P. 1


|Views: 2|Likes:
Published by Claude Rochet

More info:

Published by: Claude Rochet on Jul 22, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOC, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

QuickTimeª et un dŽcompresseur TIFF (non compressŽ) sont requis pour visionner cette image.

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent THE CASE OF THE MONITORING OF FRENCH SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
Claude Rochet Professor in Public Management Johanna Habib Assistant professor in Public Management Institut de Management Public Université Paul Cézanne Aix en Provence

- Page 1/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

Abstract : The new budgetary framework to be implemented since 2006 onwards in the management by results French budgeting system implies a profound reengineering of the relationships between central administration and autonomous agencies in charge of implementing the policy. We study the case of the French research policy which is carried out through a network of 160 universities and 40 specialized scientific agencies, all of them enjoying a statutory autonomy. Information systems are the key to align processes from the field’s operators to the central objectives of the public policy. A new design is needed requiring an approach we call “urbanization”, that is thinking the global architecture as a relevant city map instead of the “spaghetti networks” inherited from the legacy system. Managing such a project is, whereas speaking about technological issues, raising strategic questions about the new relations between the centre and the periphery and implies partly solving the dilemma between local strategic autonomy and the central impetus the state must give to enforce the political objectives of the government. First regarding centre-periphery theory and IT strategic planning approach, we explain why information systems are a critical issue in the centreperiphery relationships. Secondly we analyze how the IS reengineering may be an enabler of the strategic dialogue between the central administration and autonomous agencies. Thirdly, we draw on the difficulties we met with to design the new capabilities to be improved and we conclude on the paradigm shift required in the public management concepts. Keywords: Information System, French research Policy, centre-periphery dilemma, qualitative research methodology

- Page 2/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

In his seminal research on how information technologies (IT) create value, Prof. Eryk Brynjolfsson (2002), director of the MIT eBusiness research centre, put emphasis on the fact that what really accounts for is the hidden face of the iceberg. Pure technology accounts only for 10%, technological complements (the art of architecting heterogeneous and complementary technologies) for another 15%. The remaining 75% of value creation comes from the renewal of the organization triggered by information system (IS) implementation. Brynjolfsson carried out this research among private companies in the US and we have no similar inquiry among public actors that would assess a similar rule of the game. Nevertheless, in the state of our knowledge, nothing forbid us to assume this is also valid for public sector. In the public sector, ITs policies have been coined with the New Public Management (NPM) approach that means: Business Process Management (BPM), outsourcing, customer oriented service, downsizing and saving money. The underlying assumption is to focus on the front office to improve performance as a customer provider relationship and to outsource the back office. This framework mainly bears a conception of technology as an exogenous change agent and its expectations have not been met (Dunleavy and Margetts, 2003). On the contrary, a growing literature considers IT in a Schumpeterian way, as an endogenous lever of change operated by entrepreneurs (Freeman, 2003). In this paper, we will consider how IT may act as a legitimate subversive agent. Managers mainly consider the visible part of the IT iceberg and do not consider how designing and implementing an information system is to induce a sea change within the organization. Moreover, they frequently consider that implementing ITs will avoid raising some fundamental questions about an organization strategy, business and processes. An IT project may be an opportunity to raise the uncomfortable questions (that’s why they are subversive) but incontrovertible (that’s why they are legitimate). We attempt to answer to the following questions: Is designing and implementing an integrated Information System a relevant enabler of the strategic dialogue between the centre and the periphery? In other words, could an integrated IS help moving the centre periphery dialogue towards a new configuration of cooperation and interdependence ? Firstly, with the help of the centre-periphery theory and IT strategic planning approach, we explain why information systems are a critical issue in the centre periphery relationships as an enabler of the strategic dialogue between the central administration and autonomous
- Page 3/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

agencies. Secondly, we analyze how this dialogue raises subversive questions that need political statements and reengineering decisions. Thirdly, we draw on the difficulties we met with to design the new capabilities to be improved and, fourthly, we conclude on the paradigm shift required in the public management concepts and on the new role of the CIO in public management.

The centre-periphery model provides a relevant framework to analyze the relations between a public policy and the agencies in charge of its implementation, or in other words, the different games and strategies of actors in a political system (Eisenstadt, 1987, Crozier and Thoenig, 1975, Bendix, 1968). The centre-periphery model, located within the dependency theory (i.e Luxemburg, 1904), had been originally developed to describe the relationships and links of interdependence between the third world countries and the so-called western countries. But, it is also a general comprehensive and systemic theory of exchange processes of resources in social systems (Wallerstein, 1974). The social organizations are grasped as hierarchical structures comprising a centre and a periphery. The centre-periphery relationship reflects mechanisms of domination, influence and dependency and allows understanding the autonomy strategies of local structures. In the specific case of the French public policy research, by the time being the centre-periphery dialogue is a relation both of influence and dependency.

 Influence because the local agencies produce knowledge and deliverables that in
return legitimate the central action.

