Implications of Software as a Service Adoption for IT Workers’ Roles and Skill Sets from a Sociomateriality Perspective

Mbuba, Freddie Haita
Wang, William Yu Chung
Olesen, Karin
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This study broadly seeks to explain the implications of software as a service (SaaS) for information technology (IT) workers from a sociomateriality perspective. SaaS is a cloud-computing model based on IT capabilities of a utility model that enhances the scalability of computing resources at a lower cost than on-premise IT systems. Unlike the on-premise IT system, through the SaaS model, customers no longer need to purchase software licences. Instead, they can subscribe to and access software via an Internet connection. Based on these potential benefits, customers, particularly large organisations such as tertiary institutions for whom IT may not be their core functional systems, are migrating their on-premise IT systems to the SaaS model. However, this may have effects on the roles and skill sets of IT workers, as support and future developments of SaaS shifts to the SaaS service provider. Researchers have raised concerns about these implications and predicted that cloud adoption would change IT workers’ roles and diminish their jobs, leading to job losses worldwide, as IT departments within organisations lose control of IT resources. Similarly, studies report that IT workers believe by turning IT resources and support to a cloud service provider pose significant risks to their roles and skill sets. However, these anecdotal claims are not supported by substantial empirical and theoretical evidence.

Researchers have called for more studies on these implications and the associated human management issues. Previous information system studies on the changing IT workers’ skill sets related to cloud computing adoption are rather generic in that there is a scarcity of in-depth conceptual and empirical analyses to ascertain how these implications are related to SaaS adoption in particular. Therefore, the migration process of IT from on-premise to the SaaS model presents an ideal environment in which to not only understand the implications for IT workers but to contrast the features of the insights offered into how human and technology or human and material agencies interact in work practices. Sociomateriality literature claims that human and material become constitutively entangled in work practices. However, less is known about how human and material interact, and at what level these interactions happen. Therefore, this research draws empirical data from IT implementation projects related to moving on-premise IT systems to a SaaS system, to explain the implications of a SaaS system for IT workers, and employs the concepts of sociomateriality to help explain how human and technology interact in work practices.

To narrow the scope, diversity, and context of the research focus, the current study draws empirical data from four case studies of tertiary institutions in New Zealand that migrated their on-premise email systems to a SaaS system such as Google Apps for Education (GAE) or hosted Office 365 (O365). This approach addresses the main research questions posed in this thesis: why the migration of an on-premise IT system to SaaS changes the roles and skill sets requirements for IT workers; what implications there are for functions of the IT department; and how IT workers interact with these technologies from a sociomateriality perspective. In answering these questions and build an in-depth understanding, this study employs a punctuated sociotechnical information system change (PSIC) model as a tool for analysing and displaying the empirical data. In addition, the research applies the concepts of sociomateriality to provide in-depth explanations of the interactions between human and technology. An interpretive approach is adopted, with 17 participants interviewed from four case studies. The participants included IT workers and IT managers who participated in the SaaS migration process.

The findings suggest that SaaS has some effects on IT workers’ roles and skill sets, and drawing on the sociomateriality theory, the thesis elaborates and conceptualises levels of the human and technology interaction in the context of SaaS. In addition, the study provides contextual, methodological and theoretical contributions to the body of knowledge.

Cloud computing , Imbrication , IT-implications , IT-Workers , Materiality , On-premise IT , SaaS , Sociomateriality
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