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Abstract

Information system (IS) researchers have long noted that IS analysts need to understand users’ needs if they are to design better systems and improve project outcomes. While researchers agree that analyst communication activities are an important prerequisite for such an understanding, little is known about the nature of different communication behaviors IS analysts can undertake to learn about users’ system needs and the impact of such behaviors on IS projects. To address this gap, this paper draws from the learning literature to articulate the information transmission activities IS analysts can undertake and the content of the information they can transmit when learning about users’ organizational tasks and information needs. The influence of analyst communication activities on the generation of valid information regarding user needs, analyst learning, and IS project outcomes are then investigated via a case study of two IS projects. The analysis of the two cases suggests that analysts who encourage the use of concrete examples, testing, and validation, and who solicit feedback about users’ business processes are likely to better understand users’ tasks, and in turn design systems that better meet users’ task needs than analysts who do not.

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