This blog post discusses Oracle Fusion Applications (OFA) in light of the historical ‘technology versus society debate’ (Smith & Marx, 1994).
Technology versus Society debate
According to technological determinists (who move on the technology side of the debate), technological developments are the enablers for social and industrial change. They help the society to adapt to the emerging opportunities that these developments produce. As originally presented by the American sociologist Thorsten Veblen (1859-1929), the theory of „Technological determinism” states that technological artifacts “are not simply inventions which people employ but are the means by which people are re-invented.” (McLuhan, 1962). In other words: technological developments are the main players on pitch, society itself acts on the sidelines and is only allowed when they accept the new rules and regulations that are imposed by technology.
The society driven side, occupied with the social constructivists, believes otherwise. Social constructivists state that ‘the world is society driven’. Social constructivists employ SCOT (Social Construction of Technology; Pinch and Bijker, 1984; Bijker, Hughes, and Pinch, 1897), to indicate that technology is driven by social demands to be harnessed for personal growth and wisdom. SCOT argues that the implementation of technological artifacts is not a matter of society adapting to its emerging opportunities, but is a collaborating process between technology and society negotiating up to a certain level of fit, practices, and action. It redefines ‘Technological determinism’ as ‘Social constructivism’ which presumes that technology assists our society in a way that we, as a society, want it to. In other words: society occupies the playfield entirely, and only society can decide which technological developments (and in what form) are allowed on pitch.
Based on literature, one is permitted to conclude that the debate remains undecided and that the truth lies in the middle. Technology acts as the enabler, and society as a driving force to obtain the optimal result. A good example of this sentiment is one of the biggest developments from a recent techno-history perspective: the internet.
The internet connects individuals around the world. It acts as a global collective mind that enables people from all walks of life to interact, share, showcase, learn, and so on. The internet is a clear example of technology changing social dynamics drastically; technological determinism. But what would internet be without any content, without any characteristics of a global collective mind. If you ask me, internet would had left the pitch by now without even making it to second half. Us people, from construction worker to internet guru, from pupil to programmer contributed to the internet as it is today. Off course, the internet enables us to interact, share, etcetera, but us people in the various roles as mentioned before are responsible for the success of the internet.
Oracle Fusion Applications
So, Oracle Fusion Applications (OFA); can it be an game changer in present times like the technological determinists would believe? Or do Pinch and Bijker are correct and does SCOT and its concepts also (Pinch and Bijker, 1984) needlessly apply to OFA. If it were up to Oracle, and in consistency with the technology side of the debate, Fusion Applications acts as a catalyst for -latent- market demands. OFA itself should be, based on performance benchmarks, designated as a solution that generates added value relative to other solutions in circulation. OFA and its forthcoming characteristics should be so distinctive, market demands are created without any human intervention. Though, in my opinion, technological advancements will never be able to fulfill an all-inclusive influencer of social behavior. Social dynamics are crucial to gain the optimal result. This is proven by great developments in recent history; just like the internet that I have discussed in the previous paragraph.
If we approach Oracle Fusion Applications in light of the internet exposition, a dichotomy in functionality and end-user experience generates an interesting approach.
Concerning functionality, Oracle Fusion Applications might actually be as strong as they come. The total package comprehends solutions for all aspects of a large-sized modern organization. Though, the incorporation of as much functionality as possible is not the only condition to outrun the ERP competition. To succeed, the end-user needs to embrace the application(s). The best technological developments are shaped based on an interaction with the end-user. The aforementioned internet example substantiates this allegation in its purest form. And, if see it in light of the technology versus society debate as being undecided, OFA should understand that the solution as it is today only forms the starting point of a evolutionary process that may take up to years, even decades. A ‘certain level of fit’ between the end-user and the application has to be achieved; the solution provides the technological possibilities and functionalities (technology side) but the end user determines (society side) the actual form in which it is employed. In other words, OFA might embark upon a golden future, though the expectation that OFA will change the ERP playfield entirely and therefore belongs to the technology side of the debate is, in my opinion slightly too ambitious. The end-user should not be underestimated. Eventually, the ‘technology – society’ interaction determines how OFA really comes to its full maturity.
Bijker, W. E., Hughes, T. P., & Pinch, T. (1987). The Social Construction of Technological Systems. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Mcluhan, M. (1962). The Gutenberg Galaxy: The making of Typograhic Man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Pinch, T.J. and Bijker, W.E. (1984). The Social Construction of Facts and Artefacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other. Social Studies of Science, 14, 399-441.
Smith, M. R., & Marx, L. (1994). Does technology drive history?, the dilemma of technological determinism. The MIT Press.