Managing Information Technology's Organisational Impact
Elsevier / North-Holland, Amsterdam, 1989

edited by
Roger Clarke
Australian National University
Julie Cameron
Organisational and Technological
Solutions Pty Ltd
Sydney Australia

© Elsevier / North-Holland, 1989

Information Technology (IT) has already had significant impacts on organisations, and much more dramatic effects are anticipated during the 1990's. Unfortunately, many of these impacts have been allowed to just happen, without planning, and without compensating changes in organisational structures and processes. The result has been that the full potential of IT to improve organisations' efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility has seldom been realised. Greater attention must be paid to the interaction of technology with business methods, work patterns, employees and organisational culture. Organisations must dictate IT's directions of development and use, rather than being passive takers of supply-driven technology. This volume aims to assist organisations and communities to understand the impact of IT, and to act positively to design and manage the future, instead of being its captive.

In order to achieve this aim, a diverse set of papers has been assembled from contributers from six different countries. Some authors are functional managers and IT users, some are IT professionals and managers, and others are researchers. The background of the contributers ranges from information systems, computer science, engineering and librarianship; through commerce, economics, business law and public administration; to psychology, organisational behaviour and sociology. The table below shows the diversity of backgrounds of the 39 authors of the 30 papers.

					IT		Not IT		Total

User Managers and Professionals	4		7		11
Consultants				7		3		10
Non-University Researchers		1		1		2
University Academics			10		6		16

	TOTAL				22		17		39

All of the contributions, including those from academics, are written for managers and employees within organisations which are making significant use of IT, and for members of the general public interested in the changes associated with IT.

Our thanks to the authors, the committee members, the sponsors, and especially the many active participants, at the international conference at which the papers were originally presented, at Terrigal, near Sydney, Australia, on 3-5 May 1989.

Roger Clarke			Julie Cameron
Canberra	             	Sydney

31 May 1989

Part 1 - Emergent Technologies 1

Olson M.H. Information Technology and the Where and When of Office Work: Electronic Cottages or Flexible Organisations?

Wigan M.R. Computer Cooperative Work: Communications, Computers, and Their Contribution to Working in Groups

Walters M. EFTPOS - National Asset or White Elephant?

Part 2 - Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) 65

Hill C.M. EDI - The Competitive Edge

Hollands D. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in the Australian Automotive Industry

Chicktong R. S.W.I.F.T. - EDI in the International Banking Industry

Swatman P. & Swatman P. EDI and Its Implications for Industry

Brown R. EDI and Proving Your Transaction

Part 3 - Assessments of IT Impact 135

Oliver I. & Langford H. Evaluation of Qualitative Aspects of Office Information Systems: Quantifying and Aggregating Personal Viewpoints

Rule J. & Attewell P. Computing and the Transformation of Business Decision-Making

Nicholas P. MIS Success: Why Does It Vary Among Users?

Part 4 - Opportunities for Change 187

Tweedie R. Shaping Tomorrow's University: The Impact of Information Technology on the Planning of Bond University

Steele C. & Barry A. Libraries and the New Technologies

Dampney C.N.G. & Andrews A. Striving for Sustained Competitive Advantage: The Growing Alignment of Information Systems and the Business

Pitt L.F. & Watson R.T. How Information Systems Technology Can Put Logistics Back Into Marketing - Where It Belongs

Part 5 - The Humanisation of IT 257

Watson D. & Downey L. The Human Impact on Information Systems in Austrade

Williams T.A. Putting Organisational Choice Before Technical Decisions in Information Technology Strategic Planning

Ciborra C.U. & Lanzara G.F. Designing Networks in Action: Formative Contexts and Post-Modern Systems Development

Gill K. Human-Centred Expert Systems: Implications for Organisations

Part 6 - Issues 319

Lawrence L.G. Micro Network Security

Burnside J. & McGregor P. Avoiding Computer Litigation

Werskey G. Co-operative Education in Information Systems: Stage One of a Long-Term Human Resources Strategy for IT-Oriented Organisations

Part 7 - IT in Government 355

Briefs U. Support of Parliamentary Decision-Making by Computerised Information Systems: The West German Experience

Harber G. The Impact and Implications of IT in Australia's New Parliament House

Carmody M. Modernisation: The Australian Tax Office Approach to Introducing New Technology

Hart A.R. Inter-Agency Cooperation in Developing the N.S.W. Land Information System

Learmonth R. Issues in the Application of IT in Australian Local Government 409

Part 8 - Economic and Social Issues 425

Lamberton D. The Dominant Resource-Using Activity in the Economy

Holvast J. Vulnerability of Information Society: The Conflicting Demands of Security and Privacy

