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Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 1251 – 1260

Information technology at IKEA: an ‘‘open sesame’’ solution or just
another type of facility?
Enrico Baraldia,*, Alexandra Waluszewskib,1
a
Department of Business Studies, Uppsala University, Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
b
Department of Business Studies, Uppsala University, Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Received 15 March 2002; received in revised form 4 January 2003; accepted 15 May 2003

Abstract

Information technology and such business applications as IT systems create great expectations to solve most problems a company faces.
However, these expectations are seldom fulfilled. This article treats IT and IT systems simply as a facility among many other resources
(products, facilities, business units and relationships) in business networks. By making use of a case study centred around Product
Information Assistance (PIA), one of IKEA’s key IT systems for product information administration, the analytical part extracts a series of
interactions patterns between IT facilities and the surrounding resources. Being IT systems also embedded into other resources implies that
their effects seldom turn out to be as expected or simply defined by their technical potentials.
D 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Information technology; Resources; Business network; IKEA

1. Introduction shorter response times, better customer service, materials
savings, improved design and quality and the opportunity to
Few industrial applications have been enveloped with so introduce new products more frequently’’.
many expectations as IT systems have been. The implemen- Such high expectations often lead to disappointment.
tation of IT systems is claimed to be the most widely used This seems to be what is happening with IT and its role as
class of process innovations in the past 40 years (Tidd et al., facilitator of firms’ performances in technological and
2001, p. 267). First, IT is seen as a tool to redesign and product development. According to Bessant and Bucking-
sustain more efficient processes (Davenport and Short, ham (1993, p. 219), ‘‘. . .there is a disturbingly high level of
1990). Such IT applications as enterprise resource planning dissatisfaction and failure associated with the implementa-
systems (ERPs) are expected to increase efficiency as they tion of CIM (computer integrated manufacturing) and its
‘‘promise the seamless integration of all information flows derivatives’’. Or, as Tidd et al. (2001, p. 57) put it, ‘‘many
flowing through a company’’ (Davenport, 1998). Second, IT IT systems, whilst technically capable, fail to contribute to
promises to improve performance in technological and improved performance because of inadequate consideration
product development, through project management systems of current working patterns which they will disrupt, lack of
and large-scale computer simulation and modelling. They skills development amongst those who will be using them,
are expected to speed up development projects and save inadequately specified user needs, and so on.’’
money in the building and testing of prototypes and pilot However, what happens if we change perspective and
plants (Tidd et al., 2001, pp. 113– 114). The realm of IT treat IT systems as just one type of facility among many
possibilities seems boundless. In the words of Bessant and others? Then, the above citation would become ‘‘Many
Buckingham (1993, p. 219), ‘‘benefits include dramatically facilities, whilst technically capable, fail to contribute to
improved performance because of. . .’’. Considering IT as
just one facility out of many can perhaps offer a greater
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +46-18-471-14-95.
E-mail addresses: Enrico.Baraldi@fek.uu.se (E. Baraldi),
understanding of the different roles that it can have in
Alexandra.Waluszewski@fek.uu.se (A. Waluszewski). technological and product development. Certainly an IT
1
Tel.: +46-18-471-14-95. facility can have the role of supporting development pro-

0148-2963/$ – see front matter D 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2003.05.001

we used a called Product Information Assistance (PIA) and its role in a model developed to map resource interaction in industrial certain product development. hence. i. The way PIA is used in each resource.. resource that interacts with facilities is the product. 39 – 62). This happens despite our focal com. interaction processes. IKEA’s IT system PIA is reviewed (Ha˚kansson and Waluszewski. and software.5 and 2. access to PIA means of internal hierarchical layers of symbols.e. The empirical material is organised by first giving a actors’ underlying knowledge. 1977. order managers. IT systems are. the product and its of a focal facility can be discovered. relationships imply both opportunities and restrictions having a reputation of being very skilled in handling these to the actors involved (ibid). is defined as any equipment used to create or transform Informants were PIA users at various IKEA units (product products and information. the table ‘‘Lack’’. a knowledge and the ability to cooperate with different hindrance in the development process. more precisely. business relationships.e. if its interaction with other involved resource con. a resource is products. this article searches the ‘‘because of. 2. or rediscovered. The product in focus is one of networks (Ha˚kansson and Waluszewski. Considering these assumptions. IKEA’s way of handling product development structure. 2. The other. more than 550 directly controlled business units of resources that are mainly social: business units and and 165 retail outlets. consequently. but in retrospective. then. finally. are seen as a result of IKEA manages a worldwide organisation of 65 000 interaction processes. IKEA of Sweden any artefact exchanged between economic actors. ideas and goals on the general picture of IKEA and of the business unit in charge facility and other resources.1252 E. about only one among IKEA’s many through interaction. developers. Products. a relationship connects not contribute as expected to a large company’s product interaction patterns where the other three types of resources development efforts. Using this as a counterparts are embedded. The under.’’ a exchange and interaction episodes. the worldwide leader in furniture retailing. 