You are on page 1of 13



Learning Portfolio
Student Name: Student Number: Title of Submission: Module: Organisations Warren McQuillan 40042015 Learning Portfolio MGT1010 Information and Dr Nola Hewitt-Dundas

Module Co-ordinator: Date of Submission: Word Count: etc)

4,932 (inc. questions, titles

Week 3 - Objectivist and Practice Based Perspectives on Knowledge
Luftman, J and Brier, T. (1999) Achieving and Sustaining Business-IT Alignment, California Management Review, Vol.41, No.1 Summary In the case study we can understand how important IT can be. It shows the power to change a company’s corporate strategy and completely reshape their cultures. Schwab transform to become a market leader by applying advancing technologies and becoming a full brokerage form. However it is clear that this isn’t as easy as simply applying new technologies. There is a need to have an excellent IT manager in the business, which is aware of all areas of the business and therefore can analyse which technology is applicable and which will serve the business the best. In terms of IT alignment in companies it is likely to be very company specific so defining a strategy which is best to introduction IT is unlikely. However it is clear that communication is key to the success of introducing adapting technologies. Therefore CIOs and top executives must work together in sharing their expert opinions for the greater good of the business. When this article was published, IT in business was a new thing. Therefore the focus was obviously on how to introduce it, now however IT is such a big thing and rather now it is almost a given in every company. It has transformed industries tenfold, giving companies more revenue streams through e-commerce and allowing firms to grow exponentially through reduction in costs and making the world smaller with advancing communication methods. IT alignment has become more of a need for any company, as without it they are unlikely to ever remain a competitive nature in the industry. Survival of a company in a competitive market is likely evidence of the importance of strong IT alignment in modern times. Questions a) What evidence does the article give for the transformative power of information technology? In the article we understand how the power of IT has changed Schwab from being a traditional “no frills” broker to becoming a full server brokerage firm. This has been achieved by being the first to adapt to new technologies. This includes; TeleBroker, their automated telephone service, OneSource, StreetSmart and Equalizer. All these technologies allowed Schwab to grow to become one of the market leaders. b) What qualities are required of information technology executives effectively to particulate in strategic discussions? IT managers must be knowledgeable in their expertise area; they must understanding new and developing technologies and how they can be integrated into the business. As well they must have an expert understanding of their current systems and a good knowledge of the running of the business. They should have strong relationships with all the departments in the businesses to be able to evaluate all possible technologies and analyse which new technology would give the business the best possible competitive advantage.


What evidence is there for the most appropriate route for aligning business and information technology strategies?

IT alignment in business is proven to be as unique as the business, so there is no particular strategy deemed most appropriate. However there are more generalised methods that are suggested to benefit businesses. These include making sure executives understand and use IT as best as possible, making sure CIOs have strong relationships with executives. d) Does the idea of an information technology strategy refer to the technology provided or the information and data which is provided using that technology? An IT strategy can refer to both the technology provided and the information and data resulting from that technology. What is more important is how both are used. IT should be used across all strategic levels of the business. IT is continually changing and advancing and what is obvious is the increasing penalties for businesses not using new IT technology as opposed to the increasing advantages for new using new IT. e) What is your impression of changes in technology and understandings of business and technology since the conceptualisation and publication of the article?

Since the publication of the article IT has become increasingly important for business’s overall performance and profits. It has allowed for businesses to grow into new markets via the use of e commerce for example. It also allows for the business to become more cost efficient as overheads can be easily reduced. When the article was published IT use in business was limited and learning was important. Now businesses understand the importance for IT and understand the penalties associated with not using the most up to date and relevant IT software. f) How can the business value of information technology be demonstrated?

The value of IT can be shown through the businesses competitive nature in their market place. Strong IT alignment increases the firm’s communication, profit and growth chances. Without IT a firm’s ability to survive in a competitive market is slim. A firm may be profitable in the short term but failure to grow may determine its successfulness.

