausible

institutional change among planners and users. Anticipated institutions should be formed at the

early phase o f IS design. This was difficult in the FAMIS case due to for two reasons: the

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HNM view initially advocated by the founders o f FAMIS and later the loss o f “sponsors” or

“promoters led to a shift in this view.” This result seems to suggest that any IS design should

consider the utilization of transposition and patching up. but also that it is important for planner

and designers to develop a sense o f “anticipated institutions” with users, considering the short­

term and long-term consequences o f new ISs on individuals and organizations. The shared

expectations o f plausible institutional change are people’s shared belief in their collective

power to produce desired results and avoid disadvantages. This can enable double-loop

learning to occur at both individual and organizational level.

It was argued that technology adaptation in the case o f large-scale information systems

cannot be properly understood within extant approaches such as diffusion and infusion,

structuration, and actor network theory. Instead technology adaptation can be best explained

through DIT as a dynamic process o f institutionalization. The study proposed a complex three-

phase model o f DIT composed of institutional formation, institutional development and

institutional decay. It was argued that DIT makes some advances over extant approaches in a

number o f aspects. DIT explicitly takes the formation o f a new technology into account in

explaining technology adaptation in terms o f the institutional formation phase. This phase was

composed of three stages - ideals, discourses and techniques o f control —and focused on the

period prior to the actual implementation o f the technology in organization. The theory posited

that the phase of institutional formation was very influential on succeeding phases in the

process o f technology adaptation. We suggested that users and/or other non-planners and

designers should be included in the course o f formulating ideals and discourses and that this is

likely to result in desired results in technology adaptation. The theory views the phase of

institutional development as dynamic also and incorporates several aspects of

institutionalization (e.g.. temporal and spatial dimensions of institutions, decoupling,

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transitions of three institutions over time, and three mechanisms o f institutional change) into

the process o f structuration. The third phase, institutional decay, suggests that the process o f

technology adaptation is always an unfinished one, and that the system must constantly work to

maintain its integrity. In this phase we consider three general types o f pressures - functional,

social and political - toward deinstitutionalization o f technology adaptation.

The FAMIS case demonstrated that a dynamic theory is required for understanding

technology adaptation in the case of large-scale information systems. The theory needs to be

useful for exploring the sources of both stability and change and focuses on both local,

contingent aspects o f sociotechnical change and broader environment or institutions in

technology adaptation. Case analysis suggested that the institutional formation of FAMIS

started in the early 1980s at the system level. In the mid 1980s ideals o f FAMIS using

vocabularies o f efficiency, automated office, productivity and effectiveness were formed at the

system level and these ideals o f FAMIS became formal discourse when the Board of Regents

directives were formally established in 1987. While the IT artifact or “techniques o f control” o f

FAMIS appeared in and after 1990, the ideals and particularly discourses had significant

impacts on the technology adaptation o f FAMIS in later stages. Many rules formulated for

FAMIS were already informally established and enforced. Case analysis suggested that

including diverse groups o f actors at these early stages is important since it potentially solves

the problem of the incongruence o f technological frames among different actors.

Case analysis suggested that the institutional development o f FAMIS was more

dynamic than what the extant approaches seem to suggest and actually illustrated several

aspects o f institutionalization which were mentioned previously. It should be noted that the

“transition o f institutions” from regulative to normative to cognitive was not as clear or clean-

cut as DIT initially suggested. However, a general pattern in the transition o f FAMIS from

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regulative to normative to cognitive could be observed. DIT initially considered three general

pressures for deinstitutionalization o f technology adaptation. It turned out that this projection

needs some revision and requires the consideration of the other opposing forces for

institutional inertia of FAMIS. Also case analysis suggested that unlike the initial projection o f

DIT these three types of pressures for institutional decay had existed at all points during the

history o f FAMIS rather than only the third phase, and they could have lead to early

deinstitutionalization of FAMIS. In the case of large-scale information systems, these opposing

forces can come from diverse sources at the macro-societal innovation level including

government authorities, professional and industry associations, etc. (King et al. 1994) as well

as at the micro-local level. As suggested by the multi-level model in Chapter V, these pressures

can come from any level of agency. Thus DIT needs to incorporate the interplay between two

opposing forces - three kinds of entropy and inertial pressures - into all three phases of

technology adaptation. Dialectical theory (Van de Ven and Poole 1995) or logic of opposition

(Robey and Boudreau 1999) may be an avenue for this task.

