CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
This study is conducted within the context where South Africa’s adoption of a FOSS policy in the public sector in 2003 has not resulted in significant levels of FOSS usage in government. According to Mtsweni and Bierman (2008), levels of adoption in South Africa remain lower than those in countries that adopted such policies later than South Africa. Webb (2010) claims that, although more than half of all South African Government departments have FOSS implementation plans, only about 25% use FOSS web servers, about 40% use FOSS in some form at the back end and only 12% use some form of FOSS on the desktop.
The absence of documented cases of successful FOSS adoption, coupled with the absence of a strategic management framework for FOSS migration could explain this low level of adoption. Managers in the public sector do not know how to go about migrating to FOSS. This chapter presents a research methodology that was used to develop a strategic management framework for IT migration to FOSS in the South African public sector.
The main research question that guided the research methodology is: How can a framework be developed to help manage the migration to FOSS to ensure less impact on the strategic plan? The sub-questions are: (1) Which factors are important in ensuring that government departments in South Africa succeed in IT migration to FOSS? (2) How do the factors that are important in ensuring that South African Government departments succeed in IT migration to FOSS interact with one another? (3) How do the factors that are important in ensuring successful IT migration by SA Government departments contribute to such success? (4) How will the framework be compiled to ensure that the migration can be successful?
The next two sections present the importance and significance of the study respectively. This is followed by a discussion of the nature of research methodology. A discussion of the research methodology used for this study then follows. The grounded theory research method is then presented in some detail, followed by a discussion of a philosophical stance informing this study. Issues of bias in research and how it was dealt with in this study are then discussed. The chapter ends with a summary and conclusions.
Significance of the Study
A strategic management framework for Information Technology migration to FOSS will assist the Government of South Africa with the better implementation of its FOSS policy. The framework will provide guidance to public sector managers regarding how the process of migrating can best be managed.
By helping to accelerate the introduction of FOSS in South Africa, such a framework may make a contribution towards ensuring that South African society takes advantage of the value that open source software can deliver. This includes its contribution to the attainment of South Africa’s developmental goals, including improving the efficiency and reach of government service delivery; improving national competitiveness; supporting local innovation and investment; broadening BEE participation in the economy; and building a better world.
The study may also further extend knowledge in the field of strategic management by extending the scope of frameworks to cover Information Technology innovation to FOSS. The framework can then be verified from different perspectives by researchers in the field.
The Nature of a Methodology
A scientific methodology should form the basis of any academic research project, which claims to add something of value to the body of knowledge. Chadwick et al. (1984) cited by Lubbe (1994) describe scientific methodology as a systematic observation of nature. These authors define method as a way of assessing the validity of ideas about reality and existence through systematic study and observation, together with the recording of observations and how these were obtained so that the resulting factors may be checked and modified by others.
Remenyi, Pather and Klopper (2011) state that science is just one human way of looking at the world of reality. This way of thinking suggests that science interprets and it is not neutral. However, scientific theories are open to endless revision and current scientific ideas are nothing more than human work in progress. Remenyi et al. (2011) further state that scientific methodology is a system of explicit rules and procedures upon which claims of knowledge as a result of the research are evaluated.
Scientific understanding proceeds by way of constructing and analysing models of the segments or aspects of reality under study. The purpose of these models is not to give a mirror image of reality, nor to include all its elements in their exact sizes and proportions, but rather to single out and make available for intensive investigation those elements, which are decisive (Baran and Sweezy, 1970).
A methodology may serve as a set of rules for reasoning whereby evaluation of facts can be used to draw inferences. Haug (1996) noted that the field of evaluation is not static. Remenyi (1990) observes that the use of a methodology infers some competence in logical reasoning. The researcher might be able to establish or verify some theories and must be validated by some form of empirical evidence. The primary benefits of a scientific methodology are therefore noted below.
It facilitates communication between scientists allowing them to share experiences. It also makes replication of the research easier. Replication of research is always necessary to safeguard against unintentional errors as well as deception or fraud.
It ensures that an acceptable logical structure is being used. Scientific research requires both empirical observation and valid logical reasoning. The methodology is an articulation of valid logical reasoning. The rules of classification, definition, deduction, and indirect sampling, if used, must be articulated in the methodology.
It institutionalises conceptual frameworks for communication, rules of reasoning, procedures and methods for observance and verification. Methodology demands conformity. However, care must be taken that methodology does not hinder new discoveries and, by implication, scientific progress (Nachmias and Nachmias, 1992).
