Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 34 Number 3 2017 pp. 902-932

Impediments to Information Systems Replacement: A Calculus of Discontinuance

Furneaux, Brent and Wade, Michael


Relatively little attention has been directed toward examining information system (IS) obsolescence and replacement despite the significant organizational resources invested in such systems. Current understanding is, as a result, both incomplete and relatively preliminary in nature. In particular, there is an important need for research that identifies impediments to system replacement. We therefore draw on protection motivation theory to formulate a model of IS discontinuance that explains how the replacement of obsolete systems is constrained by the risks associated with replacing these systems, the resources that have been invested in them, their complexity, and institutionalized norms that reflect dominant views concerning preferred IS solutions. Partial least squares (PLS) and covariance based structural equation modeling (SEM) of survey data obtained from 112 senior-level IS managers indicates that replacement risks contribute to decreased replacement intentions while system investments and complexity are linked to increased replacement risks. Institutional norms were also found to indirectly contribute to replacement risks through their positive influence on system investments. The proposed model of discontinuance calculus thus demonstrates the importance of managing risks, system complexity, and system investments to ensure that obsolete systems do not become a significant impediment to organizational effectiveness.

Key words and phrases: discontinuance calculus, information system discontinuance, institutional norms, IS obsolescence, IS replacement, system complexity