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Title: Constructing an 'information strategy' in Higher Education : perceptions, structure and action
Author: Knox, K. T.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5920 7460
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2015
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The initial impetus of this thesis was to investigate the notion of an information strategy. This was to be addressed through gaining access to an institution that was attempting to create or formulate an information strategy, in the 1990s and early 2000s. Therefore, the investigation focussed upon researching a particular case study organisation, that of Stapleford University. The thesis is an in depth analysis of that organisation’s attempt to formulate, understand, interpret and implement an information strategy. It was evident within the early stages of the strategy formulation process that the notion of an information strategy was seen by all as being extremely important. This was reflected in both the creation of a specific committee, with a specific remit and the membership of that committee. There was also a newly appointed Vice Chancellor who had made the formulation of an information strategy a priority as part of the mechanism for the university to move forward and compete with other higher education institutions. Although there was 'open' support within the information steering committee’s membership there was also a 'closed' element of confusion with regards to an agreement of definition, what it was supposed to achieve, as well as issues of ownership. This element of confusion included what information meant to various individuals, who had responsibility for the strategy and what would be the 'outcome' of this process. What appeared, to the researcher, was an informal mêlée both at the bbeginning and throughout the subsequent process. Initially, two individuals were tasked with developing the first draft of the information strategy. The reason for delegating to these individuals was because of their specific roles and implicitly shared notion of information. The individuals were the Director of Information Technology Services and Director of Information & Learning Resources / Director of Library & Learning Resources. The initial results identified a strategy that was technologically focussed, and this continued to inform consecutive attempts and became the accepted and perceived view as to the essence of an information strategy. It was a strategy that maintained continuity with 'hard held ideas' and aligned with particular committee member’s relevant disciplines. The collected evidence highlighted that the notion of an information strategy was more difficult both conceptually and practically than the information steering committee members had appreciated, that no specific document was ever put forward to the University Executive for ratification and that the information steering committee was eventually disbanded and replaced with a committee that was technologically focussed. The realisation that there was no common agreement on what information was or what an information strategy was became the key problem. The fact that the term was in essence 'polysemous' focussed the research towards what was an information strategy as opposed to how to formulate one. This provided an opportunity to investigate and theorise the strategy formulation process; using neo-institutional theory and in particular isomorphism in an attempt to understand the different interpretations and provide an explanation as to why, in this case, an information strategy was not forthcoming. The contribution to knowledge, from this investigation, highlights that the polysemous approach to information impacts upon the information strategy formulation process. That is, theorising the process of strategy formulation has indicated that if a technological approach to information strategy formulation is adopted then the outcome of that process would be what the researcher has termed an 'hollow strategy'. Indicating that there is no practical impact gained from the strategy, it is in fact a strategy in name only. The corollary of this approach is the notion of 'superficial validity' that is, it allows the organisation to present a strategy to both internal and external parties and in doing so it meets prescribed criteria; but in reality the practical use or impact of the strategy is negligible. That does not negate the process individuals have engaged with, as it is that process that has provided important learning; such as recognising the role of multiple logics in creating institutional complexity and how that then impacts on that strategy formulation process. This highlights the importance of agency and actors in the socially constructed institution. Together, the issues of the polysemus nature of information and the conflicting role of multiple logics in the strategy formulation process may question whether the notion of an information strategy is at all possible. The research has reinforced the view that information is polysemous, that it is not a purely rational endeavour or a concrete resource, but is a human construct that manifests itself in many different forms dependent upon individuals' experiences, perceptions, understanding and involvement within the organisation. These are revealed and influenced by perceptions, structure and actions found within the organisation identifying why multiple logics were able to explain why the strategy formulation process was so dysfunctional. Therefore, an information strategy is not simply a technocratic process but a dynamic one involving negotiation between the ways that individuals and professional groups make sense of their competing concepts of information and use their power and status in privileging their perceptions and gaining legitimacy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available