MIS40640 – Managing Technology & Change: Cultural & Political Perspectives

UCD School of Business
MSc iBusiness (Innovation through ICT) Programme

MIS40640: Managing Technology & Change: Cultural & Political Perspectives

Semester 1, 2014/2015

Course Lecturer

Dr Séamas Kelly

UCD Centre for Innovation, Technology & Organisation (CITO)
Q226, UCD (Quinn) School of Business, Belfield.

Tel: 716-4728
email: seamas.kelly@ucd.ie

Office Hours

After class and by arrangement via email.

Course Readings

Course materials are listed in the bibliography at the end of this document and are available on Blackboard.

Course Objectives and Description

While there is a widespread acceptance that human, social and organisational issues typically tend to be more intractable and challenging than the technical, in the context of managing ICT-enabled organisational change (IS innovation), mainstream approaches to the management of IS are often ill-equipped to address these. This module will draw on social, organisational and political perspectives to provide managers with powerful, sophisticated and practical approaches to understanding and managing processes of IS innovation.

The course is comprised of two main components. Part I (sessions 2-5) will focus on the development of a reasonably sophisticated theoretical apparatus with which to approach the study of IS innovation. Subsequently, in Part II (sessions 6-10), we will attempt to apply these theoretical perspectives as a means of illuminating some of the practical issues involved in understanding and managing IS innovation processes[1].

This in intended to be a seminar rather than a lecture course. As is usual with an MSc programme, the primary responsibility for learning will rest with you. The philosophy behind the course is that the combination of reading, thinking, writing, discussing, and listening is highly effective for learning. Participation in well prepared and thoughtful discussions is a very powerful way of gaining an appreciation for the critical issues relating to the management of ICT, and its social and organisational implications. Consequently, the main class activity will be discussion. You are expected to come to class having read the assigned reading materials, be prepared to discuss the major issues within the readings and to debate their management implications. The quality of your learning experience will depend on the extent of your motivation, your initiative, your preparation for class, and your participation during class. My role will be to support your learning experience by providing a course structure, course materials, facilitating the discussions, and providing feedback on your work during the semester (though at times I may give mini-lectures).

Learning Outcomes

On completing this module students should be able to:

– Critically assess a range of theoretical perspectives on the relationship between ICT and social/organisational change.

– Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the use of cultural and political approaches to understanding IS and organisation, and of their associated strengths and limitations.

– Critically assess the strengths and limitations of traditional approaches to IS Strategy and Evaluation, and explain the ‘power effects’ of the associated discourses. Explain how an alternative interpretive approach might address these issues and reflect on its relative strengths and weaknesses.

– Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the problems associated with IS Design and Development. Describe prominent approaches to addressing these and their relative strengths and weaknesses.

– Demonstrate a sophisticated and critical understanding of the politics and ethics of IS innovation, of the difficulties associated with the management of ICT-enabled change, and of how these issues might be addressed in practice.

Course Dynamics and Requirements

1. The first half of each class will be devoted to a student presentation on the session theme. Each week two different groups of students will be responsible for preparing and presenting their views on the theme in question. The aim of this exercise should be to present, and provide a balanced commentary on, some of the key issues at stake. This should include, but not necessarily be limited to, a critical analysis of the readings assigned for class. Presenters should assume that all of the audience have carefully studied these readings and so should concentrate on drawing out the central themes and providing a critical commentary on them. Presentations should be 10-12 minutes in duration and presenters should keep the use of visual aids to a minimum (these should only be used for summary tables or points, or for the presentation of relevant visual media such as pictures or diagrams).

2. Students should choose the exact format of their presentations. Groups will be graded on the content, organisation, and presentation of their critical analysis.

3. The remainder of each class session will be a discussion led by myself. The agenda for this discussion will be shaped by the rest of the students in the following way.

By 10am on the day before each class (i.e. Sunday), each group must submit to me, via email[2], two thoughtful questions or comments about issues that you would like to raise as part of the class discussion.

The email message should be structured in the following way:

Hermione Granger

MIS40640 Questions


Hermione Granger, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley

Q1. ……

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley

Q2. …….


Using a format similar to “Questions & Answers,” we will use these submissions to identify issues that interested people, issues needing clarification, and interesting perspectives that are worth sharing with the broader group. Some of the questions and comments will be posed to the student panel, the rest will determine the format and content of the second half of the class. Be sure to bring a copy of your questions or comments with you.

These weekly submissions of questions and comments will be graded as part of your class contribution. The other component of class contribution is the extent and quality of your verbal contributions to class discussions.

4. Each presentation group must submit two (out of the 10 sessions between session 2 through 11[3]) two-page (1.5 spaced, 1″ margins all round) critical reflections on that week’s readings. These essays should critically analyse and discuss the key assumptions, arguments, contributions, and implications contained within and across the assigned readings. You should not focus exclusively on the issues contained within one reading, or provide a reading-by-reading synopsis. The essays should not be a simple summary of the readings and must be submitted at the beginning of class. They are intended to develop skills in critical analysis and expression, and to focus your attention on the managerial and organisational significance of the readings. They will be graded on whether they reflect thoughtful consideration of the material.

5. Each week one group will be assigned to write a short summary (minutes) of the discussions in class and their outcomes (limited to three pages). Minutes authors should focus on the main messages and take-aways of the session rather than providing a blow-by-blow account of the flow of events in class (the minutes should provide a useful revision aid for the class). This summary should be emailed to the lecturer within a week of the class. It will be graded as part of the coursework component of the course, and some of the points made in it may be taken up by lecturers in subsequent classes.

Student participation in the module should abide by the provisions of the UCD Student Code.

