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Economics of SharePoint Governance – Part 6 – Modeling and Behaviors

Models in all of their possible formats (tabular, functional notation, graphic, equation, computer statement) constitute the primary instructional vehicles employed in economics texts to convey understandings of the functioning of economic mechanisms. Modeling is the chief analytical vehicle employed when pushing the frontiers of economic knowledge. Models, ranging from the highly simplified to the extremely complex, are designed in both the private and the public sectors to forecast the future courses of phenomena.  Perhaps the most productive use of modeling for SharePoint governance decision making is to structure a model of the SharePoint administrative decision making context (the firm as a whole, or parts of it such as demand functions, production functions, and cost functions). If the structured model is a good enough depiction of the real mechanism, it may allow the luxury of trying-out policies before having to implement real decisions. What are the consequences of making a bad decision in a policy simulation model? The benefit may be the realization of the likely detrimental effects of the decision so that it can be corrected before its “real-time” implementation.  

My approach is that of model methodology. The economic criteria for rational governance decision making is elaborated with models; administrative behavior patterns and consequences are depicted with models; and the procedures for policy simulation and economic forecasting modeling. One of the first steps that the economic analyst must take in modeling an economic phenomenon is to select an appropriate behavioral premise to serve as a foundation upon which the model may be built. Economists usually presume that rational decision makers attempt to maximize some positive quantity or minimize something that has negative connotations for the decision maker.

The stage is now set for an examination of a variety of alternative premises about the goals pursued by SharePoint administrators and the behavioral patterns exhibited by them in pursuit of governance goals. I could identify a large number of plausible behavioral premises and still not exhaust the possibilities. The original, classic behavioral premise for the manager of a commercial enterprise is that of simple, absolute, unconstrained collaboration maximization. A mathematical model of the enterprise erected upon this premise can be developed in straight-forward fashion by an application of the derivative calculus. It is this behavioral premise that has served for a century as foundation for the so-called “theory of the firm.”  

Enumerated managerial goals may be handled in a model in which it is presumed that the objective of the SharePoint administrator is to maximize information worker utility. Such a multi-argument utility function might be represented as

 Utility = f( x1, x2, …, xn ),

where x1 through xn are the various factors of importance to the SharePoint administrator. While this may be an intellectually satisfying approach to dealing with a multiplicity of possible goals that the administrator may pursue, we must note the general impracticality of specification of utility functions. Also, even if a SharePoint administrator’s utility function could be adequately specified, this approach provides no single managerial decision criterion upon which the administrator can key decisions.

The SharePoint administration may attempt to optimize the collaboration environment of the enterprise, i.e., to maximize collaboration between information workers subject to one or more constraints. The constraints may be limitations on the operations of the enterprise imposed from exogenous sources that are not under the control of the administrator. Social, cultural, religious, and political realities may also constrain the operations of the enterprise.  

  • Models of satisficing behavior are richer than models of maximizing behavior, because they treat not only of equilibrium but of the method of reaching it as well.
  • When performance falls short of the level of aspiration, search behavior (particularly search for new alternatives of action) is induced.
  • At the same time, the level of aspiration begins to adjust itself downward until goals reach levels that are practically attainable.

If the two mechanisms just listed operate too slowly to adapt aspirations to performance, emotional behavior–apathy or aggression, for example– will replace rational adaptive behavior.

While the adjustment principles could be easily expressed above in verbal terms, we must also acknowledge the extreme difficulty of structuring and specifying a decision model in mathematical terms that accommodates both satisficing and adaptive behavior. Enterprise managers and collaboration administrators who perceive themselves to be responsible to a variety of constituencies can probably not be construed as attempting to maximize or minimize any quantity. In fact, their behavior may be in response only to constraints, with no clearly definable objective of pursuit other than “survival.” The response pattern has been described as that of mediation among the competing constituencies, an essentially political process. Adolph Berle has suggested that enterprise managers who give lip service to “social responsibility” are in effect attempting to achieve an aura of legitimacy for the power that they wield. William Baldwin further hypothesizes that if successive generations of corporate executives repeat often enough their company’s litany of social responsibility, they may come to actually believe it and begin to live by it.  

The problem for modeling the behavior of the enterprise is that economists have not ventured far enough into the wilderness of political processes to allow us to offer a clearly defined model of constituent mediation for the reader’s consideration. We may envision the possibility that some of the management’s constituencies may at any time become the primary object of the manager’s concern, given the exigencies of the moment. In either case, optimization models may be appropriate for analysis of situations wherein one of the constituencies has, at least temporarily, become the focus of the manager’s attention.  

However, the SharePoint administrator may attempt only to minimize the value of some negative connotation associated with the constituency, subject to constraints imposed by the perceived need for deference to the other constituencies. Here the administrator may be in the avoid-avoid dilemma illustrated by Kenneth Boulding in his example of the donkey between two skunks (this is in contrast to the donkey’s approach-approach dilemma when it finds itself between two bales of hay). If optimization modeling can indeed be applied to the situation of constituent mediation, the manager must anticipate that the identities of the behavioral goal and its constraints will be exchanged from time to time as the concerns of one and then another constituency rise to the surface (the squeeky wheel gets the grease).

This series is a lot of parts that I am quasi-using pieces of for a academic research paper stance so bear with me if it gets too esoteric. Or read the other governance articles available within the SharePoint Security category within the main site (available through the parent menu).

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