The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Socio-Cognitive Perspectives on IT-Enabled Change in Organizations

Mikko Valorinta

Doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the School of Science for public examination and debate in Auditorium TU1 at the Aalto University School of Science (Espoo, Finland) on the 4th of May 2012 at 12 noon.

Overview in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-60-4579-5)   [277 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-60-4578-8)


This dissertation examines the long-term evolution of information technology (IT) in organizations from a socio-cognitive perspective. The socio-cognitive perspective on IT-enabled change analyzes the individual and collective processes that are required to process information and to carry through concerted commitments in the organization. Specifically, this study addresses two questions related to the adoption of IT in organizations: (1) "Why organizations have difficulty bringing about IT-enabled change?", and (2) "How can organizations nurture IT-enabled change?"

The dissertation is composed of an introduction and four individual studies. In the first paper, the concept of mindfulness is applied to analyze cognitive inertia and techno-social change processes in organizations. The second paper examines how the path dependencies of technology and power relations interrelate. The third paper explores the role of IT and IT management in the organizational search for improved organizational alignment. Finally, an historical study on the evolution of IT in retail industry provides a long term perspective on techno-social change. Using historical, quantitative, and qualitative research designs, the studies address the entire lifecycle of IT in organizations.

The dissertation contributes to the existing literature on socio-technical and socio-cognitive change by identifying the organizational processes that construct IT-enabled change in organizations. The study argues that from a socio-cognitive perspective IT-enabled change in an organization can be explored through three organizational processes: comprehension, building commitment, and coordination. The process of comprehension refers to awareness and understanding of the opportunities provided by IT. In addition to comprehension, IT-enabled change is conditioned by an organizational commitment to act. Making decisions and building commitment on IT-initiatives is associated with personal interests and political concerns. Finally, IT-enabled change also commonly cross functional boundaries and call for a coordinated effort and alignment between organizational professions and units.

The three processes of comprehension, building commitment, and coordination occur throughout the technological lifecycle and are partly overlapping. The better comprehension organizational actors have of the opportunities provided by IT, the more likely they are to make decisions and build joint alignment for the change initiative. Strong organizational commitment again enables effective cross-functional coordination for the change effort.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 4 publications:

  1. Mikko Valorinta. 2009. Information technology and mindfulness in organizations. Industrial and Corporate Change, volume 18, number 5, pages 963-997.
  2. Mikko Valorinta, Henri Schildt, and Juha-Antti Lamberg. 2011. Path dependence of power relations, path-breaking change and technological adaptation. Industry and Innovation, volume 18, number 8, pages 765-790.
  3. Mikko Valorinta. 2011. IT alignment and the boundaries of the IT function. Journal of Information Technology, volume 26, number 1, pages 46-59.
  4. Mikko Valorinta and Tomi Nokelainen. 2011. Introduction and early use of computers in the Finnish retail industry. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, volume 33, number 4, pages 45-55.

Keywords: information technology, organizational change, socio-cognitive perspective, IT alignment, mindfulness, retail

This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.

© 2012 Aalto University

Last update 2012-10-31