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STRATEGIES FOR IMPLEMENTING NEW SOFTWARE PROCESSES:

AN EVALUATION OF A CONTINGENCY FRAMEWORK

Michael J. Gailivan
Stern School of Business
New York University, New York, NY 10012

ABSTRACT
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the adoption of two
This paper explores the implementation strategies used by IS SPIS (client/server and object-oriented development) in a set
departments in adopting and diffusing new IT process of case studies, paying particular attention to the overall
innovations for software development. First, the notion of a implementation strategy and to the techniques employed to
software process imovation (SPI) is introduced, then followed reskill the firms software developers. The structure of the
by a literature review of frameworks that explain adoption and paper is as follows: the next section will review the literature
assimilation of IT process imovations, in particular, and IT, on implementation of lT in general, and SPIS, in particular.
more generally. The limitations of current frameworks
Predictions from a contingency framework recently introduced
, particularly traditionrd diffusion of imovation theory (Rogers, by Agarwal, Tanniru and Wilemon (1995) are described, and
1983) and Davis (1989) Technology Acceptance Model are then four case studies will be summarized, focusing on the
highlighted. Predictions from a contingency framework implementation strategies and approaches to reskilling that
recently introduced by Agarwal, Tamtiru and Willemon (1995) were used in these firms. The final section will evaluate the
are described, and data from four case studies are strategies used by these firms, and compare them with the
summarized, using this framework as a theoretical lens. The frameworks predictions, and offer some conclusions for
findings generally validate the framework, while demonstrating managers and researchers.
that organizations use a wide range of mechanisms to ensure
that their IS professionals have the necessary skill sets for
using these SPIS. LITERAm REVIEW
Keywordr: innovation diffusion; implementation strategy; In this section, we review relevant research on IT adoption
clientiserver computing; training; reskilling. and assimilation, noting the attributes of SPIS which
distinguish them from other types of IT imovations. An SPI
INTRODUCTION is a specific type of IT innovation one which alters the
process for developing other IT applications. Since most
The adoption of new tools and methods for sofhvare research on managing IT adoption and assimilation has been
development have been labelled software process imovations variance- rather than process-oriented (Madcus & Robey,
(SPI) to denote changes to an organizations process for 1988), we first review the variance research, followed by the
producing software applications changes in tools, process-oriented research. Variance- or factor-oriented
techniques, procedures or methodologies (Fichman & research seeks to predict the factors that will influence a
Kemerer, 1994:23). Examples of SPIS include integrated- potential adopters decision to use a particular imovation.
CASE tools (Orlikowski, 1993; Wynekoop, 1992,), structured Two dominant theories have been widely used for predicting
development methods (Leonard-Barton, 1987), CASE-based IT adoption behavior: Rogers (1983) diffusion of innovation
templates (Hofman & Roekart, 1994), and object-oriented (DOl) theory and Davis Technology Acceptance Model, or
development (Fichman & Kemerer, 1993). Nfuch of the TAM (Davis, 1989). There are many similarities between
research on implementation of SPIS has identified the these frameworks: both identify perceived attributes of an
anticipated or actual advantages for the specific innovation imovation as their independent variable, and adoption
being adopted. In a few cases, the research has identified behavior (or intention to adopt) as their dependent variable;
more general insights for managing the implementation both apply most readily to situations where the individual
process. adopter can choose whether to adopt (or use) the innovation.
, The key difference is that DOI, synthesized from hundreds of
Permissionto makedigilal/hard copiesof all or part of this malwial for prior studies on a range of innovations (Rogers, 1983),
personal or classroom use is granted wittrout fee provided that {Ihe copies identifies five perceived attributes as relevant to adoption
are not made or distributed for profit or commercialadvantage,the copy-
right notice, the title of the publication and its date appear, and notice is behavjor, while the TAM (Davis, 1989) identifies only two.
given that copyright is by permission of the ACM, Inc, To copy otherwise, Due to the many parallels between these two theories, we will
to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires specific
permission and/or fee. aggregate them for the remainder of this review under the
SIGCPR/ SIGMIS 96, Denver Colorado USA label classical diftltsion theory.
@1996 ACM ()_89791.782-t)/96/ fj4. .$3.50

