Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Key Organizational and HR Factors for Rapid Technology Assimilation

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Key Organizational and HR Factors for Rapid Technology Assimilation

Article excerpt


This study attempted to prioritize key organizational factors that effected technology assimilation in two information technology units of a large automaker. Frequent introduction and use of technology in quality efforts as well as a risk-taking and innovation-driven culture were found to be the strongest predictors of rapid technology assimilation.


In their quest to attain competitive advantage, organizations today frequently rely on new technologies to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of operations. Such technologies are expected to reduce operating costs and cycle-times; make the operational processes of the organization more flexible; and improve productivity, quality, customer satisfaction, and employee wages. Furthermore, technologies are expected to help decision-makers resolve complex problems; respond to crises and seize opportunities on a timely basis; and even facilitate employee empowerment (Beede & Young, 1998; Cardinali, 1998; Castle & Sir, 2001; Harper & Utley, 2001; Hottenstein, casey, & Dunn, 1997; Martinsons & Chong, 1999; Sambasivaro & Deshmukh, 1995; Udo & Ehie, 1996; Werther, Berman, & Vasconcellos, 1994).

Given the high expectations, organizations invest a sizeable portion of their resources on technology acquisition and implementation. Despite high expectations, however, the literature often reports that technology-related initiatives fail to deliver the expected outcomes. For instance, "General Motors spent $90 billion during the 1980s on technology in the form of plant, equipment, and acquisitions while losing more than ten points of market share" (Werther et al., 1994, p. 20). Another company, FoxMeyer Drug, a large pharmaceutical company, filed for bankruptcy "as a consequence of a $65 million IT investment that went disastrously wrong" (McDonagh & Coghlan, 2001, p. 41). McDonagh and Coghlan further noted that three and one-half years into the project, and after a total of $125 million had been invested, Hilton Hotels Corporation, Marriott Corporation and Budget Rent-A-Car Corporation "cancelled what had become a major IT failure" (p. 41).

It has been reported that the failure rates in information technology-based initiatives approach 70% (Davenport, 1995). Citing the work of Clegg et al. (1996), McDonagh and Coghlan noted that

[Forty percent] of IT projects fail or are abandoned completely, 80% are delivered late and over budget, and 90% fail to deliver espoused business benefits. The percentage of IT initiatives that actually deliver business value in accordance with agreed performance criteria is disappointing... only 10% of IT projects meet all success criteria. (p. 42)

Further, the general sentiment is that the multi-trillion dollar investments in computers and telecommunications have done little to raise white-collar productivity in the international business community (Davis, 1991; Martinsons & Chong, 1999).

It has been argued that the high degree of failure of IT technologies to a large extent can be attributed to human and organizational factors rather than the technology itself (Martinsons & Chong, 1999; McDonagh & Coghlan, 2001). McDonagh and Coghlan reported that "technical failure, as in hardware and software, accounts for no more than 7% of IT-related failure" (p. 42). This figure is in agreement with the one provided by Bikson and Gutek (1984) who after studying more than 2000 U.S. firms concluded that fewer of 10% of information systems failures are attributed to technological problems (Martinsons & Chong, 1999).

As far as the non-technical factors causing IT failure are concerned, a variety of conceptual frameworks have been utilized when attempting to explain this phenomenon. Most of these conceptual frameworks mostly pertain to factors associated with the organizational culture, structure, and practices and fall under the organization development (OD), change management, and sociotechnical systems (STS) approaches. …

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