This report offers a critical analysis of the article ‘A Techno-cultural Emergence Perspective on the Management of Techno-change’ written by Stephen Jackson and George Philip.
The principal purpose of this analysis is to identify and criticise the original contribution of the authors in the study, to discover any deficiencies in the proposed perspective, to propose any improvements and to look for any future research in this field. A brief overview is provided at the first. Part II, III and IV outline the definition of techno-change, importance of techno-change and techno-cultural emergence perspective. This is followed by the comment on originality and contributions; adopted research method, its’ appropriateness and limitations; and theoretical argument made by the study in Part V, VI and VII respectively. Key findings and their implications are provided in Part VIII. Finally, Part IX and X provide the deficiencies of the study and some recommendations for future research in this field.
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I. ABOUT THE ARTICLE
The article in press, ‘A techno-cultural perspective on the management of techno-change’, published in the International Journal of Information Management in 2010 by Stephen Jackson and George Philip, explores the function of culture in the management of techno-change or technological change applying Cultural Theory originated from Anthropology as a hypothetical lens. The current three foremost viewpoints on organisation culture in relation to the management of technological changes namely – technological determinism, cultural determinism and techno-cultural emergence, have been examined in this paper. The innermost precept of this article as proposed by the authors is that first two of the three approaches – the technological determinism which pays less importance on the organisational culture and cultural determinism which provides few thoughts on the technology would not be appropriately thriving in the technological change management arena; rather the authors put emphasis on the techno-cultural emergence approach in the facilitating contours of hierarchism, individualism/market and egalitarianism that promotes an atmosphere which can effectively manage the technological changes.
II. WHAT IS TECHNO-CHANGE?
The phrase ‘Techno-change’ relates to the organisational changes for technological drives and encompasses a wide variety of features that are connected to and have effects for the changes contained by the organisations (Harison and Boonstra, 2009). When organisations adopt pristine technology which usually prompts or necessitates focal organizational changes, we can call it as ‘Techno-change’ or technological change (Nilsson, 2008). The term Techno-change was first conceived by Markus in ‘Technochange Management: Using IT to drive organisational change’ in 2004 (Markus, 2004) and from then the term ‘techno-change’ has been widely applied in the technological and project management field along with various organisational circumstances.
TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM: Technological determinism theory presumes that technological changes will drive cultural changes and social structure as well (Chandler, 2000). According to Chandler (2000), technological determinists usually try to account for nearly the whole thing in relation to technology: a perception is termed as ‘technocentrism’.
CULTURAL DETERMINISM: Cultural determinism theory assumes that only culture determines our emotional and behavioural level. The supporters of cultural determinism view that culture is restricted, permanent, unitary and immobile over time (Jackson and Philip, 2005).
III. IMPORTANCE OF TECHNO-CHANGE
Now-a-days, techno-change is a critical incident and it is getting highly equal attention from both the profit and non-profit organisations (Harison and Boonstra, 2009). As innovations have been deluging in all aspects of businesses for the last couple of decades, the increasing introduction and implementation of large-scale information systems like the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems in business firms as well as higher education providing institutions have become a common phenomena (Chae and Lanzara, 2006; Harison and Boonstra, 2009).
Although these wide spread applications of techno-changes, industry data revel that techno-change has high propensity to failure (Chae and Lanzara, 2006).
A recent study by the Computer Associates (CA) in 2007 in the UK and Ireland reveals cheap visibility about the importance of IT projects and less management control over the project are costing more than £256 million in the UK every year and one third of all the projects run-over of their actual budget by 10% – 20% (CA, 2007).
The KPMG (2005) survey of 600 organisations in twenty-two countries show approximately 50% of the participants experience at least one project failure in 2004 whereas KPMG’s 2003 survey reveals 57% of the respondents had one or more IT projects failure in 2002 (KMGP, 2005)
The Robbins-Gioia Survey in 2001 also states that 51% ERP implementations are unsuccessful (Basu, 2001). According to IT Cortex (available online: http://www.it-cortex.com/Stat_Failure_Rate.htm), the Conference Board Survey in 2001 also does not show happy results as only 34% ERP implementations are successful, 58% are moderate successful and 8% implementations are totally unsuccessful. The Chaos Report (1995) conducted by the Standish Group shows 31.1% IT projects are cancelled prior to their completion and 52.7% projects over run their original costs by 189%. The money spent on these collapses and overruns simply could be the apex of well-known iceberg. The gone opportunity cost could not be quantifiable but believed to be more than trillions of dollars in the USA only. According to the report, more than $250 billion are spent in the USA every year on nearly 175,000 IT based projects.
The above surveys outcomes substantiate that neglecting techno-change can cost considerable amount of money in terms of wastage and business failure.
