Information systems failure, politics and the sociology of translation : the problematic introduction of an American computerised reservation system and yield management at French Railways
This in-depth cases tudy examinest he troubled introduction of a new computerisedr eservation system at French Railways. Socrale, based on the American Airlines Sabre system, had a disastrous beginning.I t wasb adly receivedb y the Frenchp ublic, led to strikes andg overnmentin quiries,a nd had to be modified substantially.T he literatureo n information systemsf ailure is reviewedf rom functionalistt o social constructivista nd critical perspectivesa nd the thesis aims to challengeb eliefs and assumptions about technological success and failure. The notion of 'symmetry' from the sociology of technology emphasisetsh at failures expresst he samed ynamicsa s successess,h owingh ow technologicalc hoicesa re not obvious or unproblematic. Differences between air and rail transporý between American and European transport deregulation and between the needs of national identity, regional development and public access to transporta re all reflectedi n the questiono f yield managementY. ield managemenist a crucial component of computerisedre servations ystemsa nd was first adoptedd uring the deregulationo f the US air transport industry in the early 80s. It requires complex optimisation software designed to manage passenger revenues and control demand, by manipulating the availability of full and discounted fares according to monitoredd emanda nds tatisticaal nalysis. Latour and Callon's sociology of 'translation' helps analyse how the Socrate project was undertaken and interpreted as: borrowing from airline pricing, aiming to gain competitive advantage, associatingS ocrate to the successo f high-speedt rains, attemptingt o changep assengersb' uying and travelling behaviour, transformingt he organisationa nd helping identify profitable market segmentsA. non-essentialisst tanceh elpsu nderstandh ow social and technicald istinctionsa re socially constructeda nd how the differentiation between what is technical and what is social, for instance in the conception and application of yield managementi,s a mattero f power and politics. Clegg's circuits of power are usedt o complement the sociology of translation in examining how power and political factors contribute to information systemsb ecoming( or not) obligatoryp assagep oints. Politically controversialc hangesin Frenchr ail transporta re associatedw ith the role of computer technology in deregulated European and global electronic markets and its effects on the concept of nationali dentity and sovereigntyin transportp olicy-making.