Computer-based informated environments : emergent forms of work organisation
This research formulates the concept of a Computer-Based Informated Environment (CBIE) as an emergent anthropocentric form of work organisation; this is a computerised office environment which informates and empowers lower level employees. The study attempts to enhance our knowledge over the nature of CBIEs. It hypothesizes that with the current interest in IT-enabled empowerment there are more opportunities for the development of CBIEs. A missing element on studies in informated and empowered workplaces is employees' interpretation of these forms of work organisation. A review of the literature on information technology (IT) in organisations supports the view that there is a need for further research on the meaning of technological and organisational changes. This study attempts to cover this gap while also making a contribution in the field of anthropocentric uses of IT in office environments. A structurational framework is developed to uncover the process and context of change and the linkages between the two. Considering the research topic, the case study approach was adopted. Three service-oriented organisations participated in the research. All three had within the last few years introduced the system ImagePlus which is promoted for its potential to empower employees. There have been two important findings about the nature of CBIEs. Firstly, it is found that the process and context of CBIEs should not be treated as mutually independent but as inextricably linked. Secondly, it is identified that CBIEs could occur without being anthropocentric-oriented. Informated employees are not necessarily truly empowered. When the 'empowerment' approach is diffused via IT, it is likely to be in forms that align more with managerial and organisational interests than those of employees. Using structuration theory, the complex dynamics of the use of IT in organisations become evident. The study argues that the 'determinism' and 'choice' perspectives need to be linked for each has a vital role to play in enhancing our understanding of the use of IT in organisations.