Orla Kirwan, Willie Golden
Department of Information Systems, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
Padraig Molloy
Department of Mechanical Engineering, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
Keywords: Adaptive Structuration Theory, Grounded Theory, IS Implementation, Energy Efficiency, Research in
Abstract: This research is focusing on the implementation of an Information System (IS), more specifically a building
energy management system (BEMS) within several organisations. One of the EU’s 7
Programme’s (FP7) objectives is to “transform the current fossil fuel based energy system into a more
sustainable one combined with enhanced energy efficiency (EE)”. This research is concerned with the use
of information systems to achieve the latter of these objectives; enhanced energy efficiency. The research is
being undertaken using a multi methodological approach incorporating case study methodology and
grounded theory. Advanced structuration theory (AST) will provide the conceptual model that will help to
capture the longitudinal change process. A modified AST model is proposed which will provide a
theoretical framework that further investigates and explains the implementation process, using several
organisations at different stages of BEMS implementation. The researcher has confirmed access to these
organisations and data collection commenced on October 1
2006. The paper concludes with an overview
of how the research will progress.
Technological advances, increased environmental
awareness, rising energy costs, legislation, and end-
user perceptiveness has given rise to this
investigation of building energy management
systems. This research is specifically looking at the
Information Systems that are available to improve
the energy saving potential of end-users, by
investigating the implementation of such systems
into several organisations.
The components of the technology that can
increase EE are the actual building management
system (BMS) and the commercially available
monitoring and targeting (M&T) software packages
that integrate with the BMS. Together they make up
the BEMS. The BMS is the basic control system that
is contained in a building, managing the heating,
cooling, lighting, ventilation and most other energy
needs that an organisation has on an everyday basis.
M&T is a structured approach to energy
management that provides a simple yet powerful
technique for identifying inefficient performance
and eliminating waste.
Savings of between 5% and 20% from the
annual energy bill have been realized as a direct
result of the purchase, correct appropriation and
implementation of this software (Lowry, 2002). The
significant factors associated with the success of
BMS installations are: end-user involvement in the
specification, the user’s perception of the
performance of the BMS vendor, and satisfactory
commissioning of the system. It is widely reported
that BMSs are not fully utilized (Lowry, 2002). The
failure to exploit the potential of these systems leads
to the sub-optimal performance of building plant,
both in terms of energy consumption and the
maintenance of ambient internal building conditions.
Kirwan O., Golden W. and Molloy P. (2007).
In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - AIDSS, pages 303-309
DOI: 10.5220/0002367503030309
End-user dissatisfaction and the inability to
understand and exploit the reports generated are
other reasons for system failures (Levermore, 2000).
Energy-related research shows that the most
fundamental indicators: energy consumption, fossil
fuel dependence, import dependency, CO2
emissions, and energy prices are moving in the
wrong direction (Forfás, 2006). This is occurring on
an Irish, a European Union (EU) and a global level.
Present energy consumption patterns are showing an
unmistakable increase in energy usage, and there is a
clear consensus that sustaining continued growth in
the world’s economy will require a growing supply
of oil (Forfás, 2006). The factors that are driving this
research can be classified in the following
categories: environmental, political and regulatory,
economic or corporate social responsibility and are
outlined below.
Environmental factors
The world remains largely dependent on fossil fuels,
which are projected to continue to be the dominant
source in energy supply, meeting 80% of the
projected increase in demand to 2030 (Green Paper
on Irish Energy Policy, 2006).
Under the present Kyoto Protocol agreements,
the EU must implement reductions of 330 million
tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between
1990 and 2010. It is estimated that CO
will cost the Irish state €1.45bn in penalties by 2008
and up to €4.3bn by 2012, as emissions are currently
running 17% over the agreed carbon allowances.
This is the highest in Europe. As a proportion of
greenhouse gas emissions overall, energy related
emissions accounted for 51% in 1990 compared
to a projected 66% in 2010, with energy use in
buildings being at present 30% of this total.
Political and Regulatory factors
Legislation, such as the EU Energy Performance for
Buildings Directive (EPBD), is forcing the
marketplace to look at demand side management
(DSM) and energy efficiency (EE), in a focused
effort to offset the potential future problems outlined
above. The directive takes account of the energy
performance of buildings, and places demands on
building stakeholders (e.g. owners, designers,
operators, occupants, etc.) to quantify energy usage
throughout the building’s lifecycle. The European
building sector constitutes over 40% of the total
European energy consumption to date (European
Commission, 2001), therefore this is an area of
much significance if energy conservation and
sustainability is to be achieved.
According to the Green Paper on Future Irish
Energy Policy (2006), the potential savings dividend
will be considerable and the objective is to deliver
cumulative improvements in EE of 20% by 2020.
Increasing the levels of EE must become a key
priority for Ireland according to the government, and
it is one of the answers to the energy problem that
exists today.
Economic factors
Oil prices have risen from an average of just over
$23/barrel in the fourth quarter of 1999, to a high of
$72.40 per barrel in May 2006. Since early 1999, oil
prices have risen about 360%. The annual rate of
inflation rose to 3.8% in April 2006 as the effects of
higher oil prices spread across the country (Irish
Times, 11/05/2006). In the past 12 months, fuel and
electricity prices have risen by 13.2%.
The European Union Emission Trading Scheme
(EU ETS) commenced on Jan 1
2005, and it relates
to carbon allowance trading between the EU
member states. The Directive, 2003/1987/EC,
provides that key implementation decisions for the
trading period 2008 to 2012 are to be taken by
Member States in the course of 2006, namely
submission of national allocation plans and adoption
of final national allocation decisions (European
Commission, Oct 2006).
Corporate social responsibility
Until now, relatively few organizations have
implemented a climate change policy, and the
asymmetry between the importances of for example,
increasing energy efficiency, and the lack of
corporate commitment may be explained by the
widely shared perception that environmental action
entails costs that impact productivity (Boiral, 2006).
The questions under consideration are: should
organizations be responsible for “Environmental
Issues”? Should they worry about energy
conservation and carbon emission reductions if their
competitors are not? Many managers are at a loss
concerning the strategy that they should adopt to
deal with these issues (Boiral, 2006).
This research will look at the implementation and
subsequent use of information systems to manage
energy components, monitor energy usage and
implement potential energy efficiencies within
organizations. A BEMS is a complex system from
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
the perspective of the firm, and as such the chosen
investigative framework will have to encompass
each perspective. The chosen framework is AST,
and it is developed in the next section.
IS implementation has been a research topic of
interest for the past three decades, and remains a
high priority due to the level of investment in, and
reliance upon these systems by the organisations. It
is also of importance due to the conflicting results
from existing research into IS implementation. As IS
become increasingly intertwined in the operations,
products, strategies, and infrastructure of
corporations, it is critical that the implementation be
successful (Alavi & Joachimsthaler, 1992). The
organisational complexity of large IS
implementations bring the problem of how to
conceptualise the relationship between, on the one
hand, IS development, and on the other hand,
ultimate system use and associated organisational
change (Alvarez, 2003).
A large body of implementation studies have
investigated the relationship between user-related
factors and implementation success (Alavi &
Joachimsthaler, 1992). Their research analysed user-
related factors (cognitive style, personality,
demographics and user-situational variables), and
contextual factors (decision-making tasks,
organisational factors and external factors).
Management support is considered to be a
critical factor in the successful implementation of IS
innovations (Sharma & Yetton, 2003). This success
remains a theoretical as well as a managerial issue.
Successful systems are defined by those which have
a significant uptake by the intended users. The
systems that are actually used by the users are most
likely to eventuate from a design process that
embraces a user-centred design (UCD) approach.
(Parker & Sinclair, 2001; Finlay & Forghani, 1998).
Implementation success refers to realising the
intended benefits of the IS (Zmud & Cox, 1979).
The difficulty associated with achieving this aim is
that it tends to be directly related to the complexity
of the IS, which is comprised of both technical and
organisational aspects.