Sackman H. Toward an IFIP Code of Ethics Based on Participative International Consensus


The richness of IT is astounding. Computing has merged with telecommunications, and with many existing technologies which can provide input, storage and output capabilities. In addition to the wide range of existing products, a variety of new technologies have been stimulated by computing, such as laser-based non-magnetic storage (CD-ROMs). In many cases, old technologies are simply replaced by better products. In some cases, however, the new products have such new characteristics, or are so vastly superior, that they contribute to change in industry sectors. Some of the new enterprises deliver existing goods and services in new ways, and others market entirely new classes of products and services. Image storage and processing (of fingerprints as well as land usage) is a reality, and Integrated Service Digital Networks (ISDN) promise cohesive communication of data in its various forms (conventional 'structurable' data, text, image and sound), breaking down the historical separation between telex, acoustic telephone, digital data, facsimile and other services.

The purpose of Part I is not to attempt to document all of the emergent technologies. Instead, each paper provides the reader with an authoritative discussion of a particular aspect of contemporary IT. In addition, by considering the different approaches adopted by the three authors, the reader will be able to develop techniques for assessing other technologies. Together, the three papers provide a perspective on developments in IT, and lay a basis on which the papers in the following Parts build.

In the first paper, Olson's 'The Where and When of Office Work', an academic and consultant considers the aftermath of telecommuting and telework. Her US-based research has shown that transporting work to the worker instead of the other way around has not become as popular as was predicted in the early 1980's. Important factors limiting its use have included the importance of face-to-face meetings and social support, and its conflict with the common organisational structure - the pyramid or hierarchy.

Some related trends are identified which are potentially much more important than telecommuting. In particular, the portability, location-independence and time-independence of work are resulting in remote work groups, remote supervision (the mobile executive), physically dispersed organisations, with 'back-office' functions moving out of expensive central business districts, and flatter, more flexible and more adaptable organisation structures enabling organisations to take advantage of their staff's inherent innovativeness.

In the second paper, Wigan's 'Computer Cooperative Work', an industrial research manager examines the use of computers and communications to support group work. Of the several lines of current development, he notes that products under the generic title 'Hypertext' are providing a number of advances in multi-form documents, including the integration of text, graphics, and in some cases also sound, multiple access paths through such documents, and the distribution of the components across a variety of machines.

By means of descriptions of experiences with and research into electronic mail, computer conferencing and collabarative document preparation, it is shown that cultural factors within the dispersed work group have a significant impact on the effectiveness of computer-mediation in the workplace. The paper concludes that organisations seeking to provide support for collaborative work should begin with more than just electronic messaging (e-mail) and the management of shared calendars. Unless and until products are made available which provide more sophisticated support for human interaction (such as editors and word processors which support annotation), there is a considerable likelihood that IT will not result in significant improvements in the productivity of human collaboration.

In the third paper, Walters' 'EFTPOS - National Asset or White Elephant?', an information technology consultant documents the development of Australia's national Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale system (EFTPOS). Its international significance is that it assesses the interests of the various parties involved (financial institutions, merchants and consumers), and defines the field on which the game is played out.

Australasia has had a very high acceptance rate in electronic banking, and many people expected EFTPOS to experience explosive growth as well. Instead, developments in New Zealand have encountered significant setbacks, and Australia's network has undergone re-organisation. Many other countries can be expected to encounter difficulties, for reasons similar to those identified in this paper.


The notion 'document' is traditionally associated with paper. Many people and many organisations, not to mention the law, have difficulty in conceiving of documents in any other way, but by the mid-1990's, it appears that a large proportion of routine commercial communications will be conducted electronically, and the uses of paper copies will quickly become confined to confirmation and audit trail.

The scope for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is very broad, extending from purchase orders and acceptances, forward into Just In Time (JIT) manufacturing strategies and payments systems (EFTS), and backward into purchasing, trading and tendering processes. EDI is as applicable to international trade as it is to business within nation-states. Although its origins are in the logistics of physical goods movements, EDI is entirely applicable to information flows concerning finance, administration and 'invisibles', including customs clearance, insurance, the submission of administrative documents, such as tax returns, and the collection of statistics. All large organisations are considering it. Most small companies will also need to gain an EDI capability, or find their transaction costs increasing, and their order books declining.

EDI, as the term is currently used, refers to batch-oriented services (i.e. business partners communicate asynchonously via an electronic letter-box rather than directly in an on-line session). It is related, however, to 'electronic markets', by which is meant IT-supported on-line trading of commodities, such as stocks and shares, options, futures, grain and other agricultural commodities and minerals, of livestock, and of 'collectibles' such as artworks, antiques and stamps.

