Selling a Dream by Telling an Evidence-Based Story: A Case Study on the Interplay between Evidence and Judgment in Ex Ante IT Project Evaluation

Lina Beekhuijzen & Tobias Eschen Gundtoft

Student thesis: Master thesis


IT solutions are becoming an inherent, strategic part of organizations, making IT portfolio management incremental for businesses. To facilitate the prioritization of IT projects, ex ante, i.e., prior, evaluation of projects is needed. Popular methods to conduct ex ante evaluation of benefits for IT projects revolve around using financial tools, branded as evidence-based management. Yet, exclusively basing prioritization decisions on financial methods have shown that organizations perform worse than when using various methods. A subjective, i.e., judgment-based, IT impact assessment may result in more accurate and richer evaluations of IT projects. We assume that the two opposing approaches may not only coexist but complement each other. This study is placed in the intersection, supporting a more pluralistic approach to ex ante IT project evaluation, by posing the question: "How does the interplay occur between evidence and judgment in ex ante IT project evaluation in a client-vendor relationship?" Adopting a social constructivist research philosophy and an inductive approach to theory development has enabled an understanding of how the social phenomena of interest are constructed via social interactions. The single case study as a research strategy was applied qualitatively by performing data triangulation via interviews, document analysis, and observations. Data were analyzed with the Gioia methodology, consolidating codes and concepts into abstract aggregate dimensions. In conclusion, we have shown how the interplay occurs using evidence-based storytelling, which is made up of five elements; anecdotes, calculations, cover your actions, visualizations, and stakeholder management. All the consolidated knowledge in these elements is formulated into a malleable, evidence-based story that becomes the constitutor of a shared collective judgment in the social practice of a client-vendor relationship. That is how evidence-based storytelling becomes a device used to influence a client's judgment, to reconcile both rationales, i.e., the dogma of evidence-based decision-making and the untold practice of judgment-based decision-making.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and E-business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages115
SupervisorsArisa Shollo