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A Grassroots Model of Decision Support System Implementations by Construction Project Teams

TitleA Grassroots Model of Decision Support System Implementations by Construction Project Teams
Publication TypeTechnical Report
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHartmann, T
Date Published03/2008
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsCenter for Integrated Facility Engineering, CIFE, Construction, Decision, Decision Support Systems, Information Technology, IT Management, Simulation, Stanford University, Validation
AbstractThis thesis explains grassroots implementations of decision support systems by project teams - implementations driven by the members of a project team working at the operational level - from the perspectives of the three main stakeholders that are involved in managing the life-cycle of a decision support system: project team members, technology managers of project-based companies, and developers of decision support systems. Using ethnographic data from a large infrastructure construction project in New York City the thesis shows that the project team on this project was only able to use a decision support system efficiently when the members of the project team were driving the decision support system implementation in a grassroots process. The project team members mutually structurated the technology and their knowledge throughout the grassroots implementation. They influenced the technical reality of the decision support system while at the same time being influenced by the technical reality of the system. Existing micro-sociological theories do not sufficiently describe such grassroots processes because they do not consider special characteristics of project teams and decision support systems that influence the implementation. In particular, these models usually assume four points that do not match the specific characteristics of the implementation of decision support systems by a project team: they assume that upper management can mandate the use of the technology; they assume that organizational members are able to successfully implement the technology individually without a wide acceptance and level of integration within the organization; they assume that organizational members are granted the time to learn the technology slowly; or they assume that a fixed political structure exists that influences the implementation. Building on the findings of the case study, the thesis, therefore, deductively integrates existing work that can explain parts of grassroots processes into a coherent theoretical model. The model explains how members working at the operational level of a project team make sense about a newly introduced decision support system and decide to utilize it in their local context. In this way, the thesis applies social sense making theory to decision support systems implementations and positions the grassroots technology implementation model into organizational choice theory, organizational multi-level theory, and organizational change theory. Based on the theoretical model the thesis recommends that technology managers need to work closely together with local project teams during the implementation of decision support systems to support grassroots processes, instead of trying to push down standardized technology solutions through hierarchical structures. Additionally, the thesis proposes a project-centric research and software development methodology to inform the design of decision support systems that project teams need to implement in a grassroots fashion. The thesis suggests that technology developers use ethnographic action research to develop decision support systems that can easily be appropriated by project teams to changing project cultures. To provide validity and generality for the usefulness of the technology development methodology the thesis uses data from another set of four in-depth case studies that iteratively implemented technologies to support the decision making of project team members.
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