Information System Development over Time - More Lessons from the Field.
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Barry, C. (2005) Information System Development over Time - More Lessons from the Field. In Harvey, N. (ed), Proceedings of 8th Irish Academy of Management Annual Conference, September 8-9. Galway, Ireland. (CD-ROM)
This paper presents further results from a longitudinal research study that has been conducted with one organization, the Western Financial Services (WFS) Group, over a six-year period (Barry 2004). They operate in the financial services sector and rely heavily on information systems (IS) and information technology (IT). In the early years from 1986 to 1997 the firm ran its IS/IT function in a manner that responded to business events rather than implementing a co-ordinated, planned strategy. Despite the fact that the financial services it operated were supported by information systems, critical to the orderly operations of the firm, WFS have always been a ¿lean¿ and flexible organization, growing structures organically. While the general posture toward IS/IT investment might appear as a pragmatic and sensible approach (Earl 1992), the reality is that under-investment in IS/IT capacity and resources meant that flexibility and responsiveness were never achieved. Each new project appeared to start from scratch and little organizational learning was being retained or disseminated. The episodic flurry of urgent requirements at WFS for an information system, contrasts significantly with the normative, structured approach to information systems development (ISD), so dominant in the past and outwardly at least at the present time. However other approaches such as problem structuring methods - PSMs (Rosenhead & Mingers 2001), may appear to offer a more realistic assessment of how systems requirements should be gathered. These methods inject a definitive role for people, intimately involved in the development process and usage of the final system. A third, less widely known, approach - the amethodical view - has been put forward more recently (Introna & Whitley 1997, Ciborra 1999, Truex, Baskerville & Travis 2000). It suggests that IS are developed improvisationally and amethodically. An alternative perspective, identifying some problems with the nature of support and analysis of the above approaches (Barry 2005), posits that much can be understood by examining the occurrence of incremental decision-making within the ISD process. This is illustrated within a framework combining differing decision-making styles, the actors involved and the various stages of ISD. The findings of this research suggest that this latter perspective can represent a richer picture of the complexity, and often the messiness, of the systems development process. With this in mind the work presented herein signifies the researcher¿s reflections about three information systems projects within the same organization, in which he played an involved role. The projects differ in size, scope and their relative importance.
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