The Impact of Salient Cultural Practices on the Outcome of IS Implementation

The Impact of Salient Cultural Practices on the Outcome of IS Implementation

Mumin Abubakre (Management Department, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK), Crispin R. Coombs (Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK) and M. N. Ravishankar (School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/JGIM.2017010101


Some information system (IS) studies have adopted organisational culture (OC) theory to investigate IS implementations. The studies highlight that members will reach consensus or agreement in the use of an IS but also experience inevitable tensions and ambiguities in the utilization of the IS. However, literature related to IS implementation/OC has rarely examined the influence that the saliency of specific cultural practices may have on the success or failure of IS implementations. Using a case study approach, we adopted the “soft positivism” research philosophy to collect data, underpinned by Martin's (1992) integration and differentiation perspectives of OC to study the organisational implementation of an IS. These perspectives served as interpretive lenses through which to explain how members' salient behaviours towards an IS evolved during the implementation process. Our study augments the IS implementation/OC literature by demonstrating how salient cultural practices influence the outcome of IS implementation.
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In many cases, the failure of an information system (IS) is due not to technical deficiencies, but to organisational issues such as user resistance or resistance to new working practices engineered by the introduction of the system (Rivard, Lapointe, & Kappos, 2011; Wagner & Newell, 2011). Thus IS failure may be due to a gap between members working values/practices and the implemented IS, or an organisation’s inability to clearly recognise how its members different operating values/practices impact IS implementation processes/activities or vice-versa. Thus, many IS implementation studies have adopted organisational culture (OC) theory (e.g. Alavi, Kayworth, & Leidner, 2006; Iivari & Huisman, 2007) to explain how members respond to ISs in their everyday work, and how these responses influence the implementation process.

The aforementioned examples of IS-culture studies suggest that culture at the organisational level is delicate and has a strong influence on how organisations may cope with, and adapt to, organisational issues that emerge during the implementation of an IS. These studies have assumed that organisational groups/members will always have the same perceptions of, and behaviours toward, an implemented IS. However, Reinecke & Bernstein (2013 p. 429) argue, “culture does not produce groups of people with uniform codes of behaviour, but creates groups that share similar thinking to some extent,” suggesting that culture is not always homogenous. Therefore, there is a need to address the likelihood of competing cultures, conflicts and opposing IS outcomes arising among organisational subgroups when an IS is implemented (Ravishankar, Pan, & Leidner, 2011). Organisational subgroup members who have different job functions are likely to have different interpretations and attitudes towards an IS in their attempts to develop and use the system (Koch, Leidner, & Gonzalez, 2013; Wagner & Newell, 2011). Thus, a consideration of culture that is limited to the organisational level may be insufficient to understand the outcome of IS implementation (Rivard et al., 2011).

To facilitate richer interpretations of organisational implementations of IS, studies have investigated culture at the subgroup level to explain how IS development and IS use can be impacted by subgroups that are in conflicting relationships with one another (e.g. Ravishankar et al., 2011; Rivard et al., 2011). We argue that considering OC and organisational subcultures as firmly grounded concepts provide nuanced explanations of how members’ values, beliefs and practices at the organisational and subgroup levels influence the development and usage of IS. Despite the extant literature, indicating the apparent strengths of adopting the organisational and subgroup perspectives of culture to investigate IS implementations, it remains to be seen, the influence the saliency of specific cultural practices may have on an IS implementation outcome – that is, IS failure or IS success (Rivard et al., 2011). Exploring this would facilitate explanations of how and why members’ interpretations and behaviours towards an IS are shaped and may change during implementation processes, and how OC influences implementation outcomes. This view contributes to the emergent view identified by some IS-culture studies that the relationship between culture and IS efforts are continuously evolving and dynamic (e.g. Gallivan & Srite, 2005; Iivari & Iivari, 2011; Leidner, 2010).

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