Galliers (1991) states that if one takes a
sociotechnical perspective of IS, it can be argued
that IS are as much concerned with human activity
and the organisation as they are with technology - if
not more so. If this argument is accepted, it follows
that IS strategy should contain not only IT strategy,
but also such organisational issues as change
management and a human resource strategy. The
proposed AST model incorporates all of these
aspects (see Figure 1).
AST provides a conceptual model that helps to
capture the longitudinal change process (Schwieger
et al, 2004), and also helps to describe the interplay
between advanced information technologies (AIT),
social structures and human interaction. AST
extends current Structuration models of technology-
triggered change to consider the mutual influence of
technology and social pressures (DeSanctis & Poole,
1994). This research proposes a modified AST
model which provides a theoretical framework that
further investigates and explains the IS
implementation process, using several organisations
at different stages of implementation all using the
same AIT.
The act of bringing the rules and resources from
an AIT or other structural source into action is
termed structuration (DeSanctis & Poole, 1994).
Giddens (1979) uses the term “structuration” to
describe how structure enters into social action.
Appropriation is the manner in which structures are
adapted by the systems users for their own use
through a process called structuration (Gopal et al,
1992). A measure of faithfulness is how the user is
utilising the system compared to the systems actual
aims and objectives.
System success is a multidimensional trait and
cannot be described as a single measure, so clearly
the success of any IS implementation is founded on
addressing a broad spectrum of both technical and
organisational issues (Dhillon, 2004). With this in
mind, and taking the complexity of the system and
the complexity of the organisation into
consideration, AST is a suitable framework in which
to investigate the implementation as it incorporates
both aspects. The dearth of research on AST may be
attributed partly to its complexity (Chin et al, 1997),
and this research aims to add to the current body of
AST knowledge by applying it in the context of
energy management information systems, as there is
no current research which focuses on this aspect. As
DeSanctis and Poole (1994) point out “A critical
challenge is to systematise the research so that
technologies and interaction processes can be
meaningfully assessed and comparative analysis is
possible” (Chin et al, 1997).
Figure 1 has been adapted from the framework
that was proposed by DeSanctis & Poole (1994).
The researcher has extended the “other sources of
structure” aspect of the original framework. As
outlined below, the researcher will now also be able
to discover what effect the external imperatives for
adoption have had on the choice of the technology
and on the process of appropriation of the AIT. Will
one implementation be more successful than a
second one that is occurring with stricter
imperatives? The framework will also take the
nature of the task into consideration. The researcher
will look at what exactly the organisation is trying to
achieve, and its impact on the overall process, if any.
The questions that the researcher would like to ask
as a result of the implementations are as follows:
1. Pre-adoption Decision Process: Are
companies aware of the present energy
situation? What are these companies doing
in relation to it? If they are adopting energy
management information systems, how are
they being implemented into the
organisations? What impact do differing
reasons for adopting energy management
have on the implementation process?
Structure of AIT
Structural Features
Level of sophistication
Decision process
Conflict management
Social Interaction
Decision outcomes
Emergent sources of structure
AIT outputs
Task outputs
Organisation environment outputs
Appropriation of Structures
Appropriation moves
Faithfulness of
Instrumental uses
Persistent attitudes
toward appropriation
Decision processes
Idea generation
Conflict management
Influence behaviour
Task management
Other sources of structure:
Organisational Environment
External Imperatives for energy
Public good
Firm level
Cost savings
Corporate social responsibility
“Seen to be green”
Individual champion
Figure 1: Proposed conceptual AST model for evaluating successful IS implementations, adapted from DeSanctis & Poole
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
2. Implementation Process: Impacts of the
implementation at an organisational level.
Was it appropriated in the correct manner?
