Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations


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2. Industry Leaders are Relying More on Data Analytics

The global penetration of the Internet and the Web has enabled access to information and other resources and facilitated the forming of relationships among people and organizations on an unprecedented scale. The progress of electronic commerce over the Internet has resulted in a dramatic growth in digital interpersonal communications via e-mail and social networks , distribution of products software, music, e-books, and movies , and business transactions buying, selling, and advertising on the Web.

With the worldwide spread of smartphones , tablets , laptops, and other computer-based mobile devices, all of which are connected by wireless communication networks, information systems have been extended to support mobility as the natural human condition.

The Benefits of Using ICTs in Business & Finance

As information systems enabled more diverse human activities, they exerted a profound influence over society. These systems quickened the pace of daily activities, enabled people to develop and maintain new and often more-rewarding relationships, affected the structure and mix of organizations, changed the type of products bought, and influenced the nature of work. Information and knowledge became vital economic resources.

Yet, along with new opportunities, the dependence on information systems brought new threats. Intensive industry innovation and academic research continually develop new opportunities while aiming to contain the threats. The main components of information systems are computer hardware and software , telecommunications, databases and data warehouses, human resources, and procedures. The hardware, software, and telecommunications constitute information technology IT , which is now ingrained in the operations and management of organizations.

Today throughout the world even the smallest firms, as well as many households, own or lease computers. Individuals may own multiple computers in the form of smartphones , tablets , and other wearable devices. Large organizations typically employ distributed computer systems, from powerful parallel-processing servers located in data centres to widely dispersed personal computers and mobile devices, integrated into the organizational information systems.

Sensors are becoming ever more widely distributed throughout the physical and biological environment to gather data and, in many cases, to effect control via devices known as actuators. Together with the peripheral equipment—such as magnetic or solid-state storage disks, input-output devices , and telecommunications gear—these constitute the hardware of information systems.

The cost of hardware has steadily and rapidly decreased, while processing speed and storage capacity have increased vastly. Increasingly, computer and storage services are delivered from the cloud—from shared facilities accessed over telecommunications networks. Information system. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback.


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Thank you for your feedback. Written By: Vladimir Zwass. The meaning of this term depends largely on the scope of the project. Perhaps even more important is to plan for the transfer of knowledge from the old operation, in which people knew the materials and the product very well, to the new process, which outsiders may initially design and run. The developers of the new process especially when it is computer software often know their tools very well, but rarely do they understand the materials and processes to which their software is applied as well as the people on the plant floor who have been working with both for years.

At the very least, managers should provide some mechanism and time for such knowledge to flow from experienced worker to developer. An example of well-developed ownership is the case of a marketing organization about to switch from manual files to an electronic filing, messaging, and data retrieval system used by both account officers and secretaries.

Managers decided to take the time to do it right the first time instead of doing it over. The project manager set up a committee of elected representatives from all groups affected. This committee met regularly, first to select the right software package and then, when it became apparent that they would have to build their own system to get all the features they wanted, to give advice on its structure and content.

Technology

The result was an inventive, well-accepted, and widely used system. Moreover, users regarded the minor problems that did arise as bugs to be worked out of our system. Critical to the success of this project was the choice of opinion leaders among users for involvement. The basis for leadership differs from organization to organization, but these leaders are not usually hard to identify. Frequently, they occupy their place of influence as a result of technical proficiency, not formal position. Opinion leaders, however, are not necessarily the most skilled operators.

Someone whose technical skills are so superior that followers can have no hope of emulation may fall too far outside the norms of a group to be a real opinion leader. In the marketing organization just described, one senior account manager refused to use the new electronic system. The system implementers were at first alarmed but then realized that this individual was not an opinion leader. Their efforts flowed around him, unimpeded by his opposition.

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Six months after everyone else went on the system, he capitulated, convinced at last of its utility. Many a technology developer will confess bewilderment that innovations do not win automatic acceptance. It may be overly optimistic to believe that an innovation will sell itself, but it is equally dangerous to oversell the new system. Novel and exotic technologies are especially vulnerable to hype. Articles in the media about robots and artificial intelligence, for example, have raised expectations far higher than the actual performance of current technologies warrants.

Potential users quickly grow disillusioned when much touted innovations perform below expectations. Months before they had their hands on the software, intended users faced questions from their customers about how they liked it. The gap between perception and reality was traceable to the energetic efforts of one project manager early on. Knowing the importance of selling the concept to management, this enthusiast had extended his campaign to virtually anyone who would listen. Since it was a sexy topic, the new artificial intelligence system received wide attention in the media as well as in organizational newsletters.