313
Classical diffusion theory has repeatedly shown strong have coined numerous terms to acknowledge the existence of
explanatory power in certain types of studies which examined these mandates: managenal injhence (Leonard-Barton a
IT adoption (Davis, Bagozzi a Warshaw, 1989; Mathieson, Deschamps, 1988), subjective norms (Davis, Bagozzi &
1991; Moore A Benbasat, 1991; Adams et al., 1992; Warshaw, 1989; AJzen a Fishbein, 1980) or their converse,
Brancheau & Wetherbe, 1990). It is important to underscore voluntanness (Moore st Benbasat). Researchers have also
that most IT classical diffusion studies have focused on two recognized the multi-level process through which these
adoption scenarios: (1) where individual end users choose to Lmovations are assimilated: a two-sruge implementation
adopt (or use) a technology, such as PCs or personal process (Lucas, Ginzberg a Schultz, 1981), with separate
productivity software; (2) where the organization adopts the stages of organizational and individual adoptions primary
innovation and the perceived attributes of the innovation are and seconda~ adoption, respectively (Leonard-Barton, 1987).
captured from a single adopter or decision-maker, but
differences of opinion (or use) across potential adopters in the One solution to this dilemma is to simply incorporate these
organization are ignored. This leaves several alternative additional measures to capture the effects of managerial
adoption scenarios where classical diffusion theory has either inzuence or voluntanness (Moore & Benbasat, 1991) when
not been tested or where the results have not validated its studying individual technology adoption within organizational
predictions. These include scenarios where the adopter is an settings. Such attempts have been made by researchers with
experienced IT user rather than a novice user, where mixed results: capturing data on voluntariness has improved
individual adoption occurs within an organization rather than the explanatory power of diffusion theory in some cases
in a laboratory or college setting, or where there are large (Taylor & Todd, 1995; Agarwal & Prayesh, 1995), but not in
interdependencies and coordination requirements among other studies (Davis, Bagozzi & Warshaw, 1989; Mathieson,
potential adopters. Note that all of these attributes apply to 199 1).2 The other limitation of classical diffusion theory
the adoption of SPIS by software developers within IS even accounting for managerial influence is that it assumes
departments; it is here that classicaI diffusion theory has not that potential adopters decide to use an imovation when its
been tested or has shown weak results. benefits are communicated to them. Unfortunately, this
assumption called mgnalling (Attewell, 1992), does not
In a review of eighteen IT adoption studies published in the account for the steep learning curve for many innovations,
1980s, Fichman (1992) revealed that the utility of classical which may prohibit either initial adoption or more in-depth
diffusion theory was sensitive to the fit between ita key assimilation and diffusion into the organization. By definition,
assumptions (stated above) and the specific features of the an SPI is a complex technology: one for which potential
technology and context being studied. Most lT adoption adopters must posses relevant knowledge in order to use.
studies employing classical diffusion theory examined-adoption Steep learning curves have been demonstrated for SPIS such as
of PCs or personal productivity software (e. g., spreadsheets or CASE tools (Kemerer, 1992) and object-oriented development
e-mail), but not individual adoption and use of complex (Fichman a Kemerer, 1995). This learning needs to occur at
imovations those with high knowledge burden or the individual, the group, and otlen the organizational level
interdependencies among users. Few studies examined if the firm is to exploit the innovation to its advantage (Huber,
individual attitudes toward, and usage of imovations where the 199 1). Some researchers have argued that such organizational
initial adoption decision was made elsewhere in the learning is an asset that must be built up gradually over time
organization (usually by management). Thus, the adoption through developing appropriate infrastructure, absoipive
process assumed by classical diffusion theory is: capacity, and related knowledge (Cohen & Levinthal, 1990;
Ross, Beath & Goodhue, 1996; Fichman a Kemerer, 1995)
... the adoption of innovations by individuals making autonomous and cannot be quickly acquired along with the imovation
choices about whether to adopt personal-use innovations that do itself. Thus, classical diffision theory ignores the many
not require extensive specialized knowledge prior to adoption. changes in skills, task processes, group capabilities, and
Fichman, 1992:196 infrastructure that must occur to assimilate complex SPIS
within organizations.
Since the majority of IT adoption studies that Fichman
reviewed did not fit these conditions, he concluded that Given the poor fit between the assumptions of classical
assumptions of classical diffusion theory are not met by certain diffusion theory and SPIS, and due to the paucity of studies
IT adoption scenarios, particularly for complex SPIS. This examining individual attitudes and adaptation to SPIS within
may have accounted for the mixed results of classical diffusion organization settings, Fichman (1992:203-204) recommended
theory in predicting the results of adoption behavior. One that future research:
additional reason for these weak results is that classical
diffusion theory fails to consider the managerml mandates that employ mixed-level research designs .. . to link individual
often accompany their use by individuals in organizations. acceptance at early stages of implementation 10 organizational-
Such mandates are an important reality of orgamzational life, level outcomes at .kuer slages . . . [Moreover], researchers should
and yet one ignored by classical diffusion theory. Over the con.nder examining fewer organizations, but in greater depth
years, researchers working with variants of diffusion theory using replicated case study or ethnographic research methoak.

