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Breaking the flow: a study of contradictions in information systems development (ISD)

Denis Dennehy (Lero∣The Irish Software Research Centre, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland)
Kieran Conboy (Lero∣The Irish Software Research Centre, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 5 August 2019

Issue publication date: 9 March 2020

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine contradictions (specifically tertiary and quaternary contradictions) that can disrupt the flow of work in contemporary systems development methods.

Design/methodology/approach

This study uses Activity theory (AT) as a theoretical lens to: examine ISD flow as an interrelated activity system; and identify contradictions. AT is pertinent in the context of this study as rather than view contradictions as a threat to prematurely abandon the use of flow tools and metrics, it shows how contradictions can act as a motor for change and continuity. This study adopts a longitudinal single case study approach including face-to-face interviews with management and software development project teams, as well as direct observations and document analysis.

Findings

This study identifies tertiary and quaternary contradictions, and highlights the influence of contradictions on flow-based systems development.

Social implications

This study provides a set of contradictions for researchers and practitioners. It shows that contradictions can be culturally or politically challenging to confront, and even when resolved, can have intended or unintended consequences.

Originality/value

This paper fulfils an identified need to study ISD flow from the perspective of interrelated activity systems and beyond its initial implementation phase.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was supported with the financial support of the Science Foundation Ireland grant 13/RC/2094 and co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund through the Southern and Eastern Regional Operational Programme to Lero – the Irish Software Research Centre (www.lero.ie).

Citation

Dennehy, D. and Conboy, K. (2020), "Breaking the flow: a study of contradictions in information systems development (ISD)", Information Technology & People, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 477-501. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-02-2018-0102

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited