Document Sample
IT-infrastructures-oslo-h2004-v1 Powered By Docstoc
					The Reflexive Dynamics of Global
        IT infrastructures
               Knut H. Rolland
               Dept. of Computer and
               Information Science, NTNU


       Past: Interpretive case study of an IT
        infrastructure in a global company - PhD
        thesis (2003)
       Current ongoing projects:
        –   Knowledge Management Systems in the oil&gas
            industry (the AKSIO project, NFR)
        –   Integration of information systems in public sector
            (with SINTEF)
        –   Development and use of Open Source Software

2                                      Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004

       Critique of current conceptualizations of IT and
        organizational transformation
       IT infrastructures as ’risk society’ with focus on the
        reflexive dynamics of such technologies
       Case study of a global IT infrastructure in a globally
        distributed organization
       Analysis of case
       Discussion

3                                      Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
    Consider the following quote:

    “This is a huge patchwork – there everything
     is connected to everything. Whenever
     someone tries to implement something new
     without looking at the whole picture we’ve to
     dig out the backups after a few days…” (IT
     infrastructure manager)

4                              Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
    Control and IT

       Bureaucracy as the most important control
       Bravermann’s deskilling hypothesis (1974)
       Beniger (1986)
        –   Occational ’control crisis’ greates new innovations and
            eventually better forms of control
        –   IT seen as the ultimate control technology

    => Adopts a ’machine metaphor’ on organizations
    => IT is control and automation

5                                           Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
    Current management literature

       IT perceived as the ultimate technology for improving
        control and enhancing coordination in increasingly
        global organizations (e.g. Ives & Jarvenpaa, 1991;
        Weill & Broadbent, 1998)
       Typical assumtions made in this literature:
        –   IT is highly predictable and mallable
        –   Practices are invisible; they don’t influence organizational
        –   Context of use is largely perceived as irrelevant
        –   Ignores the inertia of large-scale networked technologies
       Implicitely draws from Beniger’s assumtions

6                                            Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
    ”Global solutions”? – Yes, but
    always local use

    A practice lens on use of IT
        –   IT is not simply ”applied”, but rather enacted in local
            practices of use: unintended as well as intended
            organizational effects (e.g. Ciborra, Orlikowski)
        –   Use of IT is always situated (cf. Suchman, 1987)
       But: todays use of IT happens in an increasingly
        global context
        –   ”Stretches” interaction further across time and space
        –   Global diversity in both practices and technologies

7                                             Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
    IT infrastructures

       Corporate-wide IT-infrastructures: Intranets,
        ERP, CRM
       Enabling, shared, open, heterogeneous,
        socio-technical, and built on an installed
       Side-effect of a succesful infrastructure: path-
        dependencies and lock-in effects

8                                  Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
    Relevant theories
       Development and use of IT is not isolated from, but rather part
        of various processes of globalization
       Giddens on ‘high modernity’ (Giddens, 1990)
         –   IT can facilitate the separation of time and space
         –   IT as a type of disembedding mechanism requiring local re-
         –   IT may be an enabler of institutional reflexivity
       Beck on ‘risk society’ (Beck, 1992)
         –   Lack of control since the control is increasingly distributed among
             different actors and technological components
         –   Increasing dependencies leading to new oportunities, but also
             increasing risk

9                                                Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004

        Reflexive monitoring of action (Giddens, 1984)

        Modernity itself has become reflexive (Beck, 1994)
          –   Often aiming at control, but producing risks

        The ‘sources’ of risks have changed considerably as modernity
         has reduced many of the traditional risks at the same time as
         new ‘techno-scientifically’ produced risks and ‘high
         consequence risks’ (e.g. ecological catastrophes, nuclear war,
         etc.) have been introduced

10                                                Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     Case: A global IT infrastructur in a
     global classification company

        The Maritime Classification Company (MCC)
         –   5500 employees; 300 offices; 100 countries
        Technical inspections (i.e. surveys) on ships
         conducted by surveyors located in local offices
        The Global-Scale Information System (GSIS)
         –   Developed over 6 years (1994 -> 2000), 1 billion Nok
         –   Framed as a success by management and also considered
             partly successful by surveyors

11                                          Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     Why a global infrastructure?

        Management’s point of view: need to increase global
         coorination and control due to ongoing globalization
         of the maritime industries and markets.

