The case for a systems approach to technology in organisations

14 May 2024 | Story Kamva Somdyala. Photo Je’nine May. Read time 4 min.
Prof Lisa Seymour.
Prof Lisa Seymour.

On Thursday, 9 May, Professor Lisa Seymour presented the second of four inaugural lectures taking place this month as part of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Inaugural Lecture series. The lecture was titled, “Calling for a systems approach to technology in organisations”.

Professor Seymour, who is based in the Department of Information Systems at UCT, researches and teaches in the areas of business processes, enterprise systems and information systems education, with particular emphasis on regional development in Southern Africa.

Systems thinking has a great deal to do with how people interact with systems and how this might affect how secure people feel in their jobs, Seymour explained. Her extensive history with UCT includes rolling out the information and communications technology systems across campus.

“Systems thinking is looking at what the big picture is. One of the first collaborative studies I did involved collecting data from an honours student who had interviewed people at UCT following the PeopleSoft implementation and the topic was: ‘IT adoption’ and people in the faculty offices were interviewed and we looked at the data,” she explained. “And what we noted was massive amounts of emotion that is involved when you implement IT systems in organisations, particularly when they are mandated. It has a massive impact on their jobs, namely: high levels of frustration and resistance to change.”

Broader business perspective

She added: “A lot if it had to do with power and the feeling of being valued or not (maybe you were an expert with a previous system and this new one comes in and now suddenly you feel you have less value). This impacts your job; your job affects your emotion. I realised as a training team, we are the change agents on the ground. We thought we were teaching a course, but we were doing organisational change management.”

To effectively get the systems thinking process entrenched, there needs to exist a clear graduate pathway. It is critical, said Seymour, to “make sure what we’re teaching is the right thing for industry”.


“Systems thinking is good for a holistic view.”

To complete this task, two honours students over the years have assisted in getting this information. “As a business analyst, one of my students at the time interviewed business analysts and asked them what competencies they [organisations] need. She focused on analysts who weren’t narrowly IT focused and had a broader business perspective and came up with several competencies,” Seymore explained.

“Two years later, another student surveyed business analysts she knew and asked what competencies they rank as the most important … and where the biggest gap with graduates coming out of university is: the critical one is trustworthiness, and the gap is in organisational knowledge.”

She concluded: “The department called information systems and people researching the field are not thinking enough about systems. There’s been a lot of research about how users adopt software and that’s a small part of the holistic part. Systems thinking is good for a holistic view; you show where things go wrong, and you can look at what coping mechanisms can get people out of that.”

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The UCT Inaugural Lecture Series


Inaugural lectures are a central part of university academic life. These events are held to commemorate the inaugural lecturer’s appointment to full professorship. They provide a platform for the academic to present the body of research that they have been focusing on during their career, while also giving UCT the opportunity to showcase its academics and share its research with members of the wider university community and the general public in an accessible way.

In April 2023, Interim Vice-Chancellor Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy announced that the Vice-Chancellor’s Inaugural Lecture Series would be held in abeyance in the coming months, to accommodate a resumption of inaugural lectures under a reconfigured UCT Inaugural Lecture Series – where the UCT extended executive has resolved that for the foreseeable future, all inaugural lectures will be resumed at faculty level.

























2016 and 2015


No inaugural lectures took place during 2015 and 2016.