Information Systems Success: An empirical study on the appropriate success criteria and the real value of critical success factors
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Success is a complex concept, that people have been trying to understand for some time. Extensive research has been conducted in order to improve our understanding, and thus increase our chances for achieving success. However, as projects still continue to fail, the real value of this research seems unclear. This thesis emphasizes the distinction between variables that may cause success (success factors), and variables that are part of success (success criteria). Success is not a 'black and white' concept, in that different viewpoints may produce different evaluations, due to different underlying criteria. Hence, the same IT project may be considered successful from one viewpoint, while a failure from another. In addition, the context affecting IT projects will differ from project to project, both within and between organizations. This thesis suggests that this context can not be limited to a certain set of dimensions. The difference in context produces differences to the appropriate definition of success between projects. Hence, no general ultimate list of success criteria for all projects seems to exist. This thesis therefore makes an effort to investigate whether dynamic selections of success criteria are applicable, through two qualitative case studies. However, both of the dynamic selections investigated came up short in the cases studied. Hence, the appropriate success criteria seems to remain a matter of definition, that needs to be concluded and agreed upon by each respective project team.Some research has attempted to reduce success down to lists of what they refer to as critical success factors. However, as context will differ from project to project, no ultimate list of success factors seem to exist. The lists of critical success factors are in addition unfortunately sometimes presented with an indication of a guaranteed success. One would therefore be tempted to believe that it is relatively easy to achieve success. However, this study demonstrates that the possible value of a mere list of factors seems limited, by investigating how user involvement, one of the most heavily discussed and recognized success factors, is dealt with by project teams in practice. The thesis concludes that the challenges related to user involvement goes beyond the question of whether to involve users or not, and correspondingly that listing user involvement as a critical success factor in itself has little value.