Technology in Modern Organizations
This article will explore how new technologies are reshaping work processes and relationships in the modern organization. Understanding the ways in which technology is transforming the workplace in modern organizations is vital background for all those interested in the sociology of social interaction in groups and organizations. This article explores the use of technology in modern organizations in three parts: (1) an overview of the factors influencing the adoption of new technology by modern organizations; (2) a description of the practices, including telecommuting, outsourcing, offshoring, employee surveillance, e-commerce, technology management, and technical standards, that result from the adoption of new technology by modern organizations; and (3) a discussion of the issues associated with technology use and innovation in modern organizations.
Keywords E-Commerce; Employee Surveillance; Globalization; Information Society; Information Technology; Innovation; Offshoring; Organizations; Outsourcing; Technical Change; Telecommuting
Social Interaction in Groups
Modern technology is reshaping the workplace. Modern organizations use technology to enhance employee productivity, profitability, and reputation. New forms of technology have facilitated new workflows and processes in modern organizations. For instance, information technology, such as the Internet, has facilitated telecommuting and offshoring practices. Technology affects the success and growth of modern organizations. Historical examples of technologies that changed organizational practices include the nineteenth-century railroad and twentieth-century mass production manufacturing technologies. In the 1990s, new information and communication technologies began a revolution with new organizational structures, products, services, business models, and economic markets. Information and knowledge have become both the means and the product of many businesses around the world. The Internet and its related communication technologies are a driving force in shaping and operating organizations worldwide.
This article focuses on technology in modern organizations. In particular, the article will explore how new technologies are reshaping work processes and relationships modern organization. This article explores the use of technology in modern organizations in three parts:
(1) An overview of the factors influencing the adoption of new technology by modern organizations;
(2) A description of the practices, including telecommuting, outsourcing, offshoring, employee surveillance, e-commerce, technology management, and technical standards, that result from the adoption of new technology by modern organizations; and
(3) A discussion of the issues associated with technology use and innovation in modern organizations.
Understanding the ways in which technology is transforming work practices in modern organizations is vital background for all those interested in the sociology of social interaction in groups and organizations.
Factors Influencing the Adoption of New Technology by Modern Organizations
An organization's adoption of new technologies, such as the Internet, is dependent upon numerous factors including organizational characteristics, market, social structure, and global forces. For instance, financial organizations, such as banks and investment firms, are more likely than other types of organizations to adopt new forms of Internet-based technology. Organizational leaders with backgrounds in engineering and science are more likely than leaders with other types of backgrounds to incorporate information technology into their organizations. Organizations with a significant number of employees with college degrees tend to adopt Internet-based technologies as they become available (Guthrie, 1999).
In addition to organizational characteristics, market, and social structure, the adoption of new technologies by modern organizations is strongly affected by the forces of globalization. Globalization is characterized by the permeability of traditional boundaries of nations, culture, and economic markets. The fundamental economic forces and events influencing globalization around the world include:
- The end of communism;
- The shift from an economy based on natural resources to one based on knowledge industries;
- Demographic shifts;
- The development of a global economy;
- Increased trade liberalization;
- Advances in communication technology; and
- Increased threat of global terrorism (Thurow, 1995).
Globalization creates a turbulent global sociopolitical environment characterized by competing political actors, shifting power relations, and politically driven changes in national economies around the world. Organizations work to find opportunity and profit within these political and economic shifts. In the early twenty-first century, modern organizations are adopting new technologies to remain competitive in the global market.
Society and technology are interrelated. Technology, which is influenced by social needs, attitudes, values, and beliefs, in turn creates social, political, and economic changes. In an information society, electronic information storage, processing, and retrieving have become ubiquitous across industries and sectors of society. New technologies, such as voice recognition software, wireless communications, virtual environments, and mobile devices, are altering personal and professional relationships. In modern organizations, new technologies are facilitating new work processes and relationships. The relatively new practices of telecommuting, outsourcing, offshoring, employee surveillance, e-commerce, technology management, and technical standards are examples of the ways in which new technology is reshaping the workplace.
Telecommuting refers to the practice of working from home or another secure location with the aid of telecommunication technology such as computers. Telecommuters replace or supplement physical travel to a work site by using modern telecommunications equipment to bring office resources to employees. Telecommuting, a practice that began in the 1970s, is a cost-savings measure for companies and employees. The National Technology Readiness Survey has calculated that the US economy would save nearly four billion dollars a year if all eligible employees telecommuted to work instead of working on site. The Internet has facilitated the work practice of telecommuting for able-bodied and disabled people as well. Telecommuting is now common across businesses and industries.
Social scientists study the ways telecommuting affects employees and organizations. For instance, a study conducted by Hoang, Nickerson, Beckman, and Eng (2008) explored the effect of telecommuting on corporate culture. They found that corporate culture is, in some instances, a strong deterrent to adopting telecommuting practices and options. Ultimately, the advantages of telecommuting for the organization include increased productivity, fewer work absences, increased savings, increased employee motivation, and positive reputation. The disadvantages of telecommuting for organizations include an absence of centralized management, loss of organization commitment and identity, costs involved in telecommuting technology, and legal expenses (Hoang et al., 2008).
Outsourcing and offshoring practices have reshaped the modern workplace. For instance, coworkers who share duties across national borders are totally dependent upon electronic communications and may never meet in person. Outsourcing and offshoring are most often chosen as cost-savings strategies. Outsourcing and offshoring are different but related concepts. "Outsourcing" refers to the practice of locating jobs in other countries to take advantage of lower production costs. Outsourcing occurs when an organization chooses nonemployees to perform certain support tasks such as research or data analysis. In contrast, "offshoring" refers to the practice of hiring employees located in other countries as a means of securing cheaper labor or avoiding tax laws. Offshoring involves the relocation of a work process from one country to another. Organizations that offshore work processes generally retain ownership and management responsibilities. Geographic areas to which work is often offshored include the Philippines, China, Eastern Europe, and South America. Technologies that support outsourcing and offshoring practices include the Internet, e-mail, e-commerce, and personal communication devices (Ginsburg & Noorlander, 2008).
In addition to technological innovation, political factors have significantly influenced the growth of offshoring and outsourcing practices. For instance, trade pacts, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico; the Mercosur trade pact between Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, and Venezuela; and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade zone, have significantly influenced and increased outsourcing practices. Business opportunities, including international investments and joint ventures, in the global economy are increasingly tied to trade pacts between nations. In addition, international and transnational business opportunities are resulting from privatization worldwide. Countries are privatizing a large number of their state-owned industries, enabling local operations to participate in them and foreign investors to purchase pieces of them....
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