A Situational Perspective on Workarounds in IT-enabled business processes: A multiple case study

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



European Conference on Information Systems


Workarounds are still one of the most puzzling phenomena in business process management research and practice. From a compliance perspective, workarounds are studied as control failure and the cause for inferior process quality. From a process reengineering perspective, however, workarounds are studied as an important source of process improvement. In this paper, we advance recent theory on the emergence of workarounds to resolve this puzzle by analyzing empirical evidence from a multiple case study. Our analysis reveals that employees utilize workarounds based on a risk-benefit analysis of the situational context. If the realized benefits (efficiency gains) outweigh the situational risks (exposure of process violations), workarounds will be perceived as process improvement. Erroneous risk-benefit analysis, however, leads to exposure of the same workaround as control failure. Quite unexpectedly, we found that information systems serve as critical cues for the situational balance of benefits and risks. Our result suggests that process-instance-level workarounds are treated as options that are engaged if the situation permits, in contrast to process-level workarounds that manifest as unofficial routines. We also contribute the notion of situational risk-benefits analysis to the theory on workarounds.