The Difficulty of Studying Inter-Organisational IS Phenomena on Large Scales: Critical Reflections on a Research Journey
Electronic Markets, Vol. 20, Nos. 3-4, pp. 229-240, December 2010
19 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2010 Last revised: 31 Mar 2018
Date Written: August 6, 2010
We argue that certain theoretical commitments that underpin much existing Inter-organisational Information Systems (IOIS) research at small scales become untenable when IOIS are studied at the scale of whole industries and over time periods greater than individual implementation projects. We make this argument by a detailed analysis of the problems we encountered when applying conventional research design methods in the early stages of a five year international comparative study of IOIS in pharmaceutical supply chains in four countries. We found that the large scale of our unit required a move away from the construction of discrete variables (dependent and independent) as well as from input-output process logic, to an alternate modelling approach derived from Structuration theory and Practice theory. We illustrate the revelatory power of this new lens by applying it to two cases. The paper will be of interest to IOIS researchers because we have systematically worked out the reasons for difficulties that limit IOIS research to unit and time scales smaller that the actual phenomenon. Because we refused to limit our own research object in this way, we ventured further into these problematic areas than others.
Keywords: Inter-organisational Information Systems (IOIS), Research Design, IS Theory, Structuration Theory, Practice Theory, Pharmaceutical Industry
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