IV. IMPORTANCE OF TECHNO-CULTURAL EMERGENCE PERSPECTIVE
The authors have proposed to employ and create a new perspective – the techno-cultural emergence perspective – to manage the techno-change. What are the logic and influences behind this new perspective?
According to Yates (2006), this emergent change is unanticipated and could be viewed as an opportunity rather than merely a hazard against the project. Equipped with resources, the actors could underpin and/or make way for the emergent change. The advantages and importance of this perspective is that it recognizes the unavoidability of unforeseen emergent and improvisation and admits those as possible optimistic events rather than a downbeat. As the authority of that project cannot always manage the change over the technology as is planned, they could employ resources to get benefit of the emergent development.
The techno-cultural emergence perspective also critically examines the intricate connections among social, technical and interpretative issues that continuously put pressure on organisational contexts (Jackson and Philip, 2005). In their earlier paper which was published in 2005, these two authors argued that the techno-cultural emergence perspective incorporates human, social, political factors and the processes of techno-change that are ignored by the other two perspectives.
V. ORIGINIALITY AND CONTRIBUTIONS
Hereby the critique report has made an attempt to evaluate the originality of the study by comparing other researchers’ contributions and studies. From the study it is quite apparent that the authors have followed the central theme of Cultural Theory proposed by Douglas (1970). Lots of studies and researches have been conducted in both technological determinism and cultural determinism and it seems none of the approaches are quite successful in the management of techno-change. The third approach, the techno-cultural emergence, which incorporates both the technology and organisation’s culture, works in both ways, focuses on the emergency and approaches in the incremental line for the change, has got very little attention and understanding from the researchers. The authors made an attempt to solve this problem incorporating Cultural Theory’s three cosmologies enabling forms (hierarchism, egalitarianism and individualism/market) in the techno-cultural emergence perspective. As organisations’ culture is complex, ambiguous and authoritative in nature (Heilpern and Nadler, 1992), it has become difficult to implement techno-change easily and the authors have argued that enabling forms of hierarchism (fosters visionary leadership and coordination), egalitarianism (fosters teamwork, mutual confidence and information sharing) and individualism/market (fosters imagination, motivation and novelty) will be successful in the techno-change management. The authors have made significant novel contribution by proposing the enabling forms of Cultural Theory’s three mechanisms for the effective management of techno-change.
Other researchers also mention about these three enabling forms of Cultural Theory for intranet, development of culture and inter-firm relations but none of them have proposed for the total management of techno-change by these three enabling forms.
For example, Ruppel and Harrington (2001) mention that flexibility and novelty (individualism/market); faith and interest for colleagues (egalitarianism); and strategies and knowledge management (hierarchism) will optimize intranet implementation (techno-change).
Hendriks (1999) argues the elimination of fatalism for the development of culture in the organisations.
Adler (2001) also shows three enabling mechanisms of Cultural Theory – market/price, hierarchy/authority, and community/trust – will improve inter-organisations’ relationship.
VI. RESEARCH METHOD, APPROPRIATENESS AND LIMITATIONS
The authors have implemented ‘Case Study’ and ‘Multiple Methods’, a part of Qualitative research method, for proposing the techno-change management by techno-cultural emergence perspective in the facilitating modes of hierarchism, egalitarianism and individualism/market.
According to Yin (1994, p 20), a case study research should have the following components:
ƒ˜ Development of research questions
ƒ˜ Development of propositions, if any
ƒ˜ The rationale connecting the data to the propositions
ƒ˜ The decisive factors for interpreting the findings.
The main research question was ‘how does Cultural Theory offer a novel insight for better consideration of techno-change and its successful management?’ Beside this, the authors raised another question which perspective(s)/cosmology(ies) would be suitable for proper management of techno-change.
The authors developed a fourth proposition.
The authors’ collected coded, constructed theories and conducted analysis through the use of multiple methods and software package (HyperResearch2.6).
As technological determinism (Case study A) and cultural determinism (Case study B) did not achieve the expected changes; were unsuccessful in context of change outcomes; did not respond to the unanticipated improvisations to the technology and did not address properly to the unanticipated cultural issues arose from the techno-changes as opposed to the techno-cultural determinism (Case study C), the authors built their rationale for the fourth proposition on the basis of these comparisons.
The decisive factors were enabling forms of Cultural Theory, namely – hierarchism, egalitarianism, and individual/market as proposed by Douglas (1970) for successful management of techno-change.
