An Ethnographic Study of IS Investment Appraisal

An Ethnographic Study of IS Investment Appraisal

Debra Howcroft (University of Manchester, UK) and Robert McDonald (University of Salford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-142-1.ch019
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Both academics and practitioners have invested considerably in the information systems evaluation arena, yet rewards remain elusive. The aim of this chapter is to provide rich insights into some particular political and social aspects of evaluation processes. An ethnographic study of a large international financial institution is used to compare the experience of observed practice with the rhetoric of company policy, and also to contrast these observations with the process of IS evaluation as portrayed within the literature. Our study shows that despite increasing acknowledgement within the IS evaluation literature of the limitations and flaws of the positivist approach, typified by quantitative, ‘objective’ assessments, this shift in focus towards understanding social and organisational issues has had little impact on organisational practice. In addition, our observations within the research site reveal that the veneer of rationality offered by formalised evaluation processes merely obscures issues of power and politics that are enmeshed within these processes.
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The Difficulties Of Is Evaluation

In considering the evaluation question (and by implication the issue of ‘value’ for money of information systems), the first observation to be made is the amount of attention that the subject has demanded, both in terms of the academic literature and the level of practitioner interest (Galliers, Merali & Spearing, 1994; Niederman, Branchaeu & Wetherbe, 1991). Yet in spite of this abundance of academic study and an increase in the organisational practice of evaluation, it appears we are nowhere nearer to finding a solution to the problems surrounding it (Ballantine, Galliers & Stray, 1999) and there is little indication that the ‘hard academic, foundational questions are being widely addressed, let alone answered’ (Farbey, Land & Targget, 1998, p. 156).

With an increased level of investment in IS, organisations are becoming increasingly concerned to find appropriate mechanisms to measure performance and decision-makers are being pressured to better justify their IS investments. Whilst there has always been a degree of scepticism over the ‘real’ benefits of IS initiatives (Earl, 1996), there is now a widespread and growing concern that IS investment does not deliver value. Yet, evaluation is seen as important to business operations, being variously described as an indispensable tool for managers, a vital organisational function, and an essential part of the management process (Hirschheim & Smithson, 1988; Love, 1991; Walsham, 1993). It is closely associated with decision-making (Farbey, Land & Targett, 1995) and with management desire to improve organisational economic productivity (Picciotto, 1999). So, if careful management is seen as necessary to achieve IS benefits realisation (Earl, 1996), the obvious question that arises is why so many investments appear to evolve without undergoing any formal assessment (Wilson, 1991). This absence of formal evaluation practices does not necessarily indicate a lack of endeavour within the academic or practitioner community to devise appropriate methods: ‘Many a scholar, consultant and practitioner has tried to devise a reliable approach to measuring the business value of IT at the level of the firm, none has succeeded’ (Keen, 1991). IS evaluation, then, appears to be characterised by a level of complexity that renders it very difficult both conceptually and practically (Hirschheim & Smithson, 1988; Willcocks & Lester, 1999; Zuboff, 1988).

