Quora answer: What is the role of information systems in firm decentralization?

Apr 08 2013

This is a big question. I am not sure why I was asked to answer it. As you might expect my answer is going to be more philosophical. And it is going to be in terms of the reification of our ideas that underlies this question. In another question I have talked about Corporatism and the relation between the people in the firm and the firm itself, which wants to be taken as a person, an imaginary person, but a person none the less. it is information systems that allow global decentralization of firms. It is via information systems that the firm is able to protect itself against its own employees. Sarbanes Oxley calls for CEOs to be accountable for what happens in their organizations. This has caused a lot of hardening of the Information systems against the employees. I will give one example. Team Foundation Server (TFS) from Microsoft is built on an auditing platform. The primary aim of that system is to keep track of what really happened during the development so the blame can be shifted from the CEO to employees if necessary for overruns etc. In other words if you have to go to court to defend yourself, you want some record of what really happened and TFS gives that in spades. But it has many other limitations that get in the way of development, but the primary purpose is to make auditing possible at a much more detailed level than ever before on software projects. So here is an example of an information system being placed at the service of development one of whose aims is to make development auditable so blame can be established in court. However, of course when you have such an information system at the center of development then it makes decentralization easier as it makes it possible to coordinate with overseas developers and when you combine that with conference calls and web conferencing you get the capability to design and develop anywhere. So systems like TFS are crucial for global deployment of human resources making that possible. But of course that does not mean it will work, it just means that the vehicle is in place that facilitates detailed coordination of development tasks, the rest must be left up to the humans in the loop to make sure that it actually works properly. But without that facilitation by a system like TFS then the workflows are much more difficult to manage in a distributed fashion. TFS has forms called Work Items that will carry the information necessary that needs to be shared and anyone given permissions to get in can see and update that information a historical record of which is kept of every change. So it is possible to know what has happened during development on an action by action level as never before made possible by the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) concept that has been introduced recently and has been championed by TFS from Microsoft and Jazz from IBM. Other companies make add-ons and add-ins to these overall frameworks so that a whole ecology is created around the basic distributed data sharing tool. So the role of Information Systems is to put these ALM facilitating systems in place and to manage them. But the implicit goal is to establish a system that can monitor closely what developers are doing on a daily basis as they perform each significant action with regard to their work. In many ways this is also the result of the adoption of Agile and Lean approaches as well as these systems facilitate management methods like SCRUM which are team centered and attempt to make the development team as productive as possible by giving them quasi-autonomy to self-organize around the product releases that they have signed up to do. This is a double edged sword, as the team is expected to be more productive, and their actions are more closely watched, but they are able to decide many of the actions they will perform themselves and thus become more effective (agile) and efficient (lean) together known as efficaciousness. We will see how this new direction in development goes as it is now supported directly by Information Systems of the type that offer ALM capabilities which makes possible more distributed development.

 

http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-role-of-information-systems-in-firm-decentralization

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