Information Systems Project Post-Mortems: Insights from an Attribution Perspective

Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (58:14), 2007, pp. 2255-2268

Posted: 21 Apr 2013

See all articles by Gary Pan

Gary Pan

Singapore Management University - School of Accountancy

Shan Pan

National University of Singapore (NUS)

Mike Newman

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School

Date Written: April 20, 2007

Abstract

Information systems (IS) project failure is a costly and common problem. This is despite advances in development tools and technologies. In this article, we argue that one reason for this is the failure of project postmortems to generate constructive “lessons learned” from previous projects. Over time, the ineffective practices would persist in the organization, rendering it resistant to change. The attribution theory literature serves as one of the few promising theoretical bases to explain why project post-mortems fail. A case study of a project post-mortem undertaken for an abandoned electronic procurement system project is discussed and analyzed. We identify five antecedent conditions of attribution error: the presence of self-appointed mindsets, the general persistence of negative beliefs, memory decay, selective recall of project events and the influence of power dynamics within the organization. We discuss the research and practical implications of these findings and suggest how the problem of attribution error may be minimized in project post-mortems.

Keywords: Information systems project post-mortem, information system failure, attribution theory, antecedent conditions of attribution error

JEL Classification: M40

Suggested Citation

Pan, Gary and Pan, Shan and Newman, Mike, Information Systems Project Post-Mortems: Insights from an Attribution Perspective (April 20, 2007). Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (58:14), 2007, pp. 2255-2268. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2254252

Gary Pan (Contact Author)

Singapore Management University - School of Accountancy ( email )

60 Stamford Road
Singapore 178900
Singapore

Shan Pan

National University of Singapore (NUS) ( email )

Bukit Timah Road 469 G
Singapore, 117591
Singapore

Mike Newman

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School ( email )

Booth Street West
Manchester, M15 6PB
United Kingdom

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