#LegoGovernment: Our manifesto for government in the age of digital disruption.

Tonight I’m at the Institute for Government, where I am part of a group launching our collaboratively developed “Manifesto for Better Public Services” together with a more detailed “Green Paper”.

So what’s it all about? Well, in 1941 the founder of the modern welfare state William Beveridge asked: “How would one plan social insurance now if one had a clear field … without being hampered by vested interests of any kind?Today, we ask: “How would one plan a modern, internet-enabled state if one had a clear field … without being hampered by vested interests of any kind?
And, most importantly, how can we transition successfully from our current state to that future state? To get hold of the reports visit:

Note: These final documents are the work of Jerry Fishenden, Mark Thompson and Will Venters. However, they draw upon valuable insights, critiques, pushback, feedback and improvements contributed by Andy Beale, Alan Brown, James Duncan, James Findlay, Sally Howes, Renate Samson and Simon Wardley. And some others who prefer to remain anonymous. We would also like to thank Liz Bennett for her skill, and patience, in turning our scribbles and jottings into something much better designed and engaging.

This work also builds on our research activity published in:

“Appraising the impact and role of platform models and Government as a Platform (GaaP) in UK Government public service reform: towards a Platform Assessment Framework (PAF)”

Alan Brown, Jerry Fishenden, M Thompson, Will Venters

Government Information Quarterly 34 (2), 167-182, 2017

I’m recruiting a Research Fellow in Information Systems for 3 years.

Come join me at the LSE in researching the managerial, social, and organisational implications of digital interfaces! 


LSE is committed to building a diverse, equitable and truly inclusive university

Department of Management

Research Fellow in Information Systems (IRIS – EPSRC funded)

Salary from £43,907 – £50,835 pa inclusive of London Allowance

This is a fixed term appointment for 3 years

Better understanding the effective management of software interfacing is vital as companies and individuals harness new digital innovations and integrate them digitally within their processes and practices. Many digital innovations including the Internet of Things, SmartCities, Platforms and Artificial Intelligence, involve a myriad of systems owned and operated by a myriad of different companies which become tightly coupled together through their interfaces (e.g. though APIs and cloud computing). Yet little is known about how the organisations involved in such innovations define such digital interfaces, how they evolve, and in particular what organisational or management commitments are embedded within them or how new forms of organisation or technology emerge through their use.

This research fellow will address such gaps by undertaking research on the organisational, managerial and social implications of digital interfaces as part of a new £6m+ EPSRC funded project: Interface Reasoning for Interacting Systems (IRIS). The IRIS project is a collaboration between University College London, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. The project also involves corporate partners including Facebook, Amazon Web Services, BT, HP Labs and Methods Consulting.

The fellow will have research experience in a relevant field such as information systems, science and technology studies, or innovation studies and must hold a completed PhD, or close to obtaining a PhD, in Information Systems or a relevant related field by the post start date. The post will be focused on producing internationally excellent publications and so clear evidence of relevant writing ability and research skills are required. The fellow is expected to actively participate across the project and externally with other researchers and corporate partners.

Candidates should also have:

  • Expertise and research interests in Information Systems and Innovation
  • Proven ability or potential to publish in internationally excellent publications
  • Experience in qualitative research method skills
  • Ability to cooperate and collaborate with cross disciplinary academic and industry partners within the IRIS project and beyond
  • Communications skills including for a non-specialist audience
  • A willingness to work in a new role whose precise parameters will be refined throughout the period of the appointment

This post offers an opportunity to gain research experience working in a prestigious, exciting, and entrepreneurial project with globally recognised institutions and IT companies with significant possibilities for networking and advancement.

We offer an occupational pension scheme, generous annual leave and excellent training and development opportunities.

For further information about the post, please see the how to apply document, job description and the person specification.

To apply for this post, please go to www.lse.ac.uk/LSEJobs. If you have any technical queries with applying on the online system, please use the “contact us” links at the bottom of the LSE Jobs page. Should you have any queries about the role, please email w.venters@lse.ac.uk

The closing date for receipt of applications is Wednesday 18 April (23.59 UK time). Regrettably, we are unable to accept any late applications.



