Assessing software as a service diffusion: from adoption to its continuance intention

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Technological progress is enabling firms to acquire software from different architecture environments. One such architecture environment that has produced a considerable impact on the markets is software as a service (SaaS). SaaS focuses on delivering software hosted off-premises and accessed remotely by means of a subscription fee. Recognized by managers and researchers as a promising solution, it is expanding in the software markets. However, SaaS is surrounded by uncertainty as its perceived viability is still questioned. Although this has motivated recent research into the determinants of SaaS, evidence suggests that it is still not enough. Research has much to cover in order to improve our understanding of the SaaS diffusion process. This dissertation investigates the SaaS diffusion process at a firm level by examining the drivers for each stage. Specifically, we analyze the different influences of the determinant factors on SaaS from the intention to adopt, passing through adoption, routinization and use, as well as its continuance intention. Because SaaS is considered a specific form of information systems outsourcing (ISO), in a first phase we assess the determinants in the context of ISO adoption in order to introduce to its investigation. The purpose of this approach is twofold. First, we test the appropriateness of the theoretical framework selected for the study of SaaS through its application in the analyses of ISO. Second, we find factors of ISO that are transferable to the SaaS context. In a second phase, we consider mediator and moderator influences and propose a new approach of applying a well known theoretical framework in the setting of SaaS adoption. This dissertation contributes to scholarship by enhancing current knowledge of why firms adopt and use SaaS. It incorporates seven studies individually separated into chapters. Chapter 2 is a detailed literature review on ISO and SaaS. As mentioned above, SaaS a specific form of outsourcing. Chapter 3 introduces the main theme by evaluating the suitability of the base framework proposed in this work on the study of ISO. Chapters 4 and 5 are extensions of chapter 3, in which comparisons of the determinants for ISO adoption in different business areas are performed. In chapter 6 we assess the determinants of the SaaS diffusion process (i.e. intention, adoption, and routinization). The factors that influence SaaS use and its continuance intention are identified in chapter 7. In chapter 8 we provide a new approach of applying the theoretical framework used in this dissertation in the context of SaaS adoption. This work adopts a positivist epistemological posture. As for the research methodology, a deductive method is used. All studies of this dissertation with the exception of the one presented in chapter 2 are based on the technology-organization-environment (TOE) framework. Additionally, we integrate TOE framework with other theories to enhance the explanatory power of the model. Thus, in chapters 4 and 5 we use diffusion of innovation (DOI) theory; in chapter 6 the institutional theory (INT) is used, in addition to DOI theory; in chapter 7 we include opportunity-risk framework apart from the theories already mentioned. The findings of this dissertation confirm that little research has indeed been performed on SaaS adoption, and more efforts are needed to provide an in-depth understanding of the topic. Through the analysis performed in the ISO context in chapters 3, 4, and 5, the TOE framework suitability as a theoretical basis for the study of SaaS is confirmed. Significant factors of ISO that are transferable for the SaaS context are also found. Relative advantage, complexity, technology competence, top management support, and normative pressures are determinants in the intention to adopt stage. Normative pressures are a constant determinant in the intention, adoption, and routinization stages. Additionally, a total effect (direct effect and indirect effect combined) of cost savings, relative advantage, and top management support is found in the adoption stage of SaaS. A cost savings total effect on the intention to adopt is also found. In terms of the post-adoption stages (i.e. SaaS use to its continuance intention) the findings confirm top management support and normative pressures as determinants of SaaS use. SaaS use and perceived opportunities are significant factors for the continuance intention. Moreover, the relationship between SaaS use and continuance intention is moderated by perceived opportunities. Finally, in this research we validate a new conceptual approach for the TOE framework by introducing moderator effects in its application. This investigation fills a crucial research gap by providing a better understanding of the determinants that affect organizational SaaS diffusion, advancing newer paths of approaching a solid theoretical framework.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS)
  • Oliveira, Tiago, Supervisor
  • Thomas, Manoj Abraham, Supervisor, External person
Award date29 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2017


  • Information systems outsourcing
  • Technology-organization-environment framework
  • Diffusion of innovations
  • IT adoption
  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS)
  • Post-adoption
  • Institutional theory (INT)
  • Opportunity-risk model
  • Continuance intention
  • Moderator effects


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