Initiating system innovation : a technological frames analysis of the origins of groupware projects
This research explores the origins of information systems innovation through two case studies of groupware projects. The thesis argues that the study of the origins of projects has an important role in explaining the subsequent events during the more formal implementation activity. This is particularly so in the case of groupware, where a substantial literature has emerged describing and analysing the unpredicted outcomes of such projects. The research is based on a model of systems adoption as a continuous process, and with the choices and decisions taken at an early stage with regard to technology having significant effects on the adoption across time. The analysis of the early stages of a project can be significant in explaining subsequent levels and degrees of system use. It is argued that in order to provide a more complete description of the adoption process one needs to go back to the origins of a project and to examine the choices and decisions made during that period. This period of initiation of groupware projects has received little attention in CSCW research and scarcely more in the broader IS field. The purpose of this thesis is both to address this absence of scrutiny and to argue for its significance. The thesis presents a detailed review of CSCW and related literature, and explores how and to what extent the initiation of projects has been considered and addressed within this field. The thesis then develops a research framework to explore initiation, based on a synthesis of the contextualist approach with a cognitive model based on Orlikowski's notion of technological frames. The thesis then applies the framework in the analysis of two interpretive case studies of the initiation of groupware projects. These case studies were conducted in the British Oxygen Company (BOC) and the Bank for International Settlement (BIS). These studies produce an account of initiation activity that offers a particular emphasis on how time plays multiple roles in the process, linking content, context and process. These roles include, in addition to conventional 'clock time', time as an indicator, time as an era, and time as measurement and control. The findings also illustrate the duality of individuals' technological frames; that is, individuals' frames are both the basis and the consequence of the choices and decisions made by those same individuals. The analysis explores how and to what extent changes in the organisational or cultural setting (context and process) can have an impact on frames of reference, and how they are shared and communicated.