The impact of information technology will have significant effects on the structure, management and function of most organisations. It demands new patterns of work organisation and effects individual jobs, the structure of groups and teams, the nature of supervision and managerial roles. Information technology results in changes to lines of command, authority and the need for reconstructing the organisation structure and attention to job design. Computer based information and decision support systems influence choices in design of production or service activities, hierarchical structures and organisations of support staffs. Information technology may influence the centralization or decentralization of decision making and control systems. New technology has resulted in a flatter organisational structure with fewer levels of management required. In the case of new office technology it allows the potential for staff at clerical/operator level to carry out a wider range of functions and to check their own work. The result is a change in the traditional supervisory function and a demand for fewer supervisors and resources.
Processes of communication have been increasingly limited to computer systems with the rapid transmission of information and immediate access to their national or international offices. Improvements in telecommunications mean for example that support staff need no longer be located within the main production units. Changes brought by IT means that individuals may work more on their own, from their personal work stations or even from their own homes, or work more with machines than with other people. One person may be capable of carrying out a wider range of activities.
There are changes in the nature of supervision and the traditional hierarchical structure of jobs and responsibilities. Computer based information and decision support systems provide additional dimensions of structural design. They affect choices such as division of work, individual tasks and responsibility. New digital IT enables firms to track shifts in customer choices much more rapidly and effectively. Technological advances in office equipment’s have enabled organizations to improve operating efficiencies, improve communications, reduce costs, increase their global presence, and gain competitive advantage through the implementation of information technology systems.
Recent trends in workforce management by implementing Information technology changes business processes and structures at all levels. It enables previously separated tasks to be reoriented within the firms. Supporting information systems designed to reduce process time are introduced in all functional departments. New organizational concepts have been developed to reduce the number of hierarchical layers and to introduce more numerical and qualitative flexibility for the employees.
One of the greatest advantage brought by new technology is that the implementation of IT will change the business structure and creates more opportunities for employees and management. Business structure represent how people interact with each other, how communication flows, and how power relationships are defined. Organizations with hierarchical structure, tightly controlled, not participative are uniform and restricted. All decision-making is based on formal lines of management position. These organizations are reluctant to adapt and emphasize formally established procedures. Superiors make decisions with minimum consultation and involvement of subordinates and through sophisticated control systems and the like-hood of poor information flow is maximized. Information system has enabled most of the organisations to redesign their structure and have a flatten structure which are characterized by open channels of communication, flexibility and decentralization of authority and smooth flow of information. Their operational styles vary freely, and decision-making is based on the expertise of the individual. They have loose, informal control with emphasis on a norm of cooperation. Participation and group consensus are highly encouraged. Moreover it gives employees more control over their job and less supervisor and management is required.
The introduction of IT undoubtedly transforms significantly the nature of work and employment conditions for staff. Advances in technical knowledge tend to develop at a faster rate than, and in isolation from, consideration of related human and social consequences. Research is now being conducted into possible health hazards such as eyestrain, backache, general fatigue and irritability for operators of visual display units. This concern has prompted proposals for recommended working practices for VDU operators. The trade union congress has call for regular health checks and eyesight tests for operators and a 20-minute break every two hours. Failure to match technical change to the concomitant human and social considerations means, that staff may become resentful, suspicious and defensive. People’s cognitive limitations, and their uncertainties and fears, may result in a reluctance to accept change. The psychological and social implications of technical change, such as information technology and increased automation, must not be underestimated. New ideas and innovations should not be seen by members of staff as threats. The manager has to balance the need for adaptability in meeting opportunities by new technology with an atmosphere of stability and concern for the interests of staff. The manner in which technical change is introduced into the organisation will influence peoples attitude towards work, the behavior of individuals and groups, and their level of performance. Continued technical change is inevitable and likely to develop at even greater rate. Managers must be responsive to such change. IT and automation create a demanding challenge. The systems nature of organisations emphasizes the interrelationships among the major variables or sub systems of the organisations. The implementation and management of technological change needs to be related to its effect on the task, the structure and the people. It is important to avoid destructive conflict, alienating staff including managerial colleagues, or evoking the anger and opposition of unions. At the same time, it is important to avoid incurring increasing costs or a lower level of organisational performance caused by delays in the successful implementation of new technology. What needs to be considered is the impact of technical change on the design of the work organisation, and the attitudes and behavior of staff. It will be necessary for managers and supervisors to develop more agile skills in organisation. This calls for the effective management of human resources and a style of managerial behavior, which helps to minimize the problems of technical change. New forms of work alter the conditions of work and employment, especially telecommuting, globalization, outsourcing, and off-shoring activities.
Another technological advances is that in electronic communication may continue to decrease the need for traditional office setting while increasing the number of telecommuters. New digital technology is decreasing direct face-to-face communication between organizations, their suppliers, business partners, and their customers. Employees can benefit from becoming mobile, conducting business outside of the traditional office settings through the use of Personal Digital Assistants, cellular phones and laptop computers. Easier access to the Internet allowed more employees to become “telecommuters,” who conducted work-related activities either from their homes or from some other remote location.
Management could benefit from Collaboration technologies, which enables companies to conduct “virtual meetings” in the near future. In a virtual meeting, employees from remote locations conduct real-time meetings from their own computers using peer-to-peer software. Participants can see one another on computer screens, share computer space and make changes to product designs or contract documents via a “virtual whiteboard.”
IT also has been seen as one of the most significant forces of modernization, Companies which implement the information technology system should consider the importance of IT infrastructure which is a shared information delivery base, the business functionality. The overall IT infrastructure comprises the computer and communication technologies and the shareable technical platforms and databases. The infrastructure underpins a firm’s competitive position by enabling initiatives such as cycle time improvement, cross-functional processes, and cross-selling opportunities.
New technology results in time efficiency savings, greater volumes handled, at greater speeds, with fewer resources. Technology has created remarkable new opportunities to eliminate administrative overhead and transform the HR department into a strategic partner. It also has served up vexing challenges, ranging from cost and maintenance issues to how to use computers and software effectively.
Yet each of these actually creates more pressure on the people within the organisation. They have to deal with the increased volumes and competitive pressures that technology creates. This problem is compounded by the fact that “fewer resources” is a euphemism for less people. Such organisational downsizing inevitably means greater responsibility devolving on those that remain, thus the greater the role of technology, the more important people become.
The new organisational forms confirms the increasing importance of people within the organisation, but it also illustrates how the actions or decisions of any individual can have a significant impact on organisational performance. In a 24/7 digital age where speed is a major element of competition, decisions have to be made instantly and cannot be passed up a bureaucratic, management hierarchy. The consequences of a wrong decision, say a mistake by the lowest computer programmer, can impact the organisation just as severely as a strategic error by executive management. Align with the new digital technology the need for increased security procedures, workforce management and motivation, and managing budgetary costs in an ever-changing technology-driven marketplace is desirable.
As mentioned above the workforce will conduct business out of a non-traditional office setting at an increasing rate. Employees will continue to become more mobile, operating from remote locations via electronic means. In order to stay competitive in an ever-changing, technology-driven business environment, managers must frequently consider how information technology aligns with their overall strategy.