Learning to benefit from information systems.
The thesis explores the extent to which interpretive techniques can improve our understanding of the impacts of information systems. Two themes are explored: the capacity of interpretive techniques to evaluate information systems' impacts from within the work context, and the extent to which the process emphasis of the interpretive approach can facilitate learning about information systems and their impacts. The thesis proposes that the impacts of information systems comprise a combination of known or anticipated phenomena and emergent phenomena that
cannot be wholly predicted in advance and argues that the value of an information system lies in its effective use, which in turn depends upon its being understood by its users and assimilated into their work. Support for this proposal is provided from the literature and through evaluation of the impacts of the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) on fingerprint work in England and Wales. Deep insight into NAFIS and fingerprint work are provided by the use of Repertory Grid Analysis (RGA) as a content-free data
gathering technique, used within the interpretive framework proposed by Walsham (1993). The data generated by RGA are analysed using the protocols proposed by Thomas and Harri-Augstein (1985) which support what they call "self-organised
learning". In this way, RGA is used to facilitate learning through evaluation, enabling participants to learn to benefit from information systems. The RGA process and outcomes are described in detail. The contribution of the RGA data to the interpretive approach is discussed and the results compared with those arising from a more orthodox evaluation ofNAFIS.
The results demonstrate that orthodox evaluation techniques underestimate the value of an information system by failing to assess the significance of many of the issues and concerns that emerge as it is assimilated into the work setting. The
research is shown to have contributed to the evaluation of NAFIS, directly impacting the work of a wide range of users and managers in the fingerprint, police and wider criminal justice communities. The results are also shown to be generalisable to other organisational settings and therefore having implications
for both the information systems and wider evaluation communities.