Academic Workshop: Platformization in the Public Sector

I am pleased to be on the programme committee of the following workshop!

Platformization in the Public Sector


Margunn Aanestad, Department of Informatics, University of Oslo, Norway
Miria Grisot, Department of Informatics, University of Oslo, Norway
Tomas Lindroth, Department of Applied IT, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

This workshop targets digital infrastructures in the public sector and focuses on the emergence of platforms as a distinct technological and organizational form. The platform ecosystem has emerged as a dominant technological form for global innovative organizations (Baldwin and Woodward, 2009; Tiwana, 2013). It represents the current “best practice” to deal with the complexity of digital infrastructures as well as to leverage dynamics of multi-sided markets and exploit network effects. Platforms are adaptable, scalable and extensible to many other parties and represent an alternative to an integrated collection of “silo systems”.

Public sector organizations around Europe are introducing platforms as part of their digital strategies, but we still have a limited understanding of the challenges associated with establishing platforms in the public sector (Fishenden & Thompson, 2013; Brown et al., 2017). Current research has mainly addressed platforms in the commercial sector (Parker et al., 2016). While the insights from this existing research are highly relevant, there are also important areas where the digital infrastructures can be expected to differ: The technical, regulatory and organisational complexity in the public sector is much higher than for commercial platforms. Multiple different public sector organisations at different government levels are involved in information flows and data custody. The development of national and regional solutions is usually undertaken as joint endeavour between public and private actors, to stimulate socio- economic benefits and innovation, involving a diverse portfolio of systems and registers. Furthermore, the role of the citizens not as mere service recipients but as contributors and co- creators is becoming more central while security concerns, government ́s responsibility for citizens ́ privacy and citizens ́ demand for transparent use of data are rising (Linders, 2012; Nam, 2012).

In addition, the business models of a public sector platform will be different (Bygstad & D’Silva, 2015). The network effects of platform ecosystems (i.e. the self-reinforcing process where more customers trigger more suppliers, which attracts more customers, and so on) may be facilitated in public sector platforms but towards different aims than the ones found in market situation. Monetising network effects is not a key interest for public sector platforms but rather, leveraging network effects for mobilising more resources from inside and outside public organisations and triggering decentralised innovation is a key interest (Vassilakopoulou et al., 2017). Network effects that can contribute to better synergizing rather than competing are of interest in the public sector domain and need to be better understood.

This workshop seeks to address this lack of theorizing specifically to these concerns. The themes include but are not limited to:

  • Business models of a public-sector platform
  • The network effects of public sector platforms
  • Network effects of synergizing rather than competing in the public sector domain
  • How platforms shift work practices of public sector professionals with the inclusion of citizens
  • Empirical studies of platformization, including the gradual process of establishing a platform
  • How technical and organizational structures and governance regimes shape and are shaped by thespecific public sector context
  • The role of the citizens not as mere service recipients but as contributors and co-creators
  • Security concerns, government ́s responsibility for citizens ́ privacy and citizens ́ demand fortransparent use of data
  • Identify core requirements for a platformization strategy that may increase sustainability of public sector platforms
  • Develop theory of public sector platforms that is attentive to the technical, regulatory and organizational specificity of this context
  • Develop process theory on “platformization” that describes key steps and core challenges in the building of platforms and surrounding eco-system
  • Develop theory on the interdependencies between architectural (technical) design, organizational forms, and governance regimes

We seek to contribute to the research as indicated above, and to formulate insights on how public sector platform and surrounding ecosystems develop, can be studied, designed, and theorized.

Plan for publications

In parallel with the consideration of this proposal we have anitiated an application to a relevant IS journal for a special issue on the topic of platforms in the public sector.

Target audience and expected attendance

The workshop aims to attract researchers and practitioners who are interested in the topics of digital infrastructures, public sector, platform ecosystems and e-government. In the workshop, participants will share their knowledge about cases of public sector platforms and digital infrastructures. We want to reach out in order to establish a community of researchers that can cooperate beyond the event itself. We seek to build on and extend the efforts of an ongoing, but not yet formalized, collaborative network of European researchers.

