An empirical taxonomy of IS decision-making processes

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Abstract

Decisions to invest in information systems (IS) are made by many organisations on a very regular basis. Such decisions can vary from quickly identifying the problem, screening options and choosing a solution in a very straightforward way, to very extensive and repeated search, screen, design and negotiation activities which can take many years. There has been little explicit research into the process by which managers and organisations decide to develop IS applications. This research addresses this by analyzing 20 IS decision-making processes, using a phase-based as well as an attribute-based approach. Mintzbergs typology is used to characterize seven types of IS decisions from a phase-based or process-based perspective. For the attribute approach, the decisions have been analyzed on the basis of subjective/objective and offensive/defensive contrasts and placed in one of four categories: innovative, rational, necessary or political. The paper concludes by identifying five factors that result in major differences in IS decision-making processes. These issues are: (1) whether there is scope to design a solution, (2) whether distinct alternatives have to be searched for, (3) the degree of urgency and necessity from the perspective of the decision-makers, (4) whether the decision can be subdivided in order to follow a gradual process path (planned versus incremental) and (5) the number and power of stakeholders involved in the process and the extent that their interests vary and contrast. The paper suggests that managers deciding on IS applications should be aware of these factors in order to design a process that fits best with the specific circumstances: no single process should be considered universally applicable. This conclusion is in contrast with many decision-making models rooted in the MIS-field, which suggest to use prescriptive and rational approaches to organise IS decision-making processes.
Original languageEnglish
Publishers.n.
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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