Many authors have hypothesized that user participation is one of the most important factors in the success of information system development (ISD) projects. However, published empirical studies have contained contradictory evidence. We argue that the disparate results can be explained by conceptual and methodological limitations in these studies, and that user participation cannot be evaluated alone, without a parallel analysis of both users' and system analysts' real contribution.

In this paper we present a framework for studying the effects of user and system analyst participation on information system success. We use this framework to make an empirical assessment of 48 large ISD projects carried out in leading Finnish organizations. On the basis of our analyses we argue that the quality, not the quantity, of participation is of key importance. A good balance between both user and systems analyst participation and competence is needed for all phases of the development life-cycle to succeed.

On the basis of these analyses we believe that user participation can be of great value, but we strongly recommend that practitioners emphasize the quality of user participation, instead of relying on its magic power.