Subverting organisational IS policy with feral systems: A Case in China

R.M. Davison, Carol Ou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to investigate how selected employees in China deliberately subvert organizational information systems (IS) policy by developing feral working practices in order to gain access to the applications that they believe essential to work.

Interpretive case study.

Employees cannot accept the limited IT policy/environment imposed by corporate management and develop their own workarounds that subvert the organizational IT policy so as to ensure that they can get work done.

Research limitations/implications
The authors draw on elements of punctuated equilibrium theory to conceptualize the findings into four theoretical propositions. The authors encourage researchers to probe these organizational practices and solutions in depth.

Practical implications
Organizations cannot expect their digital native employees to leave their social media culture at home when they come to work. Social media penetrates all aspects of their lives and in all locations. Therefore, organizations must find a way to permit its use at work.

Subversion is a topic rarely studied in IS research, or in business/management more generally. The focus on the subversive behavior of organizational employees is original and important. The authors suggest that subversive behavior may be more common than the limited literature suggests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-588
JournalIndustrial Management & Data Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • feral systems
  • IS governance
  • punctuated equilibrium theory
  • subversion


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