Covert End User Development: A Study of Success

Covert End User Development: A Study of Success

Elaine H. Ferneley (University of Salford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-136-0.ch012


End user development (EUD) of system applications is typically undertaken by end users for their own, or closely aligned colleagues, business needs. EUD studies have focused on activity that is small scale, is undertaken with management consent and will ultimately be brought into alignment with the organisation’s software development strategy. However, due to the increase pace of today’s organisations EUD activity increasing takes place without the full knowledge or consent of management, such developments can be defined as covert rather than subversive, they emerge in response to the dynamic environments in which today’s organisations operate. This chapter reports on a covert EUD project where a wide group of internal and external stakeholders worked collaboratively to drive an organisation’s software development strategy. The research highlights the future inevitability of external stakeholders engaging in end user development as, with the emergence of wiki and blog-like environments, the boundaries of organisations’ technological artifacts become increasingly hard to define.
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Literature Review

Authors have begun to recognise the futility of attempting to align business strategy and technological infrastructures and have acknowledged that technological “drift” is inevitable, (Ciborra et al., 2000; Sauer & Burn, 1997; Ciborra, 1994; Orlikowski, 1996). This process of “drift” is largely assumed to be an overt process, management being aware that it is happening and either attempting realignment (usually futilely) or allowing the technology to develop a certain momentum of its own (for examples see Kanellis & Paul, 2005; Hanseth & Braa, 1998; Rolland & Monteiro, 2002). What is less frequently considered is the notion of, and rationale for, covert IT implementations that result in “drift,” and the literature that does exist is primarily concerned with covert activity with the intention of sabotage (for examples see Gordon, 1996; Conti, 2005; Verton, 2001; Graham, 2004).

Such covert activity, whether for altruistic or subversive purposes, necessitates a degree of improvisation—using current resources to create new forms and order from tools and materials at hand, such an approach has been defined by anthropologists as “bricolage” (Levi-Strauss, 1966). When considering information systems bricolage, “materials at hand” are usually considered to be information technology hardware and software artefacts. However, it has also been suggested that the use of networking with preexisting professional and personal contacts is also a form of “network bricolage” (Mintzberg, 1994; Moorman & Miner, 1998; Baker, Miner, & Eesley, 2003).

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