 Dependency because the major decisions are taken by the centre which holds the
main resources. The central administration has interest to fully control the local decisions and behaviours, but, conversely, the local agencies have interest to fully preserve their autonomy power as a defence against the central bureaucracy (Thoenig, 1982). In other words, the centre-periphery dilemma shows a process under pressure and the complexity of social organized system. In the French research system, the centre-periphery model reveals both a localization of central policy and a nationalization of local policy. Besides, a paradox appears with the role of locales structures in this organization. They are a motor of initiatives and innovations (which is essential to revitalize the central power) as well as a place of resistance to change when the

- Page 4/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

directives come from a central view. This observation popped up the following question: Does an ideal distribution of power exist to implement a public policy ? The last French autonomy movements postulated, contrary to the weberian theory, that the local authorities should be involved in the definition of the central public policy. It is necessary, however, to distinguish the operational autonomy from the strategic autonomy. The operational autonomy, characterized by a central intervention at micro and macro level, was until recently the official French research system’s management method. By the time being, and because of budgetary constraints and attempts to measure performance, a new configuration seems to emerge. Moreover, the newly elected Sarkozy’s government is committed to give autonomy to universities. Local agencies such as universities exchange directly with diverse actors of their environment to obtain resources, design their own strategic plans, and claim for their strategic autonomy. The strategic autonomy to be efficient requires a strong and enterprising central government at the macro level in order to link the scientific production with large strategic orientations. Nowadays, the move from bureaucratic centralism to strategic centralism is not achieved. This problematic of centre is a controversial issue (Rochet, 2007, Chevalier and Rouban, 2003). The public policy performance relies on the centre strategic capacities and on the mobilisation and coordination of local agencies. Implementing an effective public policy requires a new configuration of the centre-periphery dialogue based on adaptive learning of their interdependencies. This research assumes that the IS can be the foundation of the centre-periphery strategic dialogue and thus, that IS could be a strategic instrument to pilot the research policy.

If the strategic dimension of integrated I.S is broadly accepted in the literature, the studies’ field experiment is more mixed (i.e Davenport, 1998, Botta-Genoulaz and Millet, 2006). Most of the failures can be explained by a lack of IT competencies, problems of cooperation between units and actors, resistances to change, and more generally absence of clear strategic objectives (Stefanou, 2000; Themistocleous and al, 2001). Baumard and Benvenuti (1998) shows that the strategic rooting of IS depends on the IT alignment with the specific strategy pursued. In others words, integrated IS must develop a synergy between strategic objectives and IT architecture to be effective. This is why designing an IS requires rethinking the business processes, the structure relations, the activities, etc. and

- Page 5/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

finally imposes in depth changes. IS, as a lever of performance, cannot avoid theses reflections. IS strategic management, by assigning objectives to purchase policy and general organization of means, builds the framework to develop and implement future projects, business or activities. Several authors had connected IS with the concept of collective learning (Amabile and Gadille, 2006) which constitutes a prerequisite to reinforce cooperation between actors and organizational structures. IS implementation refers also to the reflections on the process of strategic decisions making and information exchange (Reix, 1998). For these reasons, we assume that the implementation of an integrated IS is a relevant instrument to create new configurations of cooperation between central administration and local agencies. The main issues of centre-periphery dilemma are focused on the questions of the interoperability and of the sharing of strategic information. Organization, socialization and influence processes predetermine the relations of cooperation between centre-periphery and may produce an unequal and inconsistent collaboration among the actors. IS design is thus a relevant occasion to build a new framework to foster this centre-periphery cooperation. This concept can be defined as the interdependence links and stability degree of relationship (Amabile, 1999). This exceeds, by far, transactional interdependence and means rather a pooling of resources, information and knowledge. The role of the central administration in this IS design appears to be crucial to coordinate actions of local agencies and to create strategic interdependencies. Successful implementation of IT architecture relies on strategic centralism that enables the development of relational networks between local structures and central administration, and promotes their mutual adjustments and interactions within their dynamic and competitive environments. IT architecture definition varies with authors in the literature. Österlé and al (1993) try to define IT architecture includes the following components : strategies and objectives, business processes, organizational units or structures, external agents, geographic localizations, kinds and attributes of entities, relations between entities, IT applications, information flows and database. These components are connected through different combinations, i.e entity X is involved in process Y and mobilizes application Z (Reix, 1998). A global IT architecture is designing a coherent system based on components association. For instance: organizational view, operational view, data view, information view, security view, IT view, etc. The concept of IT architecture finally reflected the global system monitoring through the harmonization of different policies. Therefore, IT architecture appears to be a vector of performance and

- Page 6/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

efficiency as well as a complex and perilous project. The case study presented below in this paper intends to illustrate this dualism.

Building IT architecture to monitor the French research activities is a sea change. It implies major transformations in organizational processes and configurations of cooperation between central and local structures. When speaking about public policy, “change” seems to be an emergent and dynamic process and involves a discussion about system’s present and future IT capabilities, a Double Loop Learning (Argyris and Schön, 1978). Usually IT Architecture implementations fail because of putting emphasis on the current core business rather than on the opportunities to create new processes and businesses. As a matter of fact, most of organizations build their IT architecture as a set of isolated applications and decisions to respond to specific process needs (Broadbent and Weill, 1997). In order to avoid the tricky questions, actors put aside the strategic context, the organizational view and need of IT architecture, the business process articulation with IT solutions… and, finally build an IT architecture without thinking in new capabilities and required competencies. According to Roos (2003), the creation of a strategic IT architecture competency, defined as a learning process, evolve in four stages: 1) an application silo architecture, 2) a standardized technology architecture, 3) a rationalized data architecture and 4) a modular architecture. In the following figure, we can observe the four stages learning process of the IT architecture competency development.

