Toronto Metropolitan University
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A Tale of Two Systems: Success and Failure in a Single Information System Implementation

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posted on 2021-05-21, 15:27 authored by Catherine A. Middleton
This paper presents a case study of an information system implementation. The system, a computerized student record system, was introduced into a small university when the university opened. Unlike many other case studies of systems implementation, there was no existing system to replace, thus it was expected that there would be little resistance to the system. Successful implementation was anticipated, particularly as the systems designers were also the primary users. An evaluation of the system shows this was not the case. Two groups of users are identified, one pleased with the system, the other dissatisfied. The secondary users did not display their dissatisfaction with the system by resistance, however. They used the system frequently, but were denied the full access they required to do their jobs. Ostensibly due to technical limitations of the system, the primary users acted as gatekeepers. An examination of the culture and management structure of the university reveals strong political motivations for the primary users to exert power over the secondary users. Markus’s (1983) interpretation of interaction theory is used to discuss the political implications of the system design. It is concluded that senior management must be aware of the importance of information systems to their organizations, and understand the potential for designers to use these systems as sources of power. The case study is reconstructed from the author’s experiences as a staff member at the university during the system implementation, initially as a primary user of the system (but not an active member of the system design team), and later as a secondary user. The case is evaluated from the perspective of both user groups, using a framework derived from the literature on information systems failure and successful systems implementation.