Reflections

Reflections

Lars Taxén (Linköping University, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-192-6.ch002
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Abstract

In this chapter, I take a step back from the whirling flow of events related in the previous chapter, and try to make sense of what happened during these years. In the first section, I analyze the evolution of the Framework using the vocabulary of the Actor Network Theory (ANT) (Latour, 1992). Next, I relate some observations from Ericsson outside the activities I was directly involved in; observations that somehow seemed to be in line with the pattern that began to emerge. Finally, I summarize the insights and needs from the practical trail.
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Analysis Of The Framework Trajectory

In ANT, the social and technological aspects of human activity are seen as a unity, which is well in line with the praxis perspective in this book. Humans and artifacts are both considered actors. For example, an IS may have interests of its own like any human actor. In order to underline this somewhat provocative position, the term actands is sometimes used instead of actors1.

An innovation is considered in ANT to follow a certain trajectory in a society. This trajectory is called a program. The innovator inscribes certain intentions in the innovation. The inscription will change as the innovation becomes engaged in a heterogeneous actor-network of people, organizations, standards and artifacts. Eventually the innovation and its inscription may solidify into irreversible network elements called black boxes, which indicates that the innovation has become an institution. At that point it is no longer possible to go back to an earlier stage.

The program is opposed by an anti-program, which represents interest groups and existing black boxes that might clash with the program. For example, a legacy IS may be part of an anti-program opposing the introduction of a new IS. In order to engage allies who may adopt the innovation, a series of translations of the innovation must take place. The purpose of a translation is to align the interests of other actands with the interest of the innovation. The inscribed pattern may not survive in the translation process since the anti-program may inscribe other intentions in the innovation. For example, the innovation may be used in ways not intended.

The program trajectory can be illustrated in a diagram such as in Figure 1. The horizontal dimension, called syntagm in ANT, corresponds to actors who have adopted the innovation. The vertical dimension, called paradigm in ANT, indicates what translations have taken place. An expansion in the syntagm dimension to the right must always be paid for by going down in the paradigm dimension.

Figure 1.

The trajectory of the Framework during 1990-2002

The Framework may be regarded as a program with me as the innovator. The intention inscribed in the Framework was to pursue a certain coordination practice at Ericsson that eventually would become a set of black boxes with this intention inscribed. How it in fact turned out is indicated in Figure 1. The Information Model (I), Process Model (P) and Transition Model (T) are the generic model names I use in the operationalization of the ADT (see Part III, OPERATIONALIZING THE THEORY, p. 126).

A pattern emerges (1990-1995)

In this phase, the ideas behind the Framework were articulated. The information interaction model (IIM) and the specification-based data model (SBDM) entered the program. At this point I was the only actor associated with the Framework. An anti-program could hardly be noticed.

Incremental development (1996-1997)

This phase engaged more actands with the introduction of the incremental development method package in the CMS 30 Phase 7 project. The experiences indicated that a better tool support was needed in order to manage the incremental way of working. I came across the Matrix IS, and eventually this system became the IS actand in the Framework. Together, the IS and the information model were enacted into providing coordination support for a number of pilot projects with good results. During this period, my original intentions remained inscribed in the Framework and, in addition, became more elaborated and articulated. However, several actands in the anti-program began to influence the trajectory towards the end of this phase:

  • The C-PDM system – this was the only allowed PDM system at Ericsson, and since Matrix was regarded as a PDM system, it was against corporate policies.

  • The organizational unit where I worked – this unit did not want a separate solution outside the corporate strategy.

  • The Rational initiative at Ericsson – Rational™ became responsible for the software development at Ericsson in December 1997, which resulted in dire consequences for the Framework program.

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