Books providing intensive treatment of EDI are only now appearing, and so a whole Part of this volume is dedicated to the topic. These papers offer an introduction to the nature and purposes of EDI, two case studies, and an examination of its organisational and legal implications, and two case studies.

In the first paper, Hill's 'EDI - The Competitive Edge', a senior executive of a large automobile manufacturer provides an introduction to the concept of trading via computer networks. It shows how and why third-party networks have come about, and the services they offer. It identifies the business benefits accruing to participants, and provides guidelines on how organisations should go about entering into the EDI world.

In the second paper, Hollands' 'EDI in the Australian Automotive Industry', a manager with an EDI network supplier presents a case study of a third-party EDI system, TradeLink, with reference to the use of that system to support one particular industry. The paper begins by demonstrating the effectiveness of EDI by highlighing the weaknesses of telefax in communicating routine commercial transactions. It then shows the way in which TradeLink embodies existing and emerging international telecommunications standards, but draws attention to the need for an EDI system to reflect the practices, and embody standards specific to, the industry being served.

The need for careful phasing of the service's introduction is identified, and the planning and long-term commitment necessary to ensure realisation of the potential benefits is emphasised. It is shown that the real gains arise from cooperation between organisations along the entire 'value chain' within the industry.

In the third paper, Chicktong's 'S.W.I.F.T.', a banking executive provides a case study of an application of EDI in the worldwide interbank financial telecommunications system, which has been operational since 1977. However, rather than describing the system as an Electronic Funds Transfer System (EFTS), the paper assesses it as an Electronic Data Interchange system to support the international commercial communications of banks.

The banks' rationale in establishing SWIFT is identified as the avoidance of the very high costs of errors and delays in international transfers of what are inevitably very large sums of money. Its success is indicated by the claim that none of its 2500 members in 60 countries has ever sustained a financial loss resulting from late delivery or corrupted messages. The paper discusses the range of transactions supported, the security features, and the manner of integration with the banks' internal systems.

In the fourth paper, Swatman & Swatman's 'EDI's Implications for Industry', IT academics and consultants address the question of the impact which EDI has on individual companies and the industry sectors within which they operate. The early implementations of inter-organisational systems (IOS) sought long-term advantages over competitors by establishing 'closed user groups' with business associates such as suppliers and distributers. These advantages have proved not to be sustainable, variously because each individual competitor tooks steps to neutralise the initiative, by establishing an alternative closed system (perhaps offering additional features); a group of competitors established a single collaborative (but legal) system, thereby offering greater convenience and sharing the costs; or anti-trust or anti-monopoly laws constrained the system's use and further development.

The Swatmans argue that EDI systems are mature IOS, firstly because they have been or are being standardised; and secondly because their users seek their advantages through cooperation rather than competition, tacitly agreeing that commercial communications are no longer an appropriate arena for competition. The paper then examines impacts and implications of EDI on organisations, including the prior needs for technical infrastructure and human education and skills, the re-definition of tasks and the re-organisation of the new task sets into new kinds of jobs, staff education and training, staff displacement, and questions of contract and evidence.

In the final paper, Brown's 'EDI and Proving Your Transaction', a senior legal academic considers the question of proving to a court of law that a transaction has occurred, and the details of that transaction. The paper presents the law as it presently holds in Australia, and highlights the need to appreciate both existing common (case-based) law, and such statutory law as has been overlaid over the common law. The major difficulties in Australia arise in many other countries also, because they result from the application of legal concepts and phraseology devised long before the emergence of Information Technology.

Since telecommunications crosses jurisdictional boundaries, problems arise as to which law applies, and to which legal forum disputes should be taken. There are deeper questions, however, concerning the way in which the rules of evidence apply to electronic transactions. There is real doubt as to whether recent statutes which have sought to clarify the law relating to the admissibility of computer-produced evidence have achieved their objectives.

It is recommended that contracts should be finalised before EDI transactions are commenced, should be explicit as to the terms and conditions under which transactions will be undertaken, should specify the procedure whereby disputes are to be resolved (preferably including an arbitration mechanism), and should nominate whichever jurisidiction's rules of evidence are clearest. Record-keeping should be planned and undertaken with particular care (since audit trails have in the past tended to rely heavily on paper documents).


Later Parts of this volume consider specific impacts of IT, and specific techniques whereby those impacts can be managed. Most of the papers assume that the impacts are capable of being observed and measured, and that methods are available whereby this can be done. The papers in this Part examine issues which are themselves of very real interest, but they also explicitly discuss the concepts and methods involved in assessing IT's impact.

