Examines sources of control over information system development decisions. Although past research has examined sources of internal organizational control that were solely determined by technical/rational goals, this article analyzes the symbolic role of social institutions in exerting control over system development decisions. Three regulatory mechanisms, developed by institutional theorists, are used to explain how specific social institutions exert their control. The mechanisms of coercive isomorphism, mimetic isomorphism and normative isomorphism help illustrate the types of social forces that enhance similarity of systems across organizations. Three conditions also are identified which moderate these effects: dependence on external institutions having control over an organization’s resources; unclear performance standards for system development; and interaction patterns during development. These conditions imply that social control would differ greatly according to whether the major influences on the process of system development arise from within the organization or are imposed from external institutions. The examination of symbolic/institutional forces in system development is useful in both the evaluation of system effectiveness and the assessment of the “appropriateness” of managerial interventions in the process. Future research should empirically examine these manifestations of social control and their influence on system development decisions.
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