Affiliated Organization

Case Western Reserve University, USA


In this article we theorize about the design of information infrastructures (II). We define an information infrastructure as a shared, evolving, heterogeneous installed base of IT capabilities based on open and standardized interfaces. Such information infrastructures, when appropriated by a community of users offer a shared resource for delivering and using information services in a (set of) community. Information infrastructures include complex socio-technical ensembles like the Internet or EDI networks. Increased integration of enterprise systems like ERP or CRM systems has produced similar features for intra-organizational systems. Our theorizing addresses the following challenge in designing information infrastructures: how to tackle their inherent complexity, scale and functional uncertainty? These systems are large, complex and heterogeneous. They never die and evolve over long periods of time while they adapt to needs unknown during design time. New infrastructures are designed as extensions to or improvements of existing ones in contrast to green field design. The installed base of the existing infrastructure and its scope and complexity influence how the new infrastructure can be designed. Infrastructure design needs to focus on installed base growth and infrastructure flexibility as to avoid technological traps (lock-ins). These goals are achieved by enacting design principles of immediate usefulness, simplicity, utilization of existing installed base and modularization as shown by our analysis of the design of Internet and the information infrastructure for health care in Norway.