Topic negotiation in information systems action research

This paper discusses the gradual negotiation process involved in the resolution of the initiative dilemma of IS action research. This dilemma occurs when the researcher faces the decision to either take the initiative to define an opportunity for generating knowledge, and then try to find possible client organisations, or to leave this initiative to client organisations and tackle problems proposed by them. The first option may lead to the definition of a research project that does not meet the interests of client organisations, while the second may lead to a research topic beyond the researcher's area of interest or area of expertise. The dilemma is resolved through a process of negotiation. The paper proposes two models to explain this negotiation process and to resolve this dilemma: a model of the overall negotiation process, and a model of the cyclical information exchange that supports this process. These models are supported by analysis of an on-going action research study of the effects of groupware technology on business process improvement groups in organisations. The paper highlights that the researcher and target organisation may initially hold different and potentially conflicting views, but that through an effective negotiation process these can change over time, and eventually converge into an agreed research project.