Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, No.1, 114-119
Published Online February 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciR e s .
Information Systems Development Methodologies in
Developing Higher Education
Adam Marks
Department of Business Adm inistration, Em bry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, USA
Email: Marksa@erau.ed u
Received December 12th, 2011; revised January 8th, 2012; accepted Janu ary 22nd, 2012
Studies concerned with the status of Information Systems Development Methodologies usage in many de-
veloping countries including the factors that influence and motivate their use, current trends, difficulties,
and barriers to adoption are lacking, especially within the higher education sector. This paper examines
these identified gaps in a developing country, namely the Un ited Arab Emirates. The initial findings reveal
that there is limited knowledge and understanding of the concept of ISDM in federal higher education in-
stitutions in the UAE. This is reflected in the quality of the software products being developed and re-
leased. However, the analysed data also reveals a trend whereby federal higher education institutions in
the UAE are gradually moving towards increased ISDM adoption and deployment.
Keywords: IS; ISDM; Methodology; Higher Education; UAE
Despite the arguments about the usefulness of ISDM, ISDM
are expected to be largely used in the current era more than ever
before (Avison, 2003). A review of literature shows that there is
insufficient empirical research on ISDM adoption. For instance,
(Beynon-Davies & Williams, 2003) state that there are “few
studies that were conducted in order to identify how ISDM are
selected or adapted, or how they are used.” A survey of prior
studies of ISDM adoption shows clear differences between the
number of studies of ISDM adoption that have been undertaken
in developed and third/developing countries (Wynekoop & Rus-
so, 1997). None has been conducted in the UAE or the greater
Middle East area.
The objective of this research is to investigate Information
Systems Development Methodologies (ISDM) adoption in the
federal higher education sector of a developing country, namely
the United Arab Emirates (UAE). An empirical study was con-
ducted by means of a survey, using a questionnaire and a num-
ber of face-to-face interviews with Information Systems (IS) ma-
nagers in federal higher education institutions in the UAE, to
empirically examine ISDM practices and ascertain the extent to
which there was a need for an ISDM adoption model for these
institutions. The survey was also intended to enable the testing
of hypotheses formulated at an early stage of the research pro-
gram. The Delphi method was undertaken to generate a confir-
med list of ISDM adoption variables for decision making.
Related Work
Defining ISDM is not a simple task as there is no standard
accepted definition (Husiman & Iivari, 2002; Husiman & Iivari,
2006). For instance, the British Computer Society (BCS) In-
formation System Analysis and Design Working Group defined
ISDM as “A recommended collection of philosophies, phases,
ru les, tec hnique s, tool s, docume ntation, ma nage ment, and t rainin g
for developers of information systems” (Avison & Fitzgerald,
2006). Reference (Avison & Fitzgerald, 2006) extended this
definition as follows: “A recommended means to achieve the
development, or part of the development, of information system
based on a set of rationales and an underlying philosophy that
support, justifies and makes coherent such a recommendation
for a particular context”. The recommended means usually in-
cludes the identification of phases, procedures, tasks, rules, te-
chniques, guidelines, documentation and tools. They might also
inc lude recommendations concerning the management and orga-
nization of the approach a nd the identification and trainin g of the
In terms of ISDM classifications, various classifications of
ISDM were identified in the literature such as those reported by
(Iivari & Huisman, 2001), and (Charvat, 2003). Reference (Bey-
non-Davies & Williams, 2003) identified three major types of
ISDM, including structured methodologies (e.g. SSADM), ra-
pid application development (e.g. DSDM), and Object-oriented
methodologies (e.g. RUP). Reference (Avison & Fitzgerald,
2006) introduced a more comprehensive classification of ISDM
as shown in Table 1.
ISDM adoption remains a controversial issue among many
organizations (Fitzgerald, 1998), (Avison & Fitzgerald, 2003).
On the one hand, many practitioners view ISDM as the means
for improving the quality of the information system development
process and there are significant pressures to use ISDM as a re-
quirement to obtain ISO certification or adhere to standards re-
quired by some governments. On the other hand, there are also
considerable arguments against the use of ISDM, including 1)
mismatches with organizational or Information Sy stems (IS) pro-
jects requirements; 2) ISDM vendor dependency; 3) system
development delay; 4) system development stagnation (Fitz-
gerald, 1998). A review of literature shows that while some or-
ganizations claim that they use ISDM successfully with posi-
tive results and viewthem as an essential approach to improve
the quality and to increase the productivity of the software de-
velopment process, others argue about the benefit of using these
Table 1.
