The use of IT to support TQM in the Malaysian public sector
Both total quality management (TQM) and the use of information technology (IT) have been widely researched over recent years. However, there has been no well-founded empirical research on the two together - on how IT can support TQM practices. A scarcity of empirical studies on the role of IT in TQM, especially in the non-manufacturing sector, which can illustrate the importance or otherwise of IT for TQM, has prompted this study. Thus the study sought to provide such an empirical base. This study investigated the extent to which IT has been used to support TQM among selected Malaysian public agencies. It also identified the external, organisational and technological factors that may influence the use of IT in TQM. A framework based on the literature of TQM has been derived and used as the conceptual base for the creation of a questionnaire to determine the use of IT in TQM. The questionnaire was sent to 110 Malaysian public agencies that have implemented TQM. The results presented were based on the responses from 47 agencies. The study reveals that IT is helpful for implementing TQM but its usage varies across the nine aspects of TQM processes. 'Important Innovations' exhibits the highest level of IT usage followed closely by 'Information and Analysis'. 'Supplier Quality Assurance', on the other hand, shows the lowest level of IT usage. Regression analysis showed that four independent variables have a significant effect on the use of IT. They are IT experience, top management support, public accountability and IT structure (in order of importance). The responding agencies were then classified into three distinctive IT-usage groups (i. e. low, moderate, and high) according to their IT-usage level. Contextual influences (external, organisational and technological) were then explored using regression analysis. The results revealed that when the IT-usage level is high, technological factors play an important role. However, when the usage level is low, organisational factors become more influential. For the moderate group, both technological and organisational factors affect the usage level.