10.4 Contributions

Through addressing the four specific areas in IS research, this dissertation attempts to

make three types o f contributions. First, the dissertation attempts to add to our knowledge of

large-scale information systems like ERP and KMS through providing critiques on extant

approaches and understandings o f such systems. Although organizations began to adopt

enterprise systems (ES) in the 1980s (Hayman 2000), academic interest in them has just gained

momentum and there is relatively little research on large-scale information systems or

enterprise systems (e.g., Robey et al. 2002; Markus 2000).

For example, Dong, Neufeld and Higgins’s (2002) literature review of forty four ES

articles in academic IS journals during the period of 1998-2002 indicates that most studies are

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descriptive, and single-shot in design. No longitudinal studies were found. Moreover, most

current ES studies are positivist and descriptive; there is only one interpretive study and one

critical study so far. Dong et al (2002) claim that while previous ES studies have provided

interesting findings, only limited aspects o f enterprise systems have been explored, and our

understanding o f enterprise systems is till preliminary. Based on the literature review the

authors note, “what we have studied focuses primarily on the iceberg above the sea, ignoring

what is going on under the w ater’(p- 862).34 This becomes a serious issue today when the

deployment o f large-scale information systems such as ERP, KMS, CRM, and

interorganizational systems has become a major trend in almost every industry including

government, information technology, communications, financial services, utilities, healthcare,

manufacturing, higher education, sales, and travel. This dissertation has attempted to respond

to the immediate need for theoretical frameworks for large-scale information systems by

developing Dynamic Institutional Theory using an interpretive case study o f FAMIS and

investigating four important aspects of large-scale IS: conceptualization, design,

implementation, and use o f large-scale information systems.

Second, the dissertation attempts to contribute also to theory-building within the IS

field through developing a meta- theoretical framework which considers both local, contingent

aspects of sociotechnical change and the dynamics in broader social structures at the same

34 It should be noted that there are several other studies of large-scale information systems as
cited in the dissertation. As noted earlier in Chapter III and IV most o f these studies have used
Actor Network Theory as the framework for analyzing case data and they have tended to focus
on how large-scale information systems come to be developed by paying little attention to how
they come to be adapted and used. It appears that Dong et al (2002) focused on the articles on
ERP in their literature review. In fact, our understanding o f large-scale information systems
and that of the authors are different in that our definition o f large-scale information systems is
much broader. It is our belief that our broader definition including KMS, the Internet, Web-
based information systems, Interorganizational systems, CRM, ERP and other standardized

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time. There seems to be consensus that little MIS research had been focused on the

development of theory native to IS. Rather the MIS field has borrowed heavily from the

theories of other disciplines (e.g., Alavi et al 1989; Banville and Landry 1989; Swanson and

Ramiller 1993; Pare and Elam 1997; Baskerville and Myers 2002). The conventional wisdom

amongst information systems (IS) researchers is that IS is an applied discipline drawing upon

other, more fundamental, reference disciplines (Baskerville and Myers 2002).

As pointed out by Baskerville and Myers (2002) a re-thinking is suggested of the idea

of reference disciplines for IS. This dissertation has been responding to the need for theories in

the IS field and joining the effort to make IS as a reference discipline in its own right.

Importantly, DIT posited that the perspectives of information technology and information

systems offer two different constructions o f social reality. Academic disciplines like computer

science are more related to information technology that is the resource o f information systems,

but to study information systems in the IS field is to study both the resources and the schemas

within which these technologies are designed, implemented, and used. This makes the IS field

different from other IT-related academic fields.

Finally, the dissertation attempts to contribute to the tenets o f institutional theory by

developing Dynamic Institutional Theory (DIT), a formulation that adds to our knowledge of

social institutions and the process o f institutionalization. As Scott (2001) noted, early theorists

tended to assume that institutional frameworks were monolithic and unified and that

institutional forces were external to the organizational systems affected and determined the

outcomes. Dynamic Institutional Theory is the result of synthesizing extant literatures in

institutional theory ranging from political science to sociology and organizational analysis and

technologies and classification systems is shared by many IS researchers who have studied the
phenomenon of large-scale information systems.

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learning from the FAMIS case and other secondary case studies o f large-scale information

systems. The theory recognizes the existence of multifarious institutions and different kinds o f

agencies, and stresses the nondeterminant, interactive nature o f institutional processes by

taking into account newly recognized aspects of institutions and institutionalization such as

decoupling, institutional decay, and patching up.

10.5 Limitations

The main limitations o f this study may stem from the research method and design used

in the dissertation. First of all, it should be noted that no research strategy is superior to all

others (Benbasat et al 1987), and case study research is no exception. Case research was

considered the most appropriate research strategy for this dissertation, considering that theory-

building was the central project o f the dissertation. However, the research strategy itself has

some limitations that should be acknowledged (Yin 1994).

One limitation is with two generic weaknesses o f theory building from cases pointed

out by (Eisenhardt 1989). Eisenhardt noted, “a hallmark o f good theory is parsimony, but given

the typically staggering volume o f rich data, there is a temptation to build theory which tries to

capture everything. The result can be theory which is very rich in detail, but lacks the

simplicity o f overall perspective” (p. 547). Another weakness is that building theory from cases

may result in narrow and idiosyncratic theory. “Case study theory building is a bottom-up

approach such that the specifics of data produce the generalizations o f theory. The risks are that

the theory describes a very idiosyncratic phenomenon or that the theorist is unable to raise the

level of generality o f the theory” (p. 547).35 These weaknesses have been addressed in the

35 In our opinion these weaknesses come from “the process o f inducing theory using case
studies” (p. Eisenhardt 1989, p. 532). The author’s understanding o f “theory building” from
case studies follows a grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin) tradition which utilizes induction
(or “theory from data”).

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dissertation by taking an iterative process from theory to data and vice versa and a balanced

approach between bottom-up and top-down. It is our belief that our retroductive approach can

handle the problem in large part.

Finally, “how can you generalize from a single case?” is a frequently heard question

(Yin 1994). Consider the following statements: “No theory concerning MIS would be

generalizable on the basis o f a single case study, since the single case study would have tested

the theory against the empirical circumstances o f just a single setting” (Lee 1989, p. 41).

Similarly Benbasat et al (1987) pointed out that a single case may also be used to test the

boundaries o f well-formed theory and multiple-case designs are desirable when the intent of

the research is description, theory building, or theory testing.36 However, it should be noted

that “case studies, like experiments, are generalizable to theoretical propositions and not to

populations or universes" (Yin 1994, p. 10). O f course, multiple cases yield more general

research results. The dissertation has addressed this concern to some extent by incorporating

observations from several secondary cases of large-scale information systems (e.g., Bloomfield

et al. 1992; Bloomfield et al. 1992; Bloomfield and Vurdubakis 1994; Jones 1994; Bloomfield

1995; Brown 1995; Bloomfield and Vurdubakis 1997; Bloomfield 1997; Doolin 1999a, 1999b,

1999c, 2001a, 2001b; Lowe and Doolin 1999; Hanseth and Braa 1998, 2000; Monteiro and

Hepso 2000; Cordelia and Simon 2000). When we compare our case data with these published

articles in academic journals and also reports published in the trade press, we find consistency

with our findings. We agree with Eisenhardt (1989) that “perhaps “grand” theory requires

multiple studies—an accumulation o f both theory-building and the theory-testing empirical

3t Dyer and Wilkins (1991) argue against the popular belief that “the more cases a researcher
studies, the better for generating theory”. (While not ignoring the value o f multiple case studies
for theory building) Instead they argue that the careful study of a single case can lead

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studies” (p. 547). Future case studies o f large-scale information systems will be used to

strengthen and/or revise DIT by following a ‘replication” logic.

The weakness of a single case study is also complemented by certain strengths of the

study. Dong et al (2002) found that most studies o f large-scale information systems were

descriptive, single-snapshot in research design. In fact this is common in the IS field

(Orlikowski and Baroudi 1991 ).37 Many studies are based on data collection and analysis at the

early stage of system development or implementation or after the failure of system. These

studies tend to take a short time frame in explaining the phenomenon o f IS design,

implementation, and use. The consequence o f a new IS development needs to be studied both

in the short and long term since the effects could be often different. Then extant studies are less

capable of providing the accurate picture o f information systems. For example, what if Barley

(1986) went back to the case again two years after his study? Would he find the same results?