Figure 1: Changing Resource Allocations Across Architecture Stages

- Page 7/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

Source : Roos (2003), Center for Information Systems Research, MIT Sloan School of Management The application silo architecture “consists of architectures of individual applications rather than an architecture for entire enterprise” (Roos, 2003, p.5). In this first stage, IT applications are developed to address specific business needs and are limited to a single functional system or unit. Yet, the many independent applications based on various technologies and data make information transactions difficult. It is a stage of local optimization. The standardized technology architecture relies on the implementation of technology policies and standards, and on the development of a shared infrastructure. The aim is to limit the number of platforms to manage and to introduce data warehouses in order to make easier the transactions between the different units of organizational system. The standardization and interoperability efforts participate in IT efficiency (especially by reducing IT cost and complexity). This stage increases also IT reliability and security. Yet, implementation of standardized architecture can collide many operators’ resistance: to the standards principle, to the top down approach needed to develop restrained IT applications, to the data sharing … The rationalized data architecture is made of the core processes and activities definition (“Core Processes Integration”) and the common and centralized database implementation. In this stage, IT architecture is aligned to strategic business by standardization processes that ensure the IT infrastructures relevance and the data stores quality. “As long as the data is reliable, core process activities become predictable” (Roos, 2003:9). Implementing a rationalized architecture can allow optimizing the core processes and improving business performance. But, this process needs a negotiation with local operators to obtain clear and accepted definition for each core process, to make explicit the data these activities rely on, and to determine the share proceedings. In other words, identifying and defining the core processes require a strategic dialogue between the central approach and the various views of local units.

- Page 8/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

Besides, this strategic dialogue needs the lead of a strong central organization. This kind of architecture includes some limits. First, the processes standardization sets a rigid infrastructure. So, a change in the business is clearly difficult and this doesn’t encourage radical innovation. Second, the optimization (or just management) of core processes depends nearly entirely on the quality of collected and shared data. Finally, the rationalized architecture is the most top-down approach of the four stages. And it is both necessary to define a relevant management change and to communicate on the stakes of rationalized architecture in order to limit the resistances of local operators. The last stage, modular architecture, enables strategic flexibility through customized or reusable modules. “These modules extend the core processes, which have been wired into the infrastructure during the rationalized data stage.” (Roos, 2003:11). The modularity within IT architecture allows system flexibility and local autonomy to be reinforced. This stage manifests itself by the opportunity given to local units to select the modules that they need and to create new process support system. Thus, local units’ IT strategies permit to experiment the use of new modules and anticipate the needs and opportunities for organization-wide. This local customization combine with standardized core processes can develop the capability to identify strategic opportunities and to innovate. However, in order to support this local flexibility, modular architecture requires distinguishing the processes with only one standard from the processes with multiple standards. Though the modularity is difficult to implement, it seems especially relevant when core business strategy depend on changing environments. The customized and reusable modules provide greater efficiency in combining the standardization advantages of third stage with the innovativeness of application silo stage. Figure 2 shows the key IT characteristic for the four stages governance.

- Page 9/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

Figure 2 : Key IT Governance and Management Mechanisms

Source : Roos (2003), Center for Information Systems Research, MIT Sloan School of Management Each architecture provides different IT capabilities and relationships between central and local units. Change across these four architectures stages is only possible when the learning process of previous stage is achieved. The rationalized architecture implementation seems particularly relevant in the current context of French Scientific Research performance measure. In such architecture, central government publishes the large strategic orientations by identifying, together with the local operators, the core processes. Meanwhile, local agencies adapt the central strategy and produce the research outputs. Moreover, the future change towards the fourth stage (“modular architecture”) can allow reinforcing the strategic autonomy of local agencies and to stop the central intervention at the micro-level. Yet, this architecture designing requires the stages 1 and 2 having been carried out by operators. Besides, the change to third stage implies the development of Technological “Absorptive Capability” (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990). Absorptive capacity is an organization’s ability to identify, assimilate and exploit knowledge from the environment. In our case, absorptive capability focuses on the effectiveness of technological knowledge assimilation.

- Page 10/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

But some questions remain: How to organize the centre-periphery strategic dialogue to develop IT architecture competency? How to monitor the implementation of IT architecture competencies ? How to evaluate the IT stage of operators ? And finally, where are the efforts to be focused on to implement a rationalized architecture in the French public research system?

The literature highlights that the design and implementation of an integrated Information System is clearly identified as a vector of change due to the fact that IS allows developing a new relation configuration between the centre and the periphery. But, being a sea change, it is also a source of complexity We try to assess these paradoxical interactions through a case study methodology (Eisenhardt, 1989, Yin, 1990) based on the study of French scientific research policy monitoring. This case study allows us to examine the role of IS in the strategic dialogue development between the centre and the periphery as well as the difficulties in designing new architectures and capabilities regarding the research system. A qualitative investigation had been chosen (Miles et Huberman, 1984) based on a single-case study. This methodological choice is justified and relevant when the case presents a unique and original characteristic and allows testing and completing an existing theory (Yin, 1990). The monitoring system project of French public research is a relevant field because it provides an exhaustive collection of data. Besides, this methodology proposes an original intervention Research (in the view of Lewin, 1951), based on a researcher and practitioner binomial. The practitioner was the Head of the monitoring system conception project and as such he wore two hats: he was both expert and researcher. The second author assumed a role of guide notably in the data collection and analysis. The practitioner’s personal experience allowed him to develop a true sector-based expertise (Wacheux, 1996) and an extensive understanding of the project situation and context. In addition, his strategic and steady participation allowed to meet and exchange with a multitude of actors having different responsibilities and to develop relations of trust favourable to information collection. The aim of an intervention approach is to build an in-depth understanding of how the system works and produces knowledge (Hatchuel, 1994; David, 2000) through a hybrid exploratory logic (Allard-Poesi and al, 1999), where abduction has an important role to play especially regarding the analytic phase. However, an intervention research required a delicate data collection to control the data authenticity. The case study had been designed using a combination of different collection

- Page 11/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

methods. First, the collection of primary data includes both centred interviews (20 interviews about one hour for each) with the practitioner in charge of project and notes of participant observations collected by the practitioner. And second, we organized a collection of secondary data (Weick, 1993) through a set of internal and strategic documents explaining the project stakes, its implementation, the actors, etc. This collection provides a data triangulation and a robust chain of evidence (Miles et Huberman, 1984). The data analysis had been a qualitative one through a thematic content analysis (Bardin, 2001) and had been achieved with the assistance of Nvivo (qualitative data analysis software), organizing the verbatim in categories of themes and under-themes.

