An empirical evaluation of existing IS change theories for the case of IOIS evolution

Kai Reimers, Robert B. Johnston, Stefan Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The phenomenon of inter-organizational information systems (IOIS) evolution has not yet been adequately researched and understood. We present and analyse empirical data from a case in which electronic ordering in the Australian pharmaceutical industry evolved over a 30-year period from closed to quasi-open systems. We analyse this revelatory case using a practice-theoretical framework to make visible the phenomenon of IOIS evolution. An essential characteristic of this framework is the distinction between and symmetrical treatment of material, normative and ideational structures within the practices that constitute the IOIS. Against the findings of this case study, we then evaluate two promising models of long-term IS change, namely Porra's (1999) Colonial Systems model and Lyytinen and Newman's (2008) Punctuated Socio-technical IS Change model. These models are selected as highly elaborated IS exemplars of two classes of theories of organizational change, namely evolutionary and dialectical theories. We find that these two models can only partially explain our findings. Finally, we make suggestions for developing more comprehensive theoretical models within these two classes of IS change theories. In practical terms, our paper shows that the transformation from closed to open IOIS may require adoption of longer time frames than are usually assumed and closer attention to norms and rationales usually neglected in IS projects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-399
Number of pages27
JournalEuropean Journal of Information Systems
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Colonial Systems model
  • inter-organizational information systems (IOIS)
  • long-term IS change
  • practice theory
  • Punctuated Socio-technical IS Change model
  • systems evolution

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