Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Linear Systems: The Re-Invention of an Organization-The Digital Imaging Future

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Linear Systems: The Re-Invention of an Organization-The Digital Imaging Future

Article excerpt


Organizations dominate the landscape of our lives; their survival in this competitive world is very crucial. This case is about an organization (i.e. Linear Systems) that, as a result of the competitive nature of its industry, transformed itself from the business of selling computers and digital photographic equipment to becoming a leader in digital imaging technology.

The core pedagogical objective of the case is to provide an applied, hands-on format for students to increase their understanding of the topics of organizational lifecycle, change, and development.

This case is intended for use in advanced undergraduate or graduate courses in Organizational Behavior, Organizational Theory and Behavior, Organizational Development, and Strategic Management. It is designed to compliment knowledge derived from theories and concepts in organizational lifecycle, change, and development by providing the student with the opportunity to apply such theories and concepts in an actual organizational setting. The case is well-suited for a written case analysis and/or oral presentations. The authors developed the case for class discussions rather than an illustration of organizational (in) effectiveness. The case, instructor's manual, and synopsis were anonymously peer reviewed and accepted by the Western Casewriters Association Conference, February March 19, 2009, Midway, Utah.


From the time of its inception in 1988 until June 1992, Linear Systems' business focused exclusively on reselling computers and digital photographic equipment. Given the competitive and saturated nature of the market, Chris Parsons (founder and CEO) recognized the need for change. He commenced transforming Linear Systems, making it a leader in digital imaging technology. By September 1998, Linear Systems had reinvented its principal business purpose-digital photography and software. By leveraging its success in the digital imaging hardware market, Linear Systems re-invented itself into both a software developer and a builder/integrator of computer hardware, the integration of which transformed Linear Systems into a full service digital-data management company which provided data management solutions to business and government agencies.

While the re-invention process started more than 10 years ago, the breakthrough came in 2005 when several large law enforcement agencies collaborated with Linear to develop its Digital Information Management System known as DIMS ImageServer.

As the organization entered 2009, the key question facing the executive management in its strategic planning meeting on November 14 and 15, 2008 was what new directions were needed at Linear Systems to attain its goal of positioning itself as the digital imaging management vendor of choice to the nation's law enforcement agencies, particularly given its vision to become the standard for this still emerging, yet fast growing market.

Thus, the case focuses on the evolution and transformation of Linear Systems as it experiences its organizational life cycles and the change process itself.

The Case Synopsis and the Case Description should be removed before this case is assigned to a student or student group. This information could prejudice the minds of students.


It was decision time for Linear Systems' executive management team during its strategic planning meeting in November of 2008. The key decision to be made was what must Linear do, pursue, or change if it wanted to attain its goal of being a leader in the digital imaging management business? As a predicate to identifying and assessing the possible strategic choices confronting the organization, the management team commenced its meeting with a review of Linear Systems' organizational and commercial evolution. Linear Systems' CEO, Chris Parsons began the discussion with his recollection of when he was sitting behind his desk approximately 15 years ago, his eyes glued to the monitor of his old Compaq computer quietly reviewing a customer's order, when he was first struck with the idea of developing Linear Systems into a digital imaging management company. …

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