Deadline Dates: 

  • Call opens: 22nd of January.  Authors are invited to submit short papers, not exceeding seven pages (including all figures, tables and references.) using the ECIS Research In Progress template.
  • Submission Deadline: April 4th, 2018. Articles are submitted via e-mail.
  • Notification to Authors: May 4th, 2018.
  • Deadline for Final Papers: June 4th, 2018
  • Date of the workshop: 25th of June
  • Submit to:  submit@platformization.org




Baldwin, C., and Woodard, C. J. 2009. “The Architecture of Platforms: A Unified View,” in Platforms, Markets and Innovation, A. Gawer (ed.). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Brown, A., Fishenden, J., Thompson, M., & Venters, W. (2017). Appraising the impact and role of platform models and Government as a Platform (GaaP) in UK Government public service reform: towards a Platform Assessment Framework (PAF). Government Information Quarterly.

Bygstad, B., & D’Silva, F. (2015). Government as a platform: a historical and architectural analysis. In NOKOBIT (Norsk konferanse for organisasjoners bruk av IT), 2015.

Fishenden, J and Thompson, M. (2013), Digital government, open architecture, and innovation: why public sector IT will never be the same again, Journal of public administration research and theory, 23 (4), 977-1004.

Linders, D. (2012), From E-Government to We-Government: Defining a Typology for Citizen Coproduction in the Age of Social Media, Government Information Quarterly, 29 (4), 446-454.

Nam, T. (2012), Suggesting frameworks of citizen-sourcing via Government 2.0, Government Information Quarterly, 29 (1), 12-20.

Parker, G. G., Van Alstyne, M. W., & Choudary, S. P. (2016). Platform revolution. How networked markets are transforming the economy and how to make them work for you. WW Norton & Company.

Tiwana, A. (2013), Platform ecosystems: aligning architecture, governance, and strategy. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.

Vassilakopoulou P., Grisot M., Jensen TB., Sellberg N., Eltes J., Thorseng AA, and Aanestad M. (2017) Building National eHealth Platforms: the Challenge of Inclusiveness, Thirty Eighth International Conference on Information Systems, ICIS 2017, South Korea.


Image (cc) Gary Hatch3112 – with thanks!)

PhD in Rhythms of Information Infrastructure Cultivation: Dr Ayesha Khanna

It was fantastic to see Ayesha Khanna, my PhD student, successfully defend her PhD today. Her work focuses on the temporal nature of information infrastructures within a SmartCity initiative in Berlin identifying the importance of temporal rhythm.

The research will be of interest to practitioners involved in building smart cities, strategic niches for innovation, and for those involved in large digital infrastructure development work.  She faced an excellent viva with Dr Edgar Whitley and Professor Margunn Aanestad examining. 

PhD Thesis Abstract

This thesis investigates the importance of temporal rhythms in the study of information infrastructures (IIs), responding to the call to address an II’s “biography” by focusing on its evolution over time. It enriches understanding of how socially constructed rhythms, a temporal structure under-examined in the II literature, influence II cultivation. A strategic niche project to develop an e-mobility II in Berlin is used as the case study and reveals the influence of rhythm in disciplining (constraining) and modeling (motivating) II cultivation. It demonstrates how the intermediary mediates these influences through the interventions of harmonising, riffing and composing. Based on these interventions, the study develops the concept of facilitated II cultivation, which adds to the literature exploring the tension between planned and emergent infrastructure work. In doing so, the study presents a framework for combining short-term implementation concerns (strategic interventions by the intermediary) with long-term path dependency and evolutionary concerns (influences of past and future temporal rhythms) for IIs.

When her minor corrections are complete I will post a link to the final version of the thesis. 


UK Cloud Awards 2018

I am pleased to be a judge for the UK Cloud awards again this year.  https://www.ukcloudawards.co.uk/

If your company is keen to apply for the awards the closing date for entries is the 23rd February 2018. And hopefully I will then see you for the awards ceremony at County Hall in May!