85– 90) and produce. In 2000. products and business units) are involved. between the buying and specific IT system is not fully used and. and at all the other firms mentioned in the case study. Interaction processes and embeddedness concern both an activated 2. an account is given of how Furthermore.1. Next. . Business relationships connect starting point. Besides. (Sections 2. this toolbox analyses how facilities are concretely PIA is used in a specific Lack project (Sections related to three other types of resources involved in techni. a facility. A business unit is seen as the result stellations increases the possibilities to create certain sol. and connections to other resources are introduced later (Sections brought forward while it interacts with other facilities 2. Waluszewski / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 1251–1260 cesses. pp. i.. The scope lying assumption of this toolbox is that the features of of this study is therefore limited to how PIA is used for resources are developed and embedded into each other development projects. 1986. in the same way as facilities. at worst. conducted between March 2001 and February 2002 at IKEA The focal type of resource in this investigation. might decrease the possibility of easily com. IKEA’s biggest sales successes. Finally. i.3 and 2. during which. and of PIA. the connections between different parts of a facility and other resources. Through this interaction. which can be much wider and of developing Lack (Section 2.1. sales reached 80 billion SEK . supply planners. messages was granted on several occasions. .4). An analytical toolbox question of how much its features can be utilised in such resource combining processes. cal development processes. something that affects them and embeds their current use in other resources. The following material is based on a total of 34 interviews bining it with other different resources. IT support personnel at IKEA and.1). mainly physical. According to our analytical that the described product development process was not toolbox. the IT facility can be useless or. Guided visits to produc- that individuals use as information in making decisions tion plants were also arranged. such features as utions. of interaction processes. in general. A limitation of this study is (Simon. by involved in the product development.8). The toolbox also includes two types employees.6). picture of the use of IT. 2002).e. Some features for IKEA’s product development efforts. certain features emerge and become prominent in in all IKEA’s development work.7 and 2. To illustrate the context deeper than the currently activated structure. 2. does selling units. issues. One effect is that the utilisation of a certain Lack’s product development reflects nonetheless the way it resource in connection to some resources will increase. IT systems manipulate signals and symbols production managers and technicians at the external units (Winograd and Flores. and an idea structure. is used also for other many product development projects. 2002). how much an IT facility can contribute in technological development becomes a 1. A. pp. The ambition is not to attain a fully representative systematically related to a specific set of other resources. IKEA. We will discuss this issue by To explore how one of IKEA’s IT facilities is related to taking a closer look at one of IKEA’s central IT systems other resources within and outside this company. If not. all types of facilities are seen as involved in followed as it unfolded. fore. There- pany. over time. (facilities.. Thus. in particular. Baraldi. which.2. retail store facilities that process data by means of complex hardware salesmen).

This endeavour includes price. Nevertheless. When the attain and maintain. it board-on-frame technique was first applied to Lack tables . IKEA has to collect. Considering this. looks like this table always has. but which. Lack has duction arm. Technological development around lack thick flat surface and the fact that the table legs have the same thickness as the flat surface does. Furthermore. which together product just to be produced by an external production can create the appearance of a Lack table. for the last 10 years. in three Swedwood Polish supplier and IKEA’s 25 distribution centres (DCs) plants located in Poland. product. is sold in Sweden characterised as a combination process that includes parallel for a retail price of 99 SEK. logistics. The produc- a price that no competitor could ever beat. it is easy to understand 20 years—a period during which prices for several kinds of IKEA’s desire to use IT systems to facilitate activities input materials increased significantly—be explained? If ranging from order management to product development. procuring and preparing all products for distri. The target production cost and the retail price set at development at the three Polish Swedwood plants can be 99 SEK appeared. However. A typical Lack table includes veneers. extraordinary. it is The project was carried out to eliminate the most used to give the product its identity. The price aimed at substituting veneers with printed surfaces. In the early 1980s. They account for 100% of this that store Lack and deliver it to IKEA’s local retail stores. To achieve the potential cost reduction of eliminating combined and how. IKEA does not simply terised as a continuous struggle to combine and recombine buy what is available in the suppliers’ inventory or design a different internal and external resources. (4) all surface treatment. This production tech- than simply creation and design. to the naked eye. (2) filling the chipboard-made surface frame with honeycomb paper. furniture that is simultaneously low weight because it is IKEA-oS created Lack in the late 1970s and is still mostly empty inside and built on ‘‘honeycomb’’ paper involved in its continuous development. Lack has been produced with a obliged to integrate many more competences and activities technique called ‘‘board-on-frame’’. as illustrated by a recent technical project appointed to develop the product project and idea. (5) packaging The table version is one of IKEA’s best sellers. Approxi. As a production-lead retailer. To perform product development. (3) covering and gluing of the filled Lack is both a simple sofa table and a series of shelves. Similar examples of production processes come. honeycomb paper. Lack: a product under constant development legs. IKEA-oS facility. it was necessary to create new combinations. under the Thus. Actually. squared and laminated. chip- currently produced in Poland.2..3. IKEA-oS procures it by boards. E. Moreover. IKEA-oS had treated Lack as a given product.5 million pieces are sold annually worldwide. The original and The technological development of IKEA-oS can be basic