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This advice is consistent with recommendations that have been a two-by-two matrix is generated, identifying four possible
made for studying the implementation of other types of innovation types, and strategies to fit them. The matrix
organizational innovations (Van de Ven a Rogers, 1988). appears in Figure 1, and the implementation strategies in the
This is the goal of the present research, described below. Appendix. Three pure strategies are defined advocacy,
Before presenting the data, however, we review tMIOprocess- SUppOrt. and total comfrnent. These alternative strategies
oriented frameworks, in order to provide a suitable theoretical may be used alone, or in combination with each other.
lens for analyzing the case studies.
The ATW framework offers several contributions: first, it
Process frameworks can offer insight into how and why the integrates much of the previous literature on implementing
chosen implementation strategy may influence the innovations both IT and manufacturing process innovations (Leonard-
degree of acceptance, or suggest reasons why Ithe adoptets Barton, 1988), suggesting that the appropriate implementation
objectives may or may not be achieved ~arkus & Robey, strategy depends on four variables: (1) individual adopter
1988; Sott & Markus, 1995]. One such framework was attributes (innovafiveness); (2) the type of imovation (product
developed by Orlikowski (1993), who studied the or process imovation); (3) attributes of the innovation itself
implementation of an SPI (integrated-CASE tools) in two (preparedness, communicability, and divisibility); and (4) the
organizations. Her results emphasize the importance of complexity or extent of the proposed implementation in the
managerial intentions for adopting the SPI, the actions of key firm (implementation compl~ty).3 Second, the contingency
decision-makers during implementation, and the broader framework suggests a set of guidelines for appropriate
context in which implementation occurs, as shaping the implementation strategies, depending on the attributes listed
outcomes of implementation. Orlikowski argues that where above. On this basis, one can make a pnon predictions about
the intentions held by managers for the SPI represent a radical appropriate implementation strategies, and compare these to
departure to the firms existing software processe~s or products, actual results.
that employees may experience greater upheavzd during
implementation, compared to firms where the intentions for Given that one stated objective for this contingency framework
the SPI represent only an incremental change to the existing is a predictive one, namely that scientific research in
approach. Radical changes may lead to overt resistance and imovation should be . . . capable of predicting imovation
even rejection of the innovation by potential adopters. behavior, rather than providing post hoc explanations,
Elaborating on this framework, Gallivan, Hofman & (Agarwal et al., 1995:6; Tornatzky & Klein, 1982), we
Orlikowski (1994) showed that an SPI may represent a radical propose to examine the implementation strategies followed in
process change, and yet be implemented without upheaval or four field studies of organizations implementing SPIS, and
and resistance, if it is assimilated gradually. Such an compare them to the appropriate strategies recommended by
implementation strategy of gradual pace must, of course, be the ATW framework. Since the SPIS are a process
consistent with the technologys constraints -- it must be innovation, by definition, and are being adopted by a target
divisible (Leonard-Barton, 1988), and must also fit the population of inherently innovative adopters (in most cases),
business context: the firm must have the time nnd resources the framework recommends a phased strategy of advocacy
to sustain a gradual, long-term initiative, rather than need a first, followed by support as appropriate.4 This phased
quick fix for survival purposes (Liier et al., 1987). strategy translates to the organization (IS management)
deciding to acquire the imovation and testing it on a small
A second process framework proposed by Agarwal, Tanniru scale with a few project teams. Then, based on the outcomes
& Wllemon (1995) is grounded in similar theoretical of the pilot projects, management should provide the necessary
foundations: the distinction between the 10CUS of adoption, infrastructure to support the imovation, but allow it to
which may occur at the individual or organizational levels voluntarily diffise to other potential adopters on other project
(Fichman, 1992); the differe~ce between process and product teams or in other departments, based on positive word-of-
imovations (Zmud, 1982; Orlikowski, 1993); the concepts of mouth recommendations. In the phased advocacy I support
implementation complexity and divisibility (Leonard-Barton, strategy, there is no mandate for all potential adopters to use
1988), as well as implementation pace (Gallivan, Hofman & the innovation.
Orlikowski, 1994). The Agarwai, Tannirtr & Wilemon
contingency framework (hereatler labeled the ATW The AWT contingency framework seeks to be both descriptive
framework) takes the distinction between individual and and predictive: by first identifying a set of typical strategies
organizational 10CUSof adoption one step further, describing used by adopters (descriptive), and by subsequently,
that both adoption (initial use) and diffusion (widespread use) recommending a set of appropriate strategies (prescriptive).
within a firm may occur at different levels of the organization. Our application of the framework in this paper is restricted to
For each stage (adoption or diffusion), initiative maybe taken evaluating it as a descriptive framework. Thus, we will apply
at the individual level (through voluntary choice), or at the the frameworks predictions that firms should follow a
organizational level (through managerial mandate). Given phased advocacy/supporr strategy, and compare it with the
these two dimensions: locus oj adoption (individual, strategies actually observed among a set of organizations.
organizational) and stage of asmmilation (adoption, diffusion),

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Figure 1

Technology Adoption and Diffusion Options

DIFFUSION

INDIVIDUAL 13RGANZ4TIONAL

1 2

INDIVIDUAL

end.usar conpumq ollice auomamn


Technologies lectmologles

ADOPTION

3 4

ORGANIZATIONAL

management Morrnatlon data processing


systems tecfmologw lecnnologles

Recommended Strategies

ADOPTER CHARACTERISTICS
fJROCFSS-BA~ Inherently innovative Nol inherently Innovative
TFCHNOI OGIF~

r
Complex Advocacy/Suppori Total COmmfltment

IMPLEMENTATION
CHARACTERISTICS

1
Not complex SuppoMAdvocecy Total Commiifment

(borrowed from Agarwal, Tanniru and Wilemon, 1995)