Stake (1995) and Yin (1994) recognized six bases for substantiation in the case study research method as illustrated in Tellis (1997) and these are:
a. Documents (internal documents were analysed)
b. Archival records (company literature were analysed)
c. Interviews (total 46 interviews were conducted)
d. Direct inspection (Gold’s  method was applied)
e. Users inspection (Gold’s  method was followed)
f. Physical artefacts (company blueprints were analysed)
The above discussion confirms the appropriateness of Case Study research method for this study. Overall, this type of research method has proved well-matched with the proposal as it provides the end to end analysis of the problem discussed and other researchers like Myers (1997) also supported case study research method in the IS field.
However, there could be some limitations also recognised in this study. It seems the authors have applied Grounded Theory (Myers, 1997) which examined the initial evolution of cultural issues in the three different cases. A ‘stage approach’ applying longitudinal or ethnographic method could be more useful in this type of research as both the methods examine the events and proceedings at every stage of techno-change life-cycle. As the project implementation periods were very lengthy in all the three cases, biasness of the participants could be a limitation in this study, which provided difficulties for the interviewees to recall the experiences throughout the project implementation period. Other researchers such as Orlikowski (1991) and Preston (1991) also support the use of ethnographic method in the IS field as illustrated in Myers (1997).
VII. THEORETICAL ARGUMENT
The authors proposed a techno-cultural emergence perspective to understand techno-change management, moving away from technological and cultural deterministic views of change, through the enabling forms of Cultural Theory proposed by Douglas (1970). According to Cultural Theory, individuals’ social situation can be identified by two principal dimensions – grid and group, ultimately produce four means of life (cosmology). The cosmologies are: fatalism, hierarchism, individualism/market and egalitarianism. Each way of life possesses facilitating/enabling and or constraining/impeding characteristics. Fatalism produces apathy and fear, thus, it is regarded as constraining form in the techno-change management. The enabling form of hierarchism inspires leadership and coordination; individualism/market inspires creativity, motivation and inventiveness; and egalitarianism inspires teamwork, confidence and information sharing. The authors in this study make a theoretical argument that because of technological determinism’s negligence in organisational culture and cultural determinism’s negligence in technology, these three cosmologies’ enabling forms will lead to successful management of techno-change. The authors claim that change should be viewed as continuous and emergent rather than planned and managers should take their endeavour to lessen constraining cultural attributes and construct such environment that will promote the enabling forms and as a result techno-change management can be done successfully. No research substantiation for this claim is clearly apparent in the study.
VIII. THE KEY FINDINGS AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS
Several important findings can be obtained from this study.
· A new perspective: Management should not follow top-down technological or cultural driven method for the successful implementation and management of techno-change. As an alternative, the authors proposed an incremental/evolutionary style along with continuous adjustments and improvements in culture and technology will lead successful techno-change management. Stakeholders in techno-change should keep in mind that change is an ongoing process and it is made up of uncertain, questionable and unavoidable issues of both the technology and culture.
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In terms of implications, this new strategy might be quite successful as both the technological and cultural determinism approaches have proved unsuccessful in the techno-change. This strategy might get higher success rate in the successful implementation of ERP which aims to get visibility on inventories around the world or placing ‘one face to the customer’ (Markus, 2004, p 14), on BPR (Business Process Redesign) or on various innovative and contemporary measurements and amendments in organisation structures. This strategy might be implemented in Supply Chain Management (SCM) as well which aims to address on the different productions and deliveries schedules, greater information sharing within the associated organisations and the ways of procurements.
· More attention on techno-change process: Much concentration is needed in the field of software vendor and contract; training and encouragement of participation of the users; data transfer; interface development, system testing and coverage.
In terms of implications, addressing these issues during the techno-change management process is vital. According to Markus (2004), although the management might know the need of a new system but might not be aware of huge variations between systems of the similar type recommended by various software vendors as well as the amount of flexibility around the software’s applications. She argues this superior awareness of the options will lead to successful techno-change. Sometimes, the management might decide to save money on software testing which can result buggy software, or on training of users which could result incompetent users who commit higher mistakes.
· Cultural issues: Organisations’ cultural issues must not be overlooked during the techno-change process. Constricting cultural cosmology must be minimised whereas facilitating cosmologies must be promoted within the organisations’ culture.
Markus (2004) argues that every techno-change brings out probable provocation from human reaction which we term as ‘resistance to change’ and any difference between the techno-change and organisation’s culture brings out conflict and chips in to ‘resistance’. She claims, because of their view to the devotion to the patients’ care, doctors and nurses usually resent those techno-changes which bring greater organizational competences. Individuals who like to work on their own might resent to the techno-changes which provide greater teamwork facilities. Markus (2004) also illustrates two national cultural misfits in the techno-change as well – because of lacking in ‘map culture’, geographical information system (GIS) is not greatly used in India whereas ERP system is rarely used in China because managers have little confidence in their subordinates regarding the access in the business data. So managers should promote coordination among users (hierarchism); teamwork and confidence among users (egalitarianism); and inventiveness, motivation and creativity (individualism/market) whereas managers should try to minimise any apathy and fear to techno-change (fatalism).
