This essay discusses the impact of information technology on managers. Information technology creates new ways for managers to control employees (Attewell, 1987). Information technology that computerizes work is intended to decrease costs by reducing both the amount of human effort required and the amount of variance in a process.
One common denominator of much of the literature on knowledge management is the conceptualization of organizations as aggregations of knowledge stocks and knowledge stream. Hansen et al. (1999) build on the distinction between stocks and flows by arguing that firms with routine outputs should pursue a codification strategy that focuses on building repositories of codified knowledge or knowledge stocks, whereas firms with non-routine outputs should follow a personalization strategy that promotes knowledge sharing through person-to-person contact (knowledge flows). Information technology can support both of these strategies; such systems have become communally known as knowledge management systems (Alavi and Leidner, 2001).
Information technology creates new ways for managers to control employees (Attewell, 1987). Information technology that computerizes work is intended to decrease costs by reducing both the amount of human effort required and the amount of variance in a process. Zuboff (1985, 1988) discusses the impact of advanced technology on automation, describing how technology that uses microchips generates new information about the process being automated.
Zuboff (1988) contends that managers can choose to use the information generated through automation to decrease the level of skills required in jobs and tighten control over workers, or to expand jobs, empower employees and augment human labor. Information increases the intellectual content of work, whereas simply automating tends to fragment and routinize work, and even eliminate jobs.
Zuboff’s analysis rests on the question of what one does with the information that is a by-product of advanced technology. Information about an employee’s performance can be used as a mechanism to further managerial power through improved monitoring of employees. However, when managers choose not to increase control in this way, Zuboff (1985) state that work process can:
. . Serve as the catalyst for significant improvement and innovation in the production and delivery of goods and services, thus strengthening the competitive position of the firm.
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