Academic Conference: “Living with Monsters? Social Implications of Algorithmic Phenomena, Hybrid Agency and the Performativity of Technology” (IFIP 8.2)

Dear All,

I am proud to be on the programme committee for one of my favourite academic conferences IFIP 8.2. The conference will be at San Francisco State University, December 11 & 12, 2018 with Lucy Suchman (Lancaster U.) & Paul Edwards (Stanford U. & U. of Michigan) at Keynotes.  I very much hope to see you there!

Submission Deadline: May 27, 2018

Website: http://2018conf.ifipwg82.org/

Our evolving digital worlds generate both hope and fears. Algorithms, using big data, identify suspicious credit card transactions and predict the spread of epidemics, but they also raise concerns about mass surveillance and systematically perpetuated biases. Social media platforms allow us to stay connected with family and friends, but they also commoditize relationships and produce new forms of sociality. While there is little agreement on the implications of digital technology for contemporary work and social life, there is a growing realization that information technologies are performative (MacKenzie 2006) in that they no longer merely represent the world, but also produce it. And given their growing interdependence, the ability to control any given technology is increasingly limited. Stock market flash crashes, induced by algorithmic trading, are highly visible examples of such algorithmic phenomena (Scott and Orlikowski 2014). Have the things we have made become out-of-control juggernauts? Are we living with monsters?

IFIP WG 8.2 has a distinguished history in shaping research agendas around information technology and organisation. For the 2018 working conference, we call for papers from scholars studying information technology and related practices to reflect on the worlds that we help create through our research, debates, and teaching. The metaphor of monsters is intended to stimulate a rethinking of our orientation by compelling us to consider whether, when and why our creations turn against us, and with what implications.

(Image CC – Kevin Dooley – with thanks!)

Win of £6 million to research Digital Interfacing.

I am pleased to form part of a team, with computer science colleagues at UCL, Imperial and QMUL, who have been awarded a EPSRC programme grant for over £6 million to research the interfacing of digital systems. The overall research programme (titled Interface reasoning for interacting systems (IRIS)) aims to research the correct functioning of digital interfaces from technical, social, managerial and organisational perspectives – with my focus being on these latter three topics. Commercial partners involved in the programme include Amazon Web Services (UK), BT, Facebook (International), and Hewlett Packard.

Better understanding the effective management of interfacing is vital as companies and individuals harness new digital innovations and integrate them digitally within their processes and practices. Many digital innovations including the Internet of Things, SmartCities, Platforms and Artificial Intelligence, involve a myriad of systems owned and operated by a myriad of different companies which become tightly coupled together through their digital interfaces (e.g. though APIs and cloud computing). Yet little is known about how the organisations involved in such innovations define such digital interfaces, how they evolve, and in particular what organisational or management commitments are embedded within them.

The research project will formally start in January 2018, with recruitment for a post-doctoral researcher here the LSE starting shortly afterwards. The project will run until December 2023.


The text below provides a more academic introduction of the project.

Within the field of management, “interfaces” are of significant interest[1]; defining organisational boundaries which differentiate “insiders” and “outsiders” and providing connections across these boundaries. Interfaces are thus more broadly defined than engineered logical or digital interfaces as traditional conceived. Yet this broader understanding, in which digital interfaces are considered “boundary resources” for organisations (Eaton et al. 2015; Ghazawneh and Henfridsson 2013), is increasingly important since large-scale composite distributed organisations are emerging from the digital interfacing of organisational entities (e.g. through the growth of cloud computing[2] and the use of APIs). Within these organisational arrangements digital interfaces instantiate, represent, uphold and negotiate boundaries and separations. We therefore need to extend academic understanding of the digital interfaces between digital systems, and connect it to the social, economic and managerial boundaries and connections they create for organisations and society.

