The user-developer communication process: a critical case study

TitleThe user-developer communication process: a critical case study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsGallivan, MJ, Keil, M
Secondary TitleInformation Systems Journal
Accession NumberWOS:000179922600004

Although user participation in systems development is widely believed to have positive impacts on user acceptance, it does not guarantee success and there is still much that we do not know about how and why user participation sometimes delivers positive benefits, but not always. Much of the prior research on user participation assumes that user-developer communication will ensure that the resulting system will be designed to meet users' needs and will be accepted by them. The nature and quality of the communication between users and developers, however, remains an understudied aspect of user participation. In this paper, we focus on the user-developer communication process. We propose a process model that delineates four stages of communication between users and software developers, and we argue that these stages must occur for user participation to lead to effective outcomes. To illustrate our model, we apply it to analyse a 'critical case study' of a software project that failed despite high levels of user involvement. We show that when 'communication lapses' occurred in several of the user-developer communication stages, developers failed to be informed regarding the underlying reasons that users avoided the system. Based on the insights from this case study, we advise researchers and practitioners how to leverage the potential benefits of user participation, rather than take them for granted.


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