Power Relations in Information Systems Implementation: The Potential Contribution of Turner's Three-Process Theory of Power

Power Relations in Information Systems Implementation: The Potential Contribution of Turner's Three-Process Theory of Power

Michelle Ye (University of Tasmania, Australia), Peter Marshall (University of Tasmania, Australia), Judy McKay (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia) and Kristy de Salas (University of Tasmania, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6623-8.ch001
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This chapter critically reviews the literature on power relations in information systems implementation projects. IS projects redistribute information and power in organizations and are thus implicated in both project progress and ultimately project success. The review firstly considers the ideas of Foucault, Giddens, Clegg, Lukes, and Latour, as these are the most established and prominent theories in the major IS papers on power. This chapter argues for a consideration of a new theory of power and social influence from social psychology deemed suitable for use in IS research. The ideas of this theory have not yet been examined empirically in IS studies of power relations in IS implementations but arguably offer an important opportunity for IS researchers.
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Despite significant research, and many books and research papers offering prolific advice on the issues involved in the implementation of information systems (IS) (Avison & Torkzadeh, 2008; Iacovou, Thompson, & Smith, 2009; Keil & Mahring, 2010; Seddon, Calvert, & Yang, 2010), IS implementation is a task with many challenges. Indeed, a large number of IS implementations fail to meet their objectives, and some fail disastrously (Standish Group, 2004). The research into IS implementations has identified many critical success factors along with corresponding reasons for failure (Flowers, 1997; Kappelman, McKeeman, & Zhang, 2006; Oz & Sosik, 2000). The factors identified as being implicated in IS failure include a lack of top management commitment to the project, lack of corporate leadership (including a weak project champion), inadequate information requirements determination, communication issues, organizational politics, lack of user involvement and participation, and change management problems generally (Grainger, McKay, & Marshall, 2009; Kappelman et al., 2006; Liebowitz, 1999; Oz & Sosik, 2000). The fact that organizational politics, participation and corporate leadership issues are among the reasons for failure indicates that power relations could be an important element in IS implementations. Indeed, power has been explicitly mentioned as a factor of interest and influence regarding project success/failure (Iacovou et al., 2009; Smith & Keil, 2003). Without an understanding of power, an important dimension of social behaviors in IS implementations would be missing, resulting in an impoverished understanding of IS implementations. Thus, this chapter will review and critique the literature on power relations in IS implementation projects demonstrating strengths and weaknesses, and will develop an argument to suggest that Turner’s Three-Process Theory of Power offers the elements that may offer important insights into the nature of power relations and the exercise of power in IS implementations.

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