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What do technologies do in organisations?

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Managers want IT to help run the organisation, and that's why approaches like BPR and ERP are so popular. However, some of the most widely used academic research shows that IT doesn't work that way in practice. Half the time it's an arena for horsetrading, and the other half of the time managers are hitting themselves against a brick wall. In this presentation, Duncan Chapple summarises that research.

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What do technologies do in organisations?

  1. 1. Duncan Chapple WHAT DO TECHNOLOGIES DO IN ORGANISATIONS? October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 1
  2. 2. Comparison of three views Shared critical view of the managerial view Advocates of starting from ‘as is’, rather than ‘to be’ Ciborra • Management approach focusses on control • Infrastructures act in themselves • 2000 Crabtree et al • BPR misses the real world • Use ethnography to map reality • 2001 Kallinicos • ERP aims to unify the organisation • Human control is limited • 2004 Common focus on large-scale corporate IT systems October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 2
  3. 3. Claudio Ciborra reviews the managerial literature “THE CONTROL APPROACH DOES NOT ALWAYS WORK” October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 3
  4. 4. ‘Managerial’ viewpoint Unoriginal approaches in cases studied, sharing: • Interweaving of the physical infrastructure and the processes and software that support BPR • Processes frozen into the infrastructure • Clearly marked pyramids of technologies • Varying reach and scope: • Utility: cost efficient • Dependence: core processes • Enabling: new processes • Strategic alignment of IT with the business October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 4
  5. 5. Two ‘managerial’ styles Normative approaches IT “portfolio management” • Investing in infrastructure, systems, technologies and applications • Balancing risk to generate value • Analyse, transform and envision • Typically based on business maxims • ‘relentless cost reduction’ • ‘continuous innovation’ Management by deals Accounts for 50% of cases Deals to balance short-term needs and powerful groups • A free market for infrastructure formation • Uneven development of infrastructure • Supports systems that are: • Ineffective • Utility • Dependent • … but not Enabling October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 5
  6. 6. Problems identified in cases We regard the geometrical models as a superstructure world, as outcomes of an idealisation process The socio-technical everyday • Rigid alignment or flexibility? • Bricolage (1996) • What is infrastructure? • What are the boundaries? • Independent actors abound • Institutions, not just ‘services’ No development from scratch • What pre-exists influences design of the new • ‘Open’ and ‘closed’ systems both pre-exist • IS research uses rhetoric • Tinkering not strategic alignment ‘De-worlded’ managerialism fails • Strategy and technology drift apart • Alignment is hard to implement • Leadership is missing • Technology drifts out of control October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 6
  7. 7. What is observed in the cases, but absent in managerialism? Caring actors Hospitality: coping with ambiguity Liquid portfolio? Asset synergy! Cultivation: tensions + resources  innovation ‘Agendas’ versus the infrastructure Strategy emerges from implementation Align the human and non-human components Make the double loop real October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 7
  8. 8. Bottom line:- “THE CONTROL APPROACH WORKS ONLY WHEN DENIED” October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 8
  9. 9. Andy Crabtree et al “BPR IS INADEQUATE FOR THE PURPOSE” October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 9
  10. 10. BPR & Quickmaps Business Process Reengineering • In 2001, a popular analytical solution for the generation of process requirements for builders of systems focussed on customer value • Maps obscure human work processes • ‘as-is’ maps are transformed into ‘to-be’ maps October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 10
  11. 11. BPR fails in practice. Case study field notes • Managers want models to best reflect their own staff’s activity • Quickmaps don’t describe it • However, realised processes are contingent • Complex and negotiated • Trading effort for favourability • Based not on optimal procedures but on adequate relationships between actors Explicating processes • Ethnography makes sociality visible • Explicating the social organisation of work shows ‘what is really going on’ • Thus can show how to resolve problems • Seeing the social world from participants’ viewpoints • Recognisable and corrigible • Available to design October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 11
  12. 12. Bottom line:- “ETHNOGRAPHY MAY BE COMPLIMENTARY TO BPR” October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 12
  13. 13. Jannis Kallinicos “ERP IS A TECHNOLOGY OF REGULATION NOT INNOVATION” October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 13
  14. 14. Procedural visions of ERP and human agency Methods & tools for managerialism Double binds that produce drifts Implementation-focussed literature overlooks a lot • Reconstruction of the ecology of micro-tasks • No isolated acts with ERP • Little space for behaviour • Managerial literature bypasses the complexities • Side-effects produce unimagined directions • Integration also undermines • Implications for human work • Interaction with outside systems • Organisations are not made of functions and procedures October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 14
  15. 15. Impact on organisational choices Functional prerequisites Huge level of procedural specification • Core and support processes are performatively embedded in ERP systems • Practise is disembodied • ERP look inwardly, to produce manageability External adaptation Responsiveness to the environment • Procedures are inadequate and need modification • ERP hinders humans’ need to frame situations, inhibiting learning • Organisations lose innovation and learning October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 15
  16. 16. Bottom line:- “ERP PRIVILEGES PROCEDURE OVER LOCAL KNOWLEDGE” October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 16
  17. 17. Resources Reading • Ciborra, C. (2000). From control to drift : the dynamics of corporate information infastructures / Claudio U. Ciborra [and others], Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2000. • Crabtree, A., M. Rouncefield and P. Tolmie (2001). "'There's something else missing here': BPR and the Requirements Process." Knowledge & Process Management 8(3): 164-174. • Kallinikos, J. (2004). Deconstructing information packages, Emerald. 17: 8-30. Bricolage • Ciborra, C. U. (1996). "The Platform Organization: Recombining Strategies, Structures, and Surprises." Organization Science 7(2): 103-118. October 14 What do technologies do? @DuncanChapple 17
  18. 18. Discussion Follow-up points to @DuncanChapple