Since January 1st 2006, the French state administration is expected to work under a new budgetary framework, the LOLF1, which is doomed to implement management by results. Budget is voted by missions defining a public policy, split in ministerial programmes, each of those being accompanied, when voted, by a set of results indicators, the annual performance plan, (PAP) and a corresponding annual performance report (RAP) when rendering the accounts before the voting of N+2 year budget. The biggest mission (up to 20 billions euros) deals with scientific research and universities. France has 105 universities and professional schools, and about 40 research organisms such as CNRS, INSERM, INRA, Institut Pasteur among the most notorious ones. Each of these operators enjoys a statutory autonomy, with full administrative machinery (board, budget research and academic policy…), in spite most of their budget comes from the ministry for education and research. In terms of public expenses, this perimeter represents about 22 billions euros that are completed by private funding through research contracts. The global amount is far below the critical GDP 3% target required to maintain France’s leadership in its traditional fields of excellence (such as mathematics and physics) and to win a rank in the new research fields (such as ITs) and high-level teaching. The landscape where this reform takes place is quite fearful:

 A new legal framework for public research is being implemented concurrently
with the LOLF agenda. A program agency has been set up to fund research projects presented by operators, whether public or private, based on a global public research agenda defined by a scientific committee close to the President.

Loi Organique sur les Lois de Finances (LOLF), a constitutional law that defines the way the state budget is to be voted and

how ministries must be accountable towards the parliament.

- Page 12/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

Simultaneously, a new evaluation agency is to be set up as an independent body in charge of evaluating universities and other organisms, both in research and in teaching activities. A leftist movement, “Sauvons la recherche” is accusing the government to subject research orientations to the short-term interests of private firms.

 The worldwide French universities ranking is worsening year after year
according to the Shanghai’s ranking, as well as the French research ranking in the SCI2 partly due to the rise of Chinese publications.

 Such a reform hits the structure of the ministry for education and research (the
fourth bureaucracy in the world with 1,4 million agents), which has a notoriously poor ability and legitimacy in monitoring research activities and in defining a clear strategic intent.

 Students’ demonstrations in spring 2006 against a reform of the labour law have
undermined the government authority among academic authorities. During the last five years, most universities and research organisms have heavily invested in their information systems. According to the principle of autonomy and due to the lack of a unified strategy at the state level and steered by the ministry, each agency and university has built his information system on its own, without any regard to common standards and interoperability as much as for data as for technologies. When the LOLF process was launched in 2001, the case of autonomous bodies and their relations with their parent ministry has not been considered (Rochet, 2004). On a strict legal basis, they are not concerned by the LOLF since they are not accountable towards the parliament for they receive public funds indirectly through their parent ministries. However, practically they are, both as operator of a public policy and regarding a global trend in public machinery that makes agencies becoming accountable toward the parliament thought hearings, inquiries, reports of the Court of accounts, and others direct relationships with members of the parliament and citizens (Rochet, 2002). Likewise, few people in the high level of the public machinery realized that the real strategic perimeter of a public policy is not a program’s budget of a ministry but a virtual perimeter involving many actors, public and private. For instance, when the government wants to know how much the nation spends on fighting cancer, it is not sufficient to consider the INSERM (the agency in charge of medical research) expenses on the issue, but he needs to

Science Citation Index, a worldwide index of scientific publications –only in the hard sciences – ranked by their citations.

- Page 13/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

connect data coming from many heterogeneous actors fighting on different fields such as information, prevention, hospital, research, and rehabilitation. These activities belong to many public bodies, non-profit and private actors, using heterogeneous data and information systems that make it difficult to consolidate. It becomes obvious that if the government wants to take up seriously the challenge of evaluating public policies and to be accountable to the parliament for the public expenses and for how a public policy has been achieved according to the three LOLF criteria (process efficiency, service delivery and socio-economic effectiveness), he must consider information system design and architecture as a key issue.

To render accounts towards the parliament, there are two options: One is to build huge statistics scaffolds (the first LOLF report has presented more than 1500 result indicators to the Parliament in 2007!) that will allow two things: satisfying with the requirements to produce quantified results and going on business as usual in the day to day administrative business. This is easy to realize and does not threat the bureaucracies’ vested interests. The other option is to build a fully integrated monitoring system that would collect data within operators’ information systems to be consolidated in a central balanced scorecard. Complying with the requirements of the second option raises two big issues: 1) HOW to do it? Implementing a fully integrated monitoring system doesn’t fit with the dominant rationale of the so-called “weberian bureaucracy” and requires designing a new kind of relationships between the centre and the periphery, no longer based on a command and control management (Rochet, 2004) but on strategic monitoring, shared objectives, operators empowerment, clear accountability in a climate of trust. Not only is this a cultural sea change but that also requires new capabilities in using information technologies that are not, by the time being, mastered by the managers in charge. 2) But the main issue is WHY should this change set in motion? Roles need to be redefined and many vested interests are under threat. If nobody objects the political legitimacy of the centre to monitor the system, its practical legitimacy is to be established. Why should the operators open their information systems to the parent ministry? All of them agree with the need to share data and to integrate their systems but mainly on a cooperative and horizontal basis that does not induce any control from one over others. The issue is different when it is to share data with the ministry. By the time being, without any global IS, when the ministry wants

