Systems Engineering for Business Process Change: New Directions

pp 317-330

Remembrance of Designs Past: Legacy Data, Organisational Memory and Distributed Design

  • Dave Randall
  • , Tom Rodden
  • , Mark Rouncefield
  • , Ian Sommerville

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This chapter reports on an ethnographic study of a manufacturing design team in order to understand some features of how distributed, legacy product data is managed and accessed in everyday work. It describes the routine activity of design work and documents how issues of “legacy” and “organisational memory” are instantiated in routine work. The general motivation for the study derived from an interest in understanding the impact of legacy systems and legacy data as organisations confront a number of major and connected transformations in the social, economic and technological environment in which they operate. While there are various diagnoses and explanations of these transformations (Lash and Urry, 1987; Hammer and Champy, 1993); most stress the role of IT in responding to manifest organisational needs. These include a greater reliance on knowledge creation and conversion, the growing importance of the consumer, the growth of distributed organisational structures, and the creation of more flexible patterns of organisational relationships. IT may be viewed as the crucial element in facilitating these changes, through the development of systems that can facilitate coordination and communication, and support skill and knowledge (Zuboff, 1988; Scott-Morton, 1991). Paradoxically, and at the same time IT is also commonly regarded as holding back organisational change as legacy problems, problems of integrating, evolving or replacing ageing systems, proliferate.