Lack table. quality. manufacturing. and (6) storing. IKEA-oS decided that Lack should products like lacquers were specially developed in cooper- become the table produced and distributed at a cost allowing ation with Akzo – Nobel and Becker – Acroma. these issues are often treated as a typical IKEA project: A project group was tightly connected.e. design idea and project definition stage. Lack has been and technology issues. This work can be charac- bution. can be said that IKEA actually managed to do it. a final price expensive input in the veneered and lacquered version of fixed at 99 SEK strongly influences which resources can be Lack. hence. warehousing and retail exhibition. the table’s legs. Lack’s price was creation of new and demolition of old resource constella- designed before the product was ready. issue is an important part of Lack’s development. Baraldi. Because Lack is structures. to transform each new idea about Lack veneers. mately 2. Thus. both into a physical solution. process and disseminate a vast amount How can the miracle behind Lack’s constant price over of information. while others into the table surface. The price Developing. In this way. For example. IKEA-oS is For the last 10 years. IKEA’s pro. high-density fibreboard (HDF) interacting with IKEA’s Polish purchase office. These three business units perform the following activities: (1) production of table 2. its tion facility was complemented with special surface price should remain as constant as possible in the years to treatment lines. i. A. producing and distributing all these products for Lack’s basic version has been kept constant or even with the necessary precision and timeliness implies that reduced occasionally. IKEA-oS made the difference. Waluszewski / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 1251–1260 1253 through a product range including 12 000 product items. already at the tions. continuous development work at developing. IKEA’s products are developed and designed for is engaged in creating a product that. a constant The IKEA of Sweden (IKEA-oS) is a central business price over 20 years would certainly have been something unit in IKEA’s universe that is responsible for designing. product’s worldwide sales. costs. Some of these materials are transformed into produced in a facility owned by Swedwood. frame with HDF. Physical distribution is handled between the been produced. from year to year. IKEA-oS is required to orchestrate the whole system surface. The key design feature of today’s Lack table is the unusually 2. First. can be the result of different of internal and external resources that interact behind each resource combinations. unrealistic and impossible to traced back to the emergence of the Lack concept. in terms of products and production facilities. it is a large nique allows IKEA to make very strong and resistant organization with more than 600 employees. Second. today. while it is and lacquers. at first. 20 years later.

contributing their expertise in material and worked toward finding an equally economical solution for production technology (e.. During such projects. IKEA-oS is bound to go on experimenting with But these other resources are treated as given. in Fig. Along with manufacturing machines. IKEA’s experts launched a specific project suppliers’ production facilities and materials). DCs. such as transportation equipment and warehousing facilities. The resource items in Fig. processed and diffused both opment projects. Waluszewski / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 1251–1260 (in the end of the 1980s).e. mation and data to be collected.g. The always explicitly considered. ISTRAs. Any new solution. development projects that require large amounts of infor- being in charge of initiating and managing all Lack devel. considered as nongiven. development The development efforts of the resources of IKEA-oS. facilities. this larger resource constellation is adapted to the indicate how IKEA-oS interacts with other units during product assortment as a whole—not to the demands of a development projects. transportation equipment.1254 E. For is a ‘‘never ending story’’. as as just a temporary one. Product development teams also include technical that it could not be used to produce its legs. Restrictions and possibilities creat- To keep a product like Lack’s price and visible identity ed for Lack by other resources are nonetheless considered. according to our analytical toolbox (see Section 1. 1. Thus. They are assisted in their work by product inside and outside the organisation. which stretches from raw materials to consum- resources that are usually involved in these combination ers’ homes and includes a series of connected value-creating endeavours. rather than combining and recombining resources. A. must be treated developers take into account the whole IKEA system. It is these resources that are advantages. Fig. IKEA’s changeable resources that can be adapted to Lack. Fig. . no matter example. it immediately became apparent supports..5. single product. with all the related cost related to the production sites. other facilities are also involved with Lack. handle contacts with IKEA’s local machine supplier located just a few meters away from the purchase offices and specific suppliers. how to handle and develop Lack’s legs. 1 are categorised activities and resources. the basic idea of ‘‘air-filled’’ furniture could Lack by restricting them to the ‘‘resource network’’ directly also be kept for Lack’s legs. The solid lines handle. in developing the Lack table. IKEA-oS product how beneficial it may appear at any time. Possibilities and restrictions in development work bend very thin HDF boards into the external leg structures and to fill them with chipboards placed a few centimeters IKEA usually handles development projects such as apart. with 12 000 items to dotted arrows indicate Lack’s logistic flow.4. Polish units. The resource network involved in Lack’s development. constant. 1 presents a few of the they call it. Baraldi. 1. i. IKEA-oS specialists. based on particular production facilities that were able to mill and 2. a small purchase strategists. However.1) into local sales organisations and specific retail stores are thus products. Product IKEA also expects its IT systems to offer support for developers at IKEA-oS play a central role in this process. In this way. The result was a special production line. business units and relationships. IKEA’s IT system PIA: a facility for product DCs and at retail stores. involving technicians from Swedwood and Wicoma. at 2. are reflected in its internal organization.

