Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Turn to the material: remote diagnostics and new forms of boundary-spanning
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics.
Department of Information Systems, Case Western Reserve University, Umeå, Sweden.
2009 (English)In: Information and organization, ISSN 1471-7727, E-ISSN 1873-7919, Vol. 19, no 4, 233-252 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

To learn and adapt, organizations engage widely in Information Technology (IT)-mediated boundary-spanning. This involves making sense of a swath of peripheral information made available by digital means so as to expand local knowledge. Prior research on boundary-spanning has paid scant attention to material differences between IT systems in enabling or constraining such activity. In this article, we argue that material features do matter: features afforded by IT systems have a significant impact on the form and content of boundary-spanning. We analyze material features and related affordances provided by remote diagnostics systems – a family of ubiquitous IT systems. These features allow remote diagnostics systems to collect, store, and continuously analyze data about the state of machinery and related production processes across space, time and organizational boundaries. Organizations use these systems to determine when maintenance intervention is needed, or to improve their production processes. Often, these systems are run by external service providers at remote sites, which become the new ears and the eyes of a focal organization’s production processes. Building on a longitudinal multi-site case study of two organizations, we explore the impacts of remote diagnostics systems on boundary-spanning. We observe that material features afforded by the remote diagnostics led the organizations to change their boundary-spanning in contradictory ways. On one hand, they reinforced existing boundaries. On the other hand, they crossed or cut down others, or created new ones. This suggests that the material features of these systems, when combined with new knowledge creation and sharing practices, within and between the local and the remote sites generate richer, multifaceted inter-organizational knowledge flows. We surmise that IT’s new material features will continue to significantly shape organizing logics that determine where and when organizational boundaries are drawn and crossed. Future boundary-spanning will increasingly be shaped by socio-technical assemblages brought together by increasingly pervasive IT capabilities.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 19, no 4, 233-252 p.
Keyword [en]
remote diagnostics systems, boundary-spanning, ubiquitous computing, maintenance work
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-26912DOI: 10.1016/j.infoandorg.2009.07.001OAI: diva2:274757
Available from: 2009-12-08 Created: 2009-10-31 Last updated: 2010-05-18Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Digitalized industrial equipment: an investigation of remote diagnostics services
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Digitalized industrial equipment: an investigation of remote diagnostics services
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

With the ubiquity of digitalization, digital convergence of applications, devices, networks and artifacts presents both challenges and opportunities for individuals, organizations and society. Physical artifacts that were not digital in the recent past are now increasingly becoming intertwined with digital components, providing them with digital capabilities. As a consequence, vast amounts of information that used to be invisible can now be captured, digitized and used in new places and novel ways. Organizations thus seek to innovate IT-enabled services based upon the flows of information across both internal and external organizational boundaries. Because IT-enabled services support organizational actors in communicating and collaborating both inside and outside the organizations’ boundaries, they can also assimilate and diffuse knowledge across these boundaries.

The thesis is a collection of five papers and a cover paper reporting an exploration of the role of digitalized equipment in boundary-spanning practices as a contribution to the design and implementation of IT-enabled services. Three embedded case studies of Swedish industrial organizations provide an opportunity to address the research question. The findings are based on studies of remote diagnostics services for industrial equipment enabled by remote diagnostics systems, an application family within ubiquitous computing.

The thesis illustrates that remote diagnostics systems have a profound impact on how organizational boundaries that were drawn as ‘cross-overs’ are becoming less limited by constraints of time, space and the type of data shared. These systems permit workers at remote sites to gain access to information about external dispersed equipment and production processes. They also create new boundaries between entities that were not previously connected and across existing boundaries with new information and knowledge. This thesis gives insight into how such information sharing across boundaries may leverage multicontextual practices.

This thesis contributes to the existing literature with the development of a conceptual apparatus for understanding how embedded technology transforms boundary-spanning practices from a pure social activity to a boundary-spanning assemblage. Boundary spanning is an increasingly complex sociomaterial practice that fundamentally rests on technology as well as human competencies. The technology is deeply intertwined in the boundary-spanning activity as the sensors installed in the monitored equipment serve as the remote technicians’ eyes and ears. Together, the technology and the technicians form a boundary-spanning assemblage.

While information systems research has called for attention to the ‘IT artifact’, this thesis underscores the importance of the characteristics of the specific technology and the profound effects it has had on its surroundings. In contrast to predominant ubiquitous computing research that mainly explores mobile applications, this thesis also shows how the increased embeddedness of IT makes technology an invisible but ever-present part of everyday work practices. Digitalized equipment with embedded technology thus raises not only novel opportunities but also novel challenges for both users and researchers.

We can design IT solutions today where people close to the technology have no access to or awareness of it. People can be monitored without visual cues revealing the monitoring. Furthermore, developing or using an IT-enabled service is not merely about developing/using a technology or a system; it also involves issues about the technology’s value creation, its ownership, competencies and customer relationships. IT and services should thus not be considered as separate and subsequent processes: they are deeply intertwined and mutual. This thesis thus suggests that digitalized equipment with embedded technology deserves critical scrutiny.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Institutionen för informatik, Umeå universitet, 2010. 105 p.
Research reports in informatics, ISSN 1401-4572 ; 02
boundary-spanning practices, e-maintenance, industry, information technology, IT-enabled services, remote diagnostics systems, ubiquitous computing
National Category
Computer and Information Science
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-33717 (URN)978-91-7459-003-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-06-04, MA 121, MIT huset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2010-05-12 Created: 2010-05-04 Last updated: 2010-05-12Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

fulltext(469 kB)509 downloads
File information
File name FULLTEXT02.pdfFile size 469 kBChecksum SHA-512
Type fulltextMimetype application/pdf

Other links

Publisher's full text

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Jonsson, KatrinHolmström, Jonny
By organisation
Department of Informatics
In the same journal
Information and organization

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
Total: 509 downloads
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Altmetric score

Total: 143 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link