Organizational Change and ICT

Organizations have their own culture and history, they act in a context that has a direct impact on everything they do. The introduction of new information and communication technologies (ICT), therefore, is a driver for change that goes beyond task optimization and efficiency. When coordinating the introduction of new ICT, we need to evolve the overall social configuration of an organization.

The COMPOSITE project, a research project funded by the European Commission as part of the 7th research framework program, aims at investigating organizational change within police forces. As the coordinator of the work package ‘Technology Adaptation’, I manage from Fraunhofer FIT a concerted effort of comparative research that involves 15 organizations from 10 countries.

In our research, we conduct a trend study that describes current and planned ICT change initiatives and compares the efforts of the police forces from different countries. Based on the identified trends, we organize best practices workshops with expert users from the police forces, researchers from a variety of backgrounds and ICT industry to further study the different developments and understand them in their larger cultural contexts. Further research that takes places locally with the police forces will support a deeper of linkage of social and technological developments and allow us to share knowledge with the police forces and the ICT industry acting in the participating countries.

In our trend study we have identified the emergence of social media as a pressing issue for the police. Social media can support the police in engaging in a closer dialogue with the public and support the identification of missing people as well as large scale police operations in crises situations. Social media, however, also threatens the police, as offenders, for instance, increasingly use social media to coordinate their actions. Additionally, social media makes police actions transparent and challenges the ways in which the police operate. To better understand this new relationship between the police and the public via social media, we have conducted research on the the role of twitter during the August 2011 riots in the United Kingdom and compared the ways in which the Metropolitan Police in London and the Greater Manchester Police used this medium. Interestingly, the Greater Manchester Police adopts twitter as a core tool for their community outreach efforts, as this radio piece of Deutsche Welle describes.

The movie below summarizes an international workshop on the topic that I organized for the COMPOSITE project with the Greater Manchester Police.

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Photos: David Adams & Hans van Rhoon
Movie: Greater Manchester Police

Selected Publications


Sebastian Denef, Petra Saskia Bayerl, and Nico Kaptein (2013)

Social Media and the Police—Tweeting Practices of British Police Forces during the August 2011 Riots

In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Paris, France, April 27–May 2, 2013). CHI’13. New York, NY: ACM Press. forthcoming

Abstract | Download

With this paper we take a first step to understand the appropriation of social media by the police. For this purpose we analyze the twitter communication by the London Metropolitan Police (MET) and the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) during the riots in August 2011. The systematic qualitative and quantitative comparison of tweets demonstrated that the two forces developed very different practices for using twitter. While MET followed an instrumental approach in their communication, in which the police aimed to remain in a controlled position and keep a distance to the general public, GMP developed an expressive approach, in which the police actively decreased the distance to the citizens. In workshops and interviews, we asked the police officers about their perspectives, which confirmed the identified practices as strategic decisions based on past experiences. Our study identifies benefits and risks of the two approaches and the potential impact of social media on the evolution of the role of police in society.



Sebastian Denef, Nico Kaptein, Petra Saskia Bayerl, Leonardo Ramirez (2012)

Best Practice in Police Social Media Adaptation

COMPOSITE, European Commission FP7 Contract No. 241918

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This document describes best practice of European police forces in adapting social media. The description of these practices stems from a workshop series and other events where police ICT experts met with academics and industry experts; and from a study of the Twitter usage of British police forces during the 2011 riots. Grouped in nine categories, we describe different uses and implementation strategies of social media by police forces. Based on these examples, we show that there have been numerous ways in which police forces benefitted from adopting social media, ranging from improved information for investigations and an improved relationship with the public to a more efficient use of resources.



Sebastian Denef, Petra Saskia Bayerl, and Nico Kaptein (2011)

Cross-European Approaches to Social Media as a Tool for Police Communication

In European Police Science and Research Bulletin 6 (2011). p. 11–14

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Based on interviews and a series of four focus group discussions, we outline systematic differences in the approaches currently adopted by European police forces in their use of social media as communication tools. We identify variations in the implementation, integration, selection and communication use. Our objective is to inform a European dialogue on social media as a tool for police communication.



Sebastian Denef, Nico Kaptein, Petra Saskia Bayerl, et al. (2011)

ICT Trends in European Policing

COMPOSITE, Deliverable 4.1, European Commission FP7 Contract No. 241918

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In this report we present the results from interviews and document analyses of current and planned information and communication technology (ICT) projects with police forces from ten European countries and from interviews with technology vendors in the field of ICT for policing. Based on a cross-country, cross-organisational analysis, we present the following themes that describe major trends in ICT for European policing:

  • the integration of intelligence data systems
  • the adoption of mobile computing
  • the use of video surveillance technologies
  • the application of digital biometrics
  • the crosscutting issue of user acceptance
  • the emerging challenge of social media applications

We discuss how these issues are relevant and thereby point to open issues for future research.