The role of knowledge artefact and agency in IS project escalation

Bukhary, Wael (2014) The role of knowledge artefact and agency in IS project escalation. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This research contributes to current academic thinking by highlighting new perspective to studying the IS Project Escalation phenomenon through the application of Agency Theory. This theory views the customer as the (principal) who needs an IS product, and the IS developer as the (agent) who creates this IS product. According to this viewpoint, examining current IS project escalation literature suggests the majority of previous studies implicitly adopted the assumption that the customer (principal) is entirely capable of identifying the requirements of the proposed IS product, and a project is prone to escalate because of the attitude of the IS developer (agent). This presents a gap in the literature in that the impact of the customer (principal) not been explicitly explored.

As such, one critical aim of this research is to investigate IS project escalation by employing an extension of Agency Theory. This extended theory assumes that the customer (principal) suffers challenges of incompetence when it comes to the transfer of knowledge (i.e. requirements) to the IS developer (agent). This leads to a situation of information asymmetry on the principal’s side because of incomplete knowledge transfer. In turn, this situation develops and leads to IS project escalation. Another aim of this research is to investigate the process of requirement elicitation (RE) in IS development practice. This is to identify the role of the incorporated knowledge artefacts within this activity, in terms of how the project manager and developers effectively create and utilise these objects. Thus, this is in order to provide a possible solution with respect to the challenge of incomplete knowledge transfer.

To achieve that, this research employed a qualitative methodology and collected data in two stages in Saudi Arabia by using semi-structured interviews. In this respect, in the first stage, a number interviews with 30 IS project manager form five different IS development organisations is conducted. In the second stage, a number of interviews with 10 customers form different organisations is conducted.

The findings in general acknowledged and complemented a number of previous studies’ results through the employed perspective of the extended Agency Theory in this research. Considering the identified gap, the empirical evidence supported the assumption of this research, and provided a new explanation for IS project escalation which highlighted the role of the customer (principal) this time. In addition, an influence diagram (i.e. Project Escalation Framework), which clarifies the relationship between the reasons behind incomplete knowledge transfer and IS project escalation, is developed. Also, the empirical evidence identifies a number of incorporated and relevant knowledge artefacts throughout the process of requirement elicitation (RE), namely Initial Request, Features, Process Diagrams, Prototypes, and Requirements. In this respect, the discussion categorised the different roles these artefacts can act out, in terms of being boundary object, epistemic objects, and activity objects. Additionally, a process diagram (i.e. Knowledge Transfer Framework), which clarifies the knowledge process in five main steps during RE phase, is developed.

Analysing a number of IS development cases in a various contexts demonstrated multiple practical applications of the Project Escalation Framework with respect to managing issues building up to and leading to several project outcomes (i.e. success, failure, and escalation). Additionally, this analysis presented the artefacts in the Knowledge Transfer Framework as critical linchpins of an otherwise fragmented process when it comes to eliciting customer requirements. These artefacts have much broader implications that go beyond acting as just a procedure to elicit customer requirements. The ‘inclusion’ or ‘omission’ of these artefacts contributes to project success or failure respectively. Consequently, this understanding will result in improvement of IS development investigations, rather than exclusively enhance RE processes between principals and agents.

Furthermore, the findings provided a number of highlighted things to be aware of and useful hints which reflect professional experience from real life applications. Thus, considering learning from such rich experience in terms of employing the advantages and avoiding the drawbacks would positively reflect on IS development practice. This includes managing and dealing with challenges of IS development projects, particularly project escalation, in addition to improving RE process and enhancing the process of receiving customer requirements and ideas.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Wastell, D.
Kuk, G.
Keywords: Project management, evaluation, information technology, management, knowledge acquisition (Expert systems)
Subjects: T Technology > T Technology (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 14028
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2014 11:48
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 21:43
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/14028

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