Methodology is an issue facing the social scientist in conducting research in that it provides a basis on which the researcher may assert the validity of his/her findings. Scientific knowledge, according to Remenyi (1990), is knowledge provable by both reason and observation and methodology must address both issues in terms of logic validity and empirical verification. These two criteria are translated into a research process.
Research Methodology for this Study
The following sections present the research methodology selected for this study. A detailed outline of the approaches selected is also included. The presentation follows the sequence of the phases of the research exercise including sampling, data collection, data analysis and report writing.
The method that was used to develop this framework is a case study method combined with grounded theory. Grounded theory is selected because it has been identified as an appropriate tool for theory development (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). Grounded theory is consistent with the organic perspective because it allows for the emergence of a framework from data.
Grounded theory is described as a general methodology for developing frameworks that are grounded in data systematically gathered and analysed. The framework evolves during actual research, and it does this through continuous interplay between analysis and data collection (Strauss and Corbin, 1997; Glaser and Strauss, 1967).
Bakir and Bakir (2006) state that grounded theory is often used where a totally fresh approach to the existing theory or framework is warranted because existing theories or frameworks do not adequately explain a phenomenon (as is the case with the dominant rational strategy discourse and its critiques) or when existing frameworks or theory on the phenomenon being studied is minimal. Grounded theory is recognized as one of the strategies of inquiry or traditions that could be used to design qualitative research (Creswell, 1998). The approach for grounded theory used by Glaser and Strauss (1967) are still applicable and have been applied in recent studies (Mouton, 2009; De Vos, Strydom, Fouche and Delport, 2009). The following sections give a brief outline of the case study approach and grounded theory.
Case studies as research strategies
The approach of the case study methodology to gathering data with which to develop grounded theory was selected for several reasons. This will become clear from the description below of the methodology of the case study.
The term case study refers to two entirely different issues. As a teaching-learning device, it is a highly effective end well-established technique for use in the classroom to simulate real life situations. The way to handle case studies is similar to the way business issues are mostly handled. The classroom and the syndicate groups provide the simulated business meetings in which the participant can learn both the skills of listening and presenting a point of view. The environment in which the case study is used helps participants to develop a degree of confidence in their judgment, as well as a degree of humility (Edge and Coleman, 1986).
Definition of a case study as a research methodology
A case study as a research strategy is a technique that is preferred when who, why and how questions are posed, when the investigator has little control over events and when the focus is on contemporary phenomena within some real life context (Yin, 2003). The use of multiple evidences in case studies allows the researcher to provide a convincing argument as an answer to the questions. A case study allows the investigator to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real life events such as organisational and managerial processes.
It is not essential to the validity of the case study research method that a case study should be able to be generalised. According to Yin (2003), case studies, like experiments, are generalisable to theoretical propositions and not to populations or universes. Scientific facts are rarely based on single experiments. They are usually based on multiple sets of experiments that have replicated the same phenomenon under different conditions. The same approach applies in the case of multiple case studies. In this case, the case study, like the experiment, does not represent a sample and in doing a case study, the goal is to expand and generalise theories and not to enumerate frequencies.
In this research generalisation is not a central issue. The relevance of a case study is more important than its generality. When a case study is carried out both systematically and critically, and aimed at the improvement of understanding; then it is relevant, and if any publication of its findings extends or expands the boundaries of existing knowledge of the subject area, then it is a valid form of research. As the case study methodology can produce excellent results in the hands of a skilled investigator, its use is on the increase in most areas of the social sciences.
Stake (1994) identifies three types of studies using the case study method. In the first, he identifies intrinsic case studies in which the study is undertaken because the researcher wants a better understanding of the particular case. Using the instrumental case study as the second example, a particular instance is examined to provide insight into an issue or refinement of theory. In the third example he used the term collective case study. In these, researchers may jointly study a number of case studies in order to inquire into the phenomenon, population, or general condition. The importance of it is that case studies are frequently discussed and analysed, and subsequently courses of action are agreed upon in large and small groups.
From a research strategy point of view, the case study methodology is a way of establishing valid and reliable information or research findings which add to the accumulated knowledge of the processes by which businesses and many other organisations function. It is a research strategy for the social scientist in the same sense as experiments are a research strategy for the natural scientist.
