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Hunting for the Treasure at the End of the Rainbow: Standardizing corporate IT Infrastructure

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This paper tells the story of the definitionand implementation of a corporate informationinfrastructure standard within Norsk Hydro.Standards are widely considered as the mostbasic features of information infrastructures –public as well as corporate. This view isexpressed by a high level IT manager in Hydro:``The infrastructure shall be 100% standardized.'' Such standards are considered universalin the sense that there is just one standardfor each area or function, and that separatestandards should fit together – no redundancyand no inconsistency. Each standard is sharedby every actor within its use domain, and it isequal to everybody. Our story illustrates thatreality is different. The idea of the universalstandard is an illusion just like the treasureat the end of the rainbow. Each time one hasdefined a standard which is believed to becomplete and coherent, during implementationone discovers that there are elements lackingor incompletely specified while others have tobe changed to make the standard work, whichmakes various implementations different andincompatible – just like arbitrary non-standardsolutions. This fact is due to essentialaspects of standardization and infrastructurebuilding. The universal aspects disappearduring implementation, just as the rainbowmoves away from us as we try to catch it.


Hanseth, Ole; Braa, Kristin (37135): Hunting for the Treasure at the End of the Rainbow: Standardizing corporate IT Infrastructure. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 10, No. 3-4. DOI: 10.1023/A:1012637309336. Springer. PISSN: 1573-7551. pp. 261-292