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Abstract

Integrating research on the social construction of technology and social cognitive processes in organizations, technology frame of reference (TFR) theory has helped researchers investigate how stakeholder groups perceive information systems practices and opportunities, how these perceptions shift over time, and, how stakeholders may impact or leverage them to facilitate change. Such insights are particularly important in dynamic environments where individuals, groups, and organizations face a constant challenge to make sense of and respond to how industries undergo change, information technologies (IT) evolve, and new opportunities to transform processes and products emerge. Still, although extant research provides detailed accounts of TFR dynamics between groups, we know little about TFR dynamics in groups and about how intra- and inter-group TFRs interact during IT-enabled change. Accordingly, we report on an action research project in which we relied on TFR theory to assist organizational innovators in a rapidly growing mobile phone company, VoiceTech, during a sales force automation (SFA) project. Consistent with current TFR studies, our analyses reveal how the SFA project implicated frame incongruences between different stakeholder groups. In addition, our analyses reveal important inconsistencies in how individual groups framed the SFA project and consequential interactions between the observed inconsistencies and incongruences over time. Based on these findings, we argue that inconsistencies and incongruences in stakeholders’ technological frames play equally important but quite distinct and interacting roles during IT-enabled change. As a result, we extend current TFR theory with a nuanced account of how IT-enabled change efforts implicate these two fundamental characteristics of framing processes. In conclusion, we discuss the empirical and theoretical contributions to TFR theory and highlight implications for future research and for the management of IT-enabled change in dynamic contexts.

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