According to Bell (1987), the case study methodology has also been described as an umbrella term for a group of research methods which have in common the decision to focus an inquiry around a specific instance or event. The philosophy behind the case study is that sometimes just by looking carefully at a practical, real life instance, a full picture can be obtained of the actual interaction of variables or events. The case study allows the investigator to concentrate on specific instances in an attempt to identify interactive processes that may be crucial but which are transparent to the large-scale survey. Thus, the aim of the case study is to provide a three dimensional picture of the situation. It should illustrate relationships, corporate political issues and patterns of influence within a particular context.
Case studies are being used to a larger extent by social science as both a research and a teaching vehicle (Lee, 1989). The scope of the case study is extensive, ranging from individuals, to organisational groups, and also to national policies or events. Cases are compared and their characteristics are studied and behaviour patterns noted. It is important to bear in mind that, despite their apparent clarity, most cases are aggregates of complex behaviour (Stake, 1994). From a research point of view, the case study methodology describes the total situation as a combination of different factors. The case study may focus on the description of the process or sequence of events in which the behaviour occurs, the study of individual or group behaviour in its total social setting, and the comparison of cases leading to the formulation or confirmation of hypotheses as claimed by Stake (1994).
By means of the case study method it is possible to establish the number and variety of properties, qualities and habits combined in a particular instance. The depth of the inquiry possible through the case study method is significantly greater than any other research method such as a survey (Galliers, 1991). For example, although attempts are made to ascertain attitudes by means of questionnaires, the results are sometimes unsatisfactory as one cannot do justice to an attitude by ticking yes or no, or rating an issue from 1 to 5. The case study can go much further than this superficial analysis and can discuss greater variations and reasons for attitudes (for example, if a respondent is asked to rate a service rendered in a case study context, he or she may reply with both a score on a preset scale and a list of explanations and/or caveats qualifying the score). The additional information is beneficial to the researcher who may use it either as explanatory notes to the findings produced from the questionnaire or as raw material for further content analysis.
Because the case study follows the logic of the experiment rather than the logic of the survey, it is not necessary to repeat a case study many times (Yin, 2003). This is because the experiment starts with the formulation of a theory and then attempts to find evidence that will either support or disprove the theory while the survey attempts to gain a general view of something. The experimental approach is used in the case study method of research. The reason why it is not necessary to repeat the experiment or case study many times, as is achieved with a survey, is the same as why it is not necessary to experiment with the boiling point of water many times to support or contradict the theory of transformation of liquids into gases at a certain temperature. However, it is important to bear in mind that the case study methodology is not designed to measure the frequency of occurrence of events but rather to support or reject theoretical propositions or to develop new propositions.
The different types of evidence on which a case study may be based
From a case study research strategy point of view, the case study methodology implies a comprehensive and intensive study of the subject. Thoroughness is thus one of the first requisites. Facts must be ascertained from the entities under study and then carefully interpreted. These may be obtained from documents, archives, interviews with any person who has knowledge of the subject, the observations of the investigator, participant-observer interaction, and also physical artifacts. This information must be weighed, tested and sifted to eliminate fictitious and false statements as well as, where possible, personal opinions.
Bias in the case study
Case studies can rarely be objectively complete due to the bias of both the supplier and the recipient of the information. Stake (1994) regards this area of research as fraught with danger, primarily due to the problem of subjectivity in interpreting the data after it has been written down. Bias is everywhere, but can be minimised. It is the primary function of the researcher to minimise the bias level in which he/she is working. According to Yin (2003), there are at least three obstacles in obtaining unbiased testimonials from observers and these are:
the difficulties encountered by individuals in their being able to remember accurately;
the inhibitions individuals have in disclosing important feelings; and
the suspicion individuals have about revealing information that might reflect poorly on them or their superiors.
However, the use of multiple sources of evidence can help substantially in improving the validity and reliability of the research. By studying every aspect of the problem from as many angles as possible, and by using various sources of evidence, the case study research strategy is a powerful research tool in the hands of a skilled investigator (Stake, 1994). The case study’s emphasis on detail, which is secured from multiple sources of information, provides valuable insight for problem solving, evaluation and strategy. It further allows evidence to be verified and avoids missing data, thus reducing bias (Cooper and Schindler, 2003).
The significance of uniformity when recording data
In multiple case study research, where several cases are involved, uniformity of recording should be sought as it facilitates comparison between enterprises and situations, which allows similarities and differences to be highlighted. Unless there is some uniformity in recording, it can be extremely difficult to recognise similarities; and much of the usefulness of the case study method, as well as its scientific value, may be eliminated (Yin, 2003).
