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Implementing information systems in organizations: A study of technical and social influences

Rosio Alvarez, University of Massachusetts Amherst


As organizations confront new information systems and technologies, they are often forced to make very expensive decisions on the basis of little information about the product's benefits and potential acceptance within the organization. This dissertation examines the implementation process of an information system by asking the following research questions: What kind of organizational elements can we identify as influencing an information system's implementation? How do these elements combine to influence the decision to implement an information system? How are technology adoption decisions accepted organization-wide? To answer these questions, I offer a case study of the evaluation and implementation process for a new information system adopted by a large non-profit organization. I draw upon three theoretical paradigms to understand the process: contingency theory, innovation theory and institutional theory. Although no one theory is sufficient in itself, I argue that the combination of all three helps us to understand the processes at work during an implementation. This case study shows that implementation of an information system cannot be viewed solely in instrumental terms—that is, organizations do not simply “decide” on technological objectives and then match the available technology to those objectives. Instead, this case study suggests that the activities of selecting and implementing new technologies at the same time serve to elaborate (and contest) existing organizational values. Institutional theorists have described such activities as a “mythmaking” process. In that context, the “new” information system and its implementation become the medium for (re-)constructing or (re-)constituting the organization's values. This dissertation uses a mixed-method approach for data collection and analysis. The qualitative data collection methods are interviews, participant observation and document analysis. The quantitative data was obtained by administering a survey to 213 managers and staff who had participated in the evaluation process. The qualitative data analysis allowed me to conceptualize the myth that informed manager's actions and to identify salient themes that characterized both the organization as a whole as well as the information system. The quantitative data analysis identified themes invoked in describing the information system and explored the relationships among the variables through crosstabulation techniques.

Subject Area

Management|Industrial engineering

Recommended Citation

Alvarez, Rosio, "Implementing information systems in organizations: A study of technical and social influences" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9932286.