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Digital transformation: the material roles of IT resources and their political uses
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS). Swedish Center for Digital Innovation.
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Digital transformation : den materiella betydelsen av IT-resurser och dess politiska användning i strategiska informationssystem (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

As IT became ubiquitous, we recognized that IT was everywhere but in our theories. Despite significant efforts, Information System (IS) research is still in desperate search for the IT artifact. Recent reviews show that IS research first and foremost considers IT resources as a socio-technical and managerial concern. Analyses of inertia are restricted to cognitive limitations or technical challenges of IT development and use as separate activities. Hence, IS research assumes that more development resources, extended training, and better management could turn most failures into success. In this thesis, I posit that IS strategy research often treats normal failure as unexpected to maintain the rational idea that managers are in control and that IT does not matter in and of itself. I argue that planned and convergent views of change work well under stable and unitary conditions but in this way fail to account for the complexity of current IS strategy practice. To substantiate this claim, I demonstrate how IS research routinely neglects the material IT use story in the context of digital transformation (DT) studies and social informatics. Political conflict is a constant theme in IS strategy implementation research, yet few studies provided explanation for the apprehension that managers and workers display during the introduction of new IT resources; even as most managers remain men I found also no study that theorized gender politics as related to IS strategy outcomes. I argue in particular that the IS fields routine adherence to borrowed assumptions about the pace, linearity, and sequence of radical change have limited IS scholars to marginally improve on received DT narratives in which IT plays little or no part as IT appears as an agent mostly before and after DT. Though much is said about how IT triggers and enables organizational change, the actual processes and mechanisms that underlies IS strategy change enactments are thus poorly understood. To examine how the material roles of IT resources and their political use can be captured and explained, I summarize and synthesize insights grounded in empirics from four appended research papers. In this way, I chart avenues for material theorizing of micro-affordances and institutions, and develop an IS strategy-as-practice lens that attends IT use as a material practice. After developing this lens, I discuss how material practice perspectives afford deep understanding of the materialities through which actors create, sustain, and transform organizational practice with digital material, and highlight some opportunities to observe the social consequences of IT use in the context of critical studies on men and masculinities and digital gender.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2015. , 112 p.
Series
Research reports in informatics, ISSN 1401-4572 ; 15.03
National Category
Information Systems, Social aspects
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-109761ISBN: 978-91-7601-365-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-109761DiVA: diva2:858993
Public defence
2015-10-30, MIT-huset, MA1, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2015-10-09 Created: 2015-10-05 Last updated: 2015-10-09Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Information systems use as strategy practice: a multi-dimensional view of strategic information system implementation and use
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Information systems use as strategy practice: a multi-dimensional view of strategic information system implementation and use
2014 (English)In: Journal of strategic information systems, ISSN 0963-8687, E-ISSN 1873-1198, Vol. 23, no 1, 45-61 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Information systems (IS) are strategic in so far as they are used to realize strategic intent. Yet, while much has been said about aligning IS functionality with the strategic intent and how to organizationally implement strategically aligned systems, less is known of how to successfully implement strategic change associated with system use – a truly critical challenge within strategic IS implementation. Drawing on a strategy-as-practice perspective we address this gap by developing a multi-dimensional view of IS strategy, conceptualizing three key challenges in the IS strategy process, to explain how and why a paper mill, despite successfully implementing a strategic production management system, failed to produce intended strategic change. We call this outcome strategy blindness: organizational incapability to realize the strategic intent of implemented, available system capabilities. Using a longitudinal case study we investigate how cognitive rigidity of key actors and fixed, interrelated practices shaped the implementation of the new production system. We also identify core components and dynamics that constitute a richer multi-dimensional view of the IS strategy implementation (alignment) process. In particular, we identify three salient factors that contribute to strategy blindness – mistranslation of intent, flexibility of the IT artifact and cognitive entrenchment – and discuss how they affect strategic implementation processes. We conclude by discussing implications of our findings for IS strategy theory and practice, especially the contribution of strategy-as-practice to this stream of research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2014
Keyword
strategic IS implementation, multi-dimensional view of IS strategy, strategic change, information systems use, cognitive entrenchment
National Category
Information Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-86319 (URN)10.1016/j.jsis.2014.01.004 (DOI)000335546600004 ()
Note