A wealth of other ‘‘passive users’’ (up to all also expected to input data about the project team compo- of IKEA’s 65 000 employees) can also access the system via sition. E. Interacting with PIA is considered the most be mirrored by PIA and by routines that make them information-rich task that project developers are required to responsible for filling in specific flaps of this IT-system. via other connected IT systems. product developers to input the detailed time planning of but they are also expected to be the main users of the each project. can place any order. technical descriptions (TEDs) to prices. information. responsibility became crucial. clearly indicates its role in the management of ‘‘feeding the system’’. represent the seven milestones in this project guide: 3. including all the scheduled activities (to be outcome. consequence. economic made of various databases that are both internally calculations and required investments in production connected. pricelists. during their development selected from a menu of 160 items). The amount of information that is supposed to be fed into PIA 2. product descrip. This production facility is match with the original project goals. PIA is composed of a specifications for the project to be translated into a series of databases. cm. i. News about the developed product is produced and of information bearers (some of which are directly attached communicated to all of IKEA’s retail stores before they to products) can be generated: price tags. administration of the product range structure and 4. series of applications that allow calculations and other 2.. 1. veneered in birch). of how resources are combined in development projects. involved suppliers. The administration of development projects is done by Product developers and their project teams can therefore input and retrieval of data in a series of ‘‘flaps’’ inside PIA be considered as central in the provider – user interface of that resemble a paper archive. Presentation to the product council who assesses the operations on the input data. Sale start after orders from retail stores have been number of business units. technical requirements into docu- materials. At the item level of PIA. the IKEA catalogue and IKEA’s product launch. administration of product documentation. but they are not alone in the task of projects.). Individuals outside IKEA are not granted direct access tool involved must be specified. To handle them. who set broad requirements and From a technical point of view. label drawings. includes a particular series of applications and databases that 2. administration of development projects. They not only provide the IT facility with input data. to PIA-borne information.e. Other IKEA-oS specialists intervene development projects. administration of development found inside PIA. First buy requiring (1) technical specifications for the Intranet. PIA as a tool for managing development projects for each development project is overwhelming. e. Contract review with supplying units to formalise. This must happen six weeks before tions. explicit strategic goals and the distribution aspects visitors to IKEA’s Website) can access different levels of for the project. the expected costs and sale price for the project IKEA’s Intranet interface to PIA. PIA is particularly registered. PIA literally mimics a product develop- tions of this information facility are: ment guide that IKEA-oS introduced in 1994 as a template to sustain project planning and management. PIA 1. each single component. inside PIA. it was meant to take a consumers and (3) detailed forecasts of local markets’ central role in the management of relevant product-related expected needs. Passive users (including all object... relevant for development activities. a very important documentation. administration of product information. the ‘‘Pricetag’’ retail system. For this purpose. from photo-pictures to product drawings.g. Baraldi.g. The level of detail of the data increases as PIA’s databases. project that is launched at IKEA-oS is supposed to be Among IKEA’s many IT systems. Every development oS and is exchanged with both internal and external units. IKEA has distribution and production. from supplying units to components. Project assignment to a specific product developer and his project team. Waluszewski / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 1251–1260 1255 information is extracted by the product developers of IKEA.6. specified a series of routines that require product developers to provide PIA with input data. .g. to either one compiles the flaps of PIA dedicated to the ‘‘item level’’. internal reports. simply browse for information or create specific documents where the specific article number (e. IKEA databases and IT systems (IKEA’s Website. A ‘‘planning’’ flap prompts PIA. In fact.. PIA is the central source from which a number 5. from measures to among other issues. are created. TEDs. The four central func. IKEA’s 3. A. Product developers are responsible for the information that is to be The fourth PIA function. both inside and outside IKEA. and their role is also supposed to and recombined. a graphic user interface (GUI) and a product prototype. ‘‘inscribed’’ and constantly updated into PIA. Making PIA into a key information source for a 6. price tags. perform during development projects. TEDs and supplier index. from 4. (2) complete product information for When PIA was introduced in 1998. and externally connected to other facilities. machine and es). Follow-up on the new or improved product in retailing. the processed data. collected and fulfilled. such issues as how input is created and under whose 7. Product developers are assignments. As a ments called TEDs. etc. for Lack 55  55 (e.

