Business processes in the agile organisation: a socio-technical perspective

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Journal Article
Software and Systems Modeling, 2017, 16 (3), pp. 631 - 648
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© 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. This paper takes a cross-disciplinary view of the ontology of “business process”: how the concept is treated in the IS research literature and how related concepts (with stronger human behavioural orientation) from organisation and management sciences can potentially inform this IS perspective. In particular, is there room for socio-technical concepts such as technology affordance, derived from the constructivist tradition, in improving our understanding of operational business processes, particularly human-centric business processes? The paper presents a theoretical framework for understanding the role of business processes in organisational agility that distinguishes between the process-as-designed and the process-as-practiced. How this practice aspect of business processes also leads to the improvisation of various information technology enablers, is explored using a socio-technical lens. The posited theoretical framework is illustrated and validated with data drawn from an interpretive empirical case study of a large IT services company. The research suggests that processes within the organisation evolve both by top-down design and by the bottom-up routinisation of practice and that the tension between these is driven by the need for flexibility.
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