Organizing for Data: Crafting Data Elements in the ‘Data-Driven’ Hospital

Ass Professor Kathleen H. Pine,
Arizona State University

When: April 4, 2019, at 10:30-11:30,

Where: Room 5.0.22 at CSS, Øster Farimagsgade 5A, building 5

Organizations in a variety of sectors are adopting an array of techniques known broadly as “data-driven” and “algorithmic” management. New information technologies increase the availability of high-quality information available in real time, which is resulting in ever-richer virtual representations of the activities and knowledge of organizations. While a body of recent literature examines how data-driven management and algorithms shape organizational functioning, little scholarly attention has been paid to how organizations must organize around the creation of data itself. We are not talking about the “data-driven organization” as promised in popular narratives, rather the practices of “organizing for data” that are a precursor to that illusive organizational form.

What are the practices of crafting data? We use this question as the foundation for a multi-sited ethnographic study of multiple hospitals and a meso-level healthcare policy organization, each in the process of re-organizing to create, manage, and deploy data for management, research, and accountability. We find that these organizations must become different entities with different goals and prioritized actions in order to become data-driven. To create and craft data with the discrete properties necessary for algorithmic and data-driven management, hospitals re-tooled existing work practices and implemented new forms of data work. Further, we find that organizing for data is never complete. Even when it appears that a data lifecycle has reached an idealized state, subjectivities remain. Data crafting requires situated judgment and decision making. However, these subjectivities are masked at different junctures, producing data that appears clean and objective.