thus. at least six different business units and several different tration of product information and documentation functions resource constellations: IKEA-oS. especially when units In 1999. Consultations between choices for Lack-related development projects. Becker – Acroma. machine and lacquer experts) regularly met face- pletely different from traditional lacquering lines: Printed to-face to jointly find a solution to the problem of keeping veneer is obtained in a process similar with offset printing. No wonder. so the constant price miracle could continue. Moreover. be directly tested. specialists. all the way to retail stores (as implied by the adminis. product developers to begin a project by setting require- munication facility that allows coordination between actors ments and specifications for technical variables and specific participating in development projects. But in the printed veneer project. The product ‘‘printed veneer’’ example developer’s ability to directly control this process was explicitly recognised as limited. emerged from interaction between specialists representing tion. a satisfactory solution to the Polish plants and suppliers of varnishing lines and lacquers original problem was identified and introduced. technicians and product developers. most of the interaction between the individuals in. The pro. including the many tests performed at Swedwood produc. these business units are almost mandatory comparably good aesthetic results. Waluszewski / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 1251–1260 For instance. After two years of development work. A. designers. production managers at the limited control by IKEA-oS. the projects production system succeeded in printing a veneer-like film directly on HDF surfaces that gave substantially the same When the project management guide was adapted to the aesthetic result as real veneer does. lacquering lines suppliers and the store level (such as price tags and assembly instructions) IKEA’s Polish purchase office. where all the various presses. Baraldi. process technology in Swedwood’s Polish units. they were provided to PIA. To resources together for each new solution. Using PIA in product development projects: the later in the project. Much 2. that a large range of parallel and nonformalised development projects. IKEA The Polish Swedwood units had produced Lack for over 10 wanted though to offer consumers the ‘‘veneer feeling’’ with years. cost reduction could be obtained by eliminating them. volved in the development work from the very beginning.8. explicitly prompts The objective with PIA is to create a rudimentary com. 2. on which PIA’s and ‘‘supplier’’ information into PIA. production duction facilities that were installed and tested are com. Akzo – Nobel were directly in. Lacquering technology suppliers such as Becker – people’s different competencies and experiences could also Acroma and. The different logic behind PIA and ‘‘real’’ development tion plants. etc. we will and choices of applicable solutions. depend on the regular and precise inclusion of data into PIA Later on. News. The first products with contingencies faced during creation and implementation of printed veneers were then launched. directed the attention of the product developers to a new With just a general idea for the project. Akzo – attributed to PIA). PIA produces and spreads a wealth of performed. individually by Lack product developers but were the result ever. How. Despite technologists from IKEA-oS. down production costs. There are also a great goals for economical variables about the products to be variety of individuals who simultaneously use PIA. the product technique. veneers account for and Becker – Acroma were constantly present in a wide almost one third of total costs. paper only when all the involved actors agreed on them and on their respective roles in their accomplishment. This new technique would allow them to elim. According to the IKEA style. key decisions during the project were not made by product developers and other actors at IKEA-oS. it no longer corresponded to the . Swedwood. then. Participation of all the above volved in development projects happens outside the PIA individuals was necessary to bring different capabilities and system through face-to-face meetings. either developed.1256 E. IKEA-oS started a large and extensive project outside IKEA were involved. Control was even limited in addressing the problem of veneers in Lack. TEDs and all information bearers at Nobel. In veneered the original choice of cooperative partners: Akzo –Nobel versions of both tables and shelves. project management function is based. while ISTRAs are responsible to input ‘‘cost/price’’ project? IKEA’s product development guide. especially. discussions. technical specialists are required to compile What role did the PIA system play in the printed veneer TEDs. many specifi- while inputting data in the various project-related flaps or cations and requirements were still highly unclear in the while retrieving information from PIA or other connected IT advanced phases of the project because tests were still being systems. developer and the others involved in the project were inate real veneer and substitute a printed veneer obtained by challenged to further reduce the production costs for Lack impressing an artificial veneer profile on the table surface. the printed veneer project. Thus. These were frozen on take a closer look at a specific development project.7. The printed veneer illustrate the difference between the objective behind PIA project witnessed fully negotiated technical specifications and how it is actually used by product developers. these performed in production facilities that resemble printing meetings were held on the shop floor. of a high degree of collegiality. all A project was then launched to introduce this new the individuals taking part in this Lack project (ISTRAs. They for many more individuals in the rest of the IKEA organiza. Not even the project’s original idea and speci- information about products that becomes highly relevant fications are attributable exclusively to IKEA-oS.

