نهادینه سازی شیوه های مدیریت پروژه سیستم اطلاعات
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|3314||2012||9 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Information and Organization, Volume 22, Issue 2, April 2012, Pages 125–153
Considering that current structures are the result of choices made in specific contexts in the past, we adopt a historical perspective in order to understand how some information systems (IS) project management practices evolved and became norms. Using historical methods, we analyze sources of data spanning 52 years of IS project management (1945–2007) – interviews with IS project managers and academics, IS project management textbooks, curricula, and the scientific and professional literature – to: (1) determine whether some IS project management practices may now be considered institutionalized, and (2) understand their institutionalization processes over time. Based on this analysis, three groups of IS project management practices may now be considered institutionalized: formal control, external integration, and project risk management.
Information systems (IS) project managers are presented with many project management practices deemed essential for their projects. Such practices range from project planning tools, control mechanisms, risk management methods, user participation activities, and change management approaches. Professional associations consider several of these practices to have acquired the status of norms. For instance, the Project Management Institute (PMI), which has a membership of several thousand IS professionals, “identifies the subset of project management body of knowledge [processes, skills tools, and techniques] generally recognized as good practice” (Project Management Institute, 2008, p. 4). By using the expression “generally recognized,” the PMI is referring to the fact that the “knowledge and practices described are applicable to most projects most of the time, and there is consensus about their value and usefulness” (PMBoK 2008, p. 4). It has been suggested that the enactment of some IS project management practices is akin to an institutional behavior. For example, some organizations invariably rely on standardized professional practices in their software development projects (Kirsch, 1997), and some methodologies have become standards (Avgerou, 2000). A practice is said to be institutionalized when its legitimacy is recognized in a given context – an institutional field – and when it has acquired the status of a norm or quasi-rule. Institutional theorists suggest that the structure and enactment of organizational practices that have acquired the status of norms in a given field result from choices made in the past in specific contexts (Kieser, 1994). More specifically, this means that, prior to becoming institutionalized, a given practice is devised in response to a particular problem faced by the organization on the basis of the technical and economic feasibility of the practice (Tolbert & Zucker, 1996). At this point in time, adoption of the practice appears to be based on efficiency and effectiveness motives. Later, when a consensus is reached among the actors of an institutional field about the value of a practice and when the practice is considered a norm within the field, its enactment is based on legitimacy motives. Along this line of thinking, Kieser (1994) suggests that current organizational structures and practices can only be understood once the historical dimension has been taken into account: the identification of current organizational problems and appropriate remedies should be understood at the moment that the problems arose. He further argues that “historical analysis teaches us to interpret existing organizational structures not as determined by laws but as the result of decisions in past choice opportunities” (Kieser, 1994). If we do not want to limit our understanding of organizational phenomena, “we need to take history seriously” (Leblebici & Shah, 2004, p. 353). How? By integrating the concepts and methods of history and organizational theory (Leblebici & Shah, 2004). Adopting this perspective, the present study identifies project management practices that have acquired the status of norms in the IS project management profession and seeks to understand their institutionalization process. To this end, we adopted historical methods to review 52 years of IS project management, drawing on many sources of data. Our historical analysis was informed by a model of institutionalization stages (Greenwood et al., 2002 and Tolbert and Zucker, 1996), used to examine the content of 321 articles published in 14 journals from 1945 to 2007, 13 books or book chapters, three IS project management textbooks released in several editions from 1982 to 2007, four subsequent versions of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) Guide from the Project Management Institute (PMI) as well as its preliminary preparatory versions, three versions of the project management methodology of a leading IT consulting group (1985–2005) and 23 computer science/information systems curricula published between 1968 and 2002. Finally, we interviewed 46 IS project managers and scholars from eight countries, whose experience ranged from 3 to 30 years. Based on our analysis of these data, we offer an explanation of how the practices appeared and were diffused. Our results suggest that three groups of practices – formal control, external integration and project risk management – have reached full institutionalization. The institutionalization processes of these three groups of practices differ slightly. The first two groups of practices evolved concurrently. Both groups emerged at the same time – toward the end of the 1950s – and their institutionalization processes were similar. The practices in these groups were introduced in response to managerial problems associated with a major technological jolt: the introduction of computers in organizations. Formal control and external integration practices were introduced to address the problems of projects that went over budget, late system deliveries