Week 4 & 5 – Knowledge Creation and Team Working. Leadership and Information Management
Newell, S., Robertson, M., Scarbrough, H., and Swan, J. (2002) Managing knowledge work, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire HD30.2 NEWE, Case Study 3.1, pp.60-65Summary Knowledge creation leads to the development of new products, services or processes and this usually occurs within teams. However just by putting individuals from different backgrounds together to achieve this will not automatically gain the desired synergy to do this. All members of the group; to allow collaborative work to move forward must gain competence trust. In addiction they must have good relationships with each other on a personal basis and be committed to the project at hand. Without this trust problems occur including power differentials where by individuals abuse power by putting individual goals first rather than the benefit of the group as a whole. Development of this trust may take time but it is important for the team to gain a mutual understanding through discussing shared experiences. Similar problems in the case study were apparent. An unclear shared view of the group’s goal led to be a breakdown in a competence trust within the group. The project inspectors also grew to feel committed to a project they perhaps felt was mapped out poorly from the start. Time wasn’t surplus and it led to the team rushing the early proposal. It also meant that social integration was poor and left up to everybody’s own actions. Abusiveness of power was apparent from the remoteness shown by a Principal Investigator to a Research officer furthering tensions. The emergent solution was to break down the project into three separate sub groups. This led to an obvious reduction in team working and interdependencies within the sub groups. In conclusion the case study shows that there are many major problems involved with team working and in reality it can be hard to find the correct integration methods required to inherit a fully collaborative team. Questions

a) What is meant by competence trust?
As defined in the case study competence trust is the trust based on perceptions of the others’ competence to carry out the tasks needed. It is based on the attitude of respect for the abilities of the trustee to complete their share of the work. This can be built on through the person’s image or work they’ve produced. It is an unjustified trust until proven through these possible examples. It is important for the trustee to allow for mistakes, otherwise trust may break down quickly and a loss of work may be created.

b) What is an emergent solution (it will help to consider examples of emergent
solutions)? An emergent solution is a evolutionary solution ‘emerging’ from occurring problems. Comparing this to revolutionary solutions or radical solutions which are more likely to break down the main reason something worked in the first place.


For what purposes is email communication ineffective in the case study? Can you suggest why? For what purposes, could it be more effective?

Email proved to be ineffective in the case study because of various issues. Replies were lax which slowed down communication. The way knowledge is interpreted can also be an issue with email communication. Methodogical issues in general require a lot of effort to give because of the complex nature; so effort by email may be less than needed and complex ideas may break down. Email is treated as oral communication when sent, but received as a form of written communication, this adds to the possible ineffectiveness involved with email. Comparing this to pure oral communication feedback can be given easily through body language and verbal replies. d) What is the significance of relations of power within the case study? The relations of power lay between the Principal Investigators (PIs) and the Research Officers (ROs). The PIs had authoritative power over the ROs. Teams are claimed to be able to satisfy both organisational needs and individual needs (productivity and self-actualisation respectively.) Problems arise in groups when people fall into ‘patterns of competitiveness, conflict and hostility. However there is a contrasting that says this individual power seeking within groups is endemic and productive. The main reason this abuse of power exists is that individuals feel they need to be in charge because it is likely that the project outcome may fall on them. e) What is the significance of individuals to the creation of knowledge?

Individuals are important to knowledge creation as they bring with them their expertise to the group. They allow a diverse field of knowledge to be created for possible development. Individual work is required prior to teamwork and the creation of knowledge. This work has to be validated by the rest of the group, and then interpreted correctly to be effective in knowledge creation. f) What is the value of case studies? Do they approximate the gritty and uncertain texture of reality?

The value of case studies is that it allows lessons to be learnt from past activities. However case studies illustrate that what may work on paper may not equate the same result in reality. Social experiments prove to be difficult to transfer simply into reality.