In the first paper, Oliver and Langford's 'Evaluation of Qualitative Aspects of OA', a team of organisational consultants reports on a structured method for undertaking a qualitative post-implementation evaluation of office automation (and similar) systems. The method is applicable where cost-benefit techniques are inappropriate, and systems evaluation needs to be elevated "from the bean-counting microscopic level to the macroscopic organisational level, from efficiency considerations to questions of effectiveness, and from a cost-accounting perspective to a managerial one". This is commonly the case where the various viewpoints, needs, aspirations and abilities of different staff-members must be taken into account, and/or the task characteristics are highly variable and unpredictable.

The method is based on the psychological theory of 'personal constructs', and uses a technique called the 'repertory (or repertoire) grid'. The effect of the method is that the items being measured are not decided on in advance by the researcher, but emerge from the staff-members concerned.

In the second paper, Rule and Attewell's 'Computing and the Transformation of Business Decision-Making', two Professors of Sociology report on a study of computing usage in 184 randomly chosen firms in greater New York City. The paper classifies the applications of computing into different classes, depending on the extent to which they transform data. For example, word processing is non-transformative; simple inventory, order entry and most accounting applications are moderately transformative; and sales analysis, bid preparation, inventory systems which automatically initiate reordering, and computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) are highly transformative.

Contrary to expectations, the authors found that the extent of transformativity was not significantly associated with either the size of the enterprise or the industry sector. Nor did it correlate with the length of time the site had been computerised, i.e. the later applications in any given site were not necessarily more transformative than the earlier applications. However there was a clear tendency for organisations to find more things to do with computers after they had been installed.

In the 1970s, the sociologist Daniel Bell proposed that a central feature of post-industrial societies is 'intellectual technology', or artefacts whose primary purpose is to process information (an idea re-visited by Apple's advertising term, 'wheels for the mind'). This study's findings are consistent with that idea. On the other hand, the study does not support Bell's claim that intellectual technology derives from 'theoretical knowledge', i.e. that science is the main provider of new developments. The authors suggest that many computer-based systems encapsulate rules which are not scientific, but "vernacular" or "folk sociological". This seems very much like what a cognitive scientist would call 'heuristic' knowledge, suggesting a convergence of opinions in two very different disciplines.

The authors also observe that computing is being used "as a means for implementing long-standing management interests in control over human processes". Although important benefits arise from surveillance and control of the behaviour of staff or clients, highly transformative computing applications are deepening managers' "intellectual penetration of their firms' affairs".

In the third paper, Nicholas' 'MIS Success Variation', an IT academic reports on a study of the degree of satisfaction with their information systems expressed by 77 users in eight diverse organisations. The study found that user satisfaction depends on users' organisational function, in that technical users are less satisfied than administrative users. Contrary to predictions in the literature, no evidence was found that satisfaction with a system depends on the level of management. On the other hand, the study confirmed the theoretical prediction that users are more likely to express satisfaction with a system if they have been involved in its development.

These papers provide not only insights into the organisational impacts of computing, but also the care which must be taken in evaluating the success and failure of applications, and the circumspection with which claims of success and failure must be assessed.


The early history of computer applications is a succession of efforts to automate existing procedures, thereby using machines to perform more quickly and reliably that which was previously done slowly and laboriously by humans. In time, it was appreciated that some things could be done differently or, with the benefit of a new perspective engendered by a new tool, 'rationalised' and 'integrated'.

Increasingly, however, new thinkers have conceived of new things which could not previously be done, and IT has dramatically increased the scope for those visionaries to turn their daydreams into realities. Their success has in turn placed pressure on the rest of us, more conventional mortals. We are not merely faced with the possibility of change, but the imperative of 'covering the competition' or suffering the consequences. This Part brings together a collection of papers which consider some of the opportunities which are being grasped by many organisations to re-define their mission, their objectives, or their means of achieving them.

In the first paper, Tweedie's 'IT and the Planning of Bond University', the Dean of the IT Faculty at Australia's first private tertiary institution discusses aspects of the establishment of a new university, created during the information age. The design of its structures and processes was free from some of the constraints which are integral to institutions with decades or centuries of tradition and convention. Establishment on a 'green fields' site enabled the physical layout to reflect contemporary needs. Hiring of a large number of staff within a short time made it possible to establish sympathy with the use of IT as a staff selection criterion at all levels and in all disciplines. It was possible to embed in all degree programmes a compulsory subject in Computing and Data Skills, which omits programming, and instead focusses on document preparation, spreadsheet modelling and database skills and understanding.