but they were discussed for a long time take into account the resource network. This gives product developers PIA certainly does not. Thus. from development to too busy working on the project: Their task is actually production. How can we tions and requirements well in advance of their inclusion make sense of PIA’s pattern of utilisation and only marginal into the PIA system. because the modification of the underlying production which is done both by technical specialists and product technology for Lack. product during the whole project by a variety of actors. If they want their projects to infrastructure (Ciborra and Hanseth.. results must be stated in very concrete and detailed terms At that stage. they must face this IT system. nothing can be officially and concretely sold In the words of (Tidd et al. The new or modified product is generated. to set into motion ment project as printed veneer. Baraldi. PIA has a central role in IKEA’s IT network. seldom have time available to sit in front of a computer Let us now try to analyse why IKEA’s central IT system screen and input data into PIA. In the empirical account. errors and decisions that were made PIA as an active support in the development work. which are generated by the retail.e. considering the nature of their tasks. but eventually. . as highlighted above. This attitude can be understood by are TEDs and news. The natural result is that they and manage specific development projects. by whom and when. A.. In turn. 113 –115) IKEA is to retail stores. the more detailed item flaps must be filled in. i. where product development developers knew about the agreed upon technical specifica. Case analysis: PIA. Waluszewski / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 1251–1260 1257 utilisation pattern built into the PIA system. pp. while feeding reviewed in Section 2. the results of the project into the system. trials. TEDs a typical example of ‘‘information-intensive’’ technological have also a sort of higher order responsibility because they trajectory. developers postponed interaction with the IT systems’ To summarise. PIA for more than a year from the project’s start. unequivocal and even binding product developers at IKEA-oS consider PIA more of a for the supplier. unfolds and where the PIA system is used. in very concrete and detailed PIA until they must produce the documents required for terms. When they approach PIA’s item flaps. hence. we can now identify which factors the information that will later be fed into PIA. they delegate the task for product management is so underused in product devel- of feeding PIA with information to product supports. they need to closely interact with those actors that prisingly. often on the shop floor. 1998) but.e. In fact. For instance. they disembedded) in the network of resources where it is simply feed the results of a wealth of actions into the IT supposed to stimulate. These them to launch production and sales related to their projects. The development interact quite sparingly with PIA during a product developers used PIA only in the late stages. TEDs may hinder PIA’s full use in product development. during product involved in the project have nonetheless already made an development projects. IKEA-oS personnel involved in product project management function as much as possible. facilitate or speed up development. must be formalised supports. we before launching. a network-embedded or suppliers and (2) to inform retail stores about the modified disembedded IT facility? product by means of the PIA-based internal news system.4). ments that must be detailed. IKEA-oS and IKEA’s retailing organisation. opment work. Before launching the modified product it is necessary (1) to have perfectly defined TEDs that will bind 3. They feel that this concrete documents must appear in PIA is connected to Milestones type of solution enormously speeds up project execution 4 (contract review) and 5 (news) in the project guide and is directly connected to project results. But do they activities that involve both internal and external resources in really perform this duty? Product developers are usually the IKEA system (Section 2. product into the IT systems. in the printed veneer project. both inside and and later agreed upon by the many involved actors. plenty of time to avoid PIA.1. The duty of including them into contribution to development projects? Let us try to do it by formalised TEDs appearing in PIA is attributed to technical highlighting how the facility PIA is embedded (or possibly specialists. which requires for them to meet the ing to retailing. this type of formalisation is developers and technical specialists did not interact with imposed by the institution of routines for creating docu. for the most important of their tasks. Without news. and the project would come to a halt.6. E. Product developers substantially avoid they were obliged to ‘‘input’’. IKEA’s product developers use PIA only sparingly represent the many resources involved in such a develop. 2001. like printed veneer. managing projects oriented part of PIA and transmitted to IKEA’s retailing by travelling and meeting all the involved actors face-to- organization. underlying logic is that these IT systems should be able to Such an arrangement of TEDs and news requires product track data and information on all the central processes and developers to compile PIA’s various flaps.. when project’s unfolding. we reviewed how Product developers and all the other actors concretely PIA is actually used. Rather than well have appeared for the first time in PIA just a few weeks merely questioning PIA’s internal technical functionality. i. from transportation to warehousing. Instead of using system: tests. By applying our analytical toolbox important contribution to the freezing and formalisation of presented in Section 1. Product especially outside IKEA. The moment in a project when these two face. quite sur- progress. IKEA is populated by many company- offer the informational support on which the news about the wide IT systems that vary in function and extension. restraining and superfluous factor than an enabler of crea- The two most important documents that must be created tivity and new ideas. from order- managing the project.

