A Work Systems View of Unplanned Business Process Change: The Case of #FEESMUSTFALL at a South African University

Trevor D Joubert, Lisa F Seymour
InSITE 2019  •  2019  •  pp. 371-395
Aim/Purpose: Improving or changing business processes is one of the most important roles for Information technologies functions. Yet, most organizations struggle with planned process change and even more with unplanned change. There is little support from research as the dynamics of planned process change is understudied and unplanned process change is seldom researched.

Background: This paper describes the impact of unplanned business process change from a systems perspective. The #feesmustfall student protest movement, which began in 2015, and affected Universities throughout South Africa provides the context.

Methodology: An interpretive abductive case study at a South African university used Steven Alter’s Work System framework to describe the unplanned business process change that occurred due to the #feesmustfall student protest movement.

Contribution: Theoretically, this paper demonstrates the practical use of Alter’s work system framework to analyze unplanned business process change. Practically, it de-scribes and explains the impacts of the change which may be useful to executives or administrators responsible for operational systems within organizations.

Findings: During unplanned business process change, change management, staff training, customizable technology and strategic fluidity and focus were found to be important. Unplanned business process change results in all elements of the work systems and its environment changing, even resulting in changed products and customer behavior.

Impact on Society: If organizations are more aware of the impacts of unplanned process change they will be better equipped to control them.

Future Research: Future action research studies on unplanned business process change could suggest actions for manager’s dealing with them.
business process management, work system theory, systems thinking, un-planned change, #feesmustfall
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