Improvisation, Innovation and In Situ Development: An Example from Military Command Work

Per-Arne Persson, James M. Nyce


This paper is a case study that describes an in situ information systems (IS) development effort carried out with only local resources and staff in military (Swedish army) medium level headquarters (HQ). Originating in a qualitative study of command practice, this paper tracks the design and development of a simple hypertext application (a spreadsheet cluster) built from off-the-shelf software and describes the application's evolution over time into a control and coordination tool. The chain of events during a series of five military Command Post Exercises (CPXs) that led to the development of the application is described briefly here. First promoted by a few staff, it evolved over six months through these five CPXs. It was meant to be a complement to a new top-down common IS architecture in the HQ, one meant to support flexible teamwork and coordination. The application became so much a part of daily work practices that it became "invisible". Internal IS evaluations after the CPXs did report on it but neither were its benefits discovered, nor did it get approval for further development. To help make sense of this development effort and how the application was used, we found the notion of boundary object useful.

Full Text: