Impact of Integration of IT with Work Places on Modern Offices
In the modern times, drastic changes have taken place in the way modern organizations work - Impact of Integration of IT with Work Places on Modern Offices introduction. “Ideas whose time has come” is the focus of modern day philosophy. Small start-ups with brilliant ideas can pose a serious threats to old & well established companies. Any change in Government regulations, Technology, lifestyles may trigger an opportunity or may pose a threat. Keeping these in mind, organizations keep trying to be lean & trim, focused on their core competence and try to be aware of the continuous stream of threats and opportunities that come their way.
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This has affected how the companies function. Supervision of employees has given way to empowerment of employees, hierarchical structures have been replaced by horizontal ones, individual tasks have been taken over by collaboration & teamwork. This has been facilitated by IT & Communications technology which eliminated geographical barriers and made possible virtual, geographically distant teams working together. It is impossible to think of modern offices without communication means like phone, fax, e-mail, mobile phones, Personal Digital Assistants & so on. This calls for more space on each workplace to house a computer, may be, a printer, cables and so on. However, it has also virtually eliminated the need for paperwork and hence, for storage of voluminous heaps of paper files occupying major chunk in the workplace. Also, advancements in technology are further reducing space requirements as laptops are replacing desktops and wireless is replacing cable.
This trend clearly demonstrates that we are very close to realizing the “Employee is an office” philosophy envisaged for the future. We examine in this document various trends in IT that affected the workplaces and how workplaces affected IT Development.
Impact of Integration of IT with Work Places on Modern Offices :
Times change with every new innovation and the recent innovations in IT and Communication Technology have further accelerated the change. The recent developments in this technology has had a strong impact on how we study, entertain ourselves, communicate, find information & so on. The impact is not only in our personal life but on our work life also. As regards our work life, the office landscapes are changing, innovative designs and layouts are being tried out, efforts are being made to satisfy the employees regards their workplaces with a view to retain them. This is consistent with the emerging philosophy of empowering – rather than supervising – the employees. ICT has changed the allocation of workers at different stages of the production process (e. g., multitasking). It is now possible to offer Products and services as “Assemble to order” as per the customer’s wishes and just-in-time production. Remote access to work place or office thanks to telephone, Cell phones, laptops, Personal Digital Assistants and Internet have facilitated employees to be mobile while remaining connected to office. Signals from Satellite receivers from the top and fiber optic networks from the bottom propagate throughout the offices. Employees can be contacted any time and in turn, they can contact office to exchange information. This has initiated a new trend of flexible time by which employees are required to be present only within specified hours, beyond which they can be away in the field or work from home or during travel. Innovations like E-Mail, teleconferencing & video conferencing have reduced the need for outstation travel. IT has enabled offices to become “less paper” if not entirely “paperless” which has resulted in less storage requirements, more compact work places. Less and less time is being spent working individually while team efforts are on the rise, making facilities to house the team like conference rooms more in demand. This has facilitated allocation to more space to conference rooms and encouraged teamwork rather than working individually. Slowly another trend is emerging wherein same work place with better facilities & comfort is allotted to employees irrespective of their ranks. Investing more on employees encourages them to be self regulated, empowered and working with more zeal & enthusiasm. Towards this, workplaces also need to consider human factors more seriously, involving users from a design’s earliest stages. (Irene). Work places must get organized on the lines of the work flow as determined by the IT Systems now, as opposed to manual systems so far. In short, availability of this new technology has made it almost mandatory to integrate it with the way we work and with the work places while the way we wish to work has thrown open new avenues to integrate information technology with our workplaces – for the better, in most cases. The main underlying idea behind these changes is to strengthen the employee and provide him with best possible tools & facilities such that he can give his best.
Conversely, workplaces have also influenced innovations in technology. Clearly our work places are a huge and important part in our life. Work places must help to control human fatigue & the design of the workplace must confirm to this objective. Communication is an integral part of modern offices and every work desk is incomplete without power, lighting, air conditioning, telephone, computer and cables & networking equipment connecting the workplace across the office as well as outside. Mobile handsets and laptops enable employees in the field to stay connected with the office from wherever they are. Desktops have been giving way to laptops and cable networks are being replaced with wireless. Travel needs have resulted in innovations like teleconferencing & video conferencing. Need of mobile employees to remain in contact has promoted remote access with the help of cell phones, Personal Digital Assistants & laptops. Access to internet available to all has resulted in data being captured to a web site and information being disseminated from there – Intranets being a classic example of such an application. This enables employees to access information from virtually anywhere on the globe. “Wearable” computers of the future are likely to enhance human capability of multitasking. Thanks to these innovations, it is not new to see teams composed of personnel from geographically diverse countries working on a common goal. This trend has even benefited the goal since the time difference between certain countries made possible round the clock working complementing each other within the team. In short, technology has impact on where, how, when and what work is done. Thus how we wish to work also has had an impact on technological innovations.