- Page 14/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

to get information from autonomous operators, it proceeds by sending questionnaires that are filled in on a declarative basis. In other words, each autonomous operators declares 1) what he knows, depending on its own IS, data format, IT standards, accounting systems, and …2) what he wants to tell the ministry according to its own strategy and the supposed hidden strategy he attributes to the ministerial administration. Nevertheless, there is a wide consensus among all actors to acknowledge that making IS interoperable is an issue that implies:

 Common tools and software  Common standards to make legacy systems fully interoperable  Assessing, with evident fears, the performance of universities and research
organisms in a context of tough international competition shed by the bad ranking of France in the Shanghai’s index and the new obligation to be accountable to the parliament. Intending to implement an IS raises at each step subversive questions. By “subversive”, we mean the questions that the present consensus prudently avoids raising so as to preserve a fragile institutional equilibrium. These questions are the result of the need to clarify and to design business processes or of the mere necessity of making presently hidden information explicit. We may classify these questions as follows: 1) Worrisome questions: “I share my data, but how will the system use it?” Being independent with heterogeneous IS has an obvious advantage: not being accountable! “I share my data, I know what I lost, and I don’t know what I win”. Laboratories and research centres’ are generally eager to share data so long only scientific issues are at stake. It is another issue to give information that would be used by the centre to monitor (and to gain control over lab’s activities. As an example, an attempt to build a monitoring system based on a fully compatible IS and data warehouse at Science of IT Dep’t in the CNRS made appearing that: A researcher has no more publications than a professor researcher in an university3; Raising the number of administrative staff does not increase researchers’ productivity, so as… …Increasing the number of researchers and doctoral students in a lab doesn’t increase its efficiency.

A researcher in a research organism has no teaching tasks, whereas a university professor is supposed to dedicate 50% of his

time to both research and teaching.

- Page 15/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent


The bigger the research team, the lower its results.

To put it bluntly, it seems there is a Brooks’s law4 in the structuring of research organizations: raising resources and staff decreases efficiency, efforts must focus on architecture and networks of process and there is an optimum efficient size a time must not excess. 2) Paradoxical demands In the absence of central monitoring IT architecture, whether at the state or the universities level, the IT community came into organize on its own way akin to the free software developers’ community. A reduced number of big applications does exist at the central level (finances, HR, students) but the current management applications are chosen, and frequently developed, on a local criteria basis. A group of 34 universities (among 105) have developed a shared application that is a de facto ERP5: a common data warehouse and a set of businesses applications, named “cocktail”. There is a clear claim from within the community for common standards and tools that calls for a central architect that could only be the central university mutualising agency. But what the IT people demand is only for the agency to act as a free software service centre and not as an agency monitoring a global IT policy that would threat their independence. However, when the centre is asked to support bottom-up approaches and developments, it can’t only act as a technical agent: its mandatory role is to validate architectures and, at the time being, it is not a business he masters, whether technically or politically. 3) Highly politically sensitive questions: Designing IT architecture requires first defining the basic objects that will be its building blocks. Questions that seem at a first glance quite mundane appear in reality to be sensitive, for examples: How to account students? There is a difference in the number of registered students and this of students really attending classes. The difference may be, in some region, illegal immigrants. How to define a research unit? Apart from the general trend of the raising part of Chinese publications, the bad ranking of France universities in Shanghai’s ranking is a problem of information system. There is no common description and identifier of a research unit and

The Brooks law has been formulated par Fred Brooks, the conceiver of the IBM 360, in his seminal book, “The Mythical man Enterprise Resources Planning: software built around a common data warehouse and standard state of the art business

Month”: Adding resource to a late project makes it later because these new resources disrupt its architecture.

processes. Their implementation requires an important organizational redesign to fit this process that is currently weighed as 90 % of the project costs.

- Page 16/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

thus of its related publications. University Lyon I publishes under 41 different identities! This haunting problem is well known, but reaching a shared definition and a common identifier needs building a consensus among universities, which each built arrangements of their own. Who and on which criteria will accredit research units and define and maintain a common identifier, avoiding each research project staffs to define their own, making the global organization fuzzy and unaccountable?

Such a large project is a complex project such as defined by Miller and Lessard (2001): unique, complex, irreversible and instable. This kind of project is not doomed to fail because of its technical difficulties but of its turbulent institutional environment. It will experience difficulties not so much because engineers cannot cope with technical complications – although IT projects unfold in a rapidly evolving technological environment – but much more because of the managerial abilities of project’s sponsor in coping with unforeseen turbulence. This turbulence originates from two sources: exogenous events such as changes in the political orientations of the research policy or the bankruptcy of a technological partner, and endogenous events such as internal contradictions or needs for evolution the project reveals. According to Miller and Lessard, turbulence is negatively connected with project performance. The basic laws of complexity tell us that a big complex project may not be merely the sum of decentralized actors’ projects. It is a meta-system emerging from actors’ interactions, but which needs central governance that will model its global complexity, both endogenous and exogenous. Setting up a project governance is an architect job which is twofold: designing an institutional framework that enables arrangements between stakeholders and, once set up, the practical job of foreseeing risk management, building a global vision and arbitrating between different options. As long as this governance is not installed, the project will be endangered by unforeseen risks, subversive questions, institutional psychodrama, caprices and tough arbitrations one actor has not interest to give when seen from its sole proper interest. The role of the centre is to build this holistic system in which technology, policy and finance interact. Decentralized actors may legitimately fear that this would lead to more centralization, something akin to a Gosplan. It is obvious this is a risk in the eye of the dominant so-called weberian ministerial administrative framework. Avoiding the Gosplan trap will require the project to fulfil three generic conditions (Miller and Lessard, 2001):

