ICT development and deployment and supporting policies take place within a fiercely contested globalised political economy. For organisations there is a pervasiveness of change processes, often externally imposed, which are rising with these globalising effects. This not only implies that the context in which organisations are situated is continuously changing, but also that the nature of the organisation itself is subject to change (Van Tonder, 2004). However, the external influences imposed on an organisation are often heterogeneous and make the management of adapting to the external environment extremely complex.
This thesis explores such an externally imposed change on an organisation around the implementation of a contentious national policy. This entails not only dealing with the more usual dimensions of change in an organisation, but also the implications of the national debate and contentions around the national policy playing out in the local setting of the organisation. In this thesis the change explored is within a government department from a proprietary Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system to an open source ECM system. An interpretative approach was followed, using a longitudinal case study.
Two main aspects of this change process are explored. The first is the impact of the national open source policy on government departments - an externally imposed change of mission, vision and values. The second is how internally the government department changed its internal work processes and information systems to comply with that policy. These two aspects are intertwined. Alignment of the organisation mission, values and objectives, with the proposed technological innovation and change management models emerges as a necessary condition for managing change. However, what emerged as a more challenging issue was whether internal organisational changes can be aligned with contentious national policy imperatives. Three theoretical lenses are used to explore this contentious issue: the HEM model of Du Plooy’s (1998); the improvisational change management model of Orlikowski and Hofman (1997); and institutional theory as it applies to Information Systems.
The improvisational change model of Orlikowski and Hofman (1997) in combination with Du Plooy’s (1998) HEM model, was used to understand the change process unfolding in the implementation of an OS ECM system in a Government department in SA. The result of this application is some practical recommendations for government officials on future OS implementations, as well as a theoretical add-on to extend the change management model applied. The researcher found that models can increase our understanding and reveal how one can ‘cultivate’ the human environment within which technology is to be implemented. However, the process of developing an understanding of how national policy was developed and the rationale for it was also found to be important, as is developing an understanding of the rationale of this particular department for choosing to implement the OS ECM system. By adding to, or expanding on Orlikowski and Hoffman’s (1997) model to include a fourth element, indicating the external forces in the environment, such as government regulations; government policy; and the debate on global and national FOSS versus PS, highlights the need for this external alignment as well as prevents the focus on internal alignment only.
Institutional theory was consequently applied in an attempt to unpack the organisational and change management dimensions of the change model, aiming at understanding the institutional forces which legitimates or contradicts the technical/rational ideas and actions of the change. The findings were threefold. Firstly, the role played by IS as an institutional process in and of itself and the way in which this could have affected the implementation of the new OS ECM system was discussed, pointing to the possibility that the new system was not necessarily being implemented to streamline the work practices, but rather due to its institutional status of being a ‘rational myth’; something which had to be done as ‘it’s just the right thing to do.”
Secondly, OSS and PS were argued to be different ‘types’ of institutions. Using the institutional pillars it was argued that OSS and PS were driven by different institutional forces, with PS leaning towards the regulative pillar and OSS being more in line with the normative pillar. These two institutions were found to mainly differ with regard to their basis of compliance and the logic behind them. The insights offered by this argument revealed that when changing from OSS to PS, it would be very valuable to recognise that OSS and PS are two different ‘types’ of institutions, and to not only understand that the new system could therefore change the organisational processes when it is implemented, but to also acknowledge the change which will take place within the IS/IT institution itself – moving from the regulative to the normative. The change should thus be understood both within the two different IS innovations themselves, and in how these two innovations interact.
Lastly, the research in this thesis went beyond the technical/rational actions of the stakeholders, and included an in depth analysis of the institutional forces at play in the broader social context of the Government department. It explained the institutions which were at play on the international, national and organisational levels, pointing out which of these forces worked in favour of or against the technical/rational actions, and in the process contributed to the unexpected outcome of the new OS ECM implementation process.
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