Social Control in Information Systems Development: A Negotiated Order Perspective


Control is vital for IS projects to be delivered on time and within budget. Control theory helps us better understand and explain control in information systems operations and development. However, simplistic notions about control do not correspond to how control actually works. We believe that a social perspective that sees controls as negotiated orders, and not just things imposed by controllers on controlees, better explains control of IS projects and operations. Through an interpretive case study of client—vendor control in the IS department of a large agricultural distributor, we show that: (1) control enactment involves the controller's consideration of the social and organizational context as well as the controller's intention. (2) Control enactment involves a socially constructed meaning and unintended consequences. (3) The control enactment also involves controlee intent either because of negotiation with the controller, or indirectly by way of alternative structures. Finally, (4) the control itself influences the controller and controlee in unanticipated ways. Seeing control as the result of negotiated orders between controllers and controlees contributes to control theory by suggesting that, in practice, negotiation, shaping and re-appropriation are necessary for successful control enactment.


Business and Information Technology

Keywords and Phrases

agency; control; control theory; interpretive; qualitative; structure; unanticipated consequences

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0268-3962; 1466-4437

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2018 Association for Information Technology Trust, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Sep 2018