The campus network provides access to teaching, research and support facilities (the library, and access to external messaging, databases and specialised computational resources). MIT's Project Athena has been adopted, with its commitment to industry-standard systems software, multiple vendors, distributed courseware development, multi-media services and a consistent user interface. Enhancements include network access to library and administrative services, gatewayed access to external mainframes, and student access from their own PC-based workstations. In addition to DEC MicroVAX servers and VAXstations for staff, students use both MS-DOS machines (the preference of many staff and experienced users) and Macintoshes (the preference of most newcomers to computing). It is intended to provide electronic libraries, and a 'virtual collection' of works held in libraries with which the institution has a collaborative agreement. The initial commitment to Computer Aided Learning (CAL) is limited, however, due to the small amount of CAL courseware available, the expense of custom-built courseware, and the need for courseware to be compatible with the teaching environment. That long-promised revolution seems to be still pending.

In the second paper, Steele & Barry's 'Libraries and the New Technologies', two senior librarians present a case study of the impact of the emerging 'electronic library' on clients, staff-members and organisational procedures and structures in a multi-site, single-catalogue library in a large tertiary institution. Between 1984 and 1988, catalogue maintenance, circulation, and catalogue access from student laboratories, staff offices and by dial-up were all implemented or significantly upgraded. More recent technical challenges are the Chinese, Japanese and Korean script records, the provision of gateways to external catalogues and statistical collections, and access to the full texts of documents stored on optical disks.

Although some of the library's clients, predominantly older academics, have resisted the new facilities, many are taking full advantage of the increasing range of library services which are available remotely, resulting in more electronic and less physical traffic in library buildings. Particular difficulties for the library and its staff have included the need for more terminals than had been envisaged, and the use of alternating work schedules and part-time staff to get around that problem. The feeling of staff that the software tends to control them rather than vice versa is being addressed by providing a user interface with personalisation facilities. Errors and inconsistencies in the catalogue have become more apparent than before.

The authors also suggest future applications in the areas of full-text retrieval, hypertext, speech synthesis, artificially intelligent catalogue search, and robotics for automated media warehouses.

In the third paper, Dampney & Andrews' 'Striving for Sustained Competitive Advantage', a senior IT academic and a senior IBM professional team up to address opportunities for competitive advantage. Based in part on surveys of members of Australasian Share/Guide (the IBM mainframe and midrange user group), the authors trace changes in the focus of information systems from automation of clerical activities, via operational support, to support for sustained competitive advantage. The real gains which organisations can make from IT are only possible, however, if information systems strategy is designed in order to fulfil the business' objectives, and for many organisations this implies the need for integration with key suppliers and clients. Business and IS managers appeared to be working increasingly closely in the initiation and justification of major strategic IT investments. There was little evidence of investments in strategic or client/supplier-related systems predominantly as a response to competitive pressures. A thinning of line management ranks had been accompanied by an increase in professionally qualified corporate services staff.

In the fourth paper, Pitt & Watson's 'IT Can Put Logistics Back Into Marketing', two IT researchers consider one particular facet of the competitive strategies argument, the creative use of IT as "a matchmaker in the remarriage of logistics and marketing". Using a succession of case studies, the authors provide specific examples of various ways in which each of the components of the physical distribution system (inbound transport, warehousing, inventory management and inventory location, customer orders, order entry, packaging and shippping, and outbound transport) can be significantly improved by the exploitation of IT.


The humanisation of IT can be approached from many perspectives. For example, delegates to the Conference discussed the practice of electronic mail, where the electronic equivalents of 'body signals' are contributing to the emergence of 'netiquette' (network etiquette). The papers in this section approach humanisation from a different angle, presenting various aspects of the argument for a 'revised sequence', whereby technology should not be the driving force, but should instead be shaped to fit the primary needs of human organisations.

The first contribution, Watson and Downey's 'Human Impact on Information Systems in Austrade', is by two senior managers in a government agency which provides information services to the private sector. In a major new document retrieval system, ease and speed of access were not the key factors in system success. The corporate culture embodied the belief that "we have most of the information we need to respond to our clients' enquiries; we just don't know where to find it". Although it was a logical step to capture documents into retrievable form in order to address the problem, the fact was that the 'know how' was derived from a wide variety of sources, many of them non-documentary. Moreover, even where relevant documents did exist, much of their informational value had already been absorbed by users from previous experiences. The paper underlines how information is not a passive entity which can be captured, stored and accessed, but rather is "tied up in people", and information retrieval systems must therefore point to people as well as data.

