Journal of the Association for Information Systems


The participation of users in system development and its role in IS success have been core topics of IS research since the 1960s, yet critical analysis and recent changes in IS practice suggest the need to revisit the topic. The purpose of this paper is to revitalize participation as an important area of IS theorizing and research and to build the foundations for an updated theory that is robust enough to accommodate changing IS practice. In this paper, we critically analyze traditional IS participation theory and show that it contains partial and conflicting explanations for participation’s effects on system success. These explanations leave important conceptual issues unresolved, particularly when viewed in light of developments such as ERP system installations, outsourcing, and new software development approaches such as contextual design. To address these gaps, we outline the key elements of a new theoretical framework, including a redefined concept of system success, an elaborated conceptualization of participants and other actors, a fine-grained characterization of participation activities, and a restatement of hypothesized causal links among the concepts. We conclude with a brief discussion of research strategies for investigating the framework.