Exploring the Tensions Between Management of Architectural Debt and Digital Innovation: The Case of a Financial Organization

Date
2021-01-05
Authors
Rolland, Knut-H.
Lyytinen, Kalle
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Abstract
In recent years, Information System (IS) scholars have increasingly explored the malleability and re-combinability of digital artifacts that facilitate innovation and change. In this paper, we focus on how architectural debt thwarts evolvability of complex IT architectures and systems founded on them. We conduct a case study in a major Scandinavian financial institution and explore their how they managed architectural debt during fast paced service innovation. Our analysis suggests that the firm’s capability to innovate depended on software developer’s ability to work across multiple syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic knowledge boundaries whilst addressing architectural debt. The paper offers two contributions. First, we add to the nascent body of socio-technical research on technical debt by illustrating how architectural debt cuts across multiple developer teams and architecture layers making it hard to identify and resolve. Second, we expand studies of digital innovation by identifying two interconnected tensions faced when innovators have to evolve complex IT architectures that lay the foundation for artefact malleability. We tie how the tensions are addressed to the firm’s capability to manage architectural debt.
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Topics in Organizational Systems and Technology, digital innovation, management of architectural debt, organizational consequences of technical debt
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