Balancing Standardization and Flexibility The role of an IT-system in three organizations
The use of customized technologies has increased moving from using standardized modules towards capturing local variations affecting the role of IT-systems in contemporary society. This trend identified in both research and practitioners studies is thought to continue. The new role of IT-systems it thought to both contribute with standardization and customization of business processes. The method of research in this thesis is a qualitative study were 20 people from four different organizations has been interviewed to capture their accounts of reality and use of an IT-system. The first five interviews were conducted with the case company developing a flexible IT-system customized to match the customer's organizational structures. The following 15 interviews were conducted with employees of three municipalities. We have used a grounded theory method to approach and systematically analyze our data. The empirical finding shows that the introduction of a flexible IT-system has contributed with coherence and structure through increased transparency while simultaneously being adapted to previous reporting practices and local variations. Our findings show that depending on hierarchical levels what incentivizes the one or the other differs. There are two processes appearing simultaneously and the IT-system is used both to increase standardization and flexibility. These processes represent tensions that need to be managed and evolvement is determined on actions promoted. Standardization is amplified by the search for efficiency, structure, coherence and transparency, and entails central control over the reporting practice. Flexibility is amplified by responsiveness to a local context and represents an alignment of operational motives. The two processes identified shows that the IT-system and the flexible nature of it both facilitate and constrain human action. Standardization and flexibility is not mutually exclusive but coexist and coevolve in relation to each other.
MSc in Management