The formality of the case study research methodology
The case study research methodology is often mistakenly thought to be rather informal (Stake, 1994). This is because it is confused with case writing from a teaching-learning point of view. In fact, the case study research strategy methodology requires a distinctly formal approach. Before the research can begin, protocols must be drawn up. The protocol is a formal and detailed master plan for the research. It is a document in which full details of the case study research design, including details of the questions to be asked, field procedures for the researcher, details of all types of evidence required, as well as the structure of the final research must be specified.
The case study protocol
The case study protocol is both the instrument with which the case study is conducted, as well as the general rules and procedures with which the work is carried out.
The following interview protocol for this study in Table 2 is a primary tactic in increasing the reliability of the case study procedure. At the centre of the interview protocol is a set of questions reflecting the actual inquiry. There are two characteristics that distinguish such a set of questions from those used in a survey. First, the protocol questions are set for the investigator and not the respondent. The questions are reminders or prompts to the investigator concerning the information that has to be collected. Second, each question should be accompanied by a list of probable sources of evidence that cover documents, observations and interviewees comments.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF ACRONYMS
CHAPTER 1 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.2 The Problem Statement
1.3 Importance/Purpose of the Study
1.4 Research Design
1.5 Significance of the Study
CHAPTER 2 BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT OF FOSS MIGRATION IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN PUBLIC SECTOR
2.2 The Decision to Migrate to FOSS
2.3 The Role of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA)
2.4 FOSS Migration Management
2.5 Departments and Public Entities to be Included in the Study
CHAPTER 3 LITERATURE REVIEW
3.2 Technology Innovation and Free Open Source Software
3.3 The Benefits of Technology Innovation and FOSS
3.4 The Adoption of Technology Innovation and FOSS
3.5 Barriers to Technology Innovation and Successful FOSS Migration
3.6 Implementation of Technology Innovation and FOSS
3.7 Conditions for Successful Technology Innovation and Implementation of FOSS
3.8 The Role of Culture in Technology Innovation and FOSS Adoption
3.9 The Role of Policy in Technology Innovation and FOSS Implementation
3.10 The Management of the Process of Technology Innovation and FOSS Migration
3.11 The Measurement of Technology Innovation and FOSS Success
3.12 An Overview of Organic Frameworks for Strategic Management
3.13 Critical Review of Some of the FOSS Migration Literature
3.14 Research Questions
CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
4.2 Significance of the Study
4.3 The Nature of a Methodology
4.4 Research Methodology for this Study
4.5 Grounded Theory
4.6 Philosophical Stances
4.7 Bias in Research
4.8 Soundness of the Research (Validity)
4.9 Summary and Conclusions
CHAPTER 5 THE RESEARCH
5.2 Choice of Research Participants
5.3 The question of confidentiality
5.4 Selecting the Organisations for the Grounded Theory Study
5.5 Evidence collected
5.6 The Main Participants
5.7 Analysis of Case Study Evidence
5.8 Testing the Theoretical Framework
5.9 Work Conducted in Collecting the Case Study Evidence
5.10 The interview schedule
5.11 A Synopsis of the Case Studies
5.12 Why the Above Organisations Were Chosen
5.13 Summary and Conclusions
CHAPTER 6 THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE THEORY OR THESIS
6.2 Analysing the Case Study
6.3 Summary Results of the Content Analysis
6.4 The Theory or Thesis
6.5 Formulation of the Theoretical Framework
6.6 Empirical Generalisations
6.7 The Thesis
6.8 Correspondence Analysis
6.9 The Use of Correspondence Analysis
6.10 Interpretation of the Correspondence Analysis results
CHAPTER 7 PRESENTATION OF THE THEORETICAL CONJECTURE TO A FOCUS GROUP AND REFINEMENT OF CONCLUSIONS
7.2 The Reasons for Using a Focus Group
7.3 Feedback from the Focus Group
7.4 Results of the Focus Group discussion
7.5 Practical Management Guidelines
7.6 Results of the Presentation to the Managers
CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSIONS LIMITATIONS OF THE RESEARCH AND SOME ISSUES FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
8.3 Limitations of the Research
8.4 A General issue
8.5 Issues for Further Research
LIST OF APPENDICES
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT