Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems


Since the late 60's information systems (IS) research has been concerned with the problem of how the penetration of information technology (IT) into organizations can be understood and explained. The article maps out two classes of models explaining the IT penetration: evolutionist stage-models and evolutionary models and compares their ability to describe and analyze the IT penetration process. Evolutionist theories occupy themeselves with the direction of change and its final goal while evolutionary theories are indifferent to direction and concentrate on the mechanisms which produce the change. The well-known Nolan's stage hypothesis provides an example of evolutionist explanations which classify historical events into stages. These stages succeed one another and lead to some 'end-state' such as 'maturity.' The transaction cost theory is offered as an example of an evolutionary explanation. It aims to reveal mechanisms that constrain or enforce organizational choices during the IT penetration. TCA analysis offers theoretical constructs to describe economic conditions that shape the organizational forms and the direction of IT penetration. We demonstrate the applicability of the TCA-based analysis by outlining two contradictory forces shaping the IT penetration process. This also explains why the IT penetration often brings about confusing and contradictory outcomes.