FIELD STUDY DATA organizational structure for their IT division. Each had a set
of decentralized application development departments, with the
This section will describe the various implementation strategies local IS managers reporting to their respective business
observed in four case study firms and evaiuate the predictions managers and indirectly to the central IS manager (the CIO or
of the contingency framework, based on !these observed Vice President of IS). Each firm aiso had a smaller, corporate
strategies. Detailed analysis of the relaticmship between IS group which implements corporate systems, establishes
individual perceptions of the innovation, individual technology standards, and provides assessment of emergmg
characteristics, and the impacts of the SPIS on user outcomes technologies. Each firm had begun implementing SPI
such as employee job satisfaction and performance are beyond changes during 1993, and by 1994, each had at least one
the scope of this paper, and are addressed elsewhere (Gallivan, system development project completed, with others underwav.
1995a). Following the case studies, we compare the strategies
The Insurance Firm
used by these firma with the appropriate implementation
strategy suggested by the ATW framework, an~i conclude with InsurCo is a traditional insurance firm, operating in several
some insights for researchers and managers. market segments, with an IS division that was only moderately
innovative in the past. LAe other traditional insurance firms,
The specific innovations studied were clientiserver most systems were centralized, transaction p recessing systems,
development and object-oriented development (OOD) in three and the IS department continued to deploy and maintain
firms and one firm, respectively. Client/server development mainframe systems through the early 1990s. The few
is an innovation which shifts software development from applications running on distributed platforms implemented
mainframe hardware, character-based terminais, and prior to 1994 were contracted out to systems integrators, with
centralized processing, to distributed hardware, graphicai user no in-house client/server development. In 1994, InsurCo
interface (G1-Jl) workstations, and a division of computing established a major corporate initiative to implement
labor between multiple platforms, respectively. Due to the client/server development and to reskill its IS staff. Titled
features of the new hardware, client/server development often Reskilling 95, this was a key initiative with major finding
includes new application development tools, and can enable from the CIOS office, and was anticipated to timdamentally
new development methodologies (i.e., prototyping) to be change the skills and work processes of the entire IS division,
deployed.5 making IS more competitive in meeting business needs.
Graced with a large IS training department and resources, the
The second imovation, 00D, is an analysis and design firm had suitable manpower to offer in-house training classes
methodology, which substitutes radically different concepts for to its developers most of whom enrolled in training classes
defining data and processes during system design. The whether or not they were scheduled to participate in
principal difference with 00 development is that data and clientkerver projects.
processes are no longer distinct, but are bundled together (or
encapsulated) in discrete objects, with each object specifying Two development groups initiated client/server projects in
the data contained and actions permitted on it. 00D has 1994, chose a set of hardware and software components, and
generally been recognized as a radically different paradigm for established training objectives for their staffs. Despite having
software develop merit. c aubstantiai in-house training resources, InsurCo involved some
third party consultants to assist with the initiative. First, the
Forty-hvo interviews were conducted in the four firms, using Director of Technical Training responsible for the initiative,
a semi-structured protocol and lasting approximately 60-90 hired consultants from a Big 6 firm to guide the overall
minutes each. Most respondents were application software implementation strategy. Furthermore, the firm acquired and
developers or project managers with experience using the implemented a skills assessment database, and relied on the
imovation. Additional respondents included technicai trainers, software vendor to conduct skills assessment workshops to
IS human resource managers, and technology assessment generate data for the skills database (an assessment of
specialists responsible for implementation. IFor each field employees technicai, interpersonal, and project management
study, we summarize the industry and firm context, the IT skills, and goais for desired skill levels). individual project
organization and culture, the firms implementation strategy, teams such workshops
conducted prior to initiating
and specific approach to reskill its software developers to use client/server projects, in order to identify any skill gaps, and
the SPI. Because implementation of SPIS represents a long- to identify training plans to remedy them.
term endeavor, it is not our goal to evaiuate the success or
failure of these initiatives, as such outcomes cannot be Despite the centralized nature of the Redrilling 95 initiative,
appraised short-term. actual deployment of client/server development was
customized to the needs of each IS department. After one
The four firms were from different industries: insurance, year, severai new systems had been delivered within two
chemicals, telecommunications, and financial services. departments, and the firm was poised to diffise the innovation
Pseudonyms are used for all firms to disguise their actuai to the remaining application development groups.
identities. All firms shared a similar, distributed