 1         Research Challenges

There is considerable research interest in boundaries within management and information systems. The internet allowed organisations to transform value-chains by digitally connecting with customers and suppliers; by harnessing cloud provided digital services (Venters and Whitley 2012); and by transforming physical products into digitally connected services (e.g. IoT – Internet of Things) (Porter and Heppelmann 2014). This transforms organisations leading to organisational arrangements whose defining characteristic is their constitution out of complex information technologies stretched across space and time, and defined by interconnections (Monteiro et al. 2014) (e.g. Netflix or Uber). Termed “cloud corporations” (Willcocks et al. 2014) such organisations evolve and change and challenge managerial and organisational assumptions of boundedness, stability, and even stable motivation of boundaries(Monteiro et al. 2014). Yet such boundary resources are poorly understood as are the wider ‘service ecosystem’ they form part of (Barros and Dumas 2006; Fishenden and Thompson 2013). There is a paucity of research on the specifics of the interface within such service ecosystems.

Consider for example Adur and Worthing[3] (a UK local council) harnessing (through Methods Consulting – a programme collaborator) Salesforce.com, Braintree Payments and MATSSoft for their services (Thompson and Venters 2015). Their value-chain leverages this extended digital supply chain such that the council is, to a significant extent, constituted from these services and must continually evolve its business, technology and management in the face of interface evolution of these components. This, it is argued, will instigate “profound changes in the ways that firms organise for innovation in the future”(Yoo et al. 2010). Reasoning about the interfaces by which such “cloud-corporations” emerge is however lacking. While sophisticated mathematical tools exist for systems modelling (Collinson et al. 2012) such tools are poorly adopted in practice. A significant focus then of this programme of work will be to seek to drive innovation in interface reasoning and systems modelling into tools for business leaders to apply in reasoning about the interfaces they are exploiting within their organisations. Further as new technologies emerge (e.g. block-chains and Machine Learning) and become available as services through interfaces so reasoning about the managerial, contractual and organisational challenges, and about the systemic nature of interfaces, is necessary. We will therefore research how computer science understanding of interfaces might be useful in understanding the social, managerial and organisational boundary.

The significance of researching interfaces as “boundary resources” has been recognised (Ghazawneh and Henfridsson 2013; Hanseth and Bygstad 2015; Yoo et al. 2010) particularly in studying software platforms whereby (Eaton et al. 2015) they are negotiated over time. These authors acknowledge we lack a coherent methodological framework for examining such boundaries – the gap we will ultimately address.

2        Scientific Approaches

This research is exploratory drawing on theoretical lenses from information systems, management and sociology as well as computer science. First we will systematically evaluate a range of theories and management ideas and evaluate their appropriateness for researching different forms of interfaces. Two specific theoretical lenses we consider within this exploratory research and application are:

Control and Coordination: Harnessing an interface cedes control for an action to a third party and devises mechanisms for control and defines boundaries. We will therefore seek to understand control and coordination in interfaces, and to devise mechanisms by which managers may better understand how they control or are controlled by interface design. This extends Venters previous work (Whitley et al. 2014) and links to ideas of control whereby interfaces are socially interpreted and significant in driving algorithmic agency and culture. This research will contribute to understanding platforms (de Reuver et al. 2017; Gawer and Cusumano 2002) whereby an interface provider is often dominant (e.g. Apple provides iOS to App developers) in providing boundary conditions for control (Eaton et al. 2015) though their boundary resources (Ghazawneh and Henfridsson 2013). This understanding will, we hope, complement and extend the resource focused modelling of control within distributed systems logic.

Temporality, emergence and evolution: Within commercial settings interfaces regularly change. This project will evaluate the relationships between evolutionary change across multiple interfaces, contexts of use, and organisational goals. Interfaces enable resources to be decoupled and recoupled generating new possibilities and increasing the liquidity of resources within value production. Exploring how interface verification alters resource liquidity may be an important avenue of study, drawing upon service dominant logic (Bardhan et al. 2010) to better understand interface consumption. Exploring how organisations can verify evolving and changing interfaces in a timely manner is an important research question for the wider research programme.

We will seek to explore the inter-organisational architectures which emerge through ecosystems: The prevalence of digital interfaces has allowed a unbundling of enterprise software from vertically integrated technology stacks (Chang and Gurbaxani 2012; Hagel and Singer 1999) towards widely distributed flat architectures spanning multiple global supplier networks (Friedman 2005; Susarla et al. 2010). Tracing and understanding this change in terms of enterprise architecture, and its impact on interfaces is relevant.