- Page 17/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

Stabilizing the long future to enable investments of each stakeholder: In our case, this project horizon is not less than five years so as to be able to monitor effectively the public research. Although it increases the environmental complexity, the major changes in the legal public research framework are a guarantee that the project is not a politician caprice that will change with the next government. On another hand, a long-term project cannot wait for five years to produce its first results. Confidence and commitment among stakeholders will be built both by formulating a long-term vision and by quick wins. Flexibility to face turbulence: Once agreements negotiated and commitments made, the centre will have to manage risks, whether foreseen or unforeseeable. A modular project architecture, where the project is a program split in an arborescence of projects ran by stakeholders, is likely to enforce the capacity to face turbulence. Enhancing the legitimacy of the project: This project, as seen above, faces opposition from vested interests. Although weak at the beginning, this opposition may rise when subversive questions arise and threat those interests. Answering these questions needs new institutional arrangements, trade-offs through confrontations and public debates. A successful sponsor won’t start a project until its legitimacy is no longer challenged, and will remain prepared to permanently rebuild this legitimacy when facing risks and challenges that will undermine it. Fulfilling with these requirements implies eliminating the Gosplan option to prefer a governance architecture where the roles and responsibilities both of the centre and periphery are clearly defined and that combines bottom-up and top-down approaches. In our case, we intend to adopt the following arrangement: Instead of a plethora of steering committees with excessive non-decisional members, a central directorate is set up around the central ministerial function entitled to make and enforce decisions, including representatives of universities and research organisms. This governance directorate will have to deal only with strategic issues and will be preserved from being overwhelmed by technical issues that will be delegated to a project management staff close to him. These strategic topics were listed as follows: Funding and budgeting: who will pay for what? What is to be charged to universities and other research bodies, what is to be funded by the ministerial budget? What are the decisions to be made at this level? For instance, only decisions with an impact over X millions euros will come to this committee.

- Page 18/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

Validating the global architecture of the mission’s IS: data, interchange standards, system’s interoperability, business processes, quality standards are key norms since each actor is autonomous. Whatever the technology he chooses, interoperability must be compulsory. The large shared processes and their owners: a meta-system being more than the sum of the sub-systems, it needs specific processes. Some may be central monitoring, other may be shared process among universities or research actors, such as data warehouses and production of indicators. A global architecture will be based on common building blocks: assigning the conception and the ownership of these blocks to peripheral players will reinforce the ownership and trust in the global system. Outsourcing rules and relationships with IT providers: The NPM fashion has fostered the idea that the best for public administration was to outsource IS to private providers. This as resulted in a loss of control over the system, a loss in reliability and a raise in costs (Dunleavy and Margetts, 2002). In a decentralized system where players will deal directly with providers, there is a need for common procurement rules and practices, and, most of all, a need for defining the strategic capabilities not to be outsourced and to be enforced by the centre. This implies the definition of strategic capacities to be shared among all actors, particularly the center’s capacity to act as an architect. Scenarizing and managing risk: Stakeholders must not rely on technology but on the resilience of the architecture to exogenous as well endogenous risks. Alongside this strategic governance committee, a project management committee deals with technical issues: evaluating and costing the projects, managing budgets and planning, negotiating with providers and insuring quality and reliability.

Designing the architecture of the new monitoring arrangement resulted in designing a new layer between the centre and the peripheral agencies (fig 3)

Figure 3 : Layers of governance to measure the French scientific research performance

- Page 19/25 -

Using information systemtrois niveaux de pilotage Les as a legitimate subversive agent

I: Strategic orientations, financial framework (National, EU, regionsÉ ) II: Programming = scientific agencies management, contract with universities: defining the demand III: Execution = agencies and universities production function: defining an offer and producing deliverables

Layer I is that of the national research policy formulated whether by law or budgetary orientations by the state, research programmes of the European Union – i.e funded by the
juillet 07

member state - and of regions through incentives given to creation of clusters. Layel II is a new programming function to be set up. It is represented by the scientific management of agencies and the process of setting up contract based links between the state, universities and research agencies. Layel III is a classical production function that produces deliverables according to the orientations set up at level I and II. In terms of information systems, this arrangement may be represented as follows:


- Page 20/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent
C oncevo ir le sys t layers Figure 4: Information system governance Ž me: le niveau I et les c ontraintes Õ urbanis at ion s ur NII et N III d Monitoring system I

Business process architecture II Software architecture III
Urbanization constraints