The second paper, Williams' 'Organisational Choice Before Technical Decisions', is by a researcher from the sociotechnical school of thought, in which a system does not merely comprise technical elements (computers, software, input/output formats and manual procedures), but also includes people, culture and the dynamics of organisational processes. It is argued that technical issues must be subordinated to personal and organisational needs in the application of IT, not only to satisfy the interests of employees, but also as the means whereby the organisation can achieve flexibility and innovation by harnessing the full potential of its employees rather than merely their labour. The paper suggests how employee participation in the application of IT can be achieved, and that IT education should be conceived not as a technical matter, but as preparation for effective participation in organisational life.

In the third paper, Ciborra & Lanzara's 'Designing Networks in Action', two senior IT academics pursue this theme further. With the assistance of three case studies, the authors show how, in many organisations, the existing 'formative context' (hierarchical organisational structures and processes) impedes agents from exploiting new technology. One case study shows how a large operating system project succeeded despite the formal project methods, and because of the semi-accidental facilitation of informal organisational processes 'below the surface'. The second case notes that the oft-quoted strategic systems of McKesson Chemical and American Hospital Supply resulted not from careful planning and investment, but from tactical use of systems which had evolved in piecemeal fashion. A key factor was therefore 'bricolage' (ad hoc tinkering and trial and error). The third case suggests that the success of the French videotext service, Minitel, had less to do with the (planned) public access to databases than with the (only incidental) public electronic mail service.

The authors argue that systems cannot be fully designed and that the system designer's conception will be inevitably re-shaped by users, in what they refer to as 'designing-in-action'. Users accept a new system as a prototype, and progressively massage it to suit their continually changing perceptions of their continually changing needs. These 'pasted-up' systems are 'beyond control' and never stabilise, but grow and change in the manner of a biological organism.

Rather than bemoaning such mis-use of carefully conceived IT artefacts, organisations must accept that reality, and harness the opportunity to unlock the organisation's potential for change and innovation. The bureaucracy inherent in the conventional Systems Life Cycle is identified as a major barrier to 'designing-in-action'. Freeing up these strictures therefore requires the abandonment of the "pretence of meticulously defining a rigid waterfall ... as the software engineering recipes prescribe". The authors propose the conception of 'post-modern' systems development as "an intervention in a social situation". It is an exhilarating paper, containing vital insights for organisations for whom information technology represents a strategic or competitive opportunity.

In the final paper in this section, Gill's 'Human-Centred Expert Systems', an IT researcher examines the scope for knowledge-based expert systems to enhance employees' expertise rather than make them redundant. The author draws attention to the increasing rate of knowledge obsolescence in the information industries; the increasing attention being paid to the quality of products and processes; and the trend away from a 'machine-centred' ethos towards human resource management, and, particularly in Germany and Scandinavia, 'human-centred' production technology. The computational, rationalistic model, which assumes that human problems are soluble by mechanistic means, has been entrenched in computing communities, but it is the author's contention that these changes reflect an appreciation of the inadequacies of that model.

Rather than being capable of objective expression by a single 'expert' or specialist community, knowledge is a function of its environment, a product of a cultural and social milieu, inseparable from its use in practice, and in a constant state of flux. 'Tacit' knowledge must be distinguished from 'propositional' knowledge, and human flexibility, intuition and creativity married with the reliable rigidity of machine-based decision-making.

Part 6 - ISSUES

This Part contains three papers addressing specific problems which arise in the practice of IT within organisations, in the areas of, respectively, security, the law and educational preparation for IT careers.

In the first paper, Lawrence's 'Micro Network Security', a computer security consultant identifies areas of risk in contemporary microcomputer networks. He argues that, although the risks are similar to those experienced in mainframe environments, they are different in degree and difficulty of solution. The problems are discussed under the headings of data integrity, loss of user identifiability (and hence accountability), and ease of data access, theft and modification. Among the solutions proposed are multi-layer authorisation, unique user and resource identification, encrypted files, encrypted operation, encrypted transmission, and above all an awareness of the need for protection and the need for specialist skills to reduce the risk.

In the second paper, Burnside & McGregor's 'Avoiding Computer Litigation', a team comprising a barrister and an IT consultant presents two case studies in which customers sued computer system vendors for damages. The seriousness of the question is evidenced by the costs of conducting such a case, which can exceed one million dollars in direct costs, not including any damages which may be awarded, distraction from business and loss of reputation. In both cases, the surface issue of unacceptable system performance resulted from inadequate requirements analysis, inadequate system specification, and inadequate communications among the client, prime contractor and sub-contractor.

