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Essay Paper on Information System Success


User involvement has always been considered an important contributor to the success of information systems, despite inconclusive evidences to support such claims. None of the studies on user involvement have paid attention to environmental context. This paper reports on a system that demonstrates how the external environment actually affects user involvement and system success. It also provide some insights for future research on user involvement.

Research Methodology

Qualitative research is necessary to generate in-depth understanding of the effect environment has on user involvement. Detailed data collection was conducted through unstructured face-to-face and telephone interviews and review of materials.

The QDM System

Quality Data Management (QDM) system was selected because it experienced significant environmental changes and counters the traditional wisdom of user involvement. It is a system developed by the IS department at MI that provides quality data documents in the form of Certificate of Analysis (COA) for chemical products to customers, in a timely manner. The system receives quality testing data from quality laboratories at production sites throughout North America electronically, stores those data centrally, compares those data to specifications on customer’s orders, and produces customer specific COAs. The COAs can be distributed to the customers via EDI, fax, mail, or can be attached to the product shipments.

QDM was a visionary system initiated by one IS manager. “We could see that our outside customers were going to require quality data transmissions on the various products that we were shipping them. We were the one that saw it coming and said we better do something and get ready for this.” The majority of potential user departments did not believe that such a system would be necessary at that time. Most reacted “We don’t need that. We’re handling it ourselves on our little PC and it’s only a couple of customers that wanted COA.” Because of this reason, no users were involved in the initial development of the system and none were willing to fund the project.

Due to the lack of user sponsor, the IS department had to develop the basic outline and infrastructure of the system based on their own knowledge about “what the EDI transactions for quality required” and on their experiences of quality documents in paper. Believing that flexibility would be required when the system is used by different user departments, one major feature of the system has been to allow users to create different COAs any way they wanted without IS interventions. “That was the main thrust of the system as it originally conceived. That was our impression of what was going to be required in the industry and I did not want to be in the position that we had to put programmers on it every time they wanted a different COA created. So we simply built it in a generative mode.”

At the stage when detailed information such as the type of data or interface were needed, the project members went to solicit information from potential users. It was through this information gathering that one department, IOX, decided to try out and fund the project. It was at this detail design and coding stage that users got involved by signing-off certain project documents. Half way through the coding for IOX, the company purchased another firm (PLS) that also required the system. The priority of the project shifted to PLS and one department within PLS actually became the first group to implement QDM. Other like IOX, OPD, and so on followed. Currently, over 70% of all potential user groups for QDM have expressed interest to implement the system and about 40% are already using QDM.


The success of QDM system clearly demonstrated the impact of the external environment on user involvement and system success. The IS department has a user oriented culture. Users are referred to as customers and all projects are customer funded. However, since the pressure from customers requiring COAs from the external environment was not strong in the beginning, no users were motivated to get involved. The IS department had to keep the project going on its own, till a user group was willing to fund it. In this case there was no user involvement in the initiation and requirement definition stages…

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