Information management in professional organisations: Alternative approaches to the application of information systems in professional organisations

Boonstra, Albert (1995) Information management in professional organisations: Alternative approaches to the application of information systems in professional organisations. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This research aims to examine the influence of the use of information technology on professional organisations and to identify which policies could be followed by the management of such organisations to apply information systems. Traditional approaches to information technology assume that organisations operate as 'machine bureaucracies' - a top down management style, standardisation of work processes and a high level of interdependency amongst departments. Such assumptions are not relevant to professional organisations. In these organisations professionals perform and control the primary process of the organisation in close interaction with their clients and with a high level of autonomy. With the rise of computers and information technology, such organisations are confronted with the question of how to apply this technology, since conventional models may not be appropriate. The strategy used to accomplish the research objectives was the case study methodology, complemented by a literature study. Two hospitals were chosen as case sites, since hospitals are generally perceived as typical examples of professional organisations which make intensive use of information technology. Interviews and conversations with personnel, observations and hospital documents were the main sources for the case studies. This research indicates that four general strategies can be followed which are captured in a model which is developed throughout this study namely the Professional - Heteronomy model. First, information technology can be utilised by making the support activities more efficient, e.g. by using computers for administration and other office activities, without affecting the professionals directly with such technology [this may imply that professionals develop and use their own information systems relatively autonomously]. Second, information technology can be used for the direct support of professional activities. In this case, the primary goal is to motivate professionals and to help them to improve their work and their level of professionalisation. A third direction might be to use this technology with the objective of substituting professionals by computers, thus reducing the number of professionals needed. Cutting costs or improving services are management motives for introducing such a policy. The fourth direction is to use information technology for management support. This can be practised by deriving management information from data gathered from the primary process. The management may obtain the information to manage and to control the organisation in a more direct and tight way through these systems. A major conclusion is that the states of computing management model (Kraemer et al., 1989) is a useful framework to categorise the state of computing in professional organisations, as well as being a tool to model changes of these states. The study proposes some adaptations to this model in order to make it more refined: in the adapted version the model can reflect several states at the same time. This will be a more realistic representation of computing in many cases. This study also observed in both case study sites what we term multiformity in computing: in other words, various actors influenced decision making with respect to information systems in apparently contrasting ways. The study proposes that a more conscious management of 'multiform computing' may be a more realistic alternative to the uniform approaches which are common.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: David Boddy
Keywords: Management, Information technology
Date of Award: 1995
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1995-71684
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:31
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 09:31
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71684

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