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Empowerment or Control: views on introduction of IT on organisations

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Empowerment or Control: views on introduction of IT on organisations Abstract The introduction of information technology (IT) into organisations has brought about huge different interpretation of its effects on management-worker relationships. Among them, there are two opposite and polarized views: "IT is a source of empowerment in organizations" and "IT provides just another opportunity for managerial control." In my opinion, both of these two statements view the changes affected by IT as technology determinant. This debate masks rather than clarifies realities about the differing roles of IT. Computer related technology or any other technology is neutral (Bostrom and Heines, 1977). Technology does not speak for itself but is interpreted by human beings. This paper will examine these two points related to the empowerment and control in the context of IT and present an implication of the uses of IT within organisations in relation to varying organisational goals and the corresponding management and worker roles. It will be shown how four different ways of categorising the use of IT within an organisation can be based on the level of worker empowerment provided by the IT and the amount of management control it is necessary to maintain. In whatever way to interpret the IT in organisation, we shall be aware that the increasing transparency of knowledge brought by IT demands more flexible management in organisations. However, it depends on how to and who manage information resources effectively, which is another critical issue. Keywords: Information Technology (IT), Organisation, Empowerment, Power, Managerial Control, Change Introduction In this paper, the definition of IT is of the broadest possible nature. It essentially refers to the convergence of electronics, computing, and telecommunications, which largely shares the definition given by Scott Morton, broadly sitting IT to consist of ...read more.


Therefore, The concept of empowerment and power are both logically and practically linked. Given that power can never be eliminated (4th dimension1), however, empowerment may be viewed as an attempt to redistribute power or create a more equitable balance of power so organisational objective can be achieved and employee satisfaction can be increased simultaneously. (Graetz et al 2002) Paradox in the context of IT Recently, more sophisticated approaches to the relationship between IT and empowerment showed that there is no single, unequivocal relationship between IT and empowerment, whether this relationship is approached at the level of structure or action or from a technologically deterministic perspective or not. IT was shown to support employees by providing information or promoting the delegation of decisions, while at the same time, IT can be used to control and monitor employees. The findings of Psoinoa et al in 2000, which expressed in their survey of 450 UK manufacturing companies followed by a series of 20 in-depth interviews in 18 top UK manufacturing organizations, confirmed that empowerment is indeed pursued by many UK manufacturing organizations within their various efforts at improving their organization of work. However, while they viewed IT as an important enabling tool for empowerment offering many opportunities, but clearly noted that the role of IT in this is supportive rather than initiating; IT do not lead to employees becoming empowered. Empowerment and Control Since the concept of empowerment and power are both logically and practically linked, it is will be vital to leave some space to power when the relationship between empowerment and control is discussed in the context of IT. This discussion is also going to clarify that the view on the IT's introduction to the organisation shall not be simplified or even polarized. ...read more.


Competition is fierce and based on rapid innovation. People are empowered, determine their own working lives and are richly rewarded for their ideas. The pace of work and the demands of being available at any time of the day lead to high levels of stress. The basic organisational assumptions: innovative products will lead to market success and independent networks innovate faster. New Metropolis" (control and consolidation) Organisations use ICT to control their employees. All activities are strictly monitored through ICT. Organisations are large and transnational. The competitive structure is oligopolistic. Competition is fierce and based both on products and price. To compete, companies innovate but the main emphasis is on efficiency. Closed-circuit television, network sniffers and other information monitoring devices are used to improve efficiency. The basic organisational assumptions: controlling people leads to greater efficiency and economies of scale will benefit larger organisations. "Modern feudalism" (control and fragmentation) Entrepreneurs use ICT to increase spans of control to run several small businesses. These businesses are global and use cheap, highly skilled workers in the developing world. They are employed on a project basis and performance is controlled with ICT. Competition for these positions is fierce and obedience and conformity are prized characteristics. The competitive environment is accelerated and the basis for competition is cheap innovative products. The basic organisational assumptions: controlling cheap skilled labour in the developing world leads to lower costs. "Mother companies" (empowerment and consolidation) Companies take care of their employees from cradle to grave. Companies prosper through productive, loyal and innovative employees. Organisations are large, global and have a unified culture. This shared culture enables people with diverse cultural backgrounds to work effectively together. The competitive environment is oligopolistic and competition is based on quality and service. The basic organisational assumptions: empowering employees improves work and shared values enable people to work together in large groups. ...read more.

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