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Abstract

Research on IT innovations has largely relied on economic-rationalistic models and focused on individuals or organizations as the unit of analysis. The intent of this paper is to advance an alternative research agenda that explores the institutional underpinnings of IT innovation diffusion at the inter-organizational level. Through a multi-stage research study, we examine the legitimation function of organizing visions for IT innovations and develop a taxonomy of legitimation strategies employed by the proponents of an IT innovation. We first built a preliminary theoretical framework that synthesizes key arguments on legitimacy drawn from the organization theory and IS literatures. Next, we conducted an exploratory case study of institutional entrepreneurship surrounding computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems. We examined the discursive actions of CPOE vendors by content analyzing 165 press releases issued between 1998 and 2006. We then combined the findings of the literature analysis and the case study to create a taxonomy of discursive strategies for building IT innovation legitimacy. A post-hoc analysis of the case study data reveals a number of interesting patterns in the CPOE vendors’ use of the legitimation strategies and helps us formulate a set of research questions to guide future investigations. The work reported in this paper lays a foundation for a deeper understanding of the role of legitimacy and legitimation in shaping diffusion of IT innovations. It also contributes to the conceptual and methodological elaboration of the organizing vision framework.

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