Co-operative information system design : how multi-domain information system design takes place in UK organisations
The thesis focussed on the need to understand the nature of design processes in innovative, multi-domain, organisational information systems design. A cross-disciplinary, interpretive investigation of organisational IS design was based upon multiple literatures: information system development and methodologies, human-computer interaction, situated action, social psychology, psychology of programming, computer-supported co-operative work, computer science, design 'rationale' and organisational behaviour. Three studies were performed: 1. A case study of a user-centred design project, employing grounded theory analysis. 2. A postal survey of IS development approaches in large UK companies. 3. A longitudinal field study, involving participant observation over a period of 18 months in a cross-domain design team, employing ethnography, discourse analysis and hermeneutics. The main contributions of this research were to provide rich insights into the interior nature of IS design activity, situated in the context of the organisation (a perspective which is largely missing from the literature); to provide conceptual models to explain the management of meaning in design, and design framing activity; to produce a social action model of organisational information system development which may form the basis for communicating the situated nature of design in teaching; and to suggest elements of a process model of design activity in multi-domain, organisational information system development. The implications of the research findings for IS managers and developers are also considered a significant contribution to practice. Detailed findings from these studies relate to: I. Disparities between the technology-centred view of organisational IS development found in the literature and the business and organisation-based approaches reported in the survey. 2. The role of pre-existing 'investment in form' in shaping the meaning of design processes and outcomes for other team members and its implications for the management of expertise and for achieving double-loop leaming. 3. The detailed processes by which design is framed at individual and group levels of analysis. These findings indicated a mismatch between "top down" models of organisational IS design and observed design "abstraction" processes, which were grounded in concrete analogies and local exemplars; this finding has significant implications for organisational design approaches, such as Business Process Redesign. 4. The distributed nature of group design, which has implications for achieving a 'common vision' of the design and for the division of labour in design groups. Intersubjectivity with respect to process objectives may be more critical to design success than intersubjectivity with respect to the products of design. - 5. The political nature of design activity: it was concluded that an effective design process must manage conflict between the exploration of organisational possibilities and influential, external stakeholders' expectations of efficiency benefits. 6. Design suffers from legitimacy problems related to the investigation of a "grey area" between explicit system design goals and boundary and emergent definitions of design goals and target system boundaries; this issue needs to be managed both internally to the design-team and externally, in respect of stakeholders and influential decision-makers. It is argued that the situated nature of design requires the teaching of design skills to be achieved through simulated design contexts, rather than the communication of abstract models. It is also suggested that the findings of this thesis have implications for knowledge management and organisational innovation. If organisational problem-investigation processes are seen as involving distributed knowledge, then the focus of organisational learning and innovation shifts from sharing organisational knowledge to accessing distributed organisational knowledge which is emergent and incomplete.