Does correct appropriation of the
technology take place during IS
implementation? Does a successful
appropriation of the system (faithfulness of
appropriation) lead to a successful
3. Post-implementation Process: Efficiency
and effectiveness. Is the organisation more
efficient as a result? Are the employees
making more effective decisions as a
result? Has it impacted the annual energy
After carefully examining all possible research
approaches for the research topic, the researcher
decided that a multi methodological approach
incorporating both case study and grounded theory
would be the most appropriate due to the nature of
the research area and also because the research is
concerned with theory building not theory testing
(see Figure 2). Benbasat et al (1987) has shown that
the goals of the researcher and the nature of the
research topic influence the selection of a research
strategy. In making this decision, the researcher took
into account the qualitative nature of the research,
the extent of available resources, the type of
information required and the suitability of each
research approach.
The researcher is also conducting short
interviews with approximately 20 organisations,
covering both the public and private sectors, as the
imperatives to adopt may be quite different across
the sectors. This data will help to define the problem
space further.
The researcher would like to investigate the
effect that the reasons for adopting energy
management has had on the appropriation of the
system. For example, what is the degree to which the
imperatives influence the outcomes of the
With a grounded theory approach, theory
emerges from the process of data collection and
analysis. This means that the researcher does not
commence such a study with a defined theoretical
framework. Instead the researcher identifies
relationships between the data and develops
questions and hypotheses or propositions to test
these (Saunders et al, 2003). However, this type of
approach needs to commence with a clear research
purpose. The grounded theory approach of Strauss
and Corbin (1998) is structured and systematic, with
set procedures to follow at each stage of analysis.
These set procedures include the identification of
codes, concepts and categories from the analysis of
the data. Data collection commenced in October
2006, and the analysis is ongoing.
The chosen case studies are as follows:
Case Study #1 (Pre-implementation)
: A private
hospital in the West of Ireland. The hospital is two
years old and has a BMS installed. There is currently
no M&T software installed and the hospital is
currently trying to justify further spend on energy
related matters.
Case Study #2 (implementation)
: A large third-
level educational institution in the West of Ireland.
There is a BMS installed, and M&T software is
currently being installed. This is a large scale
Layer Exploration Phase Explanation Phase
1. Research Philosophy Interpretivistic
2. Research Approach Inductive/Deductive
3. Research Strategy Case Studies (20 companies)
Case Studies (4 companies)
Grounded Theory
4. Time Horizon Cross sectional Longitudinal
5. Data Collection Method
Secondary data
Figure 2: Research philosophy, approach and strategy for this study.
installation as 28 buildings will be integrated as part
of the new BEMS.
Case Study #3 (implementation)
: A private
pharmaceutical company in Dublin. They have a
cross-divisional energy team in place, and are in the
process of implementing a BEMS.
Case Study #4: (post-implementation):
private pharmaceutical company in Kerry. They
have a BEMS in operation for the past two years,
and are currently achieving cost savings as a result.
The PhD commenced in October 2005. The case
studies commenced in October 2006, and the
primary data collection will take place for 12 months
and conclude in October 2007. The case studies will
run concurrently. The primary data is being
collected from questionnaires, interviews and
observation by the researcher. The researcher is
onsite with each organisation once a month,
depending on the schedule of the organisation.
Interviews are taking place with the energy
managers to get a view of the overall energy
situation with each case study.
With the use of grounded theory, strict
guidelines on how to do rigorous research using this
approach will be strictly adhered to, in line with the
leading experts in the area. Some academics have
concerns and doubts regarding the apparent lack of a
systematic approach and rigour in grounded theory
(Allen, 2006). With this in mind, the researcher will
ensure to adopt and complete the data analysis
methods which must be systematically followed in
grounded theory research projects to reach reliable
findings which lead to meaningful conclusions.
The research will give rise to an insight into,
and analysis of, effective implementations of energy
management systems in organisations. This may
engender an organisation with the following
capabilities: an increase in EE, effective DSM, a
decrease in energy use, a lowering of emissions, a
lowering in potential carbon tax trading costs, help
in achieving the Kyoto targets set by the agreement,
and an overall decrease in the annual energy budget.
The researcher would like to thank the Irish
Research Council for Science, Engineering and
Technology (IRCSET) for the current PhD funding
in the form of an Embark Initiative Scholarship.
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