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Claus Hohmann
This chapter introduces emotional digitalization as a phenomenon of future information systems. It argues that emotional digitalization is a... Sample PDF
Emotional Digitalization as Technology of the Post-Modern: A Reflexive Examination from the View of The Industry
Chapter 2
Elias A. Hadzilias, Andrea Carugati
This chapter aims at defining a framework for the design of e-government services on cultural heritage. Starting from an analysis of three cases on... Sample PDF
Bridging User Requirements and Cultural Objects: A Process-Oriented Framework for Cultural E-Services
Chapter 3
Samantha Bax, Tanya McGill
The technology acceptance model (TAM) is a popular model for the prediction of information systems acceptance behaviors, defining a causal linkage... Sample PDF
From Beliefs to Success: Utilizing an Expanded TAM to Predict Web Page Development Success
Chapter 4
George E. Heilman, Jorge Brusa
This study assesses the psychometric properties of a Spanish translation of Doll and Torkzadeh’s End- User Computing Satisfaction (EUCS) survey... Sample PDF
Assessing a Spanish Translation of the End-User Computing Satisfaction Instrument
Chapter 5
Ishraga Khattab, Steve Love
Over the last several years, the ubiquitous use of mobile phones by people from different cultures has grown enormously. For example, mobile phones... Sample PDF
Understanding the Impact of Culture on Mobile Phone Usage on Public Places: A Comparison between the UK and Sudan
Chapter 6
Netta Iivari
Users should participate in information technology (IT) artifact development, but it has proven to be challenging. This applies also in the open... Sample PDF
Discourses on User Participation: Findings from Open Source Software Development Context
Chapter 7
Anita Greenhill, Gordon Fletcher
In this article we build upon existing research and commentary from a variety of disciplinary sources, including information systems, organisational... Sample PDF
Exploring "Events" as an Information Systems Research Methodology
Chapter 8
Hannakaisa Isomäki
This chapter describes a study clarifying information systems (IS) designers’ conceptions of human users of IS by drawing on in-depth interviews... Sample PDF
Different Levels of Information Systems Designers' Forms of Thought and Potential for Human-Centered Design
Chapter 9
Barbara Jones, Angelo Failla, Bob Miller
Constant renewal of the self-image and self-knowledge of the organisation becomes part of the day-to-day knowledge-in-use of front-line... Sample PDF
Tacit Knowledge in Rapidly Evolving Organisational Environments
Chapter 10
Anastasia Papazafeiropoulou, Reshma Gandecha
Interpretive flexibility is a term used to describe the diverse perspectives on what a technology is and can or can not do during the process of... Sample PDF
Interpretive Flexibility Along the Innovation Decision Process of the UK NHS Care Records Service (NCRS): Insights from a Local Implementation Case Study
Chapter 11
Sylvie Albert, Rolland LeBrasseur
This article reviews the literature on networks and, more specifically, on the development of community telecommunication networks. It strives to... Sample PDF
Collaboration Challenges in Community Telecommunication Networks
Chapter 12
Mary R. Lind
In this article, wireless technology use is addressed with a focus on the factors that underlie wireless interaction. A de-construction of the... Sample PDF
A De-Construction of Wireless Device Usage
Chapter 13
François-Xavier de Vaujany
The following chapter suggests a critical realistic framework, which aims at modeling sociotechnical change linked to end-users’ IT appropriation... Sample PDF
Modeling Sociotechnical Change in IS with a Quantitative Longitudinal Approach: The PPR Method
Chapter 14
Janet C. Dunlop
Today’s media are vast in both form and influence; however, few cultural studies scholars address the video gaming industry’s role in domestic... Sample PDF
The U.S. Video Game Industry: Analyzing Representation of Gender and Race
Chapter 15
Luciano Floridi
The article argues that Information Ethics (IE) can provide a successful approach for coping with the challenges posed by our increasingly... Sample PDF
Global Information Ethics: The Importance of Being Environmentally Earnest
Chapter 16
Philip Brey
In this chapter, I examine whether information ethics is culture relative. If it is, different approaches to information ethics are required in... Sample PDF
Is Information Ethics Culture-Relative?
Chapter 17
John Weckert
This chapter examines the concept of offence, both its giving and taking, and argues that such an examination can shed some light on global ethical... Sample PDF
Giving and Taking Offence in a Global Context
Chapter 18
Reima Suomi, Ari Serkkola, Markku Mikkonen
In this chapter we focus on the application of a mobile time reservation system for dental care. The specific application allocates cancelled... Sample PDF
GSM-Based SMS Time Reservation System for Dental Care
Chapter 19
Debra Howcroft, Robert McDonald
Both academics and practitioners have invested considerably in the information systems evaluation arena, yet rewards remain elusive. The aim of this... Sample PDF
An Ethnographic Study of IS Investment Appraisal
Chapter 20
Kevin Gallagher, Robert M. Mason
This chapter frames the requirements definition phase of systems design as a problem of knowledge transfer and learning between two communities of... Sample PDF
Reframing Information System Design as Learning Across Communities of Practice
Chapter 21
Tanya Bondarouk, Maarten van Riemsdijk
In this chapter, we conceptualize the implementation process associated with SAP_HR as an experiential learning one (Kolb, 1984), and analyze... Sample PDF
Successes and Failures of SAP Implementation: A Learning Perspective
Chapter 22
Pietro Murano, Patrik O’Brian Holt
Experimental work on anthropomorphic feedback in user interfaces has shown inconsistent results and researchers offer differing opinions as to the... Sample PDF
Anthropomorphic Feedback in User Interfaces: The Effect of Personality Traits, Context and Grice's Maxims on Effectiveness and Preferences
Chapter 23
Richard Diamond
This study explores decision premises that were used to manage and stabilise a complex technochange programme in a financial institution. Decision... Sample PDF
Several Simple Shared Stable Decision Premises for Technochange
Chapter 24
Alison Adam, Paul Spedding
This chapter considers the question of how we may trust automatically generated program code. The code walkthroughs and inspections of software... Sample PDF
Trusting Computers Through Trusting Humans: Software Verification in a Safety-Critical Information System
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