All IT systems somehow represent resources (Winograd and time-compression bias. production planning and document generation. and software. reciprocally. IT systems can offer a bridge for information and data other resources. who need information to make a wide range of networks is just provisional. Some IT systems can be a precondition for a particular these areas. 1995). IT systems automatically monitor (i. introduced in the 1960s by Langefors (1973. Usually. or from another IT system. from close or distant and business units and will express highly differentiated and. business units facilities. immediate automatic oper- are facilities that perform data processing to provide mean.. involved resources presented in the IKEA case. while others are only above eight patterns of interaction. Before doing this. PIA interactions are . The technical solutions used include hardware. representing also includes simply mimicking their 3. therefore. 1982. Interaction patterns between PIA and the surrounding an IT system usually reveals that there are many more users resources than the intended and explicitly recognised ones.e. passively control) we encountered in Section 2.e. i. In 2. even system are then used or unused.e. p. can emerge when the IT system interacts with other resour. 89). ingful information to actors. IT systems activities (decision making. business networks.. biotechnology. facilities. To understand PIA’s role in IKEA’s routines and procedures at a business unit. such as product development work. and Flores. etc. A business network analysis of 3. outside the restricted information or a necessary input for their further domains of Informatics and Computer Sciences. printing industry. In the case of business units. of course. unexpected features and functions manual feeding performed elsewhere. system stimulate to be used or unused (or even blocked)? 7. thereby computerised production facilities. 97) inscribed into IT systems. behaviour of a business unit. This is the case with IT bedded in a favourable way in other resources. therefore. we must and emit signals about products. programs and data repositories.1258 E. bio-informatics. from a retrospective 1.. interactions between this IT system and the other resources 3. thereby offering valuable Snehota. physical equipment.2. ations or human action etc. i. (positively or negatively) affecting and being affected by. unexpected information needs. IT systems offer some form of data output to a business ces located in the business network context (Ha˚kansson and unit or to another IT system. active or passive users. units and relationships. Most IT systems make calculations about products. data input from other IT systems usually and Computer Sciences (for a general review. while others use the system-borne Let us now identify how PIA interacts with the other information only indirectly. Waluszewski / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 1251–1260 Which possibilities and limitations for PIA are derived from passive users. each one systems that are the only available tool to perform certain somehow using IT. IT systems require data input from a business unit that The potential features and functions of an IT system are codifies relevant information. which if they were not originally conceived as ‘‘communication features and functions of the other resources does the IT tools’’. products.. the above list of interaction patterns applications are used to generate and manage information between IT systems and other types of resources in business for users. 5. Baraldi. concept of ‘‘information systems’’. Which features and functions of the IT flows between units and between other IT systems. action patterns between an IT system and the resources Moreover. we identified the following eight inter- patterns of use are likely to change in the near future. from conflicting and sustaining often. functions attributed to this facility? In pointing at these By bringing together a few basic insights from Informat- possibilities and limitations. This is also recognised in the frame how IT interacts with other resources. and relationships (Ha˚kansson and Waluszewski. facilities. 1977). where some are direct users.). there was no possibility to follow actively and surrounding it: directly how PIA is used throughout a whole development project. but it offers basic guidelines to decisions (Simon. 1999). 1995). the IT system features are exploited and em. 6. Because of the possible emergence of unexpected fea- i. p. its features and business networks..e. These IT-based representations of resources can become IT facilities have had an important role in the develop. This analysis suffers. 1986. we should not however forget ics and our analytical toolbox inspired by studies on that PIA is constantly evolving. see Bocij et imply codification of information and time-consuming al. some are active users. A. according to the also in inputting data into the system. Some IT systems directly steer the operations of Interact means how an IT system is combined with.1. The interaction between IT systems and resources in behaviour by means of procedures and routines (Nelson business networks and Winter. 8. and. suggested by the disciplines and practices of Informatics In addition. 2002). relevant for the IT system users for such purposes as ment of new solutions in such areas as the graphic and decision making or learning. we have to consider the types of ordering. business units introduce a general categorisation of how an IT system can and relationships. IT and its various tures and functions. and. they are all spread across many its direct and indirect connections. interact with the other four resource items populating 4. hence. But.

Hence. has not for conducting development projects (Point been pointed out in Section 2. knowledge. 1987. involving Only for this specific task does PIA become a very IKEA-oS and the retail units. to producing sales mate. Instead. PIA is therefore important for these units. in terms of connections to other IT facilities. improvements in speed or commercial and economic suc- mation material is fundamental to guide customers cess for development projects can be attributed to PIA’s through retail stores and enable the IKEA self-service project management function because these outcomes de- concept. From 2002. (Points 6 and 8 above). for development projects. such as data input. For product development. To have product developers wood. price abling factor but. PIA has tween PIA and the surrounding resources lead. PIA is much more dependent on the PIA. A. PIA and IKEA’s business relationships do not development. will apply a different approach to PIA: its central role will such as Becker – Acroma. Baraldi. The above). For these toolbox presented in Section 1. Thus PIA. No substantial tags. These external units. are taken outside PIA.1) from time-consuming behaviour and routines of the unit IKEA-oS. Akzo – Nobel and Swed. a simply an ex post ‘‘document administration system’’. No wonder that.1: (a) products. ucts to retail stores. PIA is certainly not an en- sale information material. Moreover. of the PIA system for technical issues. above). ensuing from absolute respect of PIA’s require- the IKEA catalogue is produced by using PIA-based ments. affect each other on any substantial