Reframing Information System Design as Learning Across Communities of Practice

Reframing Information System Design as Learning Across Communities of Practice

Kevin Gallagher (Northern Kentucky University, USA) and Robert M. Mason (University of Washington, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-142-1.ch020
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This chapter frames the requirements definition phase of systems design as a problem of knowledge transfer and learning between two communities of practice: IS designers and system users. The theoretical basis for the proposed approach is Wenger’s (1998) framework for social learning, which involves three dimensions: alignment, imagination, and engagement. The chapter treats the requirements defi- nition task in systems design as a set of activities involving mutual learning and knowledge transfer between two communities of practice (CoP) along these three dimensions. In taking this approach, the chapter maps the results of past research on the systems design process onto this CoP framework and illustrates that the proposed framework encompasses the same activities used by traditional methods of requirements definition. However, this approach focuses attention on the learning that must take place between the two CoPs and thereby helps resolve some of the inherent shortcomings of prior efforts and approaches. The framework provides both a more encompassing conceptual lens for research on improving the requirements definition task and practical guidance for managers who are charged with a systems design project.
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Requirements definition is a critical step in systems development that requires the identification of information needs and knowledge of a system’s processes (Nelson & Cooprider, 1996; Vessey, 1994). Historically, researchers examined the requirements-definition stage of system design as a process of inquiry (Boland, 1978; Salaway, 1987). Problems with identification, articulation, and communication of information needs have long been identified with the challenges of information system design (Boland, 1987). There have been different approaches in attempting to meet these challenges, but none has completely resolved the issues.

Land (1998) notes that because systems are so different, a contingency approach—using different methods for different types of systems —is appropriate. Others have suggested more structured analyses of the design process itself, establishing metrics for requirements engineering (Costello & Liu, 1995) and developing tools for each aspect of the problem (Nature_Team, 1996). Some researchers have suggested that the process of design must remain flexible and that a management structure that encourages an evolutionary design process is associated with greater effectiveness (Ravichandran & Rai, 2000). In considering software project risk and software quality, organizational issues as well as technical issues are important (Wallace, Keil & Rai, 2004). Others also emphasize the critical nature of human-intensive dimensions of the process (Tamai, 1993). It also has been noted that evolutionary designs are necessary as complexity increases (Mens & Eden, 2005). Larman (2004) argues that an “agile” and iterative design process is key to software development success.

The approach that we want to explore in this chapter emphasizes these human-intensive dimensions of the design process. Although the design process involves many actors (Lamb, 2003), we want to focus on two roles: the designer (who has technical knowledge) and the user (who has knowledge of the application and context of use). The conceptual approach is one that considers requirements definition as an instance of knowledge acquisition (Byrd, Cossick & Zmud, 1992).

Recently, organizations and researchers have begun investigating the potential of knowledge transfer (Alavi & Leidner, 2001) to make organizations more effective when engaging in information intensive work. Such knowledge transfer is necessary because clients are not sure what is possible and are unclear about their needs, and IT designers thus are unable to work toward an outcome that meets clear specifications (as in designing a product for production) (Larman, 2004).

To date, however, conceptualizations of knowledge transfer in software development do not completely capture the complexity and richness of this process by which clients and designers work together. As Polyani (1966, p. 4) says, “We know more than we can tell.” Regardless of how well we articulate knowledge, it always contains a tacit dimension. Hence, simple inquiry is insufficient for the requirements definition process because it is able to access only explicit, leaky knowledge (Von Hipple, 1994). The information transferred through traditional elicitation approaches is only part of what someone knows, and it rarely includes how or why they know it (Lanzara & Mathiassen, 1985).

Because of the tacit dimension of knowledge involved in most tasks and processes, it is difficult, if not impossible, for people to articulate exactly what it is that they need prior to design. Even if they can articulate what they need, the system development effort is hampered if the system developers do not understand why and how users need what they need. With an understanding of the why’s and how’s of information, developers can be more innovative in their delivery of requirements. For example, unless developers understand which information is used together and how it is connected, they will be unlikely to find ways to combine and simplify tasks.

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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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