Failure of contracts to define and limit the parties' obligations can cost them dearly. One example provided is where a party has only limited responsibility and authority with regard to the project as a whole. The other is where, in due course, the client comes to no longer want its supplier to succeed in meeting its obligations (e.g. because if it did the shortcomings in the client's own performance may be exposed), and therefore covertly obstructs its supplier, in the hope of being able to repudiate the contract. Although the former circumstance may be apparent at the time of signing the contract, the latter is unlikely to be. In either case, it is vital that a thorough risk analysis have been undertaken before the conditions of contract are agreed, in order to ensure that appropriate limitations on liability exist. Similarly, it is advisable to undertake a risk analysis again, if problems begin to surface, in order to guide the party's subsequent dealings with its partner.

In the third paper, Werskey's 'Co-operative Education in Information Systems', a university executive outlines new undergraduate IT courses which involve the close cooperation of business sponsors. The success of these courses (from the perspectives of both employers and the universities involved) has acted as a catalyst for improved links between 'town and gown' in other courses as well.


IT is very important in the public sector, and the papers in this section deal with applications at all levels of government, from parliaments, through departments and instrumentalities of national governments and agencies of state and provincial governments, to local and community councils.

The first paper, Brief's 'Support of Parliamentary Decision-Making', is by a practising politician who is a member of the Green Party in the West German Bundestag. Despite his party's ideological distrust of technology (because of its potential and actual use as an instrument of repression), he acknowledges the benefits which the West German Parlakomm system has brought in the way of rationalisation of administrative communication and decision-making.

The paper's most important contention is that computer-based systems will never play a substantive role in the political process itself: political decision-making relies "on evaluating multidimensional and partially non-consistent sets of phenomena, handling permanent or at least recurrent conflicts, playing on semantic nuances, developing new ways ..., aiming at new combinations of forces. ... The proper political business starts beyond data and beyond information. ... Politics has to move in the universe created by human imagination and creativity throughout the centuries". Such essentially mystical arguments are unattractive to the majority of IT practitioners, who are predominantly rationalist in outlook. The author is not alone, however, in expressing such views, since many academic observers are expressing concern about IT's implicit assumption that 'data is information is knowledge is wisdom'.

The second paper, Harber's 'IT in Australia's New Parliament House', was written by the manager responsible for the services to the Australian Parliament roughly equivalent to the West German Parlakomm. The services provided are described, under the headings of office systems (mailing lists, letters, correspondence tracking, etc), data dissemination (including videotext for directories, timetables, etc), database access (including news, parliamentary reports and publications, hansard, etc), and telephone services (including voice messaging, accessible via password within the House and remotely). These services depend on 'information highways' within Parliament House, comprising 1500km of data cabling alone, plus sound and vision broadband. It has been necessary to invest in simple user interfaces, because of the high turnover of staff in the House.

The paper provides some response to Briefs' claim that computer-based systems can never play a substantive role in political processes. It argues that IT does contribute to the accessability of data, and the capability for analysis of that data, in order to provide the information on which Parliamentary debates are based.

This issue reaches far beyond Parliaments. Many of the best managers have been shown to make decisions based on experience, instinct and knowledge of the environment, rather than on objective analysis of available data; and many business decisions are the results of the use of power, compromise and alliances. The political dimension filters the use of technology for strategic decision-making in all contexts.

In the third paper, Carmody's 'The Australian Tax Office Approach to Introducing New Technology', a senior public service executive discusses a half-billion (US dollars) IT modernisation programme currently being undertaken within the agency which collects 80% of the Federal Government's revenue.

The technical aspects of the programme are being coordinated by a prime contractor through 5-year period supply and 10-year maintenance contracts with a number of equipment and software suppliers. The exercise involves developing new systems in new hardware/software environments, and converting vast quantities of data, while continuing to process returns, collect revenue and conduct audits. Previously committed developments are continuing, with electronic lodgement of private taxpayer returns having 'gone live' in the midst of the programme. Nonetheless, the Office considers the concomitant organisational change the more critical and challenging part of the programme.

The primary organisational goal is stated as "minimum intrusion and maximum service for clients seeking to comply with the law, and appropriate enforcement for those who flout the law". Key factors which have guided the approach have been consistency with organisational goals, consultation with and participation of employees, geographical dispersion into a larger number of smaller offices, and careful management of the more than 100 constituent projects.

A number of features of the approach are of especial relevance to this volume's theme. Dominance of projects by technical staff (or 'the techno-fascists', as conference delegates preferred to label them) has been expressly avoided, by the establishment of user-dominated steering committees, the appointment of project managers drawn from relevant business areas, the inclusion in project teams of staff concerned with work and environmental issues, and direct representation of the relevant trade unions. At the same time, the Office is planning its new information systems as an integrated whole, rather than a series of only loosely inter-related suites of programmes. This highlights the tension between the interests of the users directly involved with each specific project and the corporate needs as a whole.

