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Enhancing the flexibility of information systems

Fuentealba, D. (2019) Enhancing the flexibility of information systems. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00085427


Information systems (IS) flexibility has been studied as a key capability to adapt and change organisations. Several definitions have covered technical and human factors to assess the IS flexibility. Technical factors have measured Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, its efficiency, standards and designs (modular or monolithic). Human factors have assessed the skills of the team, its commitment and the leadership’s skills. Indeed, these factors affect the capability to change an organisation, but it is not clear how information systems should support the capability of organisations to change, maintaining their functions and dynamic. This research proposes a methodology named Information Systems Flexibility by Organisational Semiotics and Autopoiesis (ISFOSA), which uses a metaphor from living systems and the process to maintain the life (autopoiesis). This metaphor states the significance of the boundary to keep a living system alive, so this method uses organisational semiotics to identify the boundary of the human organisation and how this boundary can affect the focal Information system. ISFOSA consist of fives phases: Problem and context identification, boundary analysis, focal system analysis, identification of flexibility, and design and implementation. The phase one identifies the context of the problem, proposing stakeholders that can affect the human organisation. The second phase develops ontology charts and norm analysis to identify the affordances that can affect the boundary. The third phase analyses a focal information system, which is the information system to enhance the IS flexibility. This phase uses semantic and norm analysis, but their focus is on the dynamic inside the human organisation. Phase four proposes requirements of flexibility by identifying norms of the organisation that can affect the norms in the focal system. This comparison leads to a scenario analysis that can repeat semantic and norms analysis under a possible situation of change. The scenario analysis uses the previous phases and the strategies of IS flexibility to propose requirements. Design science research and case study research guide the process to develop the method. Firstly, a gap in the identification of requirements is identified as a research problem to address the propositions of previous researches about IS flexibility. Then a theoretical proposition uses a metaphor of autopoiesis to propose a focus on the boundary of the organisation to analyse the flexibility. A retrospective case study is conducted to refine the first two phases of the method, using the change from a good-dominant (GD) logic to a service-dominant (SD) logic of Rolls-Royce. An evaluative case study is conducted to illustrate ISFOSA’s methodology to propose a system to track people in underground mines. Also, the method is enhanced with the feedback obtained from interviews from IS professionals. This feedback validates the overall result obtained from the second case study. v This research postulates contributions from the theoretical, methodological and practical perspective. The theoretical proposition asserts that organisations behave as living systems from organisational semiotics. From the methodological perspective, this research can guide the application of retrospective case studies with design science. In practice, this model can provide guidelines to identify socio-technical requirements of organisations. Therefore, information professionals can integrate this model with existing methods for IT projects, identifying requirements and defining elements that the design of information systems should cover to enhance the IS flexibility.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Liu, K. and Li, W. (V.)
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Business School
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School
ID Code:85427
Date on Title Page:2018


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