Interpreting The Process Of Configuration of Packaged Software Through the Lens of Social Construction of Technology



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Despite the predominance of packaged application software, information systems (IS) researchers have focused more on custom software development. Packaged software deserves to be investigated separately due to the uniqueness in terms of its development and implementation. One of the challenges for organizations is to fit packaged software into their organizational context in order to reap the benefits through adopting the best practices this type of software promises to offer. This dissertation concerns the implementation of packaged software, specifically, technical and organizational aspects of its post-purchase configuration. An interpretive study aimed at investigating this process through the lens of Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) was conducted. SCOT is a sociological approach to studying development of technological artifacts. One of the main premises of SCOT is that various relevant groups influence the course of development of a technological artifact based on their varied interpretations of the artifact. SCOT lent itself well to the context of this study, in which the influence of the understanding, perceptions and expectations of various groups on the configuration process of packaged software was studied.

The empirical part of this dissertation consists of two case studies: a pilot study at a non-profit organization and a main case study at a large public organization. The pilot study was conducted in 2005 with the aim of examining SCOT in the context of IS research and refining it as a theoretical lens for this dissertation. The data collection for the main case study began in Spring 2007 by contacting a public organization that was in the process of implementing a work management software package. The researcher participated as a neutral observer in the simulation sessions conducted during the configuration of this software. In addition, during the configuration process, the researcher reviewed organizational documents related to the project and conducted semi-structured interviews with the members of the configuration team.

The findings of this dissertation exhibited that the configuration of packaged software was an interpretive process through which various features were implemented. The final implementation of each feature was the result of the interpretation and re-interpretation of various configuration options. Each process of interpretation and re-interpretation generally resulted in a dominant interpretation, the output of which took the form of a minimal, moderate, or elaborate configuration solution. For each feature, the choice of one of these solutions was influenced by the discourse forces (optimism, pessimism, and indifference) that were dominant at the time. The generalization of these findings was theoretically modeled in a mechanism for the process of configuring packaged software.

In addition, this study suggested a re-conceptualization of what constitutes an IS user. Traditionally, most IS studies have had an individualistic view of users and users are grouped based on their functional roles. The findings of this dissertation proposed treating users as social actors, the grouping of whom is based on their interpretations of the IS with which they interact. Based on such a view, grouping of users occurs after their interpretations and perceptions are sought. This is different than the prevalent approach of first grouping the users (mostly based on their functional roles) and then assigning certain beliefs and perceptions to each group.

The findings of this dissertation add to IS theory and practice. A theoretical contribution consists of adding to the literature on software configuration by providing a mechanism as well as a definition of the configuration process. In addition, this research makes a contribution to the SCOT approach in the context of its application in IS research since this theory has not been applied holistically in IS studies. It is believed that practitioners can benefit from the findings of this research by applying the configuration mechanism developed as an analytical tool to understand and manage the process of configuring packaged software.



Packaged software, Software configuration, Software implementation, Social construction of technology (SCOT), Social construction of technology (SCOT), Interpretive research, Case studies, Technological frames