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The role of digital infrastructures in performances of organizational agility

Allwein, Florian (2017) The role of digital infrastructures in performances of organizational agility. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

Organizational agility has received much attention from practitioners and researchers in Information Systems. Existing research on agility, however, often conceptualizes information systems in a traditional way, while not reflecting sufficiently on how, as a consequence of digitalization, they are turning into open systems defined by characteristics like modularity and generativity. The concept of digital infrastructures captures this shift and stresses the evolving, socio-technical nature of such systems. This thesis sees IT in large companies as digital infrastructures and organizational agility as a performance within them. In order to explain how such infrastructures can support performances of agility, a focus on the interactions between IT, information and the people using and designing them is proposed. A case study was conducted within Telco, a large telecommunications firm in the United Kingdom. It presents three projects employees regarded as agile. A critical realist ontology is applied in order to identify generative mechanisms for agility. The thesis develops a theory of agility as a performance within digital infrastructures. This contains the central generative mechanism of agilization – making an organization more agile by cultivating digital infrastructures and minding flows of information to attain an appropriate level of agility. This is supported by the related mechanisms of informatization and infrastructuralization. Moreover, the concept of bounded agility illustrates how people in large organizations do not strive for agility unreservedly, instead aiming for agility in well-defined areas that does not put the business at risk. This theory of agility and the concept of bounded agility constitute the main theoretical contributions of this thesis. It also contributes clear definitions of the terms ‘information’ and ‘data’ and aligns them to the ontology of critical realism. Finally, the proposed mechanisms contribute to an emerging middle range theory of organizational agility that will be useful for practitioners.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Florian Allwein
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Venters, Will
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3510

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