Using Communication Technology: Creating Knowledge Organizations

By Bettina S. T. Büchel | Go to book overview

6
A Dynamic Model of Communication Technology Employment

Although it may seem reasonable from a managerial perspective to expect a consistent relationship between communication technology and organizations, more recent literature (Robey and Boudreau, 1999; Yates et al., 1999) seems to suggest that this common assumption does not hold. Earlier chapters have shown that empirical evidence regarding the impact of communication technology is often contradictory: some authors argue that the increased use of communication technology leads to centralization, while others argue the opposite; some say it leads to the reinforcement of the organizational hierarchy, but others say it undermines it; some maintain it reduces the number of middle managers, while others suggest that it increases the number; some argue for an increase in participation of knowledge workers in decision-making, but others propose a decrease in the number of people involved, and so on. Essentially, the desire of management researchers to maintain an ‘elusive consistency’ (Poole and Van de Ven, 1989) has led to a refusal to acknowledge paradoxes or contradictions in empirical findings. Confronted by evidence that points explicitly towards the existence of contradictions, solving this issue becomes the task.


COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY AS A MODERATING VARIABLE

One approach is to view communication technology as a moderating variable – that is, a variable that changes the relationship between two other variables but has no direct influence on the independent variable (Robey, 1981). From this point of view, changes in organizational design, organizational learning and the employment of effective communication technology are caused by other factors, such as environmental uncertainty and changes in organizational culture, which intervene in the relationship between communication technology and organizations. As a moderating variable, communication technology creates a dynamic relationship between communication technology, organizations and the actors within the organization.

The importance of communication technology to organizations lies in thesignificance of the created and manipulated information. In essence, there is a

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