Information Management: The Organizational Dimension

By Michael J. Earl | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

Information Management enthusiasts tend to claim that IT has changed, or will change, organizations both in structure and behaviour. The more sceptical organizational theorists often argue that fundamentals of social organization will defeat any technological forces. Their more open, but critical, colleagues, may suggest that IT tends to enable organizational change, but very much in the spirit of an almost dialectic journey between organizational adaptations and experiment on the one hand, and technological diffusion and learning on the other. Other theorists see a convergence of information and organization, as exemplified by the work of Galbraith ( 1973). This school can be called the information processing view of organizational design.

Certainly, in the 1990s models of organizations carry labels which seemingly represent a convergence of information management and organizational theory. Examples include networked, virtual, and knowledge-based organizations. It is interesting to compare such developments with predictions made in the past. For example, Leavitt and Whisler ( 1958) over thirty years ago identified some trends which have come to pass but they did it in the language of their time, including concern with centralization and decentralization. So it is probably appropriate that the first chapter of this volume explores the relationship between information technology and organization structure. Here Sampler takes a dispassionate view, surveying and evaluating some of the most influential writing and the more rigorous research on this question. He reminds us that enquiry in this area needs to be done with great care. His important conclusion is that the romantics and the realists is this area may be reconciled if we begin to study where the theory and practice of information processing and organizational design do converge--and where they differ.

In the next chapter Anand writes a similar essay to examine the impact of information systems on decision-making. He focuses on the contemporary technology of groupware and efficiently surveys some of the IS research to-date, injecting critical perspectives from decision theory and microeconomics. This is an important area to develop if we are to advance the use of information systems in managerial decision-making. It needs work in both the rational paradigms of decision theory and the more behavioural studies of how information is actually used and decisions actually taken.

In the third chapter of this section Earl explores some information management characteristics of knowledge-based organizations. Drawing on two contrasting case studies, he presents propositions on knowledge as a strategic resource and discusses possible differences between data, information, and knowledge. He then goes on to consider what is involved in knowledge

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