The role of dissonant relational multiplexity in information system implementation failures: Insights from a grounded theory approach

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2024
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In this study we investigate information system (IS) failures by leveraging a novel construct—dissonant relational multiplexity (RM)—to develop a unique perspective of these failures. Dissonant RM exists when two organizational stakeholders have multiple types of relationships that are in conflict. To investigate the salience of dissonant RM in IS failures, we use a case study combined with the analysis procedures of the grounded theory methodology (GTM) to examine a major failure in enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation. Our analysis and theorization highlight that RM became increasingly dissonant in the relationships between key organizational stakeholders because of a shift in technological frames, which represent cognitive perceptions about technology. Further, a key insight from our findings is that the move to dissonant RM occurred through a process that we term relational unbalancing. In addition, we also find evidence of an opposing relational balancing process that was used by stakeholders to address dissonant RM. Such stakeholder efforts were often undermined by inherent constraints in the implemented technology. The relational balancing efforts were not productive, and the dissonant RM continued to exist, ultimately contributing to the failure of the ERP implementation. Our study shows that IS failures are characterized by elements of both determinism and indeterminism, are undoubtedly sociotechnical in nature, and are shaped by technological constraints and stakeholder perceptions of those constraints. From a practical standpoint, our study highlights the importance of managing multiplex stakeholder relationships in an IS implementation process, especially when the multiplexity is shaped by the technology.

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