Further issues which the paper discusses include computer awareness courses, re-training, redundancy planning, staff communications, and project staffing including decentralisation of key project staff away from the central office.

In the fourth paper, Hart's 'Inter-Agency Cooperation in Developing the N.S.W. Land Information System', a senior executive from a State Government agency discusses the coordination of the interests of a variety of agencies in a classic instance of a multi-organisational strategic system.

During the 1980s, a land information system was developed in one of Australia's States which has an area about the size of France and West Germany combined. The many services relating to land (such as water, titles, valuations, mining leases, taxation, etc) were provided by a number of different agencies. Some 15 different State Government agencies recorded details of land ownership, in addition to Local Government (city, town and shire councils). Rather than undertake the difficult task of combining all of these services, or even merging all of the supporting databases, the approach taken was to integrate the existing and emerging computer-based systems into a single cohesive distributed system.

Key elements identified in this cooperative approach are identified. For each data item within the distributed system, a data trustee was identified, which is the only agency with update rights. A Hub system was established, providing data communications links and a Data Dictionary which identifies data trustees. The entire capital costs of the Hub were of the order of $US2.5m, and, because of its use of open systems concepts, has quickly repaid the investment.

The paper discusses the evolutionary approach used, and contends that it was appropriate for technical reasons and essential for political reasons. Agencies were able to protect their perceived self-interests, while benefiting from the pooling of data, and at the same time enabling services to the public to be significantly improved.

In the fifth paper, Learmonth's 'IT in Australian Local Government', the focus is on the level of government closest to people. The services provided have expanded far beyond 'roads and potholes' to include such diverse matters as drainage, parks, industrial and tourism development, libraries (offering not only books and audio-visual materials but also on-line connections to remote databases), and housing and care for the aged and for the displaced young.

Local government agencies have generally been slow to adopt new information technology, as a result of inherent conservatism, small scale of operations, large numbers of relatively small applications, and the unspectacular nature of benefits actually gained from computerisation. This is gradually changing, at least in some councils, as more imaginative, but necessarily more risk-prone, applications are embarked upon. With such applications come the need for education and training, and change management.

A general problem which is identified is the lack of any national or State coordination of IT usage, despite the quite apparent similarities between the needs of Australia's 836 local government councils. The diversity of suppliers identified in a 1988 survey is remarkable (45 mid-range computer suppliers, 63 microcomputer suppliers and 202 software suppliers). Information concerning the planning and management of local government agencies is also provided.


This section brings together three papers which deal with more abstract issues. One provides an economist's perspective of the IT industry; another discusses the impact of IT on social vulnerability; and the third outlines steps taken toward the development of an international IT Code of Ethics.

In the first paper, Lamberton's 'The Dominant Resource-Using Activity in the Economy', a senior research economist with long experience in observing the computing and communications industries uses OECD statistics to argue that 'the information economy' has not only arrived, but did so a long time ago. He observes, however, that many people (including economists) have not yet adapted to it. The paper draws particular attention to the need for governmental policies to ensure adequate IT infrastructure, and to address the problem of barriers to information flows across the boundaries of intra-national regions and nation-states.

In the second paper, Holvast's 'Vulnerability of Information Society', a social science academic provides a clear explanation of the concept of vulnerability, which originated in Sweden in the late 1970s but has attracted considerable attention also in the United States under such terms as 'safety-critical systems'.

Dependence on IT is seen as exacerbating existing risks of both physical and non-physical harm to individuals, society, and national sovereignty, and in addition creating new risks. The factors identified in the literature are structured, in order to provide a simple one-page model of the key considerations. In a companion model, countermeasures against vulnerability are similarly analysed.

The paper expresses concern that a wide range of risks (as different as urban disorder, terrorism, the storage and transport of nuclear materials, the use of drugs of dependence, and broken families) are being increasingly associated with failings of humans, and hence used as justification for invasions of personal space. Instances are the amounts of personal data being collected, stored, analysed and used in the making of increasingly 'fine-grained' administrative decisions about people's lives, and the exclusion of people with particular characteristics or behaviour from benefits, employment, licences, etc. The conclusion is reached that the increasing attention to security in modern society inevitably results in increasingly privacy-invasive applications of IT, enhances tendencies towards totalitarianism, and severely harms the quality of life of the survivors.

In the third and final paper, Sackman's 'IFIP Code of Ethics', an academic concerned with IT's social impact reports on the approach being undertaken to produce an international instrument to guide the application of IT. The domains being addressed are the ethics of individual professionals, multinational organisations, international law and international public policy.


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