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For the organisation


Information Systems Development 3 (SHAPE HK)
                    Lecture 15
      Organisations and Information Systems
         Organisations: A functional view

Why do organisations exist?
Because they are more productive than the same number
  of people working individually.
But …
… only if they are organised!
What does being organised imply?
• Common goals and purposes
• Division of labour - leads to delegation - structure
• Coordination and control - leads to process
        What do information systems
            do to support this?
• They break down the organisation’s goals into
  individual and local goals
• They enable communication and coordination
  between different parts of the organisation
• They provide information on performance to ensure
  that targets are met and to identify problem areas

                                    Strategic Level

                                    Tactical Level

                                    Operational Level
              One way of viewing organisations
• Strategic level
   Relates the organisation to the environment
   Sets overall goals
   Medium / long term horizon
• Tactical level
   Interprets organisation’s operational level
   Coordinates operational level
   Medium / short term horizon
• Operational level
   Performs the primary task
   Short term horizon
*In small organisations people may function on more than one level
         Information flows in organisations
• Vertical – “downwards”
   Departmental goals and budgets
   Individual instructions and targets
• Vertical – “upwards”
   Exception reports
• Horizontal
   Between functional areas such as
      sales and production
      purchasing and stock control
      An alternative view of organisations

• Environmental – Information flows into and out of the
  organisation as well as within it
   – Strategic level – economic trends, market research
   – Tactical level – contracts with customers and suppliers
   – Operational level – orders, invoices, catalogues

   * So far we have taken a very formal view of
     organisations – it needs to be modified!
             Organisations: A social view

A social view focuses on the people in organisations.
• “Functionalist” view of people
    – Individual is a “component of a machine”
    – Has a clearly defined role
    – Carries out unambiguous instructions
• “Social” view of people
    – People in organisations retain their human
      characteristics – complex, meaning generating, have
      personal goals etc. … and this has a variety of effects
      (non-trivial) on how organisations work
                     Political view

• Organisations are places where people seek to further
  their careers

• People may form coalitions or interest groups – to
  compete for resources e.g.
   – management v. workers
   – sales v. finance

• People may have loyalties outside the organisation
   – e.g. parents, politics, religion
                     Social view

• Organisations have a “culture” (rigid, loose,
  authoritarian, informal etc.)

• People form human “relationships” (likes, dislikes

• People seek “social fulfilment” within the
                  Human limitations

• Can’t predict the consequences of their actions – there
  may be a “knock on effect”
• Can only cope with limited amount of information
• Can only handle limited complexity in roles

E.g. One person may have many roles, the roles may conflict,
   they may be unclear they may be interdependent
               Objective v. Subjective
People do not always see the same thing in the same way –
  depends on your “worldview” or “weltanschauung”

• Objective – there is a real world out there – people may
  disagree about what it constitutes but there is a
  underlying reality that is “real” which can/must be

• Subjective – we use our senses to perceive the world –
  but put our own interpretation on what we see

• In organisations people interpret information and events
  and assign meanings to them
Possible implications of the social view of organizations
  Organizations are by definition “social” – without the
  activity of people they could not exist – this will imply ...
 • For the organisation
    – impaired / improved delegation
    – impaired / improved coordination, communication
    – impaired / improved feedback
 • For the use of I.T.
    – I.T. changes will always have political implications
       causing (either/both) positive/negative effects e.g. lack
       of honest cooperation and/or user resistance or better
       cooperation and/or more user participation/motivation
    – Computer based information systems should attempt to
       meet the needs of the organisation – both social and
              Extending Images of organisation

Gareth Morgan offers these metaphors or images of
• Organisation as machine (classical management theory)
• Organisation as organism (classical systems view)
• Organisation as brain (developed systems view, information processing)
• Organisation as culture (anthropological , working lives)
• Organisation as polity (focus on interests, power, negotiation)
• Organisation as psychic prison (people trapped in their own creation)
• Organisation as flux and transformation (change natural, stability
• Organisation as instrument of domination (damage and exploitation)
     Perspectives on technological change in
• Unitary – organisation as a team with shared interests
  and goals

• Technocratic – new technology inevitable and virtuous

• Pluralistic – need to negotiate cooperation between
  different interests

• Radical – factional struggle for control over resources

• Augmentative – technology tends to reinforce existing
  power distribution
A merged view of information systems
                       Key points

• This is not a view of a “bad” or “faulty” organisation
  rather it is part of the human condition. We can hope to
  cope, we cannot cure!
• Human aspects do benefit the organisation – can adjust
  to changing situations, can innovate – not all good ideas
  come from the top
• Both the functional and the social view are required to
  gain an adequate understanding of the organization …
  but organizations are open systems which are changing
  constantly as is their environment - so our understanding
  will always be incomplete

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