The Role of Improvisation and Politics in ISD Practice

  • Karlheinz Kautz
  • Hans-Kristian Jørgensen
  • Casper Pedersen
  • Michael Sinnet
  • Sameen Rab


The research described in this chapter investigates the role of improvisation and politics in information systems development (ISD) practice. It takes its starting point in a case study in which a large Danish software vendor is handed over an IT system from a large international software corporation. As part of an ISD project the system in question was to be ported to a new technical platform as well as documented for further development. We provide a rich description of the socio-technical interplay that takes place during the project by following human and non-human actors, and by analyzing the impact this interplay has on improvised decisions and actions in the project. Using Actor Network Theory (ANT) and a theory of improvised action, we map out translations that contribute to the development of unstable actor-networks and in many cases take part in triggering improvised actions. As it turns out, several of the improvised actions lead to further improvisations, which—once again—affect and shape the socio-technical interplay in the case study. Our work confirms that ISD projects face a lot of its challenges because they are driven by political motivation against better judgment. It verifies and extends prior research on the opportunistic and improvised nature of ISD and also sheds some light on the—problematic—role of external consultants.


Project Manager Knowledge Transfer Private Market Rich Description External Consultant 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karlheinz Kautz
    • 1
  • Hans-Kristian Jørgensen
    • 1
  • Casper Pedersen
    • 1
  • Michael Sinnet
    • 1
  • Sameen Rab
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of InformaticsCopenhagen Business SchoolDenmark

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