The Electronic Journal of Information Systems Evaluation provides critical perspectives on topics relevant to Information Systems Evaluation, with an emphasis on the organisational and management implications
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Journal Article

Outsourced Information Systems Failures in SMEs: a Multiple Case Study  pp73-82

Jan Devos, Hendrik Van Landeghem, Dirk Deschoolmeester

© Jun 2008 Volume 11 Issue 2, Editor: Dan Remenyi, pp51 - 108

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Since the 1980s, a number of frameworks have been proposed for understanding the concept of information system (IS) failure. Two approaches to IS failures seem particularly important: the concept of Expectation Failure and the concept of Termination Failure. We argue that there is an extra dimension to the problem that is not covered by those descriptive models, which we call the Outsourced IS Failure (OISF). To explain the OISF we draw on agency theory, which views the problems that occur in outsourced environments as the results of three factors: goal differences, risk behaviour differences and information asymmetry. Although the (positivistic) agency theory has already been used to describe phenomena of failure in IT relations there is still a lack of empirical evidence. This paper brings the results of the attempts of falsification of the agency theory in situations of OISF. A positivistic case study research was conducted based on multiple cases in SMEs. The choice for qualitative research is based on the accessibility of well documented secondary data in litigation files of failed IS projects. Eight cases of IS project failures subject to litigation were selected. We conclude that the agency theory has strong prediction and explanation power for OISF. However some adjustments are needed to the agency theory. The theory seems to work in two ways, opportunistic behaviour is also observed on the side of the principal. The findings indicate that lack of trust is a prominent determinant for failure.


Keywords: IS outsourcing, SMEs, IS failures, Principal Agent theory, Organisational and Personal Trust


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Journal Issue

Volume 12 Issue 1, ECIME 2008 / Jan 2009  pp1‑118

Editor: Dan Remenyi

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Keywords: benefits realisation, clinical trials, data integrity, decision making, e-government, ERP, evaluation process, evaluation results, evaluation use, government policy, ICT adoption, information and communications technology (ICT), inter-municipal cooperation, interpretative evaluation methodology, IS evaluation, IS failures, KPI, local government, NHS, organisational and personal trust, organisational goals, outsourcing, principal agent theory, public value, skills, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), software development


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