317
The Chemical and Industrial Firm Implementation of the client/server initiative within ChemCo
is now tsvo years old, and IS management is evaluating how
ChemCo is a diversified industrial firm which operates m three to best diffuse the innovation to the remaining departments and
distinct industrial sectors, and structurally, it resembles the IS how to share the insights gained between the various IS
organization at InsurCo (a dedicated IS department for each departments. More central oversight is now being discussed
business division, plus a corporate IS group). Historically, as the initiative, and the client/server technology itself, become
ChemCo had been a progressive IT department: prior more mature. One IS manager who championed ciient/server
initiatives had been featured in a series of MBA case studies, and methodology changes within his department,9 was
and IS management had won recognition from Computenvorld recently appointed to a new role coordinating sotlware
for being a leading-edge IS department. ChemCo began development issues across ChemCos autonomous IS
implementing clientiserver development for specific projects departments.
within some application development groups in mid-1993, and
by early 1995, it was ready to diffuse the innovation to all IS
departments. Prior to 1995, however, there was no The Telecommunications Firm
centralized oversight for its implementation approach and, in
contrast to InsurCo, there was no singular client/server TelCo is a regional telecommunications carrier characterized
initiative or reskilling program to speak of. Instead, by both a corporate culture and IS department that are
separate IS departments began to evaluate new platforms, traditional and bureaucratic. IS employees described the IS
toolsets, and methodologies in 1993, in order to assess the function as slow to change the stereotypical techie IS
potential for these innovations to help improve their system group that erects barriers between itself and business users.
delivery capabilities. Mainframe applications are still the backbone of TelCos IS
portfolio, but IS has been compelled to deploy distributed
Implementation of client/server at ChemCo evolved in a more systems, in response to user demand. In fact, playing catch-
bottom-up fashion, although guided by management direction up is an apt description for the radical changes that have
wMin each business unit, but not across all business units. recently been initiated at TelCo. Over the past few years,
The technology standards function was also less centralized at TelCo appointed a new CIO, who implemented the present
ChemCo, compared to InsurCo. 8 Lacking an in-house lT organizational structure for IS, with application development
training department, ChemCo relied on external vendors to distributed to the various business groups. TelCo also recently
deliver training and to assist with skill transfer. Training was engaged both a premier strategy consulting firm and a systems
conducted in a just-in-time mode for a specific group of integration firms to fundamental y reengineer TelCos business
developers shortly before embarking on an application processes and its IS function. In recent years, software
development project. Beyond training, however, IS managers projects have been increasingly outsourced to systems
recognized that developers could best internalize the skill set integrators, or to contract programmers hired to supplement
through actual hands-on use. The mechanisms to ensure this TelCos internal IS resources, which were perceived by
was actual project work, combined with skills mentoring, management to be technically outdated. Moreover, senior IS
usually guided by external consultants. management regarded many of TelCos IS employees and
managers as not very imovative with IT, and believed that
The actual hardware, application toolsetsj methodology and they would have difficulty adapting to the new tools and
timing of implementing clientiserver differed across ChemCos platforms. As a result, most client/server projects have been
IS departments and, due to space constraints, only one groups outsourced to external contractors.
experience is mentioned here. This department, in developing
its first client/server system a massive transaction system In 1994, a top-down reskilling initiative was announced,
which would support business process reengineering of the however the initiative was far-removed from the day-to-day
entire division chose to partner with a systems integration concerns of developers in the distributed IS departments.
consultant, and made skills transfer from consultants to Most IS employees were simply unaware of it (Gallivan,
internal IS staff a key objective of the engagement. ChemCo 1995 b).0 The reskilling initiative notwithstanding,
even sent a handful of their most capable developers to work client/server is now gradually infiltrating some pockets of IS
on-site at the integrators office, assigning each employee team developers, who resented the preference given to external
member a unique role on the project team, along with key contractors for providing client/server solutions. Several
deliverables. This project was demanding for all involved, but developers have resolved to adopt client/server development
the hands-on experience and mentoring provided by on their own and to reskill themselves in order to have a better
consultants were perceived as enabling the team to rapidly shot at future development projects, and also to guarantee their
surmount the client/server learning curve, and to take more survival amidst the broader context of organizational upheaval
responsibility on the subsequent project. at TelCo: massive reengineering, projected IS lay-offs, and
rumors of yet increased reliance on external IS contractors for
delivering client/server solutions.

318
In contrast to ChemCo, where the term decentralized signified dramatically (while headcount in the other sites was either tlat
that IS managers each had local contrcd over their or declining); it was the only firm to use hiring as its primary
departments implementation of client/server development, HR strategy to gain new skill capabilities. In hiring, InvestCo
TelCos implementation strategy was not just decentralized, ideally sought developers who were already experienced with
but entirely laissez-faire. Decisions about what tools and 00D, or at least skilled in baseline technologies which were
platforms to adopt and how to learn them were confronted at pre-requisites to learning 00D.3 Given the shortage of
the individual programmer or project team level, with little experienced 00D developers, managers at IC/SSD had to rely
direction or guidance from local IS management. Developers on nationwide advertising and executive search firms to locate
assigned to application development project teams were trying suitable candidates, and InvestCo paid a substantial premium
to adopt new client/server approaches, yet they labored to procure them. Most recruits hailed from defense
without benefit of a set of shared technology standards or any contractors hardware vendors, rather than mainstream
or
long-term vision of the future application development business IS departments (such as financial services IS
environment for which they were reskilling themselves. departments). In hiring staff with expertise in 00D, the goal
was to be able to avoid conducting any formal training in
When developers spoke of client/server reskilling, this 00D. In fact, one manager responsible for HR strategy
signified their own hands-on learning or attending evening within IC/SSD said that:
classes at a university. Since the majority of IS staff were not
reskilling, it was the imovative minority who regarded ~ we had to do any formal training, that meant we made a
themselves as being responsible for their own reskilling. They mistake in hiring. We conscious~ set out to hire only those staff
hoped that their initiative to reskill would spare them from the who couki hit the ground running, that is, those who would not
blows of lay-offs, or would at least make them more need any training.
marketable elsewhere. More cynical respondents believed that
the firm did not intend to keep many of the staff long enough It is noteworthy that I.nvestCo also did not transfer its own
for any coordinated reskilling initiative to bear fruit, and thus experienced developers from the corporations other IS
the laissez-faire approach to implementing client/server was departments to the IC/SSD. In addition to hiring scores of
consistent with this specter of anticipated layoffs. Without experienced developers, two other facets of InvestCos strategy
knowing senior managements human resource plan, it is were encouraging the older IC/SSD staff members to reskill
impossible to know whether this observed strategy for themselves in 00D, and hiring mentors to guide the
implementing client/server development will ultimately benefit deployment of 00D techniques on the project. These mentors
either employees, the company or neither. In fact, to speak were external consultants who facilitated the application of
of the implementation strategy for client/server at TelCo may 00D principles to a specific phase of the project, guided
thus appear to be a misnomer, since there was no stated vision developers, and informally led the project. By 1995, this
or common standards to guide the implementation. massive project was underway, but encountering some
Encouraging and/or allowing IS professionals to reskill schedule delays. At the time the field study was conducted,
themselves on their own time is more bcttom-up than 00D was targeted only for the IC/SSD; InvestCo had no
ChemCos decentralized approach, but is a strategy broader plans to diffuse 00D to the other software
nonetheless. development divisions in the corporation.

