Sociotechnical theories are a powerful mechanism for understanding the interplay among information technology, organizations, individuals, and the environment. The authors give a marvelous overview of many theories that contribute to our understanding of this interplay. They focus on the sociotechnical issues that affect information systems development, classifying them into four categories: organizational design and adaptation, activities related to users’ daily practices, design and requirements definition, and developing or adding functionality to information systems designs. They then use a comprehensive and widely documented longitudinal case to examine how these categories interact.
The case describes the evolutionary development of multipurpose access for customer relations and operational support (MACROS) within the Division of Municipal Affairs of the Office of the Comptroller in New York State. The case is unveiled through an adaptation of the Newman and Robey process model , in which a series of encounters and events is used to illustrate how the four categories affect the design and eventual use of the prize-winning system. An action research approach is taken throughout the systems development process. The final section of the paper presents a recursive model, reflecting the interactions among the four categories. It provides a strong visual image of the relationship between the sociotechnical viewpoint of researchers and corresponding practical perspectives. The paper provides a good introduction to sociotechnical theory, with an extensive reference list for those unfamiliar with the jargon-laden literature. In addition, the rich case study does a nice job of linking this theory to practice.