Information Management: The Organizational Dimension

By Michael J. Earl | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

Perhaps the most striking and emotional issue in information management in the early 1990s has been the question of outsourcing IT activities. Large outsourcing deals in both the USA and UK have legitimized the practice in minds of several CEOs and put it on the agendas of CIOs. Equally, there have been smaller-scale horror stories of what can go wrong with 'unthinking' outsourcing. Lacity, Willcocks, and Feeny draw on their collective research on both sides of the Atlantic to write a managerial chapter on outsourcing strategy. They propose a framework for decision-making which breaks through some of the simplistic policy and practice rhetoric heard in organizations today. This framework may not have all the answers but it does provide a potentially valuable set of questions to avoid mishaps, to assess IS in the organization and to be more astute in sourcing decisions. It also offers more precise language and terminology in this very contemporary area of organizational challenge.

One idea which has caught on in some organizations is the development of 'hybrid managers' to help bridge the specialist activities of the IS function, whatever its future, with the business at large. Skyrme's chapter is an enthusiastic analysis of, and call for, hybrid managers. He inventories requisite skills and, learning from the experience of a sample of organizations who have pioneered the concept, suggests how hybrids can be developed.

If all Skyrme's ingredients are summated, it would seem that organization development and management development programmes on a grand scale are required. Perhaps all that this represents is putting professional human resource management into IS. There are some hints in the chapter that this can benefit the business beyond the intended goal of building bridges between IT and the business. Whatever a hybrid manager is, and whether or not it is a good label, the competences suggested may well be necessary for all managers in the information era.

Certainly some of the attributes of 'hybrids' are called for in the next chapter, by Couger. Here the driving force is the shift of information systems capabilities and responsibilities towards users. Couger sees this as the concern with wider domains of information processing as well as the growth of end-user computing. It was apparent in the late 1980s, at least in the UK, that often over 50 per cent of IT expenditure was in the hands of users. By 1994 we observe the phenomenon of 'power users', non-IT personnel who can design, develop, and operate their own information systems with scant help from the IT specialists.

Couger, who orginally wrote this chapter at the turn of the decade, posits three scenarios for the IS department as technology and applications

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