and unsatisfied users. The complete institutionalization process of these first two groups of practices – from inception to a state of full institutionalization – lasted four decades. The third group of institutionalized practices – risk management practices – appeared later, toward the beginning of the 1970s. Our data suggest that these practices were introduced by institutional entrepreneurs, in response to the same problems that had existed for several decades, notwithstanding the use of formal control and external integration practices. The institutionalization process of risk management practices occurred faster than that of the other two groups. We suggest that this may be due to the efforts of institutional entrepreneurs, the existence of multiple diffusion channels – curricula, academic programs, journals, and professional associations – that already existed when risk management was first proposed, as well as to environmental events – the Sarbanes–Oxley Act and the Basel agreements – that accelerated the sedimentation of risk management practices. The paper begins with an overview of IS project management practices. It then discusses institutionalization as a property variable and process. The historical methods used in the study are then presented, and the institutionalization process of each of the three groups of practices is described. The three processes are then discussed and implications for research and practice are proposed.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Adopting historical methods, we identified three groups of IS project management practices that can now be considered institutionalized and described their institutionalization processes. Two groups of practices – formal control and external integration – appeared at the same time and evolved concurrently, following similar patterns. They took four decades (from 1960 to 2000) to reach full institutionalization. The third group – risk management practices – emerged more than a decade later, in the mid-1970s. Yet their institutionalization process was more rapid, since they reached full institutionalization at approximately the same time as the other two groups. Using the model of institutionalization stages proposed by Greenwood et al. (2002), we were attentive to identifying the point of origin of the institutionalized information systems project management practices. First, there is no doubt that the introduction of computers was a dramatic technological disruption, a jolt, that called for the invention of practices to manage the process of “installation” – control practices – and to alleviate the negative consequences of this installation, such as unmet user needs and user resistance – external integration practices. This phenomenon in which jolts play a role as triggers for the emergence of practices has been amply discussed in the institutional theory literature (Greenwood et al., 2008, Greenwood et al., 2002 and Meyer, 1982). Second, our data suggest that risk management practices did not appear as a response to new problems created by a jolt — technological or otherwise. Rather, they were proposed by institutional entrepreneurs in response to the failure of the “taken for granted” application of control practices to solve the enduring problem of projects that were late, were over budget and/or did not deliver value. In terms of the role played by jolts, we suggest that the effect of a jolt may last for decades, and that new practices may emerge to compensate for extant practices that have failed to solve the problems caused by a jolt that occurred long ago. Our data suggest that while environmental jolts may be at the origin of new practices, other important environmental events may play the role of catalysts in the institutionalization process. We give the example of three such events that played the role of catalysts in the institutionalization of IS project management practices. The first is threat of the Y2K bug. As expressed by some of the project managers we interviewed, since late system delivery was out of the question due to the immovable deadline of year 2000, major efforts were invested in developing the formal control aspects of IS project management, and this accelerated its diffusion process. The second event is Basel agreements, which required that financial firms pay careful attention to both financial and operational risks, appear to have accelerated the diffusion of project risk management practices within the financial sector. The third event is the 2002 Sarbanes–Oxley Act, which required that US publicly-traded corporations adopt a recognized control framework to conduct internal control assessments. The main control frameworks adopted by corporations included risk assessment as a major component (Damianides, 2005). The institutionalization process we observed for risk management practices differed slightly from the model proposed by Greenwood et al. (2002) with respect to the phases at which theorization took place. While we observed that, in the case of formal control practices and external integration practices, theorization occurred – as suggested by Greenwood et al. (2002) – after preinstitutionalization, our data suggest that for risk management practices the preinstitutionalization stage also involved theorization. Theorization is said to entail two activities. The first is specification of an “organizational failing” to which an innovation (here a practice) represents a solution (Tolbert & Zucker, 1996). The second is justification of the new practice. This corresponds to the interventions of McFarlan (1973) and Alter and Ginzberg (1978), who were not referring to new problems but to enduring ones and to the failures of current practices to address these enduring problems. Our analysis leads us to conjecture that when this occurs, the preinstitutionalization phase is accompanied by theorization efforts, as the proponents of the new practices – institutional entrepreneurs – must explain the failure of existing practices in order to justify the new practices they propose. What does the presence of institutionalized practices tell us about