Information Systems
College of Business Administration
University of Missouri - St. Louis
Let's Talk Over Lunch

One day, as the Director of a large service company was going through the cafeteria's lunch line, she encountered a colleague whom she had not seen in a while. "Theresa, how are you? I haven't seen you in months it seems like!" she said. Theresa, equally pleased to be meeting up with a good friend and colleague, responded, "Hi Roberta, good to see you!" And so, as they both went down the food line they decided they would have lunch together. Recently reassigned, it turns out that the Director had previously been in the International Department for some years and Theresa, an applications project manager, had been assigned oversight to all of International's IT projects. Having found a comfortable table next to the window facing the courtyard, the Director asked Theresa what projects she was working on. Theresa, quickly responded: "Well, you know we are really making a big push to Web enable most of the systems and so it goes for International." "Yes," the director replied. "I saw this year's business plan and I noted as much. How is it going?" "We have just started," Theresa replied, "so we have a lot of work ahead of us." As the conversation weaved in and out of business and personal matters, finally Theresa said, "I totally forgot to mention! They want to resurrect GRMS!" "Really!" replied the incredulous and obviously surprised Director. "Tell me more. What has changed? I thought this was shelved for good." "Well, it seems that the advisory board has not forgotten this project and they want International to make improvements to their legacy systems," replied Theresa. As if anticipating Roberta's next question, Theresa continued. "You know the issues and they are still with us. Although, I have to admit that with Pinnacle out of the picture, we no longer have to contend with that user group." "And with Sherman out of the picture (the previous CIO) the project might have a change," thought Roberta to herself. As Theresa continued to talk, Roberta thought back to the times when the two of them made argument after argument that too many user groups, some with varied and conflicting requirements, were dooming the project to failure, and that some user groups' requirements had to be made subservient to others. It was a political issue that no longer was in play now that Pinnacle had been spun off. Perhaps, GRMS has a chance now, thought Roberta. Reconnecting with Theresa she heard her say, "…but we are still dealing with user buy in at our own operation level." "So, you are trying to beta test and getting the same results as we did a couple of years ago?" Theresa nodded her head in agreement. Both of them knew that getting the staff to use the system had been a struggle and from what Roberta was hearing from her friend, it had not changed. She felt compelled to ask, "So now that we don't have to worry about Pinnacle's requirements, what other adjustments are you making to GRMS?" Theresa replied, "The look is totally changed because it is Web enable, it is point and click and that is a good thing but people still need to go back and forth between it and the transaction system…but we do have fast-path keys that they can use." "Mmmmmm"….said Roberta reflectively while sipping on her ice tea. "And what about when the dates change? Do they still have to remember to refresh GRMS?" "Yes that has not changed," confirmed Theresa. "And what about the agents? Are they using it? As I recall, the agents really wanted more integration." "Some are supporting us but they are in the minority," replied Theresa looking somewhat discourage, "They continue to claim that this is one more system that they have to learn and use and that, in the overall scheme of things, it is not that important. You know, international business for the agents represents a small part of their overall mix of business. Therefore, they can't see how GRMS really benefits them. It seems more work than it is worth!" "Oops, look at the time! It is almost one o'clock and I have a meeting in a few minutes. Theresa, we really out to have lunch more frequently. Give me a call and let's go and have some of that Chinese food you like so much. See you, I got to run!" As Roberta walked back to her office she could not help but ponder if GRMS had any more of a chance than before. "Time will tell," she thought unconvinced.

Moral: This story is about risk. It illustrates that the success of a system can be measured by the degree the users buy into it. In this story, several themes point to the fact that there can be various sources of risk conspiring against a successful implementation. ON the one hand, political issues (i.e., the shift of power) must be resolved. In this case, there was no resolution on the first go-around and it was only resolved because one of the players dripped out of the mix, not because of any proactive action by the organization. On the other, understanding and acting on user requirements is essential. In this story, two sets of user did not perceive the system providing them any significant additional benefits, with the lack of integration to legacy systems being the major roadblock. To adopt a new system, users must appreciate the new functionalities. If real benefits and solutions to real business problems are not resolved, the system will likely not be adopted.

These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.

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