Automating managers : The implications of information technology for managers in five manufacturing companies.
Managers are universally regarded as key to the fortunes of
organizations, yet there has been little focus on the effects of
information technology (I.T.) on this group. In this research,
the implications of I.T. for the work and roles of managers were
studied, peimar IIy in office settings, in five manufacturing
companies in the Northern Home Counties.
The cases provided a wide range of both organizational cultures
and I.T. use. Data were obtained largely through 101 semistructured
interviews with managers in various hierarchical and
functional positions. Supporting material came from questionnaires
and documents. and through informal observation on the 49
visits to companies.
I.T. consists of several interwoven and rapidly developing
computing and cormrunications technologies, and is interacting
with the extremely varied environments found in the companies.
There is no revolution. Rather I.T. use is growing from its
precursors - telex, punched-card machines and earlier computers,
and is conditioned powerfully by existing cultures. Gradually,
however, the inherent character of the technology is changing
practices in general, and management work in particular, in
The fundamental nature of managers' work is little altered by
I.T. It remains fragmented; weakly defined; oral; actionorientated.
Increased productivity and reduced numbers of staff
are consequences of I.T., and these, together with the increase
in conceptual and systems skills amongst the work-force, are
reducing the hierarchical-authority model of people management,
and creating a more "professional-team" culture. The increasing
effectiveness of information management that I.T. confers is
produc ing other major consequences for managers. Informa tion
management is becoming a central component of their work.
Overall, managers are having to adapt to increasingly
technological. systematised environments, with smaller, more
skilled staff teams. The transitions for managers are
difficult. especiaLl y as companies have given slight attention
to preparing managers for these changes, or indeed to management
development in general.