While Information and Communications Technology is a boon to mankind, over obsession with it may result in many pitfalls. Oticon’s aim to computerize everything and eliminate paper is a good idea but is not practical. “Less Paper” is practicable but “paperless” is theoretical”. All employees scan and record their mails on paper and shred the papers thereafter spend significant amount of time, efforts & cost that could have been invested in better propositions. Capturing mails on paper and shredding paper does not significantly contribute to efficiency. Mail thereby captured on paper also involve maintenance, referencing & so on. Therefore organizing mails originating electronically is a better proposition but capturing paper mail to electronic form is not.
As compared to Oticon, there are many examples of effective integration of IT. For example, capturing attendance through employees card or finger prints does not call for any extra efforts but considerably simplifies maintenance of attendance records. The same cards can be used at employee canteens, library & so on. Similarly automated data capture of company property going out or coming in by RF Identification Readers for company vehicles, laptops etc is also a good example wherein IT function is built in inseparably in the normal process but the benefits by way of results are significant in exercise of control.
Earlier under the manual system, the banks used to have a counter where a customer can submit his check, it will be validated by the counter clerk, move forward for checking the balance, again move further for signature verification of the drawer & finally, to the cashier for disbursement. No longer now – the clerk at the counter validates the check, verifies the balance, verifies the signature and perhaps disburses cash also. IT has enabled banks to simplify this system.
As regards restructured Oticon as described in the article “Think the Unthinkable: The Oticon Story” by Donald N. Sull, it does not adequately describe exactly what was done by way of innovations. From what was described, the dictates like retrenchment of staff and centralization of check signing authority are not positive actions and do not encourage any further contribution to productivity from rest of the employees. Improvement brought about by such actions is not – even if achieved – the right approach since it has not resulted from the contribution from all employees. Therefore such actions do not reflect any managerial excellence. Any relaxation in centralization of authority and recruitment of the staff is quite likely to bring the company back to its original status. While the “Project Team” approach to R & D is praiseworthy initiative, replacing office furniture with new furniture with wheels as well as moving to vast, open premises do not on their own contribute to efficiency, unless they are accompanied by concrete, positive measures on the part of each of the employees to enhance the productivity and efficiency. I – therefore, would not enjoy working for restructured Oticon simply because the only road to prosperity of the company lies in each employee giving back to the company in excess of what he takes home, which does not appear to be present in this case.
Information and Communications Technology has opened up new avenues for us to explore in facilitating how we work. Reckless, thoughtless application of such technology only adds to the cost with no benefits accruing. So any introduction of such technology must consider besides investment, the contribution to efficiency, human comfort and also, possible impact of its non availability for a limited period. Choices on technology are to be made considering these factors. Merely adopting a good technology is not a guarantee for success. Technology gives best results where it is interwoven as an integral part of an existing process. In addition, there are many areas where technology has brought about excellent results and also, made things possible which were hitherto impossible. Finally it is important to keep in mind that technology is to assist people and not the other way. Therefore appropriate integration of technology with human beings, their ways of work, methods of work & so on is desirable to bring desired results.
Dr. B.J. ter Weel Project: “The impact of ICT and workplace organization on the demand for labour”, http://www.onderzoekinformatie.nl/en/oi/nod/onderzoek/OND1276353/print (Project leader: Prof.dr. L.L.G. Soete)
Heinz Hollenstein & Stucki Tobias : “The Impact of ICT Usage, Workplace Organization and Human Capital on the Provision of Apprenticeship Training : A Firm-Level Analysis Based on Swiss Panel Data “ http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1272326
Schneider Henrik “Rapid ICT Change and
Workplace Knowledge Obsolescence :
Causes and Proposed Solutions
Kazunori Minetaki “How Can ICT linked with Workplace Organization Raise Productivity ?”
Irene López de Vallejo “Putting people first in tomorrow’s workplace” http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/popup.cfm?section=news&tpl=article&ID=69651&AutoPrint=True