Week 6 - HRM Policies and Information Management
Cisco systems has successfully anticipated and adapted to a number of market disruptions in recent years. How has Cisco achieved this and what role has the CEO played in this? Question & Summary Cisco Systems are one of the largest technology firms in the world. They specialise in consumer electronics, networking, voice and communications technology. Cisco appointed John Chambers as CEO in 1995 and he has been influential to the success of the company in spite of several market disruptions, which I will look at in more detail. Market disruptions, as defined by Chambers himself are an undercurrent propelling the technology market in an unforeseen way. Market disruptions may be categorised into either internal or external affairs. Internal market disruptions The first main disruption for Cisco Systems came 5 years after Chambers was appointed as CEO. Following the burst of the ‘internet bubble’ in 2000, Chambers was forced to lay off nearly 8000 employees and writing on billions in inventory in order to keep the company alive. A move from a command and control style leadership from Chambers to a collaborative system was a huge inhibitor to the growth of the business. This allowed the firm to be able to take on 22 cross-functional priorities a year through the introduction of councils, boards and work groups that promoted collaborative work. Internally speaking Cisco have shown great strengths in promoting communication and collaboration within their workforce. Technology has been an inhibitor in promoting greater communication through their advanced TelePresence software which allowed for life like video conferencing to be held. Committee boards take on prioritisation decisions and resource allocation in terms of the council and boards business plans put forward giving Cisco a strong well understand structure. External market disruptions Cisco’s corporate strategy was to listen to the customers, and gain insight into market transitions as opposed to their competitors strategy based on competition. They applied this by buying two major switching and video networking companies; Crescendo in 1993 and Scientific Atlanta in 2006 respectively. The rewards for the potentially risky moved were huge as Crescendo was turned into a $7 billion a year business for them. Another main market disruption was the Asian financial crisis in 1997. Cisco Systems reacted differently to competitors by investing aggressively and taking advantage of the economic down turn. The risky move allowed them to become the market leaders in nearly all of the Asian countries. Another huge change in the market was the movement from traditional networks to those based on internet protocol. Cisco collaborated with the major telcos and warned them of the dangers to their revenue on the emerging technology. Listening to the markets needs allowed them to advertise their product support for VoIP technology. CEO Importance John Chambers has been the man behind Cisco System’s huge success. His promoting of risk taking, or tolerance of potential failure has allowed Cisco to take a huge advantage in the Asian market. He showed evidence of having a strong transformative power in the industry when he said “we were going to change the way the world works, lives, plays and learns.” His anticipation

of the need to focus on moving beyond corporate computing furthered Cisco’s growth in the market. He understood the importance to change his style of management from being commanding to promoting collaborative work. He introduced a revised bonus system, which rewarded collaboration as opposed to individual work through clearly set targets.

Conclusion John Chamber’s decision making and great understanding of different market disruptions brought about a strong structure within Cisco Systems today. Created was a strong balance between tacit knowledge and clear leadership from the decision committee allowed Cisco to become one of the world’s biggest technology firms.

Week 7 – Organisational Information - Unlearning Knowledge
Philippe Baunard and William H. Starbuck. Learning from failures: why it may not happen. Long Range Planning. 38, 2005, pp.281-298. Summary Firms usually eventually fail over time. Survival over the long term shows that firms improve over time. Firms can fail because of an aspect of over learning occurring. This can mean that a firm sets in stone their strategic methods because of past successes and fail to adapt to a changing market. Survival however shows that they have clearly learnt from exogenous activities to remain competitive within the market. Surviving firms are continually adapting to changes and therefore the workforce needs to be as flexible as possible. In terms of flexibility; management must be willing to reorient the business in terms of the workforce and the firms strategic domain where needed. Learning from failures may not happen because of a possible non-disclosure of information from management in regards to the true causes of the failure. This happens for numerous reasons but the likely cause is that self-interest prevails from management who want to protect their reputation and possibly their job. This causes exogenous causes to become the main documented cause of large causes in particular. Questions • Do firms, or individuals within firms, learn? If a failure is sufficiently extensive, will the firm continue to exist to learn from it?

Cyert and March originally said that firms are more likely to learn from failures than successes. They said that firms could be shown to improve gradually over time. However not all businesses survive in the long run and so it can be thought that survival can be a shown example of learning. Extensive failures can be learnt from but this comes down to the top managers responsive to dealing with failure. Moderate failures are likely to motivate individuals to improve more than a small failure. • Why might the lessons drawn from success gradually turn into straightjackets that prevent firms from adapting to social and technological changes?

Success improves a firms overall performance but may lead to an over learning of the behaviours that created this success, becoming over confident in continued success will follow with the same methods. Evidence from learning therefore is apparent but problems arise through a lack of adaptation to the new problems a firm may face. The straightjacket effect causes firms to act ‘simpler’ and prevent them from changing their methods or adapting to new technological or social changes. • Why might interpretation processes tend to modernize the core beliefs, thus creating some incremental change? Can the concept of incremental change be related to our earlier concern with an emergent solution?

