E-business and organisational change : a structurational analysis
The focus of large-scale e-business development has shifted to the large 'blue-chip' corporations. However, large companies not only have to tackle a new technology that could permeate the entire organisation and along its supply chain, but they have to deal with new business models, revised processes, additional marketing channels, mounting cost pressures, and heightened service expectations from customers. This is particularly difficult for large multinationals that span the globe with their rigid bureaucratic structures, elaborate power networks, and ingrained cultural properties. Hence, the aim of this research is to investigate how the introduction of e-business interacts with the existing structures of a large established company. Structures are interpreted as rules and resources, which are the medium and outcome of human actions. It is argued that the introduction of e-business constitutes a significant technology-driven organisational change and a review of the literature reveals an absence of such studies in e-business. In order to capture a comprehensive and dynamic understanding of how organisations undergo such a change, this research applies structuration theory as a meta-theory to explore the relationship between agents and structure, using an interpretive qualitative paradigm. An extensive longitudinal case study examines the establishment, operation and termination of a special-purpose e-business unit, named ConsumerConnect-Europe (CCE), at the European corporate headquarters of the Ford Motor Company. This thesis provides a narrative of the entire life cycle of CCE, focusing on its business-to-consumer division. The narrative is analysed in detail using structuration theory with its concerns for the dimensions of signification, domination and legitimation. The discussion initially addresses the research sub-questions related directly to the case study and then turns to the main research question: how does the introduction of e-business interact with the existing structures of large established companies. In answering this, it examines the broader natures of e-business, human agency in organisational change, organisational structures, and the duality of organisational change. These natures form the content of contributions and are linked to the theoretical and practical contributions of the thesis. Methodological contributions are primarily in the operationalisation of structuration theory.