Understanding the use of IT evaluation methods in organisations
This thesis explores the apparent paradox of information technology (IT) evaluation methods not being broadly employed despite their seemingly innate qualities of assisting organisations in improving their management of IT costs and benefits. This is paradoxical since a multitude of evaluation methods exist and both academic and professional literature argue that their use will lead to beneficial effects. The thesis aims to deepen understanding of the employment process of IT evaluation methods in organisations. Building on diffusion theory and actor-network theory (ANT), it is an in-depth case study of the employment process of an IT evaluation method at a Dutch insurance company. The diffusion theory is a good initial candidate for understanding the phenomenon of underutilisation, but fails to unravel the paradox. An ANT analysis suggests that during a process of mutual translation both the evaluation method and its surrounding actors enter into a dynamic negotiation mutually translating each other. The evaluation method is appropriated by its surrounding actors in a black-boxing attempt. These actors capitalise on weaknesses in the method's inscriptions, increase their strength and follow anti-programs. The method also appropriates these surrounding actors, assigning them new roles (changing their work processes, responsibilities and prerogatives) and moving them to new positions in the actor-network. The resulting employment process has emergent properties and is characterised by improvisation rather than blue-print planning. When employed, the method is unlikely to resemble its initially planned outcome. The origin of the paradox is based on the assumptions that evaluation methods are neutral and have innate qualities and that their employment proceeds according to planned outcomes. This thesis undermines the paradox by arguing that a limited understanding of evaluation methods and unrealistic assumptions about evaluation employment are why such methods do not manifest their expected employment.