Leading IT-Enabled Change Inside Ericsson : A Transformation Into a Global Network of Shared Service Centres

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to explore—from a managerial perspective—how IT-enabled change is designed, led, and sustained from-within an organisation. This is an issue of central concern because there is a considerable lack of research that directly incorporates IT in management and organisational change studies. In addition, earlier research has recurrently focused on abstract theorising, aggregated perspectives, and exploring organisational change from the outside, from-without. Consequently, the present body of research provides limited knowledge of how organisations in practice lead large-scale IT-enabled transformations. The thesis herein sets out to explore this question, and does so by following the change designers and agents of the telecommunications company Ericsson, that transformed its finance and accounting unit from a highly decentralised structure into a shared service centre structure (SSC) entitled: “The Global F&A Transformation Programme”. The formal transformation lasted three years, was enabled by an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, and was driven in the majority of Ericsson’s sub-units situated in more than 140 countries. Theoretically, this thesis addresses the research question: how do actors and structures influence large-scale IT-enabled change? The principal finding of the thesis is a four-stage analytical framework built on the concepts of common ground, common meaning, common interest, and common behaviour: The Commonality Framework for IT-enabled Change. The value of the framework is that it depicts the interplay between actors and structures on a micro-level. In doing so, the framework explains the different levels of complexity in a transformation and how they require different structures to be used, different activities to be performed, different skills to be applied, and different roles to be played. The framework can be used by both academics and practitioners to develop, assess, and improve IT-enabled change projects. In a broader perspective, the findings further suggest that change comes about as an upward spiral, within which the moving targets of IT and organisation are intimately interconnected. This reciprocal interconnectedness between IT and organisation across time implies that if changes are done to technological properties, this necessitates changes to the organisational properties, and vice versa. Organisations at the hands-on-level more or less have to change to make use of the IT-enabled advantages. Thus, successful IT-enabled change is more than the technology artefact per se, and requires thoughtful attentiveness not only to the technological and material side, but also to the organisational, social and human side of change. The theoretical contribution of this thesis is the in-depth exposition of different aspects and interplays between the properties of actors and structures from-within the organisation. The empirical contribution is the description of how contemporary multinational organisations initiate, lead, and sustain large-scale IT-enabled change.