Robert Johnston

Photo of Robert Johnston

BSc(Hons), DipEd, MSc, PhD
Professor of Business Information Systems

Rm 4060
H70 - Abercrombie Building
The University of Sydney
NSW 2006 Australia


Robert joined the University of Sydney in January 2014. He was formerly the John Sharkey Chair of Information Systems and Organisation at University College Dublin and has also held positions at the University of Melbourne and Monash University. He completed his PhD at Monash University in 1999. Before becoming and academic Robert had a career in IT for 13 years as a programmer, analyst, project leader and as an independent consultant.

Robert's Research specialties include: Practice theoretical approaches to IT in organising, ICT-enabled organisational innovation, IT appropriation, Electronic Commerce, Operations Management, Supply Chain Management, Lean Management, and Theoretical Foundations of IS.

Robert has raised in excess of $1,500,000 of grant funding including 3 ARC discovery grants, 3 ARC linkage grants, and 1 nationally competitive Irish grant. He has extensive academic administration experience including Head of Department, Head of Research Centre, Research Chair, Member of School Executive. He has extensive research mentoring experience, both informal and formal. He has supervised 11 completed PhD by Dissertation candidates, 6 Masters by Thesis candidates, and many Honours and minor theses.

Robert has been an Associate Editor for MIS Quarterly and the European Journal of Information Systems. He has over 150 refereed publications, many in leading international journals, including MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Management Science, European Journal of Information Systems, Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Journal of the Operational Research Society, International Journal of Production Economics and OMEGA.

Research Interests

Robert’s research interests have clustered around the following three themes:

Theoretical Foundations of Information and Organisation: A major theme of Robert’s research has been the role of ICT in organisational innovation. Where conventional theories of technology management tend to evaluate the innovative potential of ICT as a pre-specified component of top-down management plans, over a period of 25 years Robert has developed an alternative perspective that emphasises the socially interpreted and emergent nature of technology appropriation. Theoretically, this work draws on process philosophical and practice theoretical works of Heidegger, Giddens, Bourdieu, Gibson, Rorty, Gadamer and others, and empirically on interpretive qualitative data analysis methods.

Inter-organisational Information Systems and Information Infrastructures: Beyond the organisational context, Robert has researched and published widely on the implementation of ICT-based initiatives for aligning operations across organisational boundaries for supply chain management, electronic commerce and lean production, in the retail, pharmaceutical and automotive industries. These projects have used data from major Australian and Multi-national firms such as Unilever, Coles, Ford, Toyota and many smaller organisations in their supply chains, and has involved collaboration with researchers from Monash, Melbourne, ANU, Aachen, Muenster, Tsinghua, Cambridge and UCD.

Information Systems for Routine Operations: Routine action in operational settings (manufacturing, hospital wards, emergency despatch) poses significant challenges for the development of effective computer support systems. Action choices in these environments are often incorrectly treated as decisions, despite extensive evidence from cognitive, behavioural and neuro-sciences that this is not the case. Over a 20 year period Robert has studied the efficacy of certain entrenched manual IS to develop an alternative to the Decision Support System paradigm, called Situated Choice Support Systems, applicable to routine action choices. This work won the Stafford Beer Medal of the OR Society in 2012.

Selected publications


Journal Article

Riemer K, and Johnston R (2019) Disruption as worldview change: A Kuhnian analysis of the digital music revolution Journal of Information Technology, In Press. [More Information]


Journal Article

Riemer K, and Johnston R (2017) Clarifying Ontological Inseparability with Heidegger's Analysis of Equipment MIS Quarterly, 41 (4), 1059-1081. [More Information]

Conference Proceeding

Johnston R, Riemer K, and Hafermalz E (2017) Edification: That's the Name of the (New Technology) Game 9th International Process Symposium PROS2017; Oxford University Press, London, UK.


Conference Proceedings

Johnston R, Reimers K, and Klein S (2016) Performing research validity: A "mangle of practice" approach IFIP WG 8.2 Working Conference on Information Systems and Organizations (IS&O 2016); Springer, Cham. [More Information]

Riemer K, and Johnston R (2016) A Kuhnian Analysis of Revolutionary Digital Disruptions The 27th Australasian Conference on Information Systems (ACIS 2016); Australasian Association for Information Systems (AAIS), Wollongong.


Journal Articles

Johnston R, and Riemer K (2014) On Putting the Score ahead of the Game Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 34 (1), 849-856.

Reimers K, Johnston R, and Klein S (2014) An empirical evaluation of existing IS change theories for the case of IOIS evolution European Journal of Information Systems, 23 (4), 373-399. [More Information]

Riemer K, and Johnston R (2014) Rethinking the place of the artefact in IS using Heidegger's analysis of equipment European Journal of Information Systems, 23, 273-288. [More Information]

Smith S, and Johnston R (2014) How Critical Realism Clarifies Validity Issues in Information Systems Theory-Testing Research Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 26 (1), 5-28.


Journal Articles

Reimers K, Johnston R, Guo X, Klein S, Xie B, and Li M (2013) Novice-based data collection methods for the study of IOIS: practice probes and learning communities Electronic Markets, 23 (4), 285-293. [More Information]

Riemer K, and Johnston R (2013) What is IT in use and why does it matter for IS design? Systems, Signs & Actions, 7 (1), 5-21.

Conference Proceeding

Riemer K, Johnston R, Hovorka D, and Indulska M (2013) Challenging the Philosophical Foundations of Modeling Organizational Reality: The Case of Process Modeling 34th International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS 2013); Association for Information Systems (AIS), Milan, Italy.


