Information Management: The Organizational Dimension

By Michael J. Earl | Go to book overview

1 Exploring the Relationship Between Information Technology and Organizational Structure

JEFFREY L. SAMPLER


Introduction

Over thirty-five years have passed since academics began speculating on the impact that information technology (IT) would have on organizational structure ( Leavitt and Whisler 1958). The debate is still on-going, and both researchers and managers continue to explore the relationship between IT and organizational structure. This relationship is becoming increasingly complicated by both the rapidly changing nature of IT and the increasing environmental turbulence faced by many organizations. As organizations need to process more information under these uncertain conditions, IT is one possible way for organizations to increase their information processing capability. However, other, more organizational tools are also at their disposal for processing more information. These include task forces, lateral relationships, self-contained work groups, and slack resources ( Galbraith 1973). Thus, the relationship between IT and organizational structures is not a simple one.

However, the relationship between IT and organizational structures is definitely a topic worthy of investigation for both academics and practitioners. Organizational structure is one of the key variables affecting how firms' strategies are implemented ( Chandler 1962). Thus, an appropriate organizational structure is critical in achieving performance. In addition, an organization's structure and established routines are one form of organizational memory. Thus, structure is a critical factor not only in what organizations learn, but how this information and/or knowledge is retained. Increasingly, as the ability of a firm to compete is based on its ability to learn ( Senge 1990), then the issue of appropriate organizational structure assumes even greater importance, and to the extent that IT impacts this, or enables new organizational arrangements, then this too must be understood.

The purpose of this chapter is to explore different perspectives on the

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