Pulling the Plug: The Concept, Process, and Outcomes of Organizational Information System Discontinuance

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Research units


Information systems (IS) and information technology (IT) are increasingly permeating today's organizations. However, the rapid emergence of new technologies along with organizations' changing strategic needs make retiring of incumbent systems a phenomenon with growing relevance. As old systems deteriorate or become obsolete, they need to be replaced with new ones. Then again, sometimes even current systems end up getting abandoned, due various reasons that can relate to strategy or operations, for instance. Despite the prevalence of such discontinuance decisions in many organizations, previous research has given scant attention to the topic. Whereas a handful of existing studies have shed some light on the antecedents of organizational IS discontinuance, the underlying mechanics of those decisions and the resulting outcomes remain poorly understood. The objective of this dissertation is to improve the understanding of organizational IS use discontinuance, specifically investigating the conceptual dimensions of the phenomenon, analyzing the processes of IS discontinuance, and probing its consequences. To this end, I focus on three research questions: 1) What does IS discontinuance mean?; 2) How do organizational IS discontinuance processes unfold?; and 3) What are the outcomes of organizational IS discontinuance decisions? I address these questions in four standalone research papers. Paper I synthesizes the prior literature on IS discontinuance and investigates the different meanings it has given to the term. Paper II reports on a case study of an organization where discontinuing an incumbent legacy system proved insurmountable, representing an IS change outcome of being caught in between old and new IS architectures. Paper III is a case study of an IT service provider where discontinuing an accounting automation software resulted in an organizational disruption. Finally, Paper IV discusses the outcomes of retail self-service technology discontinuance from the consumer perspective. My empirical studies are among the first attempts to untangle organizational IS discontinuance processes and to probe the consequences of discontinuance decisions. I contribute to the IS literature by conceptualizing IS discontinuance and providing an analytic framework for studying the phenomenon. Moreover, my findings shed light on several phenomena connected to IS discontinuance decisions, including the challenges with modernizing legacy environments and the effects of automation on workers' skills.


Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8256-1
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8257-8
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

    Research areas

  • IS discontinuance, IS replacement, organizational IS change, change process, process model, legacy system, automation, self-service technology

ID: 32206377