Types of information systems development methodologies.
Types of ISD M Examples
Structured analysis, design, and implementation
of information systems (STRADIS).
Yourdon system method (YSM).
Jackson system devel op ment (JSD).
Blended me thodologies Structured systems analysis and design method
Informati on Engineering Method ol ogy (IEM).
Object Oriented Analysis and Design (OOA &
D ) by Coad and Yourden.
Rational Unifie d Process (RUP).
Rapid deve lopment
Dynamic System s De velopm ent Me th od (D SDM).
Extreme Programming (X P).
Web IS Development Methodology (WISDM).
Effective technical and human implementation
of computer-based systems (ETHICS).
Soft System Methodology (SSM)
Information system work and analysis of
changes (ISAC).
Process innovation (PI).
Frameworks Strategic options d evelopment and ana l ysis
Capability maturity model (CMM).
methodologies and affirm that they do not use any ISDM in
practice (Fitzgerald, 1998; Avison & Fitzgerald, 2003).
There are few studies in the literature about the use of ISDM.
In a survey conducted by (Wynekoop & Russo, 1997) regard-
ing ISDM usage studies, it was found that only 19 papers ad-
dressed the issue. The same view has been shared and reported
by (Iivari & Mansari, 1998) as well as by (Huisman, 2003). In
addition, (Huisman & Iivari, 2001) added that most of these
studies have been published during the 1980s and 1990s, and
that the vast majority of ISDM studies were undertaken to ad-
dress the experience of developed countries (Rahim & Seyal,
1998). A review of literature shows that there is insufficient em-
pirical research on ISDM adoption. A survey of prior studies of
ISDM adoption is depicted in Table 2. The table shows clear
differences between the number of studies of ISDM adoption
that have been undertaken in developed and third/developing
countries. As illustrated, none has been conducted in the UAE.
This study was conducted using four research methodologies:
su rv ey, Interviews, Delphi method, and Ca se study. Survey mode
of enquiry and interviews were employed to obtain data beyond
the physical vision of the researcher in order to provide insights
into ISDM adoption practices (112 surveys and 16 semi-structured
interviews). Delphi method was used to identify and analyze
the variables that contribute to effective evaluation and selection
of ISDM (128 participation). The research model was developed
using a combination of Delphi, and Analytic Hierarchy Process
(AHP) techniques aiming to assist IS managers to determine
which ISDM is most suitable for their organization’s IS devel-
opment. The case study therefore, was a supplementary research
Table 2.
Prior studies of I SDM adoption.
Developed country Descriptio n
Fitzgerald et al. (1999)Investigated systems development and
maintenance in the UK. 57% respondents claim
to be using ISDM.
Holt (1997) Examined sof tw are engineerin g practice in 50
UK orga nizations. About 31% of the surveyed
orga ni zations did not use any structured ISDM.
Chatzoglou and
Macaulay (1996)
Surveyed the use of ISDM in 72 IS projects in
the UK. Reported that 47% do not use any ISDM
in IS development.
Beynon-Da vies and
Williams (2003)
Examined the adoption of ISDM in two
organizations in UK. The study utilized Dynamic
Systems Development M ethod (DSDM ) t o
explain some of the key f eatures of the ISDM
adoption processes.
Venableand Lim (2002)
Surveyed c ons ulting organizations in Austr ia that
develop web in formation systems (WIS). 67%
use a type of m ethodology and a bout 10% use
WISDM to guide their WIS de velopment
Russo et al. (1996) Surveyed the use of ISDM in 92 US
organizations. 6% of the orga ni zations clai m that
they always use ISDM.
Rouse et al. (1995)
Presented a comparison of ISDM adoption
between Australian and US organizations. The
adoption rate among Australian organizations
found to be slower than that of US organizations
Iivari and Maansaari
Investigated the use of ISDM in 44 CAS E user
organizations in Fin l and. Results indicate
considerable problems in adopting the
Object-Oriented methodologies.