2         References

Bardhan, I., Demirkan, H., Kannan, O., and Kauffman, R. 2010. “Special Issue: Information Systems in Services,” Journal of Management Information Systems (26:4), pp. 5-12.

Barros, A. P., and Dumas, M. 2006. “The Rise of Web Service Ecosystems,” IT Professional (8:5), pp. 31-37.

Chang, Y. B., and Gurbaxani, V. 2012. “Information Technology Outsourcing, Knowledge Transfer, and Firm Productivity: An Empirical Analysis,” MIS quarterly (36:4), pp. 1043-1053.

Collinson, M., Monahan, B., and Pym, D. J. 2012. A Discipline of Mathematical Systems Modelling. College Publications.

de Reuver, M., Sorensen, C., and Basole, R. C. 2017. “The Digital Platform,” Journal of Information Technology (Forthcoming).

Eaton, B., Elaluf-Calderwood, S., Sørensen, C., and Yoo, Y. 2015. “Distributed Tuning of Boundary Resources: The Case of Apple’s  Ios Service System,” MIS Quarterly (39:1), pp. 217-243.

Fishenden, J., and Thompson, M. 2013. “Digital Government, Open Architecture, and Innovation: Why Public Sector It Will Never Be the Same Again,” Journal of Public Administration, Research, and Theory (23:4), pp. 977-104.

Friedman, T. 2005. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalized World in the 21st Century. London: Allen Lane.

Gawer, A., and Cusumano, M. 2002. Platform Leadership. Boston,MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Ghazawneh, A., and Henfridsson, O. 2013. “Balancing Platform Control and External Contribution in Third-Party Development: The Boundary Resources Model,” Information Systems Journal (23:2), pp. 173-192.

Hagel, J., and Singer, M. 1999. “Unbundling the Corporation,” Harvard business review (77), pp. 133-144.

Hanseth, O., and Bygstad, B. 2015. “Flexible Generification: Ict Standardization Strategies and Service Innovation in Health Care,” European Journal of Information Systems (24:6), pp. 654-663.

Monteiro, E., Pollock, N., and Williams, R. 2014. “Innovation in Information Infrastructures: Introduction to the Special Issue,” Journal of the Association for Information Systems (15:4), p. I.

Porter, M., and Heppelmann, J. 2014. “How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition,” Harvard Business Review).

Susarla, A., Barua, A., and Whinston, A. B. 2010. “Multitask Agency, Modular Architecture, and Task Disaggregation in Saas,” Journal of Management Information Systems (26:4), pp. 87-118.

Thompson, M., and Venters, W. 2015. “The Red Queen Hypothesis: Exploring Dynamic Service Ecosystems,” in: 4th Innovation in Information Infrastructures (III) Workshop, P. Constantinides (ed.). Warwick, UK.

Venters, W., and Whitley, E. 2012. “A Critical Review of Cloud Computing: Researching Desires and Realities,” Journal of Information Technology (27:3), pp. 179-197.

Whitley, E., Willcocks, L., and Venters, W. 2014. “Privacy and Security in the Cloud: A Review of Guidance and Responses,” Journal of Information technology and information management).

Willcocks, L., Venters, W., and Whitley, E. 2014. Moving to the  Cloud Corporation. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Yoo, Y., Henfridsson, O., and Lyytinen, K. 2010. “The New Organizing Logic of Digital Innovation: An Agenda for Information Systems Research,” Information Systems Research (21:4), pp. 724-735.

[1] E.g. The Academy of Management (AoM) conference theme for 2017 is “at the Interface” (premier global academic conference in management) and defines interfaces in these terms.

[2] Willcocks, L., W. Venters and E. Whitley (2014). Moving To The Cloud Corporation. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

[3] https://www.publictechnology.net/articles/features/adur-and-worthing%E2%80%99s-journey-%E2%80%98government-platform%E2%80%99


Photo (cc) foto1897 with thanks!