From promise to practice : information systems implementation : why the gap? : a study of organisational learning at the University of Natal, Durban campus, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
The following study has taken a systems approach to investigate organisational learning within the University of Natal, Durban (UND), The research used the Banner system implementation project as the case study for the investigation. In 1993, the University of Natal made a decision to purchase the Banner Student Information System. The system was implemented over an eighteen-month period resulting in the Banner system going "live" for registration of students in 1995. A decision was taken in 1997/8 to discontinue implementing upgrade packages for the Banner system, indicating a move away from the system within two to three years of implementation. This document begins with a review of current literature with regard to systems thinking, organisational learning and change management. This review serves to underpin the research methodology implemented within the research process. The research methodology, known as learning histories, is explained, and a description of the research process is provided. The core of the research process involved open-ended reflective interviews aimed at incorporating the different perspectives of the majority of stakeholders involved in the system implementation. In addition to this, an analysis was conducted on a selection of Banner-related documents. The scope of the research was limited and would best be described as a pilot study. Those interviewed included members of the university executive committee, Banner office personnel, faculty officers, deans, administrative personnel, management information personnel and the project manager for the implementation. The major findings of the research process were: 1. The decision to purchase the Banner student information system was problematic. 2. The wider system that was created to maintain Banner was complex and generated a large degree of dependency on the Banner office. 3. The Banner office was a powerful gatekeeper of information within the system whose identity was wrapped up in a product and not a function. 4. The training system implemented was flawed and did not equip key users with a global understanding of the functionality of the system. 5. The university was unclear about what information it wanted out of the system and who was to have access to this information. 6. The university used Banner almost entirely as a student administration system and management information was not well developed within the Banner system. The following areas were highlighted as important for the university with regards to organisational learning and the case study: 1. Decision support systems. 2. The role of technology within the university. 3. A systems approach to understanding the context of the university. 4. The learning systems operating within the university. 5. Managing change. The limited scope of the research presents its own problems for drawing any firm conclusions. The research process has rather highlighted new areas for research. These include: 1. The relationship between workplace procedures and new technology. 2. The role of information technology and information systems in decision support and management support. 3. Change management processes within larger project-based implementations. 4. Decision making within higher education institutions.