This oversell presented a problem to implementation managers, who had to fight the perception that their project was way behind schedule and that their product delivered less than promised. There are two reasons for conducting a pilot operation before introducing an innovation across the board in a large organization: first, to serve as an experiment and prove technical feasibility to top management and, second, to serve as a credible demonstration model for other units in the organization.

These two purposes are not always compatible. If the innovation must succeed at the pilot site in order to survive politically, the implementation manager may choose a site that poses virtually no risk but that neither offers real benefit to the organization nor establishes a model for other units. At the same time, however, if the trial is to be a credible test, it cannot take place among the most innovative people in the corporation. Success at this kind of site is vulnerable to the criticism that these users are far from typical. Testing the new technology at the worst performing unit, even though it may be where the innovation is most needed and would show the most spectacular results, is no better a choice.

If the project fizzles, the implementation manager will not know how much of the failure was caused by extraordinary problems with the site and how much by the inherent properties of the technology. If the project succeeds, critics will be quick to note that anything would have helped operations at that site. The solution, therefore, is to be clear about the purpose of the test—experimental or demonstration—and then to choose the site that best matches the need. If customers canceled orders, the partially built systems were either totally scrapped—that is, broken down into components and sent back to the warehouse—or matched with incoming orders to determine if the fit was close enough to warrant retrofitting.

When this matching process, which had been done manually, was computerized, the first applications site was an operation with an enthusiastic champion, but it was to be phased out in a matter of months. The site was politically risk free but not useful for a demonstration. Although the first application was successful, the operation closed down before the site could serve as a demonstration for other plants, and the implementation manager in charge of the next site had to start all over.

Consider a different example: a paper maker that chose one of its high-visibility mills as the first site for an expensive, large-scale computerized control system. Local management was determined to see the system succeed for the sake of the mill; corporate management viewed it as an experiment. The site was promising but not risk free. Even if managers realize that the trial of a new technology is a critical demonstration, they do not always ask the next question: a demonstration for whom?

Types of Decision Support Systems

The physical and organizational position of the first site will heavily influence who the next wave of users will be. Over the years, many studies have shown a strong inverse relationship between proximity to facilities and use of them. This result is not surprising if the distance is measured in miles. What is surprising is that out of sight—no matter by how much—generally means out of mind. The difference in the use of a library by engineers on a college campus depended on how many more feet, not miles, nonusers were from the library than users. Similarly, new computer terminals in a large oil company were used first by people with adjoining offices and only reluctantly by people even a few more feet down the hall.

Distance is a relative, not absolute, measure to be weighed against current routine rather than against any objective standard. Even so, the placement of an innovation frequently determines who uses the new technology first and most. If the equipment is located farther away from older or more reluctant potential users, they have a ready excuse for avoiding it. Consequently, managers who do not consider physical layout in their implementation strategies may, by default, select as first users people with little or no influence in the organization.

As noted earlier, involving opinion leaders in the planning process helps smooth the path of implementation. If the first users of a new technology are credible role models neither extraordinarily adept nor very poorly skilled , their demonstration has heightened meaning for a wide audience. Sometimes these opinion leaders strongly resist the technology, and getting even one of them to use it can create the necessary crack in the dam.

Getting them to try the innovation may require nothing more elaborate than a well-paced and tactfully presented training session. Often, however, an implementation manager has to create new role models by siting the innovation where the workers most open to change can demystify the technology for others by using it themselves. Although it is definitely a mistake to correlate resistance with age per se, it remains true that people with a long-term investment in certain routines and skills often hesitate to give up the security of those habits.

Again, it is best to avoid extremes and to site new technology near workers who are fairly open to change but not so different from those whose resistance makes them poor models. Once the crane operators had worked out the wrinkles, management could progressively install the system throughout the plant.

The crane operators were not opinion leaders at first because of their relative youth and different backgrounds, but they were both receptive to innovation and not so very different as to be unacceptable role models. If an innovation is to succeed, the implementation team must include 1 a sponsor, usually a fairly high-level person who makes sure that the project receives financial and manpower resources and who is wise about the politics of the organization; 2 a champion, who is salesperson, diplomat, and problem solver for the innovation; 3 a project manager, who oversees administrative details; and 4 an integrator, who manages conflicting priorities and molds the group through communication skills.

