Examining the concept of temporal complexity in information systems development

O'Connor, Mairead
Over the past number of decades, information systems development (ISD) has been a central topic within the information systems (IS) field. ISD operates in complex environments, where the main focus for ISD mangers is increasing speed and increasing time to market. While time is a central concept within ISD, studies which explicitly explore time are rare. Instead, time is often ignored and viewed as simple, objective, and quantifiable. Many IS and ISD researchers have called for studies which explore the socially embedded, subjective, and complex aspects of time. Based on the lack of time in ISD research and based on the numerous calls for future research within the area, this doctoral research undertakes three research studies which examines the phenomenon. In each study, the Ancona et al., (2001) temporal complexity framework is used as a theoretical lens. In Study 1, the research focuses on identifying, classifying and analysing temporal complexity in ISD literature. The systematic literature review examines the body of knowledge concerning time in ISD. It is the first literature review that explicitly focuses on time in ISD. It gives direction to researchers and practitioners by pinpointing the exact gaps in the field. Specifically, the systematic literature review contributes to ISD by discovering that there are several major gaps in the literature. Within ISD, the broad, interrelated, and complex concept of time is ignored. Instead, time is largely viewed as objective and simplistic, ignoring other types of time. The temporal characteristics associated with mapping activities to time are often neglected. Further, the actor’s relationship to time is also rarely studied in ISD. Although ISD has been a pillar for IS research for the last number of decades, ISD methodologies such as agile and lean have rarely contributed to time research. In particular, ISD have lacked in contributions to guidelines, lessons learned, and advice/implications. In Study 2, the research focuses on examining the temporal complexity that exists within ISD teams. In particular, ISD flow based teams. It is the first empirical study that explicitly focuses on time in ISD flow. Specifically, the study identifies seven challenges and four recommendations of ISD flow techniques. Practitioners can take these lessons learned and apply them to their own ISD context. The study also develops an extensive roadmap for future research to address the current dearth of solutions in existing literature. These are comprised of 14 research questions which academics can use for future research. In Study 3, the research focuses on examining the temporal complexity that exists within remote ISD workers. In particular, Covid-19 affected remote ISD workers. It is the first empirical study that explicitly focuses on time in Covid-19 affected remote ISD workers. Specifically, the study provides a set of six challenges and four recommendations for Covid-19 affected remote workers. These can be used to assist ISD professionals with temporal complexity management in remote ISD working. Overall, this doctoral research makes specific and distinguishing contributions to ISD research and practice. In terms of contributions to theory, this doctoral research puts forward three studies which show how temporal complexity can be applied to ISD. As a result, this is the first study to present and apply the Ancona et al., (2001) temporal complexity framework to ISD. This is also the first study to systematically examine time in ISD literature. This resulted in a comprehensive review of the current body of knowledge within time in ISD. Furthermore, a research roadmap is provided for future researchers. This gives future researchers direction when applying temporal complexity theory to their own IS or ISD context. In terms of practical implications, this research answered the call to study time in ISD within an empirically grounded setting. This is the first study to examine time in ISD flow. This is also the first study to examine time in Covid-19 affected remote ISD workers. This study provided ISD mangers, ISD teams and ISD individuals with a temporal complexity framework which can be applied to their ISD environment. By examining time in ISD through an empirical examination, a set of challenges and recommendations were developed. ISD practitioners can take these challenges and recommendations and apply lessons learned to their own ISD context. Through these set of lessons learned, practitioners can gain a deeper understanding for how ISD individuals and teams are influenced by and react towards time. Specifically, ISD practitioners can learn from real life, complex and turbulent ISD environments whereby ISD individuals and ISD teams view, organise, behave and perceive time.
NUI Galway
Publisher DOI
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Ireland