Fitzgerald (1998) Examined ISDM usage across organizations in
Ireland. Only 6% of the responde nt reported
using ISDM rigorously.
Developing country Description.
Huisman and Iivari
(2001; 2002a; 2002b;
2003a; 2003b; 2003c ;
Conducted a comprehen si ve analysis of ISDM
adoption and deploym ent in South Africa
involving 83 organizations, 234 developers,
and 73 IS managers.
Rahim et al. (1998)
Investigated ISDM a do p tion in publ ic and
private sectors in Brunei Darussalam. Nine
different ISDM reported to be u sed by the
surveye d organizations.
Selamat et al. (1994)
(cited from Rahim et
al., 1998)
Studied CASE tools usage and associated ISDM
in 40 Malays ian orga nizations. SSAD M reported
to be used by 8% of the surveyed or g anizations.
methodology to customize, quantify, and examine the usefulness
of the model.
The main objective of the study was to describe the informa-
tion system environment, the activities performed, and the use
of system development methodologies in IS departments in the
survey ed organizations within the federal higher ed ucation sector,
as well as to develop a suitable model for ISDM adoption using
two decisio n-making tool s: Delphi technique, and AHP. The mo-
del was designed to detect the most appropriate choice among
var ious alternative ISDM. The research sought to resolve the fol-
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 115
lowing three main research questions:
Q1. What is the current status of ISDM practices in the fed-
eral higher education sector in the UAE?
Q2. What are the critical variables and their level of impor-
tance in evaluating and selecting the most suitable ISD meth-
Q3. What is the requisite model for ISDM adoption to assist
organizations to evaluate and select the most appropriate ISD
methodology for their software development activities?
The results of the study provide three main contributions.
First, the survey stage of the study reported important informa-
tion for both the research community and to practitioners. For
the research community not much is known about the use of
ISDM in develo ping countries. Far less is known about their use
in the UAE and its federal higher education system. For practi-
tioners, this research could assist them in changing or improve-
ing their current systems development practice. One of the key
quality control requirements is to employ a formalized informa-
tion system development process (Fitzgerald, 1998; Huisman,
Secondly, on the conceptual side, the study shows how two
well-known decision-making approaches, Delphi technique, and
AHP, could be combined effectively to develop an ISDM de-
cision model. Initially, Delphi technique was suitably employed
to analyze and produce reliable variables for decision making.
AHP was subsequently employed for model development and
for detailed analyses of these variables. On the application side,
the study shows how Delphi technique and AHP could be used
to develop a requisite group mode l of ISDM adoption for a large
organization in selecting the most suitable ISDM.
Third, the models were developed as a decision support tool.
With user friendly software, decision-makers may improve their
de cision -making processes by running sensitivity analyses, apply-
in g the models base d on their ava ilable information, intuition, and
experience, visualizing their decision outcomes, and modifying
the models to other relevant issues or scenarios.
Generally, the ISDM adoption model was developed starting
from a conceptual model using data from Delphi technique and
re spondents’ perceptions, and then evolved to a user friendly mo-
del that can be put to practical use for decision-making in an or-
ganization. The case study was employed in order to customize
the generic model to fit specific case study using real information
and perceptions.
Findings, Data Analaysis, and Discussion
Current Status of ISDM Prac tices (Research Ques tion 1)
The results of the study indicate that the information systems
adopted by federal higher education institutions in the UAE are
operated in a multi-platform environment, supported by multiple
operating systems, using bot h local and wide area networks, and
supporting a variety of development and programming langua-
ges. It is worth noting that certain hardware and software plat-
forms, including PCs (computing terminals), Oracle (software),
UN IX and Wind ows (operatin g systems), and loca l area networks
based environments are the most dominant among federal higher
education UAE institutions.
In relation to the activities of IS departments in the respond-
i ng o rganizations, the findings re veal that the IS departments spend
62% of their time on system support and maintenance, 11% of
their time on I S project outsourcing, 17% on the development of
new in-house IS, and 10% on the customization and integration
of commercial packages.