DISCUSSION
The Financial Services Firm
Although one objective of the ATW contingency framework is
InvestCo is a diversified financial services firm which features to provide prescriptive advice for the strategies firms should
mutual funds management as its principal lines of business. adopt (rather than just describing what tend to do), our
The structure of IS at InvestCo is complex,1 nnd within the application of the framework is as a descriptive framework.
largest, centralized IS division exists a separate department Based on the observed field studies, it appears that
that has already adopted client/server, and now is in the organizations do appear to follow the strategies suggest by the
process of adopting 00D on a large-scale project. 12 This framework. We have not tested here the frameworks
department is here labelled InvestCo Client/server Systems prescriptive power, since we are unable to evaluate the success
Department (KYSSD), and the current development project or failure of these strategies. At the time these data were
represented its first major 00D effort. Outside of IC/SSD, collected, each implementation was still in progress and it
InvestCo had numerous other IS divisions which continued to would be premature to judge the outcomes of these firms
develop systems in traditional ways. strategies in terms of their success or failure. Thus, our
test of the contingency framework is has been to evaluate its
Among the field sites, InvestCo was unique in several ways: descriptive power, ratherthan its prescriptive power. In this
it was the only firm implementing 00D; it was the only IS light, we have compared the frameworks predictions to the
department whose headcount was increasing and growing case studies interim results and found fairly strong support.

319
A comparison between the appropriate strategies, as framework M labelled a process-oriented theory, it does not
recommended by the contingency framework and the case focus on the details of the actual processes or learning
results appears in Table 1. In contrast to the frameworks mechanisms used to remedy the skill gaps within each firm
recommendation of a phased strategy of advocacy followed by (the gap between the goal state and existing skills). Like many
support, none of the firms followed this strategy exactly. theories of innovation adoption, it assumes that formal training
However, InsurCo, ChemCo and InvestCo all pursued a pure mechanisms will serve to impart the necessary skill sets to
advocacy strategy: they acquired the client/server toolsets, adopters, yet the field studies show that formal training is not
and actively deployed them on specific project teams. 14 In used in all cases, nor is it necessarily the most effective means
each of these firms, the intention was that subsequent diffusion of reskilling.
would be decided by their management committees responsible
for sothvare development standards. The subsequent diffusion In addition to providing evidence for each firms overall
of the imovation was, thus not left to the discretion of implementation strategy, the results provoke a novel way to
individual employees and, therefore, the strategies pursued by conceptualize the boundaries of the target adopter population
InsurCo, ChemCo, and InvestCo are labelled as pure within each organization. In contrast to the assumption that
advocaqy, rather than advocacy/support. Despite this minor there is a jlxed population of potential adopters within each
difference, these three firms have essentially followed the organization whose skill sets will be raised through formal
predictions of the contingency framework, and it is still training, the case study results suggest that the adopter
possible that each may shift toward a supporf strategy at a population in each organization is a malleable commodity
later date. a set of human resources to which management may attach
new skill sets, perhaps doing so by afing new members to
TelCo did not pursue any of the strategies recommended by the organization. Firms can do this through various human
the framework. Their strategy is Iabelled laissez-faire resource strategies: hiring permanent employees, mentors,
(rather than one of the strategies in the Appendix) because contract programmers, or engaging systems integrators, and
both adoption and diffusion were occurring at the individual requiring that they transfer skill sets to the internal IS staff.
level, without any guidance or mandate from IS management. This may be just what Huber (1991) had in mind when he
Of the four case studies, TelCo was closest to the pure suppon coined the term grafting to describe this augmenting of IS staff
strategy, however, their strategy cannot be Iabelled suppon per competencies through hiring for new competencies, rather than
se, because the organization (IS management) did not authorize training for them. Thus, we may wish to conceptualize the
the adoption of client/server tools, nor did they establish a target adopter population for the innovation as a set of human
technology infrastructure to support its use. Instead, resources within permeable boundaries, and regard the process
individual developers adopted clientiserver by learning to of reskilling in order to use a new technology as shifting these
use it in training courses outside the workplace, or by human resource boundaries to include new organizational
experimenting with it at work. Their strategy is thus labelled members through a range of temporary and permanent
laissez-faire, rather than support, and this diverges additions (listed above). This notion better reflects the case
dramatically from the frameworks recommended strategy. study data showing that firms have many ways to enlarge their
skill base, beyond the traditional notion of a fixed adopter
In fact, the suggested strategy of advocacy/support from the population to whom new skill sets are conferred through
ATW framework assumed that the adopter base of IS formal training.
employees is inherently imovative, however in TelCos
case, there is evidence to the contrary (that IS employees are A second recommendation for researchers concerns the level
low in imovativeness). This would mean that the appropriate of innovativeness construct. The field study data show that we
strategy for TelCo should differ from that of in the other firms should not assume that all IS employees are, by virtue of their
a total corron&wnt, or top-down, mandated adoption of the profession inherently imovative. Such an (incorrect)
innovation. If we consider this as the appropriate strategy, assumption has some fundamental implications for
given TelCos adopter characteristics, then the observed, implementation strategy namely that support strategies are
laissez-fhire approach at TelCo diverges even more adequate for these innovative employees, while top-down
dramatically from this prediction. strategies (such as total conwnh-wnt) are necessary for other
potential adopters who are not IS employees. This
Some suggestions can be made for researchers and assumption creates an overly simplistic, and perhaps incorrect,
practitioners who study and evaluate the tradeoffs of different dichotomy between IT and non-IS employees. As the field
implementation strategies. First, we should step back from the study of TelCo shows, IS employees may be as lacking m
theoretical framework for a moment and acknowledge that innovativeness as other types of employees, perhaps more so.
what contributes to the richness of these case studies is not This insight is bolstered by the many anecdotes from many IS
simply the type of implementation strategies pursued, but also departments in the 1980s that showed that it was end users
the particular human resource strategies utilized to remedy who were more imovative in adopting desktop technologies
each organizations skill gaps, in order to raise employees (PCs), while IS professionals showed themselves to be less
skill sets to the desired level. While the ATW contingency innovative, by resisting the newer technology.