Technical infrastructure Information system

juillet 07


Level I is the global monitoring system, i.e the balanced scorecard of the public research policy. Level II defines the business process architecture, i.e the meta process of academic and scientific production, metrics for measuring performance, international benchmarks, criteria to make these process auditable. Level II has also to make the link with the software architecture, which is the key layer to make information system interoperable. Using the framework defined in figure 2 helps identifying where to put emphasis in building this global architecture. Stage 1 and 2 (local and functional optimization, IT efficiency) are to be dealt with by agencies while stage 3 (rationalizing data) needs a global architect that will defines the core processes to be wired and the key performance issues, what we call urbanization constraints to be integrated by agencies when developing there is on their own. These constraints integrate both business process and software architecture and only deal with technical infrastructure (level III) as far as technical leadership is important to fulfil the requirements of interoperability. These constraints pave the way to stage 4 (modularity) that will allow more autonomy both for agencies and universities, and more monitoring of the research public policy. It is obvious that such an approach require new capabilities that are to be built since they are new as well in the administrative areas as in the scientific research culture. There is still a chasm to be crossed between IT people and business people, who speak different languages and do not share a common vision that is necessary to build such architecture. Confronting directly with such a sea change would make, in the absence of a clear political leadership in managing change, the decision of postponing the project or relying exclusively on technology in intent to circumvent political and organizational questions. The subversive way we chose to adopt allows us to uncover the hidden part of the iceberg step by step at a pace defined by the progress in solving unforeseen strategic

- Page 21/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

organizational issues, through the process of completing the first building block projects and winning the first successes.

We drawn from the conclusions of Miller and Lessard in the management of large engineering projects and the literature on complex system to build a framework for the monitoring of large, complex and multi actor IS project. Key success factors appear to be five: Upstream conceptualization: Strategic issues must be clearly drawn and a critical path roughly defined for the coming years, with a first script of the main risks to be dealt with. When many vested interests are at stake and intertwined, the issues must be disclosed step by step, from the less to the more complex. That’s what we call a “subversive approach”: ITs are a powerful change agent and designing a new IS will raise many embarrassing questions which, if disclosed in one go, would provoked a coalition of contradictory vested interests to maintain the status quo. Strategic governance: The project manager has first to gain political support from the top management and from politicians. Due to the medium term of such a project and its political and social risks, such thing is not easy. Projects with clear outputs such as on line income tax one stop shop have won such a support and may unfold in spite of government changes. It is not the case for scientific research policy monitoring since issues and outputs are per se complex to define and politically highly controversial. The less legitimacy the project manager gains from his strategic governance, the more subversive his approach must be, and vice versa. Quick wins: To put stakeholders’ mind at rest, it’s necessary to gain quick wins that will demonstrate valuable outputs, and foster a problem solving dynamics that will help dealing with more and more complex issues. Subversive questions will raise steps by steps as a natural progress on the project path. Capacity building: IT capacities are poor in the public sector, due both to the lag in integrating the role of ITs as a change agent and to low salaries that forbid attracting high profiles. The CIO function doesn’t exist in the French ministerial administration that would allow thinking in terms of global architecture and change in business. It exists in agencies which are more experienced in IT projects, and allows them to question all the time the centre competency and its legitimacy to conceive a global monitoring system. Joining bottom-up and top down approach: To avoid this obstacles (poor legitimacy of the centre in conceiving IS and the obsession of the “théorie du complot” among the

- Page 22/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

periphery’s stakeholders) it’s necessary to rely on initiatives of periphery actors and to federate them in a global project, while, in the same move, taking the strategic initiatives the centre is the sole legitimate actor to impulse. From this framework emerge the figures of what a CIO, or an IT project leader, must be as a change agent in the public sector. In the private sector, the role of the CIO went through three ages in the last decades: In the seventies and until the first eighties, he was a support function in charge of automating recurrent tasks. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the CIO role moved towards a re-engineering business processes agent, with a focus on cost control and downsizing. He began to be concerned with process improvement, and automating processes became closely related with productivity, cost killing in businesses and increased efficiency. This trend culminated with the hype of ERP software and e-business in the late 1990s and the dramaturgy of large IT projects that promised a lot, cost a lot and delivered disappointing results. With the end of the “dot.com” bubble, the CIO role turned to be concerned with information management as a source of creating competitive advantage (Marchand, 2004, Rochet, 2006). From a support function, the CIO became a member of the top management with a full strategic role (Cigref – McKinsey, 2004). In the public sector, the landscape is more varied: in some pilot sectors, e-administration has become a means for re-engineering business processes. But in most part of the administration, the CIO function is still a first age one. This has many negative consequences on administrative productivity. In the absence of a central architect, IS accumulate layers and become costly to maintain. In the ministry for education and research, there are more than 250 IS without any common plan, which maintenance consumes 75% of the IT budget, impeding releasing credits for investments. There is a clear need for a policy of “applicative euthanasia” that would simplify what has become a “spaghetti network” to turn it into a fully urbanized information system. But this would need a strong political support. The new role of the CIO that is currently emerging in the public sector would help the top management and politicians to become aware of the issue and to understand to powerful role of ITs as a change agent so as to make public policies monitorable and to stop wasting money in maintenance of underperforming systems.

