Lesson 1: Transforming the Design of Organizations
Information technology (IT) provides new ways to design and
structure organizations. With tools like e-mail, virtual groups, teleconferencing,
and transactions systems that help coordinate organizational subunits, it is possible
to create organizations where time and place no longer matter. For better or worse,
IT has facilitated the outsourcing and offshoring of work. For many entrepreneurs
and firms a physical location is of secondary concern.
of the Past
Host Bob Cringley visits an office
of the early 1900s to show how dramatically technology has changed the way we work.
Many of the tasks that subordinates performed for the knowledge worker are automated;
we no longer have secretaries to type memos or to take phone messages. Organizations
have adopted technology to dramatically increase office efficiencies and in doing
so have changed the nature of work.
Anina, a fashion model and entrepreneur
without a home base or an office, started by using a cell phone that she programmed
herself to manage her business. Anina runs a virtual company, 360 Fashion, which
provides information and insight on fashion using her cell phone camera and a laptop
to manage her Web site. The lesson here? IT is all about mobility; about being untethered
from a physical location. The technology makes it possible for a single person to
create a business that can be accessed by hundreds of millions of people over the
Internet. As WiMax and 3G technologies are implemented, there will be an explosion
of content and communications that will impact businesses such as Anina’s.
Point B, a consulting firm with
no offices has turned conventional organization design upside down. Instead of sending
consultants to clients where ever they are located, Point B takes on clients where
its employees live in seven different markets. It has no headquarters, no building
of its own, and its employees work at client sites, coffee shops and in their cars.
Point B rents hotel offices so that it can have meeting rooms when needed.
But as we see in the segment, Point B consultants can work almost any place they
can connect to the Internet. Will our conventional concept of an office disappear?
Will work become more local to avoid the lost time and frustration of air travel?
Virtual firms, teams and companies without offices remove some of the social interaction
that most of us find at work – which raises the question of how managers will bring
this aspect of work to employees.
Hewlett-Packard’s Halo system and
other telepresence systems like those marketed by Cisco are great enabling technologies.
The quality of the video in these systems makes it look as if someone a thousand
miles away is sitting across the table. E-mail is not a particularly rich media,
and face-to-face contact that is almost real is considerably better for communicating.
The price of these systems is high, but as with all IT, prices will fall. Imagine
being able to meet with different people around the world, almost in person, without
having to get on an airplane! In the future systems like this will allow the design
of organizations that consist of many far-flung locations connected through lifelike
video systems. Technology will also help manage this distributed firm by collecting
data and making it available to managers who must coordinate projects and monitor
budgets. Every process is becoming digital, virtual and mobile.
- Inside the Future: Surviving
the Technology Revolution, Chapter 3: Transforming Every Day Events