What if this researcher had studied FAMIS in 1990 or 1993? Could he see the same insights

and complexity of the information system described in this dissertation? This dissertation is

historical research on a mature enterprise system which has been in operation for more than a

decade. Thus, the study can inform not only the design o f enterprise systems but also sheds

some light on the adoption, implementation and use of such systems in multiple organizations.

researchers to see new theoretical relationships and question old ones (p. 614). They argue that
a “deep” case study may be better than multiple “surface” case studies.
J7 Orlikowski and Baroudi’s (1991) survey o f 155 IS research articles published from 1983 to
1988 illustrates that static, one-shot, cross-sectional studies are clearly the predominant from of
research in IS. These studies account for 90.3% of the articles in the sample.

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10.6 Directions for Future Research

In Chapter III the study offered a general overview o f critiques on the structurational

model and the socio-technical model and proposed institutional theory as a way forward. The

development of Dynamic Institutional Theory illustrates one way how institutional theory can

serve as a way forward from the two approaches in ensemble view o f information systems.

However, in this dissertation the theory (DIT) has been applied to only four research areas -

conceptualization, the relationship between IS and organizations, design, and technology

adaptation -- in the IS field.

In future research, the theory needs to be applied to other areas of IS research. Among

others IT innovation and IT adoption are two promising areas on which Dynamic Institutional

Theory can offer new insights. As noted earlier in Chapter III, a growing number of studies

have adopted the tenets of institutional theory in the two areas particularly. Unfortunately,

these studies understand institutions and the process of institutionalization from the viewpoints

o f early institutional theorists, and thus tend to provide a static view of the process o f IT

innovation and IT adoption. We project that IT innovation and IT adoption are much more

dynamic than what they seem to suggest.

In Chapter IV the study coined two concepts -- duality within institutions and duality

of schemas and resources - and explained the stability and change of large-scale information

systems in terms of the two concepts. One aspect that should be investigated in future research

is “the relationship of duality o f schemas for duality within schemas”. Currently in DIT the two

concepts are rather explained in separation than in combination.

In future research Dynamic Institutional Theory should be applied to the development,

implementation and use o f other types o f large-scale information systems like KMS and web-

based information systems. These emerging information systems have tended to be understood

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and discussed as information technologies. We believe that higher failure rate o f these types of

information systems is largely due to the prevailing “discrete-entity” view o f such information

systems. It has been already recognized that knowledge management systems have failed

mainly because o f technologists’ lack of understanding o f the situated work practices and

human elements o f the systems’ user communities (Schultze and Boland, 2000), KMS often

clash with corporate culture, pay insufficient attention to people management practice (Swan,

Newell and Robertson 2000), organizational politics and other organizational issues (Alavi and

Leidner, 2001). DIT posits that KMS should be understood as social institutions that have both

virtual (schemas) and material (resources) elements. Authors (e.g., Bowker 1997; Schultze and

Leidner 2002; Brown and Duguid, 2000; Boland and Tenkasi, 1995; Schultz and Boland, 2000;

Swan et al. 2000; Alavi and Leidner, 2001; Braa and Rolland, 2000; Gailers, Newell, Huang

and Pan 2002) in KM research have already recognized the virtual elements (schemas) o f KMS

as equally important as the actual elements (resources) o f such systems.

One interesting research direction for the future research is the topic of centralization

versus, decentralization. The debate between centralization vs. decentralization has been long

in the IS field (King 1983; Simon 1985; Bloomfield and Coombs 1992; von Simson 1990;

George and King 1991) as well as the field o f political science (e.g., Ostrom 1976). Dynamic

Institutional Theory views information systems as social institutions, and suggests that

dichotomous and deterministic approaches to this topic cannot provide any adequate level of

explanations about what is truly happening in terms o f structural changes after the deployment

o f new IS. The case o f FAMIS seems to offer a good deal o f data to revisit this debate using

DIT. The projection is that information systems as social institutions lead to both centralization

and decentralization at the same time. Centralization is the outcome of decentralization while

decentralization is the outcome o f centralization.

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Throughout the dissertation, the study emphasized the dual nature of institution and

institutionalization. Unlike early theorists, Dynamic Institutional Theory offers a dynamic view

of institutions and institutionalization as both stability and change. It is our understanding that

the development and implementation o f any information systems contain two opposing forces.

For example, in Chapter VII, we discussed t