320
Table 1

Summary 4 of Implementation Strategies

for Software Process Innovations

Firm name SPI implementation Adopter Human Resource


Strategy lnnovativeness Strategies

InsurCo Cls Advoca(cy moderate widespread training


(centralized) skills assessment workshops

ChemCo c/s Advocacy high just-in-time training


(decentralized) mentoring with partner
(system integrator)

TelCo Cls Laissez-faire low hands-on and off-site training


(unique strategy) use of contractors
downsizing

lnvestCo 00D Advocacy high hiring experienced OOD staff


(cen&iilized) hire mentors

321
Our objective here goes beyond stating the obvious: that not Although this research has responded to two needs identified
all IS employees are inherently innovative, and that differences by previous researchers: (1) to develop scientific theory by
may exist across IT departments, in terms of the testing a priori predictions from a conceptual framework
imovativeness of their staff. We wish to emphasize that (Tornatzky a Klein, 1982), and (2) to focus in-depth on
innovativeness can vary among staff within a given IS implementation strategies through replicated case studies
department, as well. Although the causes of individual (Fichman, 1992), it is important to acknowledge its
innovativeness are not easily identified, they have been the limitations. First, four case studies is too small number with
focus of ongoing study by creativity researchers (Couger, which to validate or refute the framework. Second, our case
Higgins & McIntyre, 1993; Miller, Couger a IUggins, 1994; study data represents only interim results of a set of long-term
Gallivan, 1995c). Technology managers and researchers must implementation strategies. Finally, even if it were our
recognize that the appropriate implementation strategy for SPIs objective to validate the correctness of the frameworks
may need to be tailored to reflect the individual differences recommendations, our data are only descnpnve at this time,
that exist among employees within the same company and we cannot hope to critique the part of the ATW
allowing greater autonomy for some (through suppo~ framework that offers prem@tive advice, simply by providing
strategies), and greater use of managerial influence for others descriptive evidence of the strategies pursued. We have yet to
(through advocacy or total commitment strategies). apply the framework to a finaf reckoning of our case study
outcomes. Such final outcome data would be necessary to
know whether the implementation strategies pursued were
CONCLUSION
successful, and consequently, to assess the prescriptive utility
Lo summary, Table 2 shows that three of the field sites of the framework.
pursued a strategy similar to the advocacy/support strategy
recommended by the ATW contingency framework (although, The remedy for these limitations is continued research not
in these cases, it was a pure advocaq strategy; not phased only to identifi the outcomes of the present set of case studies,
advocacy followed by support). The other field site, TelCo, but also to contribute to a cumulative research base by
followed a very different approach laissez-faire than conducting additional, replicated case studies on these SPIS
what the framework would recommend as appropriate (total (client/server development and 00D), as well as on other
comrnirrnznt) for its non-innovative adopters. 1~ innovations.

Taken as a whole, the field studies underscore that the


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ENDNOTES zational] y removed from the distributed application
developments departments, which actually adopt the
1. Diffusion of Innovation theory identifies five attributes: innovation. ALSO because each organization had a complex
These include relative advantage, compatibility, complex- organizational structure for the IS organization consisting
ity, observability, and triafability (or divisibility). TAM of multiple sub-department, then the organizational span
identifies only two attributes: usefulness and ease-of-use. and scope for implementing the SPI are high, leading to
These are anatogous to relative advantage and complexity high implementation cornplexify (Leonard-Barton, 1988;
(atthough ease-of-use is the converse of complexity). Agarwat et al., 1994).