Special Issue: SI

Available from: 2014-02-23 Created: 2014-02-23 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
2. Outflanking with information technology: a dialectic model of organizational transformation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Outflanking with information technology: a dialectic model of organizational transformation
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The information systems (IS) literature conveys two opposing narratives of how to create radical organizational transformation (OT) with information technology (IT): “Iron fist” scholars argue that such OT is best achieved by resolute leaders capable of driving episodic change by fiat, while “velvet glove” scholars posit that OT is best induced incrementally by compassionate leaders who nurture shared vision and minimize conflict. These narratives portray implicitly gendered management stereotypes and promote accounts of heroism. Built to celebrate deliberate managerial action, they also brush aside back-stage work necessary for successful IS strategy implementation and cast IT in the marginal role of a trigger for or enabler of OT. To address these shortcomings, we advance a dialectic model of OT that views IT as a material change agent. To synthesize insights from these opposing narratives of change, our dialectic model also interrogates dominant assumptions in received OT theory. The model is motivated by an unexpected and intriguing case of OT in a Swedish municipality where initially peripheral actors used IT to gradually bring about a much-contested radical change to the organization’s service logics. These actions resembled the military tactics founded on stealth and surprise that military leaders use to overcome overwhelming enemies; therefore, we term the new OT narrative “outflanking.” The narrative foregrounds three tactical IT uses—shielding, priming, and enrolling—that the actors deployed to overcome the opposition. As a result, we theorize that the role of novel IT uses is a necessary component of contemporary OT. Following a call for analyses of OT that recognize material effects of IT, the article concludes with a discussion of how managers can strike alliances with peripheral actors to render their organizations more dynamic, and how researchers need better articulate the complexity of the current IT-based OT.

Keyword
Organizational transformation, IT use, Digital materiality, Outflanking, Dialectics, Institutional entrepreneurship, Socio-political change.
National Category
Information Systems, Social aspects
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-109759 (URN)
Available from: 2015-10-05 Created: 2015-10-05 Last updated: 2015-10-06
3. Strategy Blindness as Disciplined IT-use Practice: Looking Past the 'Unintended and Unexpected' through the Practice Lens
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Strategy Blindness as Disciplined IT-use Practice: Looking Past the 'Unintended and Unexpected' through the Practice Lens
2016 (English)In: 2016 49th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Science (HICSS), IEEE Computer Society, 2016, 4644-4653 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Strategy blindness is commonly understood as an unexpected outcome of IS strategy implementation that results as users make sense of new IT resources in unintended ways. What could be learned by instead treating strategy blindness expected? To this end, this paper unpacks some common assumptions of strategic failure and presents an alternative assumption ground. To explain how masculinites form sources of strategy failure, I reanalyze IT use at a Swedish paper-mill as negotiated among rough and respectable men: blue-collar workers and white-collar managers are shown to maintain distinct hierarchies yet enact the same fixed IT use reality; in each case, intimate relations to the paper machine dictated their ways. Power plays of optimization and mastery illustrate each identity. I then critique current ideas in strategic management and received notions of how IT matters in strategy practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
IEEE Computer Society, 2016
Series
Proceedings of the Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, ISSN 1060-3425
National Category
Information Systems, Social aspects
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-109758 (URN)10.1109/HICSS.2016.576 (DOI)000377358204085 ()978-0-7695-5670-3 (ISBN)
Conference
Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), January 5-8, 2016, Grand Hyatt Kauai
Available from: 2015-10-05 Created: 2015-10-05 Last updated: 2016-07-11Bibliographically approved
4. To make or fake sense of information technology?: strategic ambiguity as a source of radical change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>To make or fake sense of information technology?: strategic ambiguity as a source of radical change
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

While Information Technology (IT) resources signal different meanings to different actors, strategy scholarship advocates the establishing of tight links between the functional role and strategic purpose of IT resources. Particularly, the “interpretative flexibility” of IT resources is depicted as an obstacle for effective strategy implementation that needs to be overcome through planned deployment, training, and control. We challenge this conventional assumption. Through applying a practice lens in a qualitative multi-site case study, we identify four types of IT resource configurations, theorizing IT resource ambiguity as a source for radical change. Ultimately, we observe how, when, and why ambiguous uses of IT can form critical elements of new IT strategy practices, and suggest several implications of the observed IT resource ambiguity for strategy and management research.

Keyword
IT strategy, Strategic ambiguity, Interpretative flexibility, Sensemaking, Sensegiving.
National Category
Information Systems, Social aspects
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-109760 (URN)
Available from: 2015-10-05 Created: 2015-10-05 Last updated: 2015-10-06

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Arvidsson, Viktor

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