In relation to ISDM usage, the data analysis reveals that 8%
of responding organizations adopted ISDM to develop their in-
formation systems. Larger IS departments are more likely to adopt
ISDM. In addition, the results of the study show that the older the
IS department, the more likely it is to adopt ISDM for IS deve-
lo pment. Furthermore, in-house methodologies are the most com-
mon ISDM in UAE higher education institutions, followed by
Oracle Development Methodology; followed by Rapid Devel-
opment Method and Information Engineering Methodology (IEM).
In relation to the decision-makers of ISDM adoption, the find-
ings of the e mpirical survey reveal that a large percentage of the
respondents indicate that the decision to adopt ISDM is un-
dertaken by IS managers.
This suggests that IS managers are the key decision makers
for ISDM adoption. In addition, the ISDM training provided by
organizations to their developers largely relies on in-house trainers
followed by external trainers, external institutes, or self-training.
Furthermore, an important finding of the empirical survey indi-
cates that the trend of ISDM adoption among the examined or-
ganizations will increase over time.
The empirical survey tested a number of variables to examine
the extent to which these variables affect ISDM adoption. Nine
variables were empirically tested including type of organization,
business activity , organization size, IS department size, age of IS
department, knowledge barrier, relative advantage, complexity,
and compatibilit y. The findings of the survey reveal that a signi-
ficant relationship is lacking between type of organization and
ISDM adoption, and between complexity and ISDM adoption.
However, the remaining seven variables were found to have
some relationshi p with ISDM adoption and the degree of the im-
pact of these variables varies from one variable to other.
Variables and Their Level of Importance (Research
Question 2 )
The overall aim of the second empirical stage was to determine
and analy ze the variables that contribute to effective ISDM adop-
tion. Judgments were solicited from a group of experts in a se-
quence of successive rounds (Dalkey, 1969). A question naire con-
taining 30 variables obtained from the literature regarding the
ISDM adoption (evaluation and selection) was sent to 370 pro-
spective pa nel members.
The potential members we re IT/IS managers. In the fir st round
of Delphi method, potential members we re asked to rate the level
of importance of each of the ISDM adoption variables, and iden-
tify more variables that they think are important for the study.
The received responses were compiled and consolidated, and a
final list of 40 variables was produced. The same procedure wa s
followed for each successive rou nd. Three rounds of Delphi sur-
veys were performed to achieve consensus. Data from the three
it era tions of the questionnaire were collected during July through
September 2009. The analyses of each of the 40 variables were
accomplished employing SPSS software. The statistical Median
(MD), Quartile One (Q1), Quartile Three (Q3), and Interquartile
Range (IQR) were employed to identify the critical ISDM adop-
ti on variable, measure level of importance of these variables, and
to assess gro up consensus about these variable s. The Delphi pro-
cess provided three important categories of information about
ISDM adoption variables including assent, consensus, and level
of importance.
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
A group rating of assent for each of the 40 ISDM adoption
variables was driven using a Likert five-value scale (0, 1, 2, 3,
4). That is, to eliminate varia bles considered not applicable or not
im portant, a median criterion of le ss than 2.0 wa s selected. All re -
maining variables with a 2.0 med ian or higher were therefore in-
cluded in the list of accepted variables (i.e., 4 = Very Important,
3 = Moderately Important, 2 = Somewhat Important). The results
obtained indicate that the median of the 40 variables included in
the Delphi research questionnaire revealed that none of the va-
ri ables fell below the criterion of 2.0. T herefore, the De lphi study
provided a confirmed group of 40 ISDM adoption variables that
can be used for ISDM evaluation and selection as shown in Ta-
ble 3.
Perceived Relative Advantage: This is the key variable that
drives an organization to adopt ISDM or any technology. Rela-
tive advantages are perceived benefits gained from ISDM usage.
In general, expected advantages from ISDM use may include bet-
ter end product, better development process, standardizing sys-
tem development process, increasing productivity and quality,
better system documentation, etc. (Rogers, 1995; Fitzgerald, 1998;
Huisman & Iivari, 2002; Avison & Fitzgerald, 2006).
ISDM Propertie s and Feat ures: This directly influences new
ISDM adoption. ISDM feature variables include: ISDM costs,
ability to customize ISDM on a project-by-project basis, simple
to understand and teach, compatibility with existing systems, te-
chniques utilized within ISDM, observability, trialability, and fle-
xibility (Rogers, 1995; Fitzgeral d, 1998; Huisman & Ii vari, 2002;
Avison & Fitzgerald, 2006).