the profession of IS project management today? In recent literature, there is a growing awareness of the importance of professions, institutions that experienced deep changes in the last 30 years (Muzio, Brock, & Suddaby, 2010). Professions “have assumed leading roles in the creation and tending of institutions” (Scott, 2008, p. 219). Professional identities are more and more framed around logics of efficiency and commerce (Brint, 1994). Muzio et al. (2010, p. 1) state that “while we understand that professions are both key mechanisms for, and primary targets of institutional change, the precise role of professions and professional service firms in processes of institutional change remains under-theorized.” Our study fills part of this gap by explaining concretely how, through the institutionalization process, IS project managers are now institutionalized into using these practices, which many take for granted. This “taken for grantedness” of IS project management practices raises the issue of mindfulness – or lack thereof – when they are enacted by IS project managers. Indeed, extant IS project management studies share the underlying assumption that managers are rational actors who make decisions in order to maximize efficiency and effectiveness (Avgerou, 2000). In this view, IS project management is a set of “management controls needed to impose discipline and coordinate action to ensure goals are met” (Nidumolu & Subramani, 2003, p. 159). Notwithstanding the contributions of this stream of research, some paradoxical results must be acknowledged. First, despite the abundance and sophistication of the project management practices available to project managers, the failure rate of IS projects continues to be high. Indeed, the literature of the past 30 years shows that the problem of IS projects not delivering the intended systems or being late and over budget has been an enduring issue (Barki et al., 1993, Barki et al., 2001, Brooks, 1975 and McFarlan, 1981). Second, several studies have led to contradictions, or “results that run counter to expectations based in the theory guiding the research” (Robey & Boudreau, 1999, p. 170). For instance, in a survey of 70 IS project managers, Bernier and Rivard (1990) tested a model of IS project management under uncertainty that was based on contingency theory. The model hypothesized that for a project to be successful, a fit must exist between project management practices (the degree to which the project structure is organic, the degree of personalization of the coordination mode, and the intensity of boundary-spanning activities) and the sources of project uncertainty (task complexity, application complexity, user availability, and organizational climate). None of the hypotheses embedded in the model was supported by the study data. The authors commented that habitualized action might in part explain the results obtained. Similarly, Barki, Rivard, & Talbot (1994), and Nidumolu (1996) found that IS project managers did not react as hypothesized in their theoretical models based on contingency theory. In short, these studies found that IS project leaders had “a rather narrow view of a software development project, not devoting due attention to several of its . . . dimensions, or not reacting adequately to certain situations” (Barki et al., 1994, p. 14). Although contradictory findings may be elucidated by improved research designs (Carmines & Zeller, 1979), it has also been suggested that researchers consider adopting theoretical logics that accommodate contradiction (Robey & Boudreau, 1999, p. 172). Adopting the perspective of institutional theory allows us to challenge the assumption of IS project managers as efficiency-seeking decision makers and suggest that they may more closely resemble institutional actors who, in order to gain and maintain their legitimacy, unquestioningly adopt social norms (Tolbert & Zucker, 1983). In this view, IS project managers unquestioningly adopt project management practices that, over the years, have been institutionalized into norms, rather than analyzing the characteristics of a given project before deciding which management practices to use. This enactment of institutionalized practices may minimize personal risk by providing ready justification for less than successful choices, since it confers legitimacy on actors. Indeed, using practices that are considered norms legitimates the project manager; even if a project is considered a failure (over budget, late, and not meeting user needs), having used well-recognized project management practices could be invoked as a defense. Although enactment of an institutional practice is a source of legitimacy, it has been argued that when a practice has reached the status of a norm, it may occur that “rather than being the logically coherent, philosophically consistent, and cost-efficient patterns of action that the pioneers of methodological movement envisaged, [institutionalized practices] provide, at best, systematic compromises of the conflicting aspects of the systems development process, and often misleading reassurance of doing so” (Avgerou, 2000, p. 239). At the organizational level, research has found legitimacy-based compliance with institutional pressures to be negatively related to firm profitability (Barreto & Baden-Fuller, 2006). At the IS project level, we conjecture that this may be detrimental to project success. This assumption does not contradict the fundamental bases of institutional theory. In their seminal article “Institutionalized Organization: Formal Organizations as Myth and Ceremony,” Meyer and Rowan (1977) focussed on organizational forms and proposed that “independent of their productive efficiency, organizations which exist in highly elaborated institutional environments and succeed in becoming isomorphic with these environments gain the legitimacy and resources needed to survive” (p. 352). The quest for survival does not necessarily come together with optimal results. Regarding this absence of focus on actual outcomes, Scott (2001) remarked that: [Meyer & Rowan] “shifted the focus from organizational goals to the