This study investigates the potential of actor‐network theory (ANT) for theory development on information technology project escalation, a pervasive problem in contemporary organizations. In so doing, the study aims to contribute to the current dialogue on the potential of ANT in the information systems field. While escalation theory has been used to study “runaway” IT projects, two distinct limitations suggest a potential of using ANT: First, there is a need for research that builds process theory on escalation of IT projects. Second, the role of technology as an important factor (or actor) in the shaping of escalation has not been examined. This paper examines a well‐known case study of an IT project disaster, the computerized baggage handling system at Denver International Airport, using both escalation theory and ANT. A theory‐comparative analysis then shows how each analysis contributes differently to our knowledge about dysfunctional IT projects and how the differences between the analyses mirror characteristics of the two theories. ANT is found to offer a fruitful theoretical addition to escalation research and several conceptual extensions of ANT in the context of IT project escalation are proposed: embedded actor‐networks, host actor‐networks, swift translation and Trojan actor‐networks.
Information Technology & People – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 1, 2004
Keywords: Information networks; Case studies; Technology led strategy; Management failures