Shared Understanding Within Large Information Systems Projects

Short, Lawson (2016). Shared Understanding Within Large Information Systems Projects. PhD thesis The Open University.



This research responds to calls for practice-based research in the field of project management. Undertaken during the development of a sizable public information systems project, it examines the extent to which the professionals engaged in the project shared a common understanding of important matters such as its goals, structure and clients.

The literature review examines the history of project management and its methodologies, the reasons that information systems projects fail, the concept of uncertainty and shared understanding, and risk associated with the development of large scale information systems.

The fieldwork was conducted in 2010. The research adopts an interpretive position and the methodology centred on two series of structured interviews held some eight months apart. Analysis of responses found a low level of shared understanding about all matters investigated amongst the professionals developing the IS.

The overall conclusion of the research is that no evidence was found that the participants in a programme or project have a common, shared understanding of current endeavours and the future envisaged end state. Therefore any project activity that depends on a single shared understanding such as the definition of deliverables and management of the business case, may be ill-founded. Further research into the topic of shared understanding in the context of IS programmes and projects is recommended.

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