The Socio-Technical Dimension of Inertia in Digital Transformations

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Schmid, Alexander M.; Recker, Jan; vom Brocke, Jan
HICSS Conference Office
Agency; Inertia; Socio-material; Socio-technical; Transformation
conference paper description
When organizations undertake large transformation initiatives enabled by information technology, these efforts are often hampered by inertia. The literature suggests that inertia plays a dual role in organizations: it is both required for organizational efficiency and an antecedent of resistance to change. While traditionally inertia is believed to reside in human actors, we suggest that inertia is rooted in multiple facets – in routines, resources such as social agents, and also technology – and plays on multiple levels – at individual, group, and organizational ones. In this essay, we propose a new conceptualization of inertia that encompasses and integrates these elements. Our model suggests that inertia occurs as path-dependent rigidity in organizational behavior through the coalescence of social entities with technology artifacts. We illustrate our new understanding of inertia by revisiting two case vignettes of inertia and impeded digital transformations.