The concept of user-involvement in the development of computing systems has come to the fore in recent years with a profusion of books, articles and conference papers devoted to its potential. The bulk of this literature seldom directly addresses the issue of user decision-making. In most cases considerably diluted meanings prevail, presenting involvement as an instrumental means to combat systems ‘noise’, to tap the local knowledge of users, or to induce attitudinal changes to foster acceptance of systems rather than resistance. By way of a contrast with this (outwardly at least), an alternative tradition adopts, and claims to substantiate, certain broadly distinctive theories and assumptions about mutually beneficial change. Whereas the first approach concentrates almost exclusively on efficiency objectives, advocates of the second look to establish ‘democratic’ forms of develpment in addition to workable systems. A few quotes will illustrate:

The involvement of users in the design process will help to ensure the creation of acceptable and well-functioning organisational structures that users will welcome.

(Mumford 1983: 82)

the advantages of a participative approach to systems design based on consensus decisions can be said to be the following: From management’s point of view it is advantageous because the result is an efficient system and a satisfied workforce. From the employees’ point of view it is advantageous because they are able to create a system that meets their efficiency and job satisfaction needs.

(Mumford 1979: 229)

Participation by users in the design process is a powerful technique to avoid the isolation of the EDP specialist and the loss of certainty 93and control by the users, and to help strike a balance between the specialists need to innovate, and the line managers requirement for stability.

(Land and Hirschheim 1983: 100)