The History of Texaco's Corporate Information Technology Function: A General Systems Theoretical Interpretation

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We attempt to use general systems theory (GST) to understand why the resources of Texaco’s corporate information technology function consistently did not match its task during its 40-year lifetime. Our interpretation uses mechanistic, organic, and colonial systems metaphors, each with three components. The first is an analysis of a management action system made up of organizational indicators such as Texaco’s revenues, profits, employee numbers, IT budgets, and IT personnel numbers. The second is a narrative of performance versus resource needs, which shows a gap between the resources and expanding responsibilities of Texaco’s IT function. The third is a management perception system, which offers reasons why top management continually misinterpreted IT’s performance as inferior. Our results show that the mechanistic, organic, and colonial interpretations converge. In addition, our GST-based interpretations show how top management might have remedied the situation.
Additional Details
Author Jaana Porra, Rudy Hirschheim, and Michael S. Parks
Year 2005
Volume 29
Issue 4
Keywords Systems theory, mechanistic systems, organic systems, colonial systems, historical research, interpretive research, IT function success factors, IT function failure, longitudinal study, punctuated equilibrium, radical change, organizational change, organi
Page Numbers 721-746
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