The Impact of Network of Actors on the Information Technology

The Impact of Network of Actors on the Information Technology

Tiko Iyamu (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa) and Arthur Tatnall (Victoria University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-197-3.ch016
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Organisations’ reliance on Information Technology (IT) is rapidly increasing. IT strategy is developed and implemented for particular purposes by different organizations. We should therefore expect that there will be network of actors within the computing environment, and that such network of actors will be the key to understanding many otherwise unexpected situations during the development and implementation of IT strategy. This network of actors has aligned interests. Many organizations are developing and implementing their IT strategy, while little is known about the network of actors and their impacts, which this paper reveals. This paper describes how Actor-Network Theory (ANT) was employed to investigate the impact of network of actors on the development and implementation of IT strategy in an organisation. ANT was used as it can provide a useful perspective on the importance of relationships between both human and non-human actors. Another example: design and implementation of a B-B web portal, is offered for comparison.
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Technical and non-technical factors are crucial in the various phases of IT strategy development and implementation, and provide opportunities for those in positions of power in the organisation to exercise the most explicit influence. IT strategy serves as the ‘road map’ to guide an organisation on technology issues over a period of time. To this end, IT strategy allows all parts of the organisation to gain a shared understanding of priorities and goals for the time period as defined by the strategy.

A definition of IT strategy by itself cannot influence development of this strategy as both the development and implementation stages encompass components including Technology, People and Process. Technology is what people make of the definition – how they internalise it – this matters as it shapes the development and implementation processes. Salzman (1998) emphasises that the outcome of IT strategy is as a result of a continual process from development to implementation, of many actors’ influence on IT strategy. In spite of the importance associated with IT, some experts such as Carr (2003) have controversially challenged its use. In his article “IT Doesn’t Matter”, Carr (2003, 2004) argues about whether IT actually mattered in an organisation’s performance and competitiveness. The uses, techniques, power and presence of IT have increased tremendously over the years (Andreu & Ciborra, 1998), and Kling (1980) addresses how, on the one hand, computing has affected social structures while, on the other hand, the underlying social structures influence computing processes. Kling provides a very helpful scheme to examine theories accounting for people’s resistance to the introduction and implementation of technologies and identified six distinct theoretical perspectives, namely: rational, structural, human relations, interactionist, organisational politics and class politics. According to Walsham & Waema (1994), both the development and implementation stages are critical in an effective IT strategy. They base their argument on the end product of development and implementation of IT strategy, which to them, determines to a certain extent what level of service the organisation offers to its clients through the application of technology services. Iyamu and Roode (2010) argues that the various interests in IT strategy are either individual or team based. Individual interests are mostly based on ‘stocks of knowledge’.

Even though work has been done in the area of IT strategy both in the academic and professional domains, it is considered that many problems still exist in the development and implementation phases. Some of the works include that of Walsham and Waema (1994), Wyatt (2001), Mack (2002) and Papp & Fox (2002). Even the most ambitious business vision still needs an IT strategy to enable it (Benamati & Lederer, 1999), and what is more important is that the connection between IT strategy and business strategy must be understood.

IT strategy is only a means to an end, and to achieve its goals and objectives, it needs to be implemented (Ward & Peppard, 2002). According to Gottschalk (1999), implementation is important for four reasons: opportunities can be lost, efforts could be duplicated resulting in technology incompatibilities and a waste of resources, the extent to which the IT strategy achieves its goals and objectives is determined by the implementation, lack of implementation leaves the organisation dissatisfied with and reluctant to continue strategy development, and lack of implementation creates problems of establishment and maintenance priorities in future IT strategy development.

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