- Page 23/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent

Allard-Poesi F., Drucker-Godard C. et Ehlinger S., (1999), “Analyses de représentations et de discours”, In chapitre 16 de Thiétart R.A. et al. (Eds), Méthodes de recherche en management. Dunod, pp.449-475. Amabile, S., (1999), “De la veille stratégique à une attention réticulée. Le réseau d’attention interorganisationnel des mutuelles d’assurance automobile”, Systèmes d’information et management, 4(2), pp.19-36. Amabile, S., Gadille, M., (2006), “Coopération inter-entreprises, système d’information et renouvellement de l’attention organisationnelle”, Revue Française de Gestion, vol. 32, n° 164. Argyris, C., Schön, D., (1978), “Organizational Learning : a Theory of Action Perspective”, Addison Welsey. Bardin, L. (2001), “L’analyse de contenu”, Paris, PUF. Baumard, P., Benvenuti, J.A., (1998), “Compétitivité et système d'information, de l'outil d'analyse au management stratégique”, – InterEditions. Bendix, R., (1968), Introduction. In R. Bendix (ed.): “State and Society”: 1-13. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Botta-Genoulaz V., Millet P.-A., (2006), “An investigation into the use of ERP systems in the service sector”, International Journal of Production Economics, 99(1/2), pp.202-221. Broadbent, M., Weill, P., (1997), “Management by Maxim: How Business and IT Managers Can Create IT Infrastructures”, Sloan Management Review, Spring 1997, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 77-92 Brynjolfsson, E., (2002), “Computing Productivity: Firm-Level Evidence”, MIT Sloan School of Management Brusoni, M., Prencipe, M., (2004), “The Value and Cost of Modularity : A cognitive Perspective”, SPRU, SEWPS Brusoni Stefano, Prencipe Andrea, 2005, “Making Design Rules : A Multi-Domain Perspective”, SPRU, SEWPS Cigref, (2004), “L’innovation, le défi de la société de l’information”, Cahier de recherche. Cigref, (2004), “Les leviers de la création de valeur à l’ère des technologies de l’information”, Cahier de recherche. Cigref, (2005), “La création de connaissance au service de la création de valeur”, Cahier de recherche. Cigref, (2006), “Quoi de neuf dans l’innnovation pour le DSI?”, Cahier de recherche. Cigref-McKinsey, 2004, “Dynamique des relations autour des systèmes d’information dans les équipes de direction des grandes entreprises françaises”, Cahier de recherche. Chevalier, J., Rouban, L., (2003), “La réforme de l’Etat et la nouvelle gestion publique : mythes et réalités”, Revue française d’administration publique, n°105-106. Crozier M., Thoenig, J.-C., (1975), “La régulation des systèmes organisés complexes”, Revue française de sociologie, XVI-1, pp.3-32. Cohen W., Levinthal D., (1990), “Absorbtive capability: a new perspective on learning and innovation”, Administrative science quaterly, n° 35, pp. 128-152. Davenport, T.H., (1998), “Putting the enterprise into the enterprise system”, Havard Business Review, july-August, pp. 121-133. David, A., (2000), “La recherche-intervention, cadre général pour la recherche en management ?”, in David A., Hatchuel A., Laufer R. coord, Les nouvelles fondations des sciences de gestion, Vuibert.

- Page 24/25 -

Using information system as a legitimate subversive agent Eisenstadt, S., (1987), “European Civilization in Comparative Perspective,” Oslo Eisenhardt, K.M., (1989), “Building theories from case study research”, Academy of Management Review, vol.14, 532-550. Freeman, Chris, 2003, “A Schumpeterian Renaissance ?”, SPRU, SEWPS. Hatchuel, A., (1994), “Les savoirs de l’intervention en entreprise”, Entreprise & Histoire, n°7, p.5975. Lewin K., (1951), “Field Theory in Social Science', Harper and Row”, New York. Luxemburg, R., (1904), “Questions d'organisation de la social-démocratie russe", texte rebaptisé "Centralisme et démocratie”, publié en annexe à Réforme ou révolution ? (éditions Spartacus, 1972) Marchand, D., (2005), “The Role of the Chief Information Officer”, IMD, Genève Miller, R, and Floricel S., (2003), “An Exploratory Comparison of the Management of Innovation in the New and Old Economies”, R&D Management, Vol. 33, pp. 501-525 Miles, A.M., Huberman, A.M (1984), “Analysing Qualitative Data : A Source Book for New Methods”, Beverly Hills, CA, Sage. Miller, R., Lessard, D., (2001), “The management of the large engineering projects”, MIT Press. Österlé, H., Brenner W., Hilbers, K., (1993), “Total information Systems Management”, J. Willey & sons. Reix, R., (1998), “Système d’information et management des organisations”, Paris, Vuibert, 409 p. Rochet, C., (2002), “Les établissements publics nationaux, un chantier pilote pour la réforme de l’Etat”, Rapport officiel, La Documentation Française, Paris Rochet, C., (2002), “Are Government Agencies a Good Way of Combining Entrepreneurial Dynamism and Public Policy? The Case of National Public Establishments in France”, OECD, Paris Rochet, C., (2002), “La gouvernance publique partagée”, OCDE, Paris, ouvrage collectif Rochet, C., 2004, “Une seule flèche pour deux cibles: le pari ambitieux de la réforme budgétaire en France”, Management International, n° 4-2004, Montréal. Roos, J.W. (2003), “Creating a Strategic IT Architecture Competency : Learning in Stages”, Center for Information Systems Research (CISR), Working Paper n°335, MIT Sloan School of Management. Stefanou, C.J., (2000), “The Selection Process of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems”, Proceedings of the 6th Americas Conference on Information Systems, Long Beach, California 2000, pp. 988-991 Themistocleous, M., Irani, Z., O’Keefe, R.M., Paul, R. (2001)., “ERP problems and application integration issues: An empirical survey”, Business Process Management Journal, n°7, vol.3, pp.195204. Thoenig, J.C., (1982), “Les politiques de réforme des collectivités locales en France”, in Lagroye et Wright, pp.83-108. Wacheux, F., (1996), “Méthodes Qualitatives et Recherche en Gestion”, Economica, Paris. Wallerstein, I., (1974), “The Modern World-System, I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century”. New York & London: Academic Press. Weick, K. E. (1993), “The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster”, Administrative Science Quarterly, 38: 4, pp. 628-652. Yin, R. (1990), “Case study Research : design and methods”, CA : Sage Publications

- Page 25/25 -

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->