Communications of the Association for Information Systems


Building on previous research, we demonstrate how a punctuated process model can describe and analyze a specific information system development project. In this paper, we focus on an Information Systems (IS) project that was being implemented in a UK retail Small-Medium sized Enterprise (SME) where a new system was being implemented to replace the existing, failing one. Generally, the combination of these IS research models can provide us with a new, practical and valuable way in understanding Information Systems Development (ISD) as a social process. There were several contributions using our punctuated process model. We show how social-technical equilibriums were perturbed by the critical incidents that occurred externally to the project. Furthermore, the ability of the project team in dealing with unexpected events was seen as vital skill in ensuring the stability of a project. In contrast, allowing the project to drift was shown to lead to a degree of chaos. Third, patterns from past project or similar patterns from other system processes, as have been suggested the literature, have significant impacts on current project patterns. However, in practice, we found that the knowledge generated from past project patterns or similar patterns from other systems may be of only limited use: actors in our ISD drama were often reactive, not anticipatory. Despite the limitations and complexity associated with this type of research, our approach demonstrates the possibility of employing the punctuated process model in the study of ISD in a variety of organizations as a descriptive and diagnostic tool. The paper ends with suggestions for scholars in IS research as well as practitioners involved in IS projects.