Information Management: The Organizational Dimension

By Michael J. Earl | Go to book overview

PREFACE

In one sense this book is a sequel to an earlier volume-- Information Management: The Strategic Dimension. That 1988 book brought together some early research, interspersed with company case histories, on how information technology (IT) could be strategically deployed in firms and on how to bring some concept of strategic management to the information systems (IS) function. At the time of writing this preface ( 1995), more substantive work in these domains has been done by scholars and the strategic impact of IT on firms, markets, and sectors is becoming clearer day by day.

'The Organizational Dimension' of IT may have a longer pedigree than 'the strategic dimension'. Almost since computers first entered the commercial world, writers have been fascinated about whether computing and other information technologies would change the shape and functioning of organizations. Many of the predictions of the first thirty years have not materialized or are taking longer to manifest themselves than was expected. Conversely, especially in the last decade, the pervasiveness of information technology has brought about changes in how we conceptualize the organization and in how many managers and specialists work. Often there is a correspondence between new organizational terminology and the language of IT. Networked organizations, inter-organizational alliances, distributed organizations, and the intelligent or knowledge-based corporation are examples.

All this speculation and analysis is predicated maybe at a conceptual level on organizations being seen as systems or structures of communication and information processing. In this light, new information technologies might allow us more choice in organization design and the ability to increase our information and communication channels.

So the organizational dimension of information management as seen through the domain of organization theory is continuously unfolding. In truth, this aspect is the minor (in chapter count) contribution of this volume. Most of the chapters are concerned with organizing the IS function-- or to be more descriptively accurate--organizing IT activities, for by 1995 it is apparent that at least as much information systems effort and investment is in the hands of 'users' as under the control of the IS function.

Why, then, is so much of this volume devoted to the organization of a technological activity? One response is that repeatedly we find that when studies are done of the scope, the application, the use, or the impact of IT, the enabling or constraining factors are more often organizational rather than technological. Another related answer is that in the apparently simple matter of managing a specialist function like IS, organizational questions abound.

-v-

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