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Introduction - Does e-business automate or informate?
Shonshana Zuboff's work does look at what might seems a dichotomy in what the 'smart machine' was expected to do and what it has done instead. It must be said however that there is no such dichotomy in the automation and informing role of computers. This posting asks some telling questions about what people originally thought would have happened with the introduction of computers and how the process seems to be reversing.
Evaluation of Postings
Overall it might seem like e-business has become like the automation process that was once the dream of those who earlier introduced computer systems to various business and commerce process. In fact IBM's e-business Process Automation, suggests that their processes automates while tracking progression to enable fast delivery of result (IBM, 2000). The point regarding enriching people's work experience is well argued because instead of the machine that would have led to everyone being made redundant, it has become a machine that has created new jobs. It is also true as stated in the posting that it has reduce costs and improve efficiency.
According to Kelly (2000) doing business in the electronic environment creates competitive advantage while at the same time creating an effective business. This effectiveness is gained through automation and integration (Kelly, 2000) and competitive advantage is gained through the use of ICT structure that provides an opportunity to adapt and modify to the needs of one's business. Although this adaption process may lead to changes in the skill required, the use of 'low-skilled' in this posting suggests or connote that automation deskill people which is not necessarily true. What is true is that previous skill level required in manning processes that were not automated need less of the skills needed when automation had not been achieved. A research by Saleh and Hastings at the University of Waterloo in Canada show that what this posting has mentioned is a very complex subject.
Saleh and Hastings (2010) show that where automation has taken place, worker with direct operator status had reduced skill with their number reducing considerably compared to a traditional setting, while workers without direct operator status continue to have higher skills and their number increased. Saleh and Hastings also show that maintenance staff in these automated facilities had increased skills as a result of the machines used to carry out the automation processes (Saleh and Hastings, 2010). It shows therefore that the postings argument regarding 'low-skilled' needs further definition given the fact that it might be interpreted in a way that may not necessarily fit the role and skill levels of those in this category of labour.
This study agrees with previous study by Leontief and Faye (1984) which indicated that where automation had taken place, labour had reduced by about 10%. This study indicated that the impact of the automation of labour does not affect all areas in the same way but in different ways. It does however emphasise that there is usually an increase in the number of professionals as a ratio of the labour force requirement of the automated process. It is therefore as stated earlier a complex subject in which the notion of redundancy and skilled or low-skilled workers has to be discussed relative to the specific profession. In other words there is not a clear demarcation between what the posting author called 'automation' and 'informating'.
It should be noted that although the author uses e-business and this is interchangeably used with e-commerce, there is a clear distinction between the two according to Andam (2003). While e-business involves transaction between businesses and its customers as people, e-commerce refers to transaction between one business and another. The interchangeable use of words can sometimes mean that their precise meanings are not punctuated clearly.
It should also be noteworthy that the author of the posting mentioned the frustration among those who not having lots of knowledge about the workings of the computer processes have to use it as a tool to do their work and how if it does not work can lead to a feelings of helplessness. According to Prieger and Heil (2009), the adoption of e-business has had an considerable impact on the way firms perform as well as the economic welfare of stakeholders such as customers and employees.
It can be said that the posting on e-business does raise very salient points on the beginning and future of the concept, but some of the idea regarding automation needed additional thought as they are not are very complex issues.
- IBM (2000) E-Business Process Automation: IBM MQSeries Workflow - Adaptive Business Middleware that Helps Accelerate Delivery, Integration and Change, IBM Corporation, UK
- Saleh, S. D. and Hastings, B. R. (2010) 'The Impact of Integrated Automation and Robotics on Plant Activities' Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 42 - 50
- Leontief, W. And Duchin, F. (1984) The Impact of Automation on Employment, 1963 - 2000, Institute for Economic Analysis, New York University
- Kelly, D. (2000) Effectiveness Means e-Business Success, A ZDNet Tech Community
- Andam, Z. R. (2003) E-Commerce and E-Business, e-Asian Task Force, UNDP- APDIP
- Prieger, J. E. and Heil, D. (2009) The Microeconomic Impacts of E-Business on the Economy, Pepperdine University - School of Public Policy, California