Since these are roles, not people, more than one person can fulfill a given function, and one individual can take on more than a single role. Even if all these roles are filled, however, the project can still stall if the organization does not vest sufficient authority in one person to make things happen.

One of these individuals—usually the sponsor or the champion—must have enough organizational power to mobilize the necessary resources, and that power base must encompass both technology developers and users. There are, of course, many ways to mobilize supplies and people.


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By encouraging ownership of an innovation in a user organization, for example, skillful advocates can create a power base to pull rather than push the innovation along. But enthusiasm for a new technology is not enough. New technology usually requires a supportive infrastructure and the allocation of scarce resources for preparing the implementation site. A champion based in the development group with no authority among the receivers must rely on time-consuming individual persuasion to garner the necessary resources.

A short case will illustrate the point.


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A manufacturer of engineering test equipment was in trouble because many orders for its customized products reached the plant floor missing vital components. Technical experts were able to catch omissions and incorrect selection of parts before the orders went into production, but the mechanics of checking orders and cycling them back through the purchase-order process cost enormous amounts of time, money, and customer goodwill. Customers were angry at the delay of orders for weeks when manufacturing bounced them back to the initial salespeople and were even more dismayed when price quotations had to be revised upward because of a part forgotten in the first go-around.

An internally developed technology offered a partial solution: a computer program could automatically check the orders before salespeople issued quotations. Although the people who placed the orders were enthusiastic about the concept, the work of implementing the system was fraught with problems. No sales manager was willing to function as either sponsor or champion for the innovation.

Although a user group funded its development, the appointed champion in that organization was too low in the hierarchy to control the resources necessary to install the system. Moreover, he lacked a clear endorsement for the project from his superiors and had mixed feelings toward the innovation. He believed in its purpose but was not certain it was being developed correctly and was afraid to stand behind it wholeheartedly lest it fail in the field.

He was, therefore, slow to seek the resources and upper management support that would have moved the project forward quickly. Overt resistance to an innovation often grows out of mistakes or overlooked issues in an implementation plan.

Tacit resistance does not disappear but ferments, grows into sabotage, or surfaces later when resources are depleted. The worst thing a manager can do is shrug such resistance aside on the dual assumption that it is an irrational clinging to the status quo and that there is nothing to be done about it. Clinging to the status quo it may indeed be—but irrational, rarely.

And managers can do something about it. Thus the beginning of wisdom is to anticipate opposition. An innovation needs a champion to nurture it, and any new technology capable of inspiring strong advocacy will also provoke opposition. Where there are product champions, there will also be innovation assassins. Assassins, moreover, can fell a project with just one well-aimed bullet, but champions need to marshal forces and nurture support to implement new technology in the face of resistance. The most common reasons for opposition to a new technology are fear of the loss of skills or power and absence of an apparent personal benefit.

As talk about the deskilling potential of new computerized technologies has grown, unions are seeking retraining for their members whom automation would otherwise displace. Many companies are upgrading the status of their workers who are forced to trade hard-earned manual skills for the often dreary routine of button pushing.

Although the problem is far from being resolved, it has at least merited recognition. There is, however, another aspect of deskilling that has been much less obvious to implementers: the simple necessity of extending concern about deskilling to foremen and supervisors.

They do not, of course, actually have to run the new machinery or to possess the intimate knowledge of the system that daily operators do. Even so, giving subordinates knowledge that supervisors and foremen do not have undermines their credibility. If the foremen or supervisors worked their way up through the ranks, they will know the old machinery well.

They served as problem solvers when it broke down and derived no small part of their authority from their experience with it. To train their subordinates and leave them out is to invite hostility. When a pulp mill introduced a new computerized control room, vendor representatives trained the operators and their assistants. One way to deal with this kind of situation is to teach supervisors how to instruct hourly workers about the new technology.

These sessions should transmit details of the information hourly workers require, instructions on how best to present it, guides to practice sessions, and audiovisual aids.

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Another reason for resistance is fear that the innovation will be politically enfeebling and that supervisors and even operators will lose some control by adopting it. A good implementation plan should try to identify where a loss of power may occur so that managers can anticipate and possibly avert any problems arising from that loss.

Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations
Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations
Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations
Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations
Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations
Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations
Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations
Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations Managing computer impact : an international study of management and organizations

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