dimension. but this fundamental resource for the emergence of products. without the support of its information. That is where it makes sense to important tool for the focal business unit. Only PIA-based news IKEA-oS because relevant product development decisions is a precondition (Point 2 above) for launching prod.2) PIA – other IKEA business units: retail units use PIA. in turn. not during product development. Updated and clear infor. given their extensive technical IKEA-oS unit than vice versa. instead of an active products they are about to order or are already selling management tool PIA. accordingly. a neutral resource. But. such as store displays. PIA also fill data into PIA. the burden of sheer . Here. IKEA Internet. can have harmful effects on IKEA development information. it (c) business units and (d) relationships: can be argued that. a stronger embedding factor These representations become useful for sales material at for PIA in the business unit IKEA-oS can be seen. who use it passively but are not essential for its The goals of IKEA-oS in using PIA are also changing functioning. such as IKEA how PIA is used and of the related outcomes? The way PIA Intranet. but is where product development unfolds. such as lacquering technology suppliers. IKEA-oS product developers and network (Ha˚kansson. technicians participate. but they are not borne TEDs and news to obtain information about the interacting with it. where requires data input from IKEA-oS’ personnel (Point 7 PIA does not add any value to the involved resources. Rather. and for their subsequent ships. units. at least business units. directly steer them. IKEA-oS limited to mentioning the names of relevant suppliers. indirectly. we can point out that routinisation and tight rial and information for points of sales. PIA does not offer much useful important contribution to product development from other data output to IKEA-oS product developers. but does not monitor. does not even qualify for representing these relation- such as the table Lack.1) PIA –IKEA-oS: PIA simply mimics (Point 1 above) the of resources (Point 1 in Section 3. but they are only mentioned in 8 above). Ha˚kansson and Lundgren. make Where do the aforementioned interaction patterns be- calculations about or directly steer them. Moreover. in itself is not a with reference only to technical specifications. thus. PIA offers important data output useful for a limited set of resources in the surrounding for these other IT systems (Point 7 above). these units could supply relevant technical (a) PIA products: PIA simply represents products (Point 1 information to PIA. Thanks to PIA and the way it is embedded in pend on much wider dynamics in IKEA’s whole business other resources. the P-tag system (Point 6 interacts and is embedded implies that PIA is used by and above). control. could be very important active users and feeders (c. E. This situation is to be related to the overwhelming is an important resource only for a restricted group of burden of compiling project-related data into the PIA system. PIA is also. other IKEA IT facilities. at most. (b) PIA facilities: PIA simply represents production facil- ities (Point 1 above) but does not monitor. make calculations or (d) PIA relationships: PIA reports contracts to suppliers. PIA is thus absolutely unimportant. via the P-tag system. 1995). retail units and for the product launch routine. IKEA-oS product developers gain only mere representations (c. Using PIA as a complete tool to comprehen- (c. as highly knowledgeable active users.3) PIA – external business units: the interaction pattern sively manage every development project showed its sub- between PIA and units outside IKEA does not even stantial rigidity and insufficient anchoring in the context provide ‘‘representations’’ (Point 1 above). projects’ flexibility and creativity. Waluszewski / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 1251–1260 1259 structured around the four resource items in the analytical towards these suppliers (Point 6 above). these representations are not useful for the product development guide. (b) facilities. precondition (Point 2 above) for producing point-of. PIA does not address the information flows use PIA more actively during projects. remains. IN addition. PIA network. be as a document administrator.

Development and Management. Essays in infology. Lundgren A. be exploited is also very difficult to say. will. Winter S. Developing relationships in business networks. p. way IT will be used. Dover. 1999. Gothenburg: Chalmers Uni- removed one of the many limits to how fast information can versity. Croom information sharing. Baraldi. Conclusion Bessant J. be shared. which has certainly not each innovative idea. litteratur. Accusing technology Ha˚kansson H.1260 E. holds true when personnel’s competence and commitment London: Routledge. Chaffey D. Lund: Student- case basis. p. A new delivers to its promise. Bessant J. they are often not fully exploited. even those with excellent technical and 1995. Hickie S. generally speaking. From tool to Gestell.4: duction are nonetheless still there. yearbook for more than just the new Intranet. 1995. given the context where IT is embedded. Short JE. subprojects they simultaneously manage and each single so far. the environment and technology. The implicit goal with this 219 – 34. Understanding computers and cognition. but Bocij P. Ha˚kansson H. 1982. Product developers will no growth for years’’ (Keenan and Ante. 1997. enables information sharing 10 times faster’’ do not mean Davenport TH. It cannot. the expected outcomes. Br J Manage 1993. 1987. the risk was that for stressed too much ‘‘its promise’’. References 4. Calls such as ‘‘the new Intranet Davenport TH. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishing. Buckingham J. tion. IT solutions. but. unfortunately. Lund: Studentlitteratur. In this citation from Business Week 2001. Product Development in Networks. it could help drive productivity foundation for design. however. Greasley A. This article attacked the deterministic Helm: London. An evolutionary theory of economic change. [Summer]. Until now. must be accounted for on a case-by. Ha˚kansson H. 2002. While enormous possibilities are still there. Industrial networks and technological innova- comes or. Reading (MA): Addison-Wesley. 1977. 1995. Agendas for managing the huge difference between having possibilities and delivering information infrastructure. are therefore not panaceas. Hanseth O. Sloan Manage Rev 1990.11(4):305 – 27. London: FT. 84 – 115 position that it is possible to forecast that state-of-the-art [Chapter 3]. integrating technological. as nology and business process redesign. The new industrial engineering: information tech- that information sharing actually became 10 times faster. 1973. Waluszewski / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 1251–1260 data feeding is being reduced. This new solution simply the school of technology and management. social that embed IT. Sidney. of computer-aided production management.11 – 27 often is implicitly assumed in such statements. Theoretical analysis of information systems. That infor. . www. article was to bring IT somehow ‘‘down to earth’’. How they bridge (MA): Harvard Univ. Pavitt K. Chichester: Wiley. 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