Instructor Manual

Chapter 4 Information Systems Strategy and System Failure

Chapter 4 examines:

  • How can information systems failure be classified in order to aid understanding?
  • What is the role of user involvement in the success of information systems?
  • What approaches to involving users are available?
  • How, in summary, should IS failure be addressed?

Review Questions

  1. This question calls for an explanation of Lyytinen and Hirschheim's classification into: correspondence failure; process failure; interaction failure; and expectation failure.
  2. The stages of user involvement are: consultative; representative; and consensus. It could be argued that, the greater the technical content of a system, the less the need for user involvement.
  3. The Richard's Bay case identifies soft methods used in IS. As an explicitly participative research approach, action research depends on participation for its success. Examples of action research such as co-operative inquiry and participatory action research have much in common, therefore, with soft methods.

Discussion Questions

  1. The key to this discussion is to argue the case from the opposite perspective: that is, expectation failure, being all embracing, will mask the ‘true' causes of failure. Consequently, it is of value to assess failure from alternative perspectives, since this will add richness to the analysis. For example, there might be little to be gained from considering a system to have failed to meet the expectations of users, if, in fact, it was not completed!
  2. This discussion can be based on Figure 4.1, and involve discussion of each of the boxes of this Figure. However, students often raise issues from earlier in the course (e.g. Mintzberg's ‘forces and forms'), and this should be encouraged as part of the debate.
  3. Since it is argued that any one methodology cannot meet all problem contexts, learning a single methodology will be insufficient. The key is to understand methodology, method and technique, and to have a practically and theoretically informed way of using multiple methods to complement each other.

Case Exercise

To address this problem requires that students think about how IS development needs to be undertaken in this kind of environment. The evidence so far suggests that the new system will not be adequate unless a broad range of viewpoints is collected to inform its development – so the basic approach will be a soft one. However, there is a clear need for a working system, which would seem to require, at some stage, the incorporation of a functionalist method. Clearly, the problem calls for a mix of methods, and consequently an understanding of an approach such as ETHICS or Multiview or, better still perhaps, consideration of a complementarist process.

The relevance of strategic and operational issues might be that the more immediate, problem solving nature, of many operational developments tends to favour more functionalist, problem solving approaches. A discussion around this point is usually fruitful.

* Welland is a pseudonym.