Academic journal article Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations

Between Unwanted and Disowned Child: A Comparative Study of Adoption of Self-Service Systems

Academic journal article Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations

Between Unwanted and Disowned Child: A Comparative Study of Adoption of Self-Service Systems

Article excerpt


This article presents a comparative case study of information systems that are based on enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and are designed to be used in a self-service mode: a human resources management system (HRMS) in Utilities Company, and a customer relationship management system (CRMS) in Telco (both names are disguised). ERP software allows for integrating information management across organizational departments in support of cross-functional business processes and creating a holistic picture of an organization. A self-service system requires that end-users use the system directly, with no help from an intermediary. Data entry, querying, and other system tasks are the duty of casual users rather than specially trained power user (clerks or information system professionals). For example, a manager has to use the system for approving the reported work hours, rather than having a secretary perform a part of the process. The application domain of self-service information systems (IS) expands, which underlines the need to advancing research on them.

While the literature on implementation of enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) is not lacking, the self-service variant of these systems is still insufficiently studied (e.g., Lapointe & Rivard, 2005; Larsen & Myers, 1999; Stein, Hawking, & Wyld, 2005; Travica 2007, 2008). Still, the problem of the key factors playing part in adoption of intra-organizational self-service system requires more focused research and new insights reaching beyond ERP success factors because these systems increase dramatically the user body, including potentially all organization members. Organizational politics can make an impact on new work processes since access to data is changed and data flows modified; these changes are likely to impinge on the established distribution of power (Markus, 1983; Zuboff, 1984). Political agendas, thus, are triggered, and political maneuvering is set in motion.

The complexity of the user pool brings to bear a potential of multiple battlegrounds cutting across occupational and departmental boundaries. For instance, managers-users may have different requirements than professionals-users (Travica, 2008). A tension between the centralization and decentralization pulls (Mintzberg, 1979), that is the executive versus departmental management, may be heightened. Executives may gain from centralizing information management, which translates into a loss at the level of department management. Moreover, the IS staff supporting these systems is likely to be exposed to a broader front of system requirements and could find it challenging to balance its response without offending any user group (e.g., fixing a user interface feature that bothers one user group may anger another user group that has become familiar with that feature). It may be nearly impossible to maintain the system via regular updates of software without disrupting operations of some user groups rather than others. On the other hand, many more users than ever before find themselves being dependent on the IT expertise the ERP staff commands. Of course, other than political aspects can be involved in adoption of self-service systems.

The comparative case study presented in this article was guided by the research question:

What are the critical factors for adoption of the self-service systems in the two companies investigated?

The study used the conceptual and analytical framework called Information View of Organization (Travica, 2003, 2004, 2005a, 2005b) that has been useful in shedding the light on these broader organizational aspects involved in system adoption situations (Travica, 2007, 2008).

The Concept of Infopolitics

This study aimed at understanding political aspects of adoption of self-service systems in two organizations, and particularly those political aspects that have to do with information and IT involved in the systems under study. …

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