Examples from a case-oriented survey of fifty-six decision support systems are cited to illustrate each of four implementation patterns that were observed in the sample. These four system development patterns are defined in terms of high or low degrees of (1) initiation by the user and (2) participation in the development process. A surprising finding is that systems initiated by users and implemented with their active participation account for less than one fourth of all cases. A qualitative analysis of the cases explains this finding by interpreting the four patterns in terms of six frequently observed system development situations, each of which has its own purpose and dynamics. Categorizing these situations under the headings 'built for," "sold to," or "forced upon," key questions and concerns for various stakeholders in system development efforts are cited. A concluding quandary for management involves the choice of a project portfolio that is neither too risky nor too safe.
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