How Process Management Systems reconfigure Sociotechnical Assemblages
When Frederick W. Taylor published “The Principles of Scientific Management” in 1911, his key goal was to optimize work processes so that they would be as little time-consuming as possible. His principle held that inefficiencies should be made visible through practices of measurement. In order to control the performance of labor, the standardization of efficient work processes accompanied the process of standardizing the collection of organizational information in order to capture in numbers and metrics the work processes that laborers performed. The key operation – measuring – was used, on the one hand, to construct ideal processes (goals to be reached) and, on the other hand, to control whether those goals were reached by the workers.
Today, process management systems are used in a great number of organizations to realize the standardization of workflows as well as to control their efficiency. Their key procedure is still numeric registering. While Taylor’s systematic approach involved a combination of distributed practices, Salesforce is a process management platform that connects these practices digitally. In order to render organizational structures and courses of action available for algorithmic governance, the standard software package has to be fitted to the specific organization. This fitting process stands at the center of the research project: Which organizational and algorithmic changes have to be made in order to “make Salesforce work”?
The process of implementation will be regarded as a mutual effort of adaptation. It is necessary to look at the modifications that must be made at the level of software as well as at the organizational level.
In this research project, a media-archaeological approach will be used in order to shed light on both the technical structure of Salesforce and the epistemological implications that lie in its code. This approach will be enhanced with ethnographic fieldwork following the process implementing Salesforce, interviews with different actors, as well as document analysis of best practice papers and software version histories.