Examining Stakeholders' Roles in Influencing IT Project Cancellation Decisions

Examining Stakeholders' Roles in Influencing IT Project Cancellation Decisions

Gary Pan
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-400-2.ch007
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The goal of any product is to be used. In a very real sense, people judge the success or failure of any product by the extent to which it is used by intended users in their daily practice. Understanding a product from the perspective of the end-user is one of the most important and often overlooked keys to the success of any project. Many products suffer from a lack of widespread utilization because developers and managers often have a deterministic view of the relationship between technology and users. This deterministic view leads to an over reliance on technical specifications as the driving force in the end users’ decision to adopt and use a product. However, a wide variety of human, organizational, social, and cultural factors also affect the acceptance and use of any product. Any organization, even those in the most highly technical and advanced fields, is, in reality, a dynamic example of a sociotechnical system in which people and machines interact, negotiate usage, compete for primacy, and generally co-exist. This chapter will provide a broad theoretical overview of the critical role that end-users play in the adoption, implementation, utilization, and institutionalization of any technology. A number of relevant theories will be discussed, including diffusion theory (e.g., Rogers, 1995), technological determinism (e.g., Ellul, 1967), sociotechnical systems (e.g., Volti, 2006), and utopian and dystopian philosophical perspectives (e.g., Rubin, 1996). In addition to a theoretical overview, this chapter will provide practical recommendations for developers and managers who wish to increase the utilization of their products by bringing the user into the development process. The practical recommendations will include a discussion of Ely’s (1999) conditions that facilitate the implementation of innovations. These conditions include developing a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo, providing sufficient time to become familiar with a new technology, and generating meaningful commitment to the project by upper level managers. Also included in the practical recommendations will be a brief discussion of various organizational components that enable the introduction of innovations (Surry, Ensminger, & Haab, 2005). These components include the development and maintenance of an adequate infrastructure of supporting technologies, an emphasis on shared decision making, and ongoing support systems. Other recommendations to be discussed in this chapter will be derived from rapid prototyping models of development (e.g., Tripp & Bichelmeyer, 1990) and recent surveys of user-centered design methods.
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Information technology (IT) has been playing an instrumental role in helping organizations to achieve success. However costly IT projects have raised the stakes associated with project failure as IT project cancellation is a widely recognized problem in the software development community (Iacovou and Dexter, 2005; Nelson, 2005). According to a report by Computing in 2003 on UK public sector organizations, IT project development emerged as a major problem area encompassing a series of cancellations and delays that incurred a staggering sum of around £1.5 billion. IT experts have attributed the high incidence of failure to the availability of few effective solutions for organizations to prevent project failure (Drummond, 1996) and the failure of organizations to learn from their own experiences (Pan et al., 2007).

While several factors may contribute to IT project failure, the roles played by various project stakeholders during project development may turn out to be vital to the success of project development (Pan and Pan, 2006). Generally, the development of an IT project requires effective participation of diverse stakeholders (Cavaye and Cragg, 1995). Lyytinen and Hirschheim (1987) underline the importance of fulfilling the expectations of relevant stakeholders in an IS development project. Without having proper understanding of stakeholders’ roles in projects may cause serious consequences during project development. In some cases, such misunderstanding alone may lead to project failure. Against such a backdrop, we undertook an exploratory research study into an abandoned electronic procurement (e-procurement) system development project. Specifically, the paper aims to examine stakeholders’ roles in influencing IT project cancellation decisions.

Thechapter is structured as follows: the background and research approach will be discussed. After that, data will be extracted from a case of an abandoned e-procurement project and findings are discussed along with implications and conclusion.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Project Cancellation: The act of deciding a planned project will not take place.

Role: A part or character played by an actor.

Influence: The capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.

Project Management: The process of planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling the production of a system

IT Project: A large or major undertaking involving information technology

Stakeholder Analysis: The evaluation of a group that has an interest in the project.

Case Study: A study of an individual unit, as a person, family, or social group, usually emphasizing developmental issues and relationships with the environment, esp. in order to compare a larger group to the individual unit.

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