Organizational Environment: These should be suitable for
accommodating new ISDM in order to obtain advantages from
IS DM use. Organizational issues include: sufficien t resources and
facilities, management support, developer acceptance, developer
experience, and developer skill and knowledge (Fitzgerald and
Russo, 2002; Huisman & Iivari, 2003; Avison & Fitzgerald,
Table 3.
ISDM adoption variables.
Relative Advantage
Variables ISDM Properties and
Features Variables Organizational
Environment Variables
Better en d p roduct Cost of ISDM Resources
Better devel. process Customizable Management support
Standardizing Compatibility Developer acceptance
Productivity Techniques Developer experience
Quality Rules Developer skills
Documentation Scope Customer acceptance
Speed of development Problem a nalysis Customer satis faction
Schedule a nd budget IS project management
Speed of development Communication
Maintainable Simplicity
Learning Development Model
Acceptance Observability
Requirements Trialability
Configuration control Reductionist
ISO compliance Flexibility
Reduce ris k Sup plier Suppor t
Tools support
Requisite Model of ISDM Adoption (Research
Question 3 )
The third empirical stage of this study focused on developing
a general ISDM adoption decision model based on the variables
obtained from the Delphi technique. In addition, this stage con-
centrated on adjusting and quantifying the general ISDM model
based on the sel ected organization employees’ perspective in or-
der to examine the practicality of the model. The design of the
ISDM adoption model allows decision-makers to decide which
ISDM is more appropriate for their IS department. The model
developed in this study consists of four levels. The top level
represents the goal/objective of selecting suitable ISDM in order
to adequately meet the organization requirements, needs, and
preferences. The last level is represented by the ISDM alterna-
ti ve. The second and third level s constitute the main va riables and
sub variables respectively, which affect the decision to select
the appropriate ISDM. These variables, affecting the choice of
ISDM, were determined from the literature review and subse-
qu ently evaluated and analyzed using Delphi technique. The mo-
del is simple to use and the computations can be run using avai-
lable specialized software such as “Expert Choice”.
AHP technique was employed for ISDM evaluation and se-
lection for the case study. The model development comprised
three stages: structuring the problem/objective, driving informa-
tion and values , and evaluation.
The first stage was to identify the objectives that the case
study is aiming to achieve. Then, all potential ISDM alternatives
were identified for evaluation under a set of specific variables.
The five ISDM alternatives perceived to fulfill the needs of the
IS department of the case study objective are: Dynamic Systems
Development Method (DSDM), Extreme Programming (XP),
in-house methodology, Structured System Analysis and Design
Methodology (SSADM) and Rational Unified Process (RUP).
Each of these ISDM alternatives was evaluated using the same
variables. High level variables consisted of relative advantages,
features of ISDM, and case study environments. Each high level
variable was sub-divided into low level variables, including spe-
cific issues detailed from the main variables.
During the second stage, respondents were asked to weigh the
level of importance (i.e. a pair-wise comparis on judgm ent) of each
criterion and then score all the alternatives against the specified
The last stage evaluated the alternatives and conducted sensi-
tivity analysis using the ExpertChoice software. Results from the
AHP analysis revealed that the preferred ISDM was in-house
methodology and the second alternative was RUP.
In effect, the proposed model of ISDM adoption helps deci-
sion-makers to increase their level of understanding and solving
of problems, compares the rational results with their intuition,
detects possible relevant reasons behind objective results, and
allows them to improve their decision-making by adjusting wei-
ghting and scoring, and conducting sensitivity analyses.
This research “ISDM Adoption within the Context of a De-
veloping Country” combines three study areas of information
systems: information system development methodologies adop-
tion, Delphi technique, and Analytical Hierarchy Process. The
study was conducted using four research methodologies: survey
research, Interviews, Delphi method and a case study in large
federal higher education institutions in the UAE. The data were
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 117
collected from three empirical stages using three data collection
methods (i.e. questionnaires, interviews, and documents).
ISDM are perceived to play a critical role in information sys-
tem development processes. However, the findings of this study
indicate that a very small percentage of the examined IS units
utilize ISDM for their IS development activities, which means
that federal higher education institutions in the UAE have a
long way to go before achieving standardization of information
system development proce sses. The study has raised the impor-
tance of studying the practice of ISDM in a developing country
and within the federal higher education sector in specific. It is
clear that even though a wide range of published ISDM are cited
in the IS literature, their adoption is quite low within the federal
hi gher education sector in t he UAE. This study further f ound that
the adoption of ISDM is related with the nature of business ac-
tivities. For example, IS units supporting students’ registration-
sused a somewhat more structured ISDM approach than IS units
supporting Purchasing and Procurement.
Furthermore, a clear difference in ISDM adoption was noti-
ce d between different size IS departments. Such a difference was
also noted between mature and novice organizations. Older uni-
versities seemed to adopt a more structured ISDM than newer
ones. Interestingly, most of the factors believed to be a reason
for not using ISDM coul d not be supported by the survey resu lts.
However, lack of understanding and lack of appropriate know-
ledge of ISDM concepts and principles and their implications is
a significant barrier to adoption; successful adoption exists only
if those concerned have a full understanding of the ISDM. Sur-
prisingly, the majority of respondents disagreed with the state-
ment that ISDM are too complex or hard to use. This could be
explained due to the fact that most of the surveyed IS units are
not using ISDM. Thus, they might not have a clear picture of its
complexity. It is, however, expected that the growth of popular
ISDM is likely to increase with time.
The proposed model of ISDM adoption based on Delphi te-
chnique and AHP analysis demonstrated an easy procedure to
select the best alternatives from various conflicting variables.
Using the AHP tool supported by “ExpertChoice” software may
help IS practitioners evaluate ISDM alternatives more efficient-
ly and effectively, compared to the traditional method.
First, AHP is a suitable tool for ISDM evaluation. Second,
AHP software applications are inexpensive and available in the
market. Third, the software applications are easy to learn and use
within a short time. Fourth, outcomes from an AHP analysis can
be compared with the intuition or experience of decision-makers
and provide insi ght into differences. Fifth, AHP allows decis ion -
makers to conduct sensitivity analysis to test for different sce-
na rios and conditions of problems. Sixth, the pr oposed model mi-
tigates conflicts and promotes consensus of group decision-ma-
king by identifying reasons of outcomes. Finally, an AHP ana-
lysis is applicable to other issues in regard to choice selection
or alternative evaluations.
This study has examined a systematic way of assessing al-
ternatives of ISDM, which is a complex and controversial issue.
It has endorsed the idea that good decision-making should focus
on objectives and not on alternatives. It has drawn attention to
the use of the Delphi technique and Analytic Hierarchy Process
(AHP) in evaluating ISDM alternatives in a complex decision-
ma king process. The purpose of the ISDM adoption decision mo-
del was to find a better way to assess ISDM alternatives. Both
Delphi technique and AHP have never been used before to eva-
luate ISDM in order to select the appropriate ISD methodology
for organizations. The contribution of this study is not to do just
anything that has never been done before, but something that is
important and better. In this case, it is to apply suitable techni-
ques that are more effective and can produce better results.
Future Research
The knowledge gained from conducting the research relating
to ISDM adoption, Delphi technique, and AHP technique areas
can be further developed and expanded to deal with many
prospects. This research intended to investigate ISDM adoption
based on the views of senior IS managers who were in charge
of IT/IS departments within the surveyed organizations. There-
fore, the investigation was limited to the UAE and the exam-
ined federal higher education sectorin terms of ISDM use, te-
chniques, IS environment, trend of ISDM adoption, barrier, etc.
The study did not make an effort to investigate the ISDM prac-
tices from the IS developer point of view. Accordingly, future
studies should focus on the views of those individual IS devel-
opers who work in information system development projects.
Their opinions could differ considerably from that of their sen-
ior IS managers. Future studies on ISDM practices within the
context of developing countries are highly recommended to
manifest the status of ISDM practices in these countries.
In terms of Decision Making, the proposed model using Del-
phi technique and AHP technique is suitable for evaluation and
selection. However, the best selection does not always guaran-
tee successful deployment or implementation, nor ensure a good
return on investment. Therefore, this research can be expanded
by using other decision-making techniques such as System dy-
namics (SD). Research combining the three areas of Delphi te-
chnique, AHP and SD is a fruitful area t o be developed.
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