Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Business


Objective: To create academic insights into how organisations approach and manage the maintenance of vendor-supplied information systems software.

Approach: Three iterations of the Peircean Abduction methodology lead to the identification, conceptualisation, and application of new knowledge in vendor-supplied Information Systems (IS) maintenance deferral by means of undertaking a qualitative multiple-case study. The research goals are achieved through the appropriation and application of theories from Peircean Abduction and Systemic Functional Linguistics.

Research questions: The following abductive statement is created through the application of the Peircean Abduction methodology:

The surprising observation, “some organisations, having invested in a vendor-supplied IS software solution, defer the implementation of vendor-supplied maintenance”, is made; However, if “the existence of deterrents to maintenance, requiring a trigger event before the implementation of maintenance” were true, then “maintenance deferral” would be a matter of course. Hence there is a reason to suspect that “the existence of both deterrents, and of triggers” is true.

From this abductive statement, three research questions are deduced. The first research question investigates the existence, characteristics and influence of deterrents; the second question investigates the existence, characteristics and influence of triggers. As a consequence of this approach, the final question provides a general understanding of IS maintenance deferral.

Methodology: Following the implementation of a systematic literature review methodology, six themes are identified:

1. an acknowledgement that problems exist when considering vendor-supplied software maintenance;

2. deterrents as a driver in behaviour;

3. the occurrence of tipping-points which require vendor-supplied maintenance to be undertaken;

4. the consequences of deferral;

5. the value of maintenance; and

6. the formalisation of a maintenance lifecycle.

Taking the insights arising from the systematic literature review, a multiple-case study following the pragmatic framework is constructed from data collected interviewing twelve participants across a diverse set of ten organisations.

An abductive approach to this research topic creates opportunities for a comprehensive, well-grounded exploratory contribution to a scarcely investigated research domain.

Major findings: The translation of Peircean abduction to an interpretative context generates a rich and substantive contribution to theory and practice. The existence of both deterrents and triggers are strongly supported, leading to the conclusion that maintenance deferral is a matter of course. The development of a new abductive and Systemic Functional Linguistic model enhances the knowledge of maintenance deferral and allows refinement of historical IS maintenance models. Finally, the application of Systems Thinking situates insights from the application of their mode within their respective organisational environments.

FoR codes (2020)

3503 Business systems in context



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.