Conference Proceeding

Riemer K, and Johnston R (2012) Place-making: A Phenomenological Theory of Technology Appropriation International Conference on Information Systems ICIS 2012; AIS Electronic Library (AISeL), Atlanta, USA.

Book Chapters

Klein S, Reimers K, and Johnston R (2012) Inter-Organizational Information Systems: From Strategic Systems to Information Infrastructures The First 25 Years of the Bled eConference: Special Issue; Zalozba Moderna organizacija, Kranj, Slovenia, 175-197.

Reimers K, Johnston R, and Klein S (2012) Evolution of Inter-Organizational Information Systems on Long Timescales: A Practice Theory Approach Inter-Organizational Information Systems and Business Management: Theories for Researchers; IGI Global, Hershey, United States, 38-54.


Journal Articles

Lederman R, and Johnston R (2011) Decision support or support for situated choice: lessons for system design from effective manual systems European Journal of Information Systems, 20 (5), 510-528. [More Information]

Rahim M, Shanks G, and Johnston R (2011) A cross industry comparison of inter-organisational systems implementation activities Electronic Commerce Research, 11 (2), 215-243. [More Information]

Smith S, Johnston R, and Howard S (2011) Putting Yourself in the Picture: An Evaluation of Virtual Model Technology as an Online Shopping Tool Information Systems Research, 22 (3), 640-659. [More Information]

Conference Proceeding

Riemer K, and Johnstone R (2011) Artifact or Equipment? Rethinking the Core of IS using Heidegger's ways of being 32nd International Conference on Information Systems ICIS 2011; AIS Electronic Library (AISeL), Shanghai, China.

Book Chapter

Ali M, Kurnia S, and Johnston R (2011) Understanding the Progressive Nature of Inter-Organizational Systems (IOS) Adoption E-Collaboration Technologies and Organizational Performance: Current and Future Trends; IGI Global, United States, 124-144.


Journal Articles

Reimers K, Johnston R, and Klein S (2010) Toward a Theory of IOIS Variance: A New Framework for Studying Inter-Organisational Information Systems International Journal of Strategic Information Technology and Applications, 1 (3), 36-56. [More Information]

Reimers K, Johnston R, and Klein S (2010) The difficulty of studying inter-organisational IS phenomena on large scales: critical reflections on a research journey Electronic Markets, 20 (3-4), 229-240. [More Information]

Book Chapter

Johnston R, and Smith S (2010) How critical realism clarifies validity issues in theory-testing research: analysis and case Information Systems Foundations: The Role of Design Science; ANU E Press, Australia, 1-7.


Journal Articles

Ali M, Kurnia S, and Johnston R (2009) Investigating IOS Adoption Maturity Using a Dyadic Approach International Journal of E-Collaboration, 5 (2), 43-60.

Waller V, and Johnston R (2009) Making ubiquitous computing available Communications of the ACM, 52 (10), 127-130. [More Information]

Conference Proceeding

Smith S, Shanks G, Johnston R, and Rahim M (2009) IOS Project Motivation as a Determinant of Project Activities and Business Capabilities 17th European Conference on Information Systems ECIS 2009; Università di Verona, Italy.

Book Chapters

Rahim M, Shanks G, Johnston R, and Sarker P (2009) Organizational Motivation and Interorganizational Systems Adoption Process: Empirical Evaluation in the Australian Automotive Industry Consumer Behavior, Organizational Development, and Electronic Commerce: Emerging Issues for Advancing Modern Socioeconomies; Information Science Reference, Hershey, United States, 311-327.

Waller V, Johnston R, and Milton S (2009) A Methodology for Situated Analysis and Design Handbook of Research on Modern Systems Analysis and Design Technologies and Applications; Information Science Reference, Hershey, United States, 23-34.


Journal Articles

Reimers K, Johnstone R, and Klein S (2008) A Theorizing Evolution of Inter-organizational Information Systems on Long Timescales Sprouts: working papers on information environments, systems and organizations, 8 (31), 1-28.

Smith S, Rahim M, Shanks G, and Johnston R (2008) How Organization Goals Affect Interorganization System Implementation Projects: Evidence and Implications Asia Pacific Management Review, 13 (3), 567-581.

Waller V, Johnston R, and Milton S (2008) Investigating the epistemological stances implicit in ISAD approaches Journal of Enterprise Information Management, 21 (2), 125-138. [More Information]

Conference Proceedings

Ali M, Kurnia S, and Johnston R (2008) A Dyadic Model of Interorganizational Systems (IOS) Adoption Maturity Forty-First Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS); Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Los Alamitos California, Washington, Tokyo. [More Information]

Riemers K, and Johnston R (2008) The Use of an Explicitly Theory-Driven Data Coding Method for High-Level Theory Testing in IOIS International Conference on Information Systems ICIS 2008; Association for Information Systems (AIS), United States.

Book Chapter

Lederman R, and Johnston R (2008) Manual Collaboration Systems: Decision Support or Support for Situated Choices Collaborative Decision Making: Perspectives and Challenges; IOS Press, Amsterdam, 333-343.


Journal Article

Rahim M, Shanks G, Johnston R, and Sarker P (2007) Organizational Motivation and Interorganizational Systems Adoption Process: Empirical Evaluation in the Australian Automotive Industry Journal of Electronic Commerce in Organizations, 5 (3), 1-16. [More Information]

Conference Proceeding

Rahim M, Smith S, Shanks G, and Johnston R (2007) Understanding IOS implementation process in an automotive manufacturing company: An organisational motivation perspective 7th International Conference on Electronic Business ICEB Taipei 2007; International Consortium for Electronic Business, United States.

Selected grants