structural and procedural aspects of organizations. The structural vocabulary of modern organizations – their emphasis on formality, offices, specialized functions, rules, records, routines – was seen to be guided by and to reflect prescriptions conveyed wider rationalized environment. These structures signal rationality, irrespective of their effects on outcomes” (Scott, 2001, p. 152). Following Meyer and Rowan, could we go as far as to consider institutionalized IS project management practices as myths and ceremonies? This new perspective on IS project management practices, which could contribute to explaining the high failure rate of IS implementations, would be worth exploring in future research. An alternate interpretation could be made of our data, as one might question whether the mere presence of practices in text – articles, textbooks and “bodies of knowledge” – is infallible evidence of their actual use by project managers. In fact, it would be possible that what is in the texts does not correspond to actual practice. This is why we relied on multiple data sources, which included interviews with project managers, curricula and a project management method that had been in use for several years in a large consulting firm. Notwithstanding these methodological precautions, one could argue that the epistemological issue of the distinction between rhetoric and practice, that is, of the gap between what people say and what they do, remains.2 This would mean that professional associations such as the PMI, universities and colleges that train future IS project managers and project managers themselves consider the practices as institutions, that is, as “practices applicable to most projects most of the time, and there is consensus about their value and usefulness” (PMBoK 2008, p. 4). However, this would also mean that IS project managers do not actually enact the institutionalized practices. If this was the case, would it undermine our claim that control practices, external integration practices and risk management practices are institutionalized? Our answer is no. If IS project managers do not actually enact the practices they claim they do use, this would mean that they adopt an avoidance strategy, which has been widely acknowledged as a response to institutionalized pressures (Oliver, 1991). Avoidance can take the form of concealment, where that actor disguises “nonconformity behind a façade of acquiescence” (Oliver, 1991, p. 154) by engaging in “window dressing; ritualism; ceremonial pretence; or symbolic acceptance” (Oliver, 1991, p. 155). This would be the case of an IS project manager who develops precise project plans or conducts detailed risk management evaluations, without actually using them over the course of the project. Our study opens a number of avenues for future research. Based on the conjecture that the enactment of institutionalized practices for the sole purpose of gaining or preserving legitimacy may be detrimental to project outcomes, and may even resemble myths and ceremonies, one research avenue would be to examine the effect of the adoption of institutionalized practices on the outcome of IS projects (negative, positive or neutral outcomes). Second, the issue of whether IS project managers actual enact the institutionalized practices or merely claim that they do so would be worth investigating further. This could be done by adopting research methods closer to those of ethnography, in order to provide the researcher a better grasp of actual behavior. Third, based on the suggestion made by institutional theorists that professional firms are increasingly important in the process of professionalization – i.e. Cooper and Robson (2006) when they argue that professional firms play an important role in the institutionalization process – one potential research avenue would be to examine the role of large professional IS firms in the institutionalization of IS project practices. Some limitations need to be acknowledged. The first concerns the institutional lens that we used to develop our historical account. We are aware that researchers using another perspective might have arrived at a different process or explanation. The second limitation concerns the presentation of our results, but we had to be pragmatic in our choice of time periods within which to depict the evolution of practices. The third limitation is our omission of internal integration practices from our analysis. We recognize that it would have been interesting to analyze the evolution of these practices and attempt to understand why they did not become institutionalized, but we felt that this analysis, interesting in itself, would have taken us too far from our primary focus on institutionalized practices. Notwithstanding these limitations, this study makes a number of contributions. The first is empirical, inasmuch as we identify and describe the professional practices that have reached the status of norms for IS project managers, a key profession in the IS field. Moreover, we provide an explanation of how these practices originated, and we depict their evolution over time. It has been argued that organization science was witnessing a tendency among scholars to become “ahistoric,” which placed the domain at risk of building a utilitarian science focused strictly on utility at the expense of comprehensive explanations (Goldman, 1994, p. 621). We contend that IS research resembles organization science in this area, as the study of IS project management practices usually discounts the past. By undertaking this study, which adopts historical methods, our goal was to examine the current situation in terms of its historical development in order to deepen our understanding of the phenomenon, in the hope that this atypical approach to investigating IS project management practices would provide a new perspective. The second contribution is theoretical, inasmuch as our analysis of IS project management practices leads us to suggest that evnets that occur in the environment are not only the source of new practices, they can also act as catalysts in their diffusion/sedimentation processes.