Employees can slant interpretations to gain a benefit from the situation. This can be done in regards to both failures and successes. Failures may not be learnt from because of a lack of discussion from top managers who wish to disregard the failure. One reason for this is the blame culture where the managerial hierarchy may be looking to punish culprits. Incremental change is likely to emerge as opposed to a complete reorientation of the firm’s

strategy. This is because smaller variations of the original strategy is likely to preserve distributions of power whilst reorientations threat to ‘take firms outside out their familiar domains.’ This incremental change can be related to the emergent solution as both show an evolutionary style of progression through changes based on the previous problem or strategy.

‘EC’s managers interpreted every one of the large failures as having largely exogenous causes – ‘exceptional or historical conditions’ or ‘society was undergoing large, dramatic change’. The larger the failure, the more exogenous causes they saw.’ (p.293). What is meant by exogenous? You should give some examples of possibly relevant exogenous factors.

Exogenous causes are those that affect the business from external activities. Exogenous causes can be subcategorised into either the predicted, or non-predicted. Management pushed non-predictable causes as reasons for the large failures. This is likely to be the case because as the failure becomes larger, so does the desire for top managers to want to shift the blame from themselves. • Does the article give evidence for an impulse towards non-disclosure of failure? And, if so what evidence? Why might managers be reluctant to disclose failure?

The article explains how the reporting from managers focused on fulfilling the operational expectations of top management. These reports lacked the problems that seemed ‘out of the box’ and difficult to explain. These problems were likely to have been able to prevent the causes of the large failures. Other evidence of failure would include the bankruptcy of GerCom for example but the failure may be difficult to specifically explore. The reason managers are reluctant to disclose failure comes down to the self-interest they and everybody has. They don’t want to incur a reputational loss by taking the blame for said failure. • ‘To be practical, learning processes must deal with human beings as they are, not as we wish them to be.’ (p.296). What relevant characteristics of human beings as they are does the article identify? Do you find these convincing?

Similar to the previous question self interest is the most predominant human characteristic shown. The convincing nature is obvious because of how self-interest is so prevailing in today’s society. • How were interviews recorded? What justification is given for the method adopted? Can you suggest other convincing motivations for adopting the methods described?

Interviews were transcribed after the interview took place. This is the best solution as although alterations may be made from the time of the interview to the final document other solutions can cause disruptions or inhibit the interviewee’s freedom of speech.

Week 8 – Organisational Information - Unlearning Knowledge cont.
Summary The introduction of knowledge management tools can prove difficult regardless the size of the business. Other factors including the industry the company operates in is likely to affect how this is applied. Knowledge tools may be introduced as one standardised set or through embracing cultural diversity within departments to provide a more bespoke system. Large corporations are not homogenous by nature and the division of labour is more extensive than smaller businesses. This potentially creates sub cultures within departments as all their specific goals may vary department to department. However, this does not necessarily cause an issue to the company if the appropriate knowledge tools are provided. This allows departments to work to their expertise and help achieve the coherent corporate goal. For smaller firms distinctive sub cultures are less likely to become a possible issue, as cross-functional work is more common. Divisions within small companies are less rigid and employees aren’t likely to feel remote from other areas of the firm. Industry uniqueness may also define whether a company has a single coherent strategy or both that as distinctive sub cultures. The single goal is likely to prevail in a firm like a game or software developer; where all employees tend to work together to achieve the final product. For a company that has highly divided teams sub cultures are likely to exist. Problems may develop through poor decision making in the appropriate knowledge system to introduce. A standardised selection may inhibit productivity and reduce a departments input to a knowledge base where as a diversified selection may cause departments to grow too strong and cause the chance of cross collaboration or cross functional work to diminish. Questions Are all organisations likely to have distinctive sub-cultures rather than a single coherent corporate culture?

The question is hard to give a clear answer to as it is varies from business to business and can depend heavily on the size and market involved. In larger organisations distinctive sub cultures are more likely as the division is more rigid and cross-functional work is less common. These divisions have distinctive values based on the goals they are trying to achieve and therefore technological differences are likely as each department has a different style of work. For example this could be shown