Enhancing information systems project team performance : team member selection strategies

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

It is widely acknowledged that the information Systems (IS) industry suffers from a high failure rate with regards to IS development projects. Much of the effort to improve IS project performance has been focussed on technological issues. However, there is an increasing body of evidence that suggests that the nature of the problems facing the teams that are assigned to these projects is more sociological than technological. As the adoption and utilisation of teams becomes more prolific in the IS industry, it is becoming increasingly important to develop team composition methods that take the compatibility of team members into consideration. Many IS team member selection strategies are based primarily on the traditionally measurable skills of individuals. Yet, selecting a team in which the members have the appropriate skills does not guarantee that the individuals in the team will combine to form an effective and cohesive unit. Several team effectiveness models relating to sociological constructs have been developed in past research. These identify variables that have been predicted to influence the effectiveness of various types of teams. This research proposes a model that demonstrates the extent to which certain variables that have been identified in the literature influence the effectiveness of IS project teams. Through this assessment, it is possible to isolate the variables that have a significant impact on IS team effectiveness, thereby highlighting some of the sociological issues that should be considered when selecting team members. The relationships in the model were tested through a questionnaire that was distributed amongst 33 Information Systems project teams. Individuals in 4 of the teams submitted incomplete responses, thereby yielding a final sample of 29 teams comprising 163 individuals. Where possible, all questions were based on previously validated instruments. Initial construct validity was improved by removing 2 items from the questionnaire. Certain constructs were broken into 2 dimensions, yielding a set of constructs with reasonably high validity. All construct measures in the instrument were shown to be statistically reliable. It was found that certain variables did have a significant impact on the effectiveness of IS project teams. The predicted relationships that were supported were those between skill heterogeneity and IS team effectiveness, and between team role balance and IS team effectiveness. It was shown that individuals are more likely to combine to form an effective team if they are diverse in terms of their skills and abilities. The members should also fulfil team roles that combine to provide the team with a team role profile that is balanced. The levels of cohesion within the teams mediated the relationship between skill heterogeneity and IS team effectiveness. A strong correlation between cohesion and IS team effectiveness was demonstrated. One of the relationships in the research model that was not supported was that between background heterogeneity and IS team effectiveness. it was initially predicted that teams in which members displayed a diverse set of backgrounds, expertise, and experience would be more effective than those that did not. The diversity levels of these characteristics within IS project teams were shown to have no influence on the effectiveness of the teams. Past research in which the impact of background heterogeneity on team effectiveness has been examined has also yielded mixed results. It is recommended that future research examine this relationship more closely as an increasingly migrant global work force will ensure that this issue wilt be one of the key issues facing IS management in the future. It is also suggested that research into the area of IS team composition variables be specific to both the type of IS project being undertaken, and the lifecycle stage in which the project is operating.

Bibliography: leaves 104-109.