Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Information Systems


This thesis addresses the problem of how computer technologies and associated systems can be used effectively to provide information, in particular organisational performance information, to support managers in their strategic activities, with particular reference to managers in public, professional bureaucracies such as universities. The objective of the thesis is to answer the following questions: 1. What do different disciplines and bodies of knowledge cwrently say about this problem? 2. Is there a theoretical approach that can provide a holistic, contextual and dynamic understanding of this problem? 3. Can this theory be used to develop a holistic, contextual and dynamic model of the problem? 4. Can the model provide guidelines or methodologies that can be of general use to real organisations faced with this problem? The approach taken is one of a qualitative, interpretive epistemology and the theoretical basis is that of the Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) based on the work of the Russian psychologists Vygotsky (1978) and Leontiev (1981). Following a review of the literature, a study was conducted of five projects aimed at the provision of information to management at a single site. This study used the historical research methodology of Mason et al (1997). From this study a new holistic model was developed of the use of computer technologies and associated systems in providing information to support managers in their strategic activities. This model is contrasted with a model of the same problem based on the current literature. A framework, derived from the model, is presented.

The new model and framework were applied to a project concerning the creation of a prototype enterprise information system for research output performance in a university. This project, guided by the model, captured the imagination of management and is a significant improvement on previous attempts, thus verifying the validity of the model and the CHAT approach.