Organizational Metaphors as Lenses for Analyzing the Roles of Middleware in Practice

Organizational Metaphors as Lenses for Analyzing the Roles of Middleware in Practice

Mithu Bhattacharya (College of Business Administration, University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit, MI, USA) and Louis-Marie Ngamassi Tchouakeu (College of Business, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, TX, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/ijissc.2014100101
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The ability to provide integration between business functions supported across multiple applications is a critical need for modern organizations. Middleware connects people, processes, systems, and technologies to ensure that the right person and processes get the right information at the right time to ensure optimal performance. However, problems often emerge from inadequate plan for integrating different legacy systems or otherwise. The purpose of this paper is to analyze middleware based on contemporary organizational theory for better understanding of this technology in organizational context. The paper attempts to identify the possible socially constructed metaphoric roles middleware plays in an organization, created by its users who are influenced and affected by its use. The newly conceptualized metaphors for middleware are used to analyze four case studies. The findings enhance the understanding of middleware in the context of its users and organizations and call for research directions that encompass a broader view of middleware.
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1. Introduction

This paper attempts to present a new way of thinking about how middleware are used in organizations. Traditionally, any computerized information system is viewed as an artifact which is independent of its environment and how it is put to use by its users. This conventional view about technology as an artifact is changing rapidly as more and more researchers are exploring the use of different computerized systems especially large scale systems like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) (Sarkar & Lee, 2000; Askenas & Westelius, 2000; Sia et al., 2002; Davison, 2002). Studies have been conducted to understand the role of ERP systems when put to use in an organizational setting where they interact with people (Kawalek & Wood-Harper, 2002; Sia et al., 2002; Kwahk, 2006). According to (Kwahk, 2006) one of the keys to understanding the adoption behavior of ERP systems may lie in understanding the attitudes that organizational members have toward change which will be brought by the systems. Various studies have been conducted to understand middleware as a technology i.e. technology oriented discussions about middleware has been rampant in this area of research (Chiang & Tang, 2003; Sameshima et al., 2004; Zhang & Jacobson, 2003) but not much has been done to understand the role of middleware when it is used in an organization. Not much is known about how middleware is perceived by its users in an organization who are affected by its use. We believe it is very important to unveil its role to aid better understanding of middleware which will support managing integration projects as well as make it more acceptable in an organization by its users. Moreover, an explicit understanding of middleware and the way it is perceived by different stakeholders is critical for its design. Understanding the roles that different stakeholders assume about middleware will facilitate the change the technology will bring about in the organization.

Eight different metaphoric roles played by middleware have been conceptualized in this paper. Middleware acts as conduit, neurons, siphon, force field, facilitator/adjunct, policeman, living organ, and web for different stakeholders. Morgan’s organizational metaphors (Morgan, 1986) are used as conceptual lenses to analyze and derive the metaphors for middleware as perceived by its users or people related or involved with it. We have primarily aimed to analyze the use of middleware when placed in an organization which has a specific view of looking at itself as conceptualized by (Morgan, 1986). Based on these organizational perspectives this paper contributes to understanding the concept of flexible and more easily acceptable middleware technology which encompasses a broader view of technology which is the “ensemble view”. Ensemble view of technology in general, focuses on dynamic interactions between people and technology rather than treating technology as a static and independent object (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). Usually middleware is examined using the dominant tool view of technology. This view is not enough considering that the technology is organizational in nature and involves a larger context.

Metaphors have been used to understand the use of middleware primarily because they are illustrative and secondarily because the word “middleware” itself is a metaphor meaning something which acts as glue between the network and applications. Metaphors help to draw analogies with concepts which we already know and make it simpler to comprehend (Morgan, 1986). We have used Morgan’s organizational metaphors as our conceptual lenses primarily because they are simple and comprehensive and they have been used by many researchers ever since they were conceptualized. Morgan’s metaphors for organizations have been primarily influenced by (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) metaphor theory which is the theoretical base for this work. Morgan’s organizational metaphors generate a range of complementary insights about the nature of organizations and how they can be designed and managed.

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