IX. DEFECIENCIES IN THE STUDY
1. The authors proposed perspective is totally based on Douglas’s (1970) Cultural Theory which is not away from criticisms as well. According to Caulkins (1999), the first drawback is the outline of this theory has not been done through comprehensive cross-cultural testing. He also proposed for further testing of this group-grid framework.
2. From the study, it appears techno-change and IT projects are the same although there is substantial difference in between these two processes. According to Markus (2004) IT projects aim to improve technical performances whereas techno-change heavily affects the users such as people, process and organisation performance. She also argues that although both IT projects and techno-changes heavily rely on IT but IT projects bring organisations’ success through improved functionality, reliability and cost of technology with no considerable amendments in the organisations’ operations whereas techno-changes generally improve organisation’s outcome measurements considerably like the process efficiency and cycle time. The authors did not distinguish techno-changes and IT projects in the study.
3. There is no cross-case analysis for the same private sector enterprises. For example, the authors could select a retail business to compare with the business/technology solution provider. A further cross-case analysis could be done for public sector by including and analysing a health care service provider and a government organisation.
4. Case study research method is a multi-perspective analysis method (Tellis, 1997) which means the study does not count just the voice and perspectives of the actors but also needs to consider various relevant groups of actors and the relations among them. The cases in this study only considered actors within the organisations but ignored the external stake-holders and users like the students, customers and investors.
5. The proposition is not tested on different sectors like the NGOs and not-for-profit organisations.
6. The proposition is not tested on different countries’ culture as well. We can’t get any idea in which country/location this study was conducted. Different countries’ have different cultures and cultures vary for the locations as well, the disclosure of location/country of the study would provide some idea about the perception and successful management of techno-change in the same geographic location.
7. Insufficient information can lead inappropriate implications. For example, we can find none of the cases in this study reveal the actual cost or the total cost of the techno-change. As cost is a major consideration for implementing IS project or techno-change, the information on cost for the organisations could provide insight for other similar types of organisations.
8. Social, economic and environmental factors have not been analysed in the cases. None of the cases shows the social advantages, benefits or disadvantages of the employees/users for a techno-change. Economic benefits of the organisations have not been discussed. Every techno-change has impacts on its’ surrounding environment and that has not been mentioned anywhere in the study. A classic example was illustrated by Markus (2004) for Cigna. The firm launched its new CRM for the cost of $1 billion which ultimately laid off its’ customer service personnel department but the new system at the end could not handle 3.5 million customers’ complaints and eventually Cigna’s share price fell significantly.
9. The authors have not outlined how to implement emergence perspective throughout the organisations and the factors are needed to be considered while implementing it. The authors also have not mentioned how the organisations can create, support, maintain and promote the enabling forms and how organisations can avoid and discourage the constraining form.
11. The authors have not critically analysed the role of IT specialists and other internal staff specialists like the industrial engineering and strategic planners as they play vital roles in the implementation of techno-change (Markus, 2004). Besides the performances of organisational managers, internal and external change consultants and technology performances have not critically analysed in the study. The techno-change life cycle – chartering, the IT project, start-up and shakedown (Markus, 2004) – of the described three cases has not been properly stated as well.
12. According to the authors, an individuals’ membership in the cosmologies is not fixed or permanent and it is dynamic in nature. Our concern is possessing three cosmologies at the same time for an individual – cannot it create confusion, conflict and overlapping situations in the individuals’ which might impede the process of techno-change?
Action Research could be applied instead of Case Study research method as it is now attracting more attention for researchers (Myers, 1997). Although action research is generally ignored in information systems aside from some notable experiments, for example, Checkland (1991) as illustrated in Myers (1997).
Ethnographic research could be applied as it puts emphasis on social and cultural context. As ethnographic research encompasses a greater area including the study of the development of IS to the study features of IT management, multiple perspectives can be incorporated and has widely been used in the study of information systems (Myers, 1997), this type of research would be more accurate for the investigation and management of techno-change.
Cross-case analysis can be applied. This type of technique examines pairs of cases, categorizes resemblances and dissimilarities in each pair which will lead to a certain type of pattern which may provide specific support or evidence in the case studies (Tellis, 1997). Although this study compared only one pair of public enterprises, it ignored other cross-case analysis in the private sector.
Time and distance effects should be reduced as both of them affect the techno-change management (Markus, 2004). If we look at the Case B where TI/IS implementation time was 5 years (2001 – 2006) whereas Case A and C both took 2 years. This long period of implementation time could affect the users and members of IT/IS adversely where they may feel distant from the organisations and the ongoing operations of the organisations which might put question on the success of the techno-change.
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