All deliverables, whether individual or group, must comply with UCD policies on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism.


Grades will be assigned on the following basis:

Coursework 40%

Class contribution (individual) (15%)

Class presentations (group) (10%)
2 two-page papers on the readings (group) (10%)

Minutes (group) ( 5%)

Final examination (individual grade) 60%


A framework for reading articles

The following list of questions may help you focus your reading so as to better identify the main ideas, strengths, and weaknesses of the assigned readings.

1. What are the main themes of the work?

· First, examine the introduction and conclusion of the article, and pay special attention to the author’s attempt to explain the purpose of the article.

· Note the major section headings, the main ideas and concepts in each section, and identify the connections between the main ideas.

2. What assumptions do the authors make?

· Based on your current knowledge are these assumptions reasonable, accurate, and complete?

· Is the validity of the article’s findings affected by the authors’ assumptions?

3. What sort of questions do the authors ask?

· Are the questions about possibilities or actualities?

· Are the questions interesting and, if so, to whom?

· How are the questions framed (in economic, social, or technological terms)?

4. What are the major points that you agree with? What are the major points that you disagree with? What evidence can you point to as a means of supporting your opinions? (e.g. personal experience, other material you have read)

5. Are there major issues or considerations that the author ignores?

6. Overall, are the authors’ arguments and analyses convincing to you?

· How well is the argument connected from idea to idea, and from section to section?

· Is theory used appropriately?

· Do the authors anticipate and answer important counter-arguments?

7. Are the implications that the authors draw from their empirical work appropriate, relative to the approach that was taken and the data that were gathered?

8. How does the main idea of this article relate to other articles that you’ve read, or debates that you’ve heard, or experiences that you’ve encountered?

9. Overall, what ideas do you find in the article that are worth believing and taking away?

Prescribed Readings

The following book will be used extensively in this course:

Walsham, G. (1993). Interpreting Information Systems in Organisations. Chichester, John Wiley.

The full text is available on Blackboard.

1. Introduction and overview

No readings

Part I – Understanding IS Innovation

2. Understanding IS innovation – theoretical and philosophical underpinnings

Orlikowski, W. J. and Iacono, C. S. (2000), “The truth is not out there: an enacted view of the “Digital Economy””, in Brynjolfsson, E. and Kahin, B. (Eds), Understanding the Digital Economy, MIT Press, Boston MA.

(pp 1-9)

Robey, Daniel, “Theories that explain contradiction: accounting for contradictory organizational consequences of information technology,” Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Information Systems, Amsterdam, 1995, 55-63.

3. ICT as a cultural artefact

Walsham – Chapter 2

Gallivan, M. and M. Strite (2005). “Information technology and culture: identifying fragmentary and holistic perspectives of culture.” Information and Organization 15(4): 295-338.

Robey, D. and A. Azevedo (1994). “Cultural analysis of the organizational consequences of information technology.” Accounting, Management and Information Technology 4(1): 23-37.

4. ICT and power in organisations

Fincham, R. and Rhodes, P. S. (1992), The Individual, Work and Organization: Behavioural studies for business and management, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

(Chapter 19 – Power and Organizations)

Bloomfield, B. and Coombs, R. (1992), “Information technology, control and power: the centralization and decentralization debate revisited”, Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 459-484.

5. Studying IS innovation

Walsham – Chapter 3

Walsham – Chapter 5

Coombs, R., Knights, D. and Willmott, H. C. (1992), “Culture, Control and Competition; towards a conceptual framework for the study of information technology in organizations”, Organization Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 51-72.

Part II – Managing IS Innovation

6. IS strategy and evaluation

Mintzberg, H. (1994). “The rise and fall of strategic planning.” Harvard Business Review (January-February): 107-114.

Walsham – Chapter 8

Wilson, M. and D. Howcroft (2005). “Power, politics and persuasion in IS evaluation: a focus on “relevant social groups”.” Journal of Strategic Information Systems 14(1): 17-43.

7. The IS design & development process

Curtis, B., Krasner, H. and Iscoe, N. (1988), “A field study of the software design process for large systems”, Communications of the ACM, Vol. 31, No. 11, pp. 1268-1287.

Lyytinen, Kalle and Daniel Robey, “Learning failure in information systems development,” Information Systems Journal, 9, (1999), 85-101.

8. Managing the IS design & development process

Sommerville, Ian, “Software process models,” ACM Computing Surveys, 28, 1, (1996), 269-271.

Fitzgerald, B. (1996), “Formalized systems development methodologies: a critical perspective”, Information Systems Journal, Vol. 6, pp. 3-23.

Wastell, D. G. (1996), “The fetish of technique: methodology as a social defence”, Information Systems Journal, Vol. 6, pp. 25-40.

Steve Hayes and Martin Andrews – An Introduction to Agile Methods

9. Issues in IS implementation

Walsham – Chapter 10

Grey, C. (2003), “The fetish of change”, TAMARA: Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 1-19.

10. Managing IS implementation

Orlikowski, W. J. and Hofman, J. D. (1997), “An improvisational model for change management: The case of groupware technologies”, Sloan Management Review, , No. Winter, pp. 11-21.

Brown, A. D. (1995), “Managing understandings: politics, symbolism, niche marketing and the quest for legitimacy in IT implementation”, Organization Studies, Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 951-969.


11. Review

Review of main issues

[1] Due to the October Bank Holiday there will be no class on October 27; consequently, we will only have 11 sessions in this module.

[2] Please ensure that you spell my email address correctly, as my name is spelt slightly unconventionally (see above).

[3] Excluding the session in which the student is themselves part of the class presentation group.

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