        Need for Standardization: The quality of the survey
         reports varies from office to office, surveyor to
        Need for Integration: Problems with the existing
         paper-based infrastructure
        Need for new products and services: ’commenced’
         (distributed) surveys very difficult to conduct

12                                    Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
13   Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
14   Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
15   Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     The initial experience
       “I‘m always forced to enter information on the lowest and most
        detailed level. This is extremely time-consuming – and the work
        becomes very fragmented […] it's chaotic, [and] I miss the
        ability to have a view of the whole while I‘m working on a
        specific detail. (Surveyor)

      “The quality can be judged by the report, […] you know, a high
       quality, professional looking document. And now it looks
       something that has been thrown together by a dyslectic word
       processor – and it does not have that – carry that sort of safe
       feel of conviction.” (Local manager)

     => The ”global system” needs to be re-embedded (Giddens,
        1990) in local context of use

16                                         Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     Examples of unintended side effects in
     local use

        ’Juggling’ is considered neccesary:
      “They juggle with it [the reports] by for instance importing it into
         Word there they modify it – so that we get one version in [GSIS]
         and one paper-based version of the report.” (Superuser,
      New forms of fragmentation:
      “I know it’s not part of the official procedure – but we store all
         reports electronically anyway. We have developed an
         automatic document handling system that gives a report an
         index and stores it in a database. I think most regions use this
         or similar systems…” (Senior Surveyor, Denmark)
     = > Global solutions require local improvisations and
         adjustements in order to work (cf. Bowker and Star, 1999;
         Timmermans and Berg, 1997)

17                                           Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     Standardized solutions and local

        Scandinavian offices
          –   Relatively flat organization structure
          –   Sceptical to new information technologies designed by ‘managers’
              at HQ
          –   Gap between the inscribed sequential logic and the flat
              organization structure
        Asian offices (e.g. Singapore)
          –   Hierarchical organization structure aligned well with the step-by-
              step procedure in the GSIS
          –   Problem: secretaries used to do a lot of work that in the GSIS
              infrastructure was supposed to be done by surveyors.

     => Processes of globalization do not have uniform
        consequences accross local sites (Giddens)

18                                                 Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     Reflexivity in use – ex. 1
        Surveyors working in some regions seemed to be reluctant to
         ‘sign off’ a survey job that had partly been undertaken by
         another surveyor:
           “We generally try not to hand unfinished things over, because at the
            end of the day there is somebody’s signature on it saying this is
            what I have done. It easily becomes messy if you say he did that
            and I did this…It’s not that we don’t trust each other at all – it is
            just not our way of doing it” (surveyor, UK)
        Surveyors perceived it as risky to use information provided by
         unknown surveyors

     = > The GSIS as a disembedding mechanism requires new
        systems of trust to be established (cf. Giddens, 1990)
     = > Trust and risk is related (cf. Giddens, 1990)

19                                               Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     Reflexivity in use – ex. 2

        Utilizing the memo functionality in order to report
         new kinds of surveys and to give critical information
         to the next surveyor:
         –   “Here I had to create a totally new survey which I called a
             ‘Conversion survey’ – it’s really only a free-text field [shows
             how this is done] […] Now I have re-invented the memo to
             signal the need for the periodical survey within May 99
             (Surveyor, Denmark)”

        ’Reskilling’ rather than deskilling
        ’Jazz improvisation’ and ’bricolage’

20                                             Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     Re-design aiming at improving control

     Adding flexibility

21                        Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     The ”boomerang effect”

        “HQ faced tremendous problem…[]… an extensive backlog
         had been growing – on top of all the frustration in local offices”
         (Implementation Manager)
        Redesign to align with local practices caused problems at other
         sites (HQ)

     => Illustrates the essence of reflexive modernization:
        attempts to increase control leads to more uncertainty,
        unpredictability, and uncontrollability (Beck, 1994)

22                                            Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     Reflexivity in modifications, extentions

        “How Windows NT is configured locally is very
         important for how [GSIS] works. For example, if we
         don’t adjust and test [GSIS] before a new service
         pack is implemented – we can get problems of
         compatibility. Microsoft can have modified one DLL –
         or for some reason a library may have been
         replaced. In those cases, if those components are
         not replaced in [GSIS] applications or in the [GSIS]
         architecture – we get failure situations.” (IT
         infrastructure manager)

23                                    Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     IT infrastructures as ’risk society’

        The GSIS captures ‘risk society’ (Beck, 1992)
         in a nutshell:
         –   New interdependencies (i.e. integration) produced
             new risks
         –   Local adjustments and events sometimes had
             disastrous effects at other sites
         –   Required new systems of trust
         –   Produced diversity and heterogeneity

24                                     Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     Reflexive dynamics - a summary
        The same IT infrastructure had varying organizational consequences
         in different offices and over time
        The standardized IT-infrastructure produced new forms of
        Attempts to inscribe common ways of achieving high quality in some
         cases resulted in a decrease of quality
        Users tended to use the same functionality for different purposes
         according to the situation at hand
        The IT infrastructure was continously re-invented. Standardized and
         large-scale IT solutions are not neccesarily an obstacle for local
         innovation and adjustments in use as argued elsewhere (Orlikowski,
        Attempts to control users’ beaviour (re-designs, new policies, best-
         practices and training) tended to backfire and increase uncontrollability
         and unpredictability.

25                                                Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004
     Concluding remarks

        Control is not the solution, but part of the problem
        Use of IT infrastructures displays a ’dialectic of
        Use of IT infrastructures have inherent risks
         irrespective of the quality of their designs and skills
         of their users, due to reflexivity and side-effects.
        But, some technologies and designs are ’better’ than

26                                      Copyright (C) Knut H. Rolland 2004

Shared By: