From partial or total ignorance of the human

From the huge mainframe computers manufactured by the ‘Big Blue’ to the ‘Amazon Mechanical Turk of Cloud Computing’ Era, Information Systems (IS) have profoundly changed the business landscape, even more, companies have been forced to arm themselves with strategic and managerial plans, where information management takes a central position. Considered as essential in the 21st century, information became a resource, linked to the performance objectives set within an organization.

 

IS has been considered for a long time as a computerized process (Mylopoulus 1995), which seems too restrictive and goes against the premise of the systemic approach that presents the IS as part of a larger system defined as “… a set of people, procedures, and resources that collect, transform and distribute information within an organization “(O’Brien 2011), this definition emphasizes the fact that, in essence, the IS does not need to be equipped with IT.

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The contours of the implementation of an IS cannot be limited to the technical and mechanical description. Indeed, it seems important to understand the impact ISs will have on the organization-wide culture, as well as on the level of the subcultures that constitute it, given that one of the difficulties observed in the implementation of IS lies in the partial or total ignorance of the human dimension (Li, 1997), also it’s necessary for the management to adopt social consideration through organizational-control-systems, depending on whether technological changes determine social changes (Technological Determinism) or technological changes are explained by social causes (Social Constructivism) (Scot, from Winner, L., 1993).

To this end, building a culture of change will achieve this goal. According to KANSAL (2006), the constraints of an IS implementation fall into five categories: technical, organizational, human, financial and time-related.

 

First, it’s necessary to create an organizational structure appropriate to the implementation of the IS, called business processes re-engineering. The company needs to reorganize some processes deemed key to the organization before and while implementing the IS, otherwise, it will be deemed to failure, or worse, bankruptcy. FoxMeyer, for example, saw itself being driven into oblivion after being the 5th largest pharmaceutical distributor in the US, all due to a lack of restructuring of the operational process, and a lack of commitment from management.

 

KANSAL (2006) also notes that underestimation of the time required to implement the IS is very common, for example, poorly estimated consulting, training periods can cause delays and additional costs. According to a study made by The Standish Group in 1994, only 16% of the projects are successful (completed on time and according to the budget and the product offers all the planned features). 31% end in failure (abandoned before the end). More than half, 53%, terminate by exceeding the time, budget, or both, and provide results that do not include all the features that were originally specified.

 

And finally, the cultural dimension that plays an important role. For (Bernoux 2010), the success of any change involves giving employees a real role and an opportunity to influence that change. Indeed, the changes become acceptable only if the performers understand its interest.

Findings related to culture can be divided into two streams. The first current defines culture as something tacit that evolves naturally that can be mental and subconscious (Allaire and Firsirotu, 1992, p.5). The second current affirms that culture is something explicit that increases through social interaction (Schein, 1990).

 

Finally, and without pretending to exhaust the conceptualizations, G.Hofstede (1980), points-out that culture is what allows the members of a community, group or category of people to differentiate themselves from others. It groups a number of people conditioned by the same education and the same experiences. According to this approach, he proposes six dimensions: Power Distance, Individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, avoidance of uncertainty, long-term orientation / short-term orientation and indulgence/restraint, that all need to be considered while implementing an IS, every group or subgroup can be defined by a culture, national, regional, etc. According to Hofstede, on the long-term orientation dimension, Morocco strikes very low, as a normative society, change is seen as a threat, and is avoided even-though it might have a positive outcome, while UK is more of a pragmatic society, known to be ‘muddling through’ any situation they are exposed to.

 

In the same way, Hofstede defines Organizational Culture (OC) as “collective mental programming that distinguishes the members of one organization from those of another.”, this makes the OC an essential element that management needs to focus on, mainly because people represent one of the components of any SI. Therefore, people play an important role that should be considered when implementing an IS since their behavior will be key determining its success or failure.

 

Laudon & Laudon (2000) state that when an IS is implemented in an organization, certain cultural resistance to the new situation can be detected because any change threatens to alter the existing distribution (French 1996), even though these are perceived as positive for the organization as a whole. (Deal 1982).

When a company considers implementing the IS, three types of fundamental variables need to be handled:

–    Economic, for example, reduction of general and operational costs, improvement of efficiency and efficiency in the processes, etc.

–    Variables referred to the way of carrying-out the work, referring to the elimination of some processes, the appearance of new ones, the streamlining of tasks, etc.

–    Variables of an emotional nature, related to fear, anxiety, consequences that the new work habits can have, or users may resist those changes because they believe they’ll harm their interests.

Otherwise, if the use of a system is voluntary, users could decide to avoid it; if its use is mandatory, the resistance will take the form of an increase in the frequency of errors, alterations, personnel turnover and even sabotage. Therefore, the strategy of implementing an IS shouldn’t only encourage the participation and interest of users but should also resolve the problem of counter-implementation, through adopting an enabling hierarchism, that will provide a top-down support from leaders, resulting in the reinforcement of the ‘change’ in the dominant culture and enhance IS efficiency.

 

Cash, McFarlan & McKenney (1989) argue that success of an IS implementation occurs only when people change their way of thinking, and without this change of mentality there is too often a technical success, but a management failure, probably because, no proper training has been inducted, or the communication means are obsolete, which is typical in a constraining hierarchism, where no adequate support from leaders is provided.

 

Organizations are complex structures (Katz y Kahn, 1977), where several types of cultures and subcultures can be found. These are the product of the integration of different cultures from the business reality such as external cultures that come from the environment and the internal subcultures or microcultures of the different groups that construct the organization (Navas & Guerras, 1996) (Martin and Shiehl (1983). These authors also point-out that it’s possible to speak of a dominant culture and several subcultures, where the former expresses the essential values that are shared by the majority of the members of the organization, while the latter can be formed as a consequence of belonging to the same department, section, etc. Van Mannen (1975, 1978) and Sackman (2011).

 

In this sense, Pronto (1996) from Chaparro (1996) suggests that one of the biggest reasons for the failure of IS implementation is due to the cultural gap that exists in an organization between those who develop the system and those who actually use it, and raises that for the IS to succeed, the new organic structures must adopt a position of shared culture or a “good coexistence” between the implementers and the users.

 

Ultimately, for the successful implementation of the IS, it’s necessary to clearly adopt an organizational-control-system responsible for defining, executing and controlling all aspects involved in the IS-implementation.

 

“Management control is the process by which managers influence other members of the organization to implement the organization’s strategies” (Anthony, 1988), the expanded nature of this definition is at the origin of proposals for multiple analysis. Ouchi (1979), Hofstede (1981), Macintosh (1994), Chiapello (1996).

 

According to Bernoux, an organization that is not stifled by procedures, rules, and hierarchy will be more inclined to succeed the planned change, while in some cases, traditional approach of control based on the sequence: control – sanction can provide the expected returns.

 

For this reason, Ouchi suggests that we can control behaviors and results, and proposes a third mode, Clan Control (CC), that overcomes the inadequacies of the two in certain situations. It’s a mode of control by socialization, aligning the interests of individuals with those of the organization (Langevin and Naro 2003)

 

CC is often opposed to bureaucratic control; if behavioral control is characterized by a high degree of formalization, CC is based on internalization and a moral commitment to norms and way of doing things within the organization. This control is suitable for organizations whose objectives and values are well-defined but whose operation is complex, it’s used to promote mutual supervision (social control), and it’s a powerful lever on individuals who deviate from the norms and values of the group (Merchant Van der Stede (2007, p. 85))

 

On the other hand, when the technology is perfectly mastered, it’s possible to use behavioral controls. If they comply with the recommendations, the results will be in-line with expectations. The specification of rules of behavior entails setting-up a bureaucratic control mechanism.

 

For example, to control the activity of a shop, it’s impossible to write the rules determining a maximum sales code. On the other hand, monitoring sales-margins and the rotation of the stock makes it possible to follow the activity effectively; it’s a control by production/behavior. It’s also a bureaucratic system in which the supervisor follows the different indicators for each salesperson and uses his/her authority to correct the differences.

 

Apollo Launch program is a particular case since its results are measurable (success or failure of the operation) and the process is perfectly known. There is, therefore, a choice between behavioral or output controls. However, the cost of failure would be so high that it’s better to opt for behavioral control, which translates into hundreds of controllers following the process step-by-step, for this reason, the magnitude and size of the organisation is a key factor in the selection of the control system, as in this case, the output control is not relevant since the “final results” of an IS implementation can only be learned after a long while or after huge losses.

 

Besides control-systems, Henderson and Venkatraman (1993) introduced the notion of strategic-alignment that clearly explained the links between business-strategy and organizational-structure, and a no-alignment can lead to inefficiencies, a deterioration in performance and a loss of effectiveness in achieving objectives.

The consequence of these thoughts has prompted management to create techniques designed to “cultivate” beliefs, and values that can mobilize behaviors aligned with organizational strategies.

De Pablos et al. (2001) state that when it comes to avoiding resistance of the implementation of the IS, it’s interesting to consider a set of strategies such as training of users, participation of individuals in the development process, creation and revision of organization policies related to IS. It’s fundamentally about developing a culture favorable to change.

These authors propose to use the model of change in three stages of Kurt Lewin, to indicate that among the actions that are used to avoid resistance, the following stand-out:

    * Unfreeze: it consists in preparing the organization for the acceptance of the change, increasing the receptivity to the new system while trying to anticipate the uncertainty that has to do with the critical aspects of it.

    * Introduce the change: it consists of implementing the change effectively, offering the appropriate reasons for each new action. It includes user training and conversion to the new system.

    * Consolidate and re-freeze: it means reinforcing the new system once the change is introduced so that the organization finds its equilibrium as soon as possible.

 

In conclusion, it’s necessary, first, to question the interest of implementing an IS, because it represents a heavy investment and the company mustn’t implement one only to imitate its competitors. It must define a market pool and question for what end the should implement the IS, is it for customers? For Staff? For the board managers? , and what the IS will bring to its operation, its organization and its employees.

The success of the IS implementation depends on two factors, first, on the talent and aptitude of the management “to change the motor culture of the company in time and in accordance with the strategies, structures, and formal systems” (Allaire and Firsirotu, 1992, p. 163) and second, consider the cultural aspects, study the existing culture and subcultures, in order to know in advance if there will be any problems with the new IS. This will allow defining in advance what should be the paths to follow to face such a situation, either to adapt, as far as possible, the SI to the culture of the organization or to minimize possible resistance.