Infoprocess

Infoprocess

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5986-5.ch007
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Abstract

This chapter explores the concept of infoprocess. Concepts of process in various disciplines are examined in preparation to conceptualizing process from the management and IS perspectives. Business Process Reengineering (BPR) and Business Process Management (BPM) are discussed as the approaches relevant for IS research. The discussion proceeds to infoprocess (short for “informing process”), which is defined in terms of interrelated informing activities that deliver an outcome to a customer. The concept of infoprocesses involves aspects of data, cognition, and their intersection that results in information. Many organizational processes are infoprocesses, or have infoprocess segments. An analytical framework that applies to business process and infoprocess alike is elaborated. It includes two essential segments—design and performance. Infoprocess design is discussed in terms of composition, coordination, complexity, flexibility, and technology. Infoprocess performance is discussed in terms of process time, costs, and customer value. Process design determines process performance. Better performance can be achieved by optimizing each design aspect. Ensuing discussion covers the process-centered organization in conjunction with Enterprise Resource Planning systems and the BPR methodology. Challenges of BPR are examined and contrasted to the BPM approach. In the second part of the chapter, attention turns to the role of process approach in advanced forms of organizing. The virtual organization is discussed and expanded with exploring virtualness at large and a model of Tree of Virtual Life. Next, organizations enabling e-commerce and the mobile enterprise are examined from the process perspective. The discussion concludes by looking at potential perils of the process approach framed as a collision of different concepts of time.
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Introduction

This chapter is about understanding organizational informing agents and their organizational context from a process perspective. This perspective is akin to the systems theory (general systems theory, cybernetics, etc.) although still distinct. Systems theory is a parent to IS field and has made a significant impact on organization theory. IS cannot be thought of without invoking systems thinking. Although this thinking has not been used as persistently in organization theory, it certainly has a significant place in the broad repertory of organizational views. From the general systems perspective, organizations are understood in terms of interrelated parts that work together to produce certain deliverables.

Organization theory and the IS field, however, are much less congruent with regard to the process approach. In the IS field, which roughly splits into a technological camp and a behavioral camp, process thinking has many implementations. For example, in the area of systems analysis and design, an organization is analyzed in terms of interconnected tasks creating a particular deliverable, that is, organizational or business process (the term procedure is often used in practice, although process is usually a larger whole than procedure). Systems analysis leads to identifying the place for technological support to the process in the form of IS. A computer-based IS consists of software processes that automate parts of or entire business processes. development the process approach is focused on programming and software processes. And recently promoted IS strategies, such as business process reengineering (BPR) and business process management (BPM), exhibit a resolute process orientation.

In contrast, organization theory has not treated process as a particular view of organization, but rather implied it as part of the systems view of organization. A notion of process is engaged, but only at the macro-organizational level. Organization is conceived as a process of transformation of inputs (materials, labor, money, informing content) into outputs (a service or a physical good). This premise has then been adopted in various instantiations of the systems view interested in the relationship between organization-as-system and its environment (e.g., the contingency and ecological approaches). Various assumptions have been coupled with the systems view, such as Darwinian evolution. For example, the adjustment of an organization to its environment is conceived as a process of differentiation of organizational structure in order to become isomorphic (to match) with the complexity of the environment (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967). The process paradigm has been influential in other disciplines as well, such as philosophy and theology.

This chapter is about the process approach as part of IVO. After discussing general concepts of process, the attention will focus on business process and then on the central topic—infoprocess. If business process is a set of activities that transform some material and/or cognitive inputs into outputs, then infoprocess refers to this cognitive segment. Infoprocess can be a sub-process, such as controlling of manufacturing quality, where measurements of processed material products are taken and processed into production parameters. The quality control sub-process belongs to a larger production process along with the product assembly sub-process. Assembling a product obviously has to do with physical matter, and therefore is not an infoprocess. The merit of detecting infoprocesses at the sub-process level opens up the space for IS. In principle, infoprocesses are transferable into software to various degrees. More transferrable are data-intensive infoprocesses. The less transferable infoprocesses include activities at a higher cognitive level (perception, memory retrieval, thinking including decision activities, etc.).

Infoprocess can also cover an entire business process. An example is decision making underlying planning. Another example is the planning process that, in addition to decision making, involves sub-processes of research, analysis, and negotiation. The merit of looking at a business process as an infoprocess is in focusing on cognitive complexity of inter-related data, information (meaning), and knowledge as well as in profiling a role for IS.

The infoprocesses approach is particularly important for understanding spatially dispersed organizations, such as the virtual organization. These organizational designs are paramount in the age of globalized business. The more an organization can move into the domain of infoprocesses, the more it can disperse its processes globally. The infoprocesses approach also enables a focused, effective manner of managing e-commerce.

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