2. The variant of the TAM which incorporates the effect of 8. ChemCo had a standards function reporting to the CIO, but
managerial influence (subjective norms) on adoption has the outputs of this committee were regarded as suggestions,
alternatively been called the Theory of Reasoned Action rather than as rigid standards. Standards were thus
(TRA) or the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), Finer identified, but only loosely enforced across application
distinctions among these theories (TAM, TRA, and TPB) development groups, and consequently, different hardware
are beyond the scope of this paper, but are discussed in platforms and application development tools were deployed.
Taylor & Todd (1995). Note, however, that many of the Two application development departments chose
studies cited in this section were conducted in laboratory or PowerBuilder as their standard, while another used Visual
university settings, which may not repi Icate orgarrlzationai Basic. Most departments used SQL/Server as thew DBMS,
conditions especially in terms of managerial influence. another used UNIX.

324
9. This manager had previously introduced a different 15. For inherently innovative adopters, Agarwal, Tanniru &
configuration of cl ient/server hardware, software tools, and Wdemon recommend a phased advocacy/supporr for
development methodology into his workgroup, compared to complex, process technologies, and phased support/advo-
the department described above, but an innovation cacy for non-complex process technologies. For not
nonetheless. We noted that ChemCo consisted of three inherently innovation adopters, they recommend a total
separate business divisions, with a separate IS department commitment strategy.
for each. The key feature of the second divisions
implementation of client/server was their adoption of a new
methodology, based on rapid application development
(MD) principles. The third ChemCo division had also
adopted a different configuration of client/server hardware, APPENDIX
application development tool sets, and methodology.
Definitions of Implementation Strategies *
10. There were several apparent contradictions at Tel Co, not
the least of which was the contradiction between having a
corporate reskilling initiative with a full-time staff, yet Suppoti - The organization make resources available
where the initiative was unnoticed by most IS professional. to potential adopters to use, but permits individuals
This case study is analyzed in greater detail in Gsdlivsm, to voluntarily use the innovation in an exploratory
1995b. manner. This is a pasmve strategy, since the goal is
to allow the imovation to prove itself first, through
11. There are literafly dozens of independent 1,Sdepartments, informal experimentation and usage, and then to
each serving a specific business division. In addition, there allow the imovation to spread, through positive
is a large, centralized 1S entity, which has responsibility for word-of-mouth recommendations. Specific actions
developing huge-scale systems, and ah serves as a must be taken by the organization, which includes
consulting and service provider to the smal Ier, distributed acquiring the innovation, defining product standards,
IS departments. developing the necessary hardware and software
infrastructure, providing training, and ensuring the
12. The objective of this huge project is 10 develop an availability of technical support.
integrated customer service workstation to support
financial service representatives, who will be able to access
all customer account information and place orders for Advocacy - A strategy in which the organization
transactions on the financial markets. takes a more proactive role, compared to support. In
this strategy, the organization actively ensures that
13. These prerequisites included a knowledge c,f ciient/server the innovation becomes adopted among a subset of
development,,distributed hardware platforms, and either the the potential adopter base for example, using a
C or C++ language. Note that adopting 00D is note- small number of pilot projects. Management must
quivalent to learning to program in C + +. C)OD is, rather, guarantee that the innovation becomes adopted in one
an smtdysis and design methodology which fclllows a certain or a few work groups, and offers training and other
philosophy for designing relationships among business support activities (listed above). In addition, it
objects. In contrast, C++ is a language which facilitates ensures that necessary changes are implemented in
programming certain features, if the 00D design was job roles, coordination processes among adopters,
properly conducted in the first place, consistent with 00D departmental structure, etc, that are required to
principles. 00D and C + + are thus mutudily independent exploit the imovation. Management takes an active
but synergistic with each other. The C++ language can role in diffusing the innovation to the initial adopters,
be (incorrectly) used to implement proccdurrd system by using persuasive communication and possibly,
designs. mandating usage.

14. The definition of lnvestCos strategy is contingent upon


how the potential population for the 00D innovation is Total Commitment - This strategy is described as the
defined: if we define atl of InvestCos system development simultaneous combination of the support and
departments as potential adopters of 00D, then we can advocacy strategies. In this case, however, the
regard the current, massive project within lC/SSD as a ittnovation is adopted across.the entire target adopter
pilot project and consider their implementation strategy population, rather than in a small number of pilot
as advocacy. Alternately, one could argue that the IC/SSD groups. This strategy works best when the
department is the only potential adopter for 00D at organization is completely convinced that the
InvestCo, and therefore that in starting big (within this technology is useful, and is totally committed to do
division) that the implementation strategy being pursued is what is necessary to ensure that it is adopted.
one of a total cotrvrdtment, because InvestCo mandated
00D by atl IS developers in this department. For this
paper, we have followed the first line of reasoning,
Iabelling the strategy as advocacy. Based on Agarwal, Tanniru, & Wilemon (1995).