Some notes and questions

By Ileana

In the reading for this seminar, the authors propose an enterprise modeling “that helps with the design of corporate information systems that are in line with a company’s organization and its long terms strategies” (Frank). The particular strength of the proposed enterprise model is that it integrates information systems with organizational context and organizational strategies into one multi-perspective model. As such, it moves away from previous models that focused on only one of these elements, be it information systems or organizational processes.

As enterprise modeling is not my field of study, I will focus this conversation starter on a more general topic. Particularly, I would like to raise a question related to the authors’ view on IT.  Reading the articles for this week, I couldn’t not notice that the authors write about IT as being 1. an organizational resource that can help an organization stay competitive and 2. a tool that facilitates particular organizational processes (see Orlikowski and Iacono (2001) for a critique on these views on IT). Despite the fact that the authors propose an enterprise model that aims to integrate IT and organizational processes, cultures and strategies into one framework, IT and organizational processes are still portrayed as independent, albeit influencing each other.

New approaches to conceptualizing the importance of IT in organizational processes try to move away from such a categorical thinking that views IT and organizational processes as independent of each other. Sociomateriality, actor network theory and the newest writings on practice theory are examples in this sense. They all put forward to view (in different expressions) that technology and human practices are intermingled in a constitutive entanglement. In other words, you cannot separate technology from human practices as they become what they are only in relation to the other. Moreover, just like human (organizational) practices and processes are dynamic, heterogeneous and unpredictable, so too are information technologies. Orlikowski and Iacono (2001: 131) provide 5 particular characteristics of technologies, all indicating that technologies are never stable, homogenous, acting simply as a means to an end.

My question is: Could such a view on IT, as proposed by Orlikowki and Iacono (2001) and Orlikowski (2007) on the sociomateriality approach, enrich the enterprise modeling proposed by Frank?

In Figure 4. The ITML Meta Model (Excerpt) in Frank et al., we can read that an information system offers an IT service which supports BusinessProcess aimed at a Goal. That IT is but a means to an end is clear from the verbs used in the model to show the relationships between technologies and the business process. What I miss in the model are notions such as transformation, serendipity, mediation and unpredictability, which are central in understanding the constitutive entanglement of technologies and human practices in an organization. The sociomaterialy approach offers the language for conceptualizing this relationship. But the question is: what would the integration of such a language in the enterprise model do not only to the model, but to the design process in which that model is used? Would the design approach be different? Would its outcome be more insightful for the organization itself?

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One response to “Some notes and questions

  1. By eric: conversation startert
    he complexity of it and the relationship between business and it is used as an argument for the need for a domain specific language. the alternative presented are general purpose modelling languages. gpml are said to not do the job. however very little attention is paid to the reason why they fail. a list of requirements for DSLs is given, but there is no reason a GPML cannot fulfil these requirements. the 1 st requirement is reduction of complexity. it is unclear to me why you need a DSL to do that, a GPML looks like a more suitable candidate as abstraction is a universal, thus general concept. Eg take traditional maps as the example. use of symbols, leaving out details, all is done. the general rules are applicable to almost all maps. to me there is no real reason why the standard mapping methods cannot be used for IT infrastructure. probably if these were used, business users would understand it much quicker then the now pre-dominant it domain specific mapping tools. I do feel that applying existing concepts like 1st address the element (the what) and then the relationships between the elements (is a well proven path) another question is why models need to be formal and consistent. the majority of the model that have proven themselves are not consistent at all. look at the famous london underground map. not consistent with real geographic proportions, but very useable. so I think this requirement is over stated. consistency is only required within the domain of potential use. a model is supposed to answer only some question but rather not all. for other question the use of other moles makes a lot more sense. i sometimes feel that the search for consistent model to answer everything, is similar to the search for the unifying theory of all. a nice intellectual challenge buit for most practical reason, the non-unified models work sufficiently well.
    Eric