Academic journal article The Public Manager

Information Technology Can Drive Transformation: IT Can Modify Management and Business Processes, Alter Inter-Organizational Relationships, and Extend Our Concept of Community-Particularly for Our People-Oriented Institutions, Such as Health Care

Academic journal article The Public Manager

Information Technology Can Drive Transformation: IT Can Modify Management and Business Processes, Alter Inter-Organizational Relationships, and Extend Our Concept of Community-Particularly for Our People-Oriented Institutions, Such as Health Care

Article excerpt

From the perspective of 2004, it seems difficult to recall that practically all of what we consider to be modern information technology (IT) has been introduced and implemented broadly only during the past ten years. In 1993, for example, fewer than fifty Web sites were operational, and President Clinton was attempting to introduce personal computers into the schools! In the present era, probably no other technological innovation has diffused as rapidly or as broadly as IT has. Alvin Toffler predicted this almost twenty-five years ago.

Principally through the medium of the Internet, modern IT has become ubiquitous in government, business, and personal communication. E-mail, online purchases, filing of tax "forms," sharing of photos, transmittal of health information, "library" research, and on, and on, all occur with the lightning speed of an electron.

All of this gives pause for reflection. What impact does this new IT have on our work life, our organizations, our social life, and our community life? Does it drive organizational change? Can we direct it toward positive social change? Depending on how we answer these questions, IT may be able to play a pivotal role in transformation--the continuous process of quality improvement required to achieve desired effects. This role may modify management and business processes both within government and the private sector; alter inter-organizational relationships; and extend our concept of community, particularly around our people-oriented institutions, such as health care.

The purpose of the present article is to explore these questions. Because my career field is mental health, potential applications from this field will be highlighted in hypothetical examples.

Characteristics of Modern IT

Unlike any other technology of the past, modern IT changes the essential nature of interpersonal communication. All previous technologies simply mitigated the space and time constraints of interpersonal communication. Originally, all human communication occurred on a face-to-face basis in real time. Writing allowed space or time constraints to be transcended in a narrow way; mail and the telephone allowed them to be transcended on a much broader basis. However, in earlier technologies, one communicated with others who were known, and who generally shared a common language and culture with the communicator.

Modern IT has introduced several essential changes into this traditional communication paradigm:

* Acceleration. Because communication through IT is instantaneous, interpersonal communication using this technology is extremely rapid, and much more networking and interaction can take place per unit of time. For example, in less than a minute, I can broadcast e-mail to several thousand (or million) people, and they can read it and respond. As a result, interactions can proceed very rapidly, and negotiations and decisions can occur with equal speed. A sociologist would say that social time is being compressed. Norms governing propriety in such interactions are currently being developed through actual trial and error.

* Equalization. Modern IT fosters communication through a network rather than a hierarchical structure. As a result, it has the capacity to eliminate social and rank distinctions among participants. With modern IT communication, a homeless person and a president of a large corporation are "equal." Traditional boundaries between people of different social ranks, cultures, and even societies simply do not exist. This also means that organizational boundaries between private businesses, professional disciplines, governmental units, and countries can be reduced or eliminated in favor of broader patterns of communication and interchange.

* Disintermediation. Probably one of the most threatening features of modern IT is its capacity to eliminate intervening persons, groups, and organizations, such as "middle men," from communication and decision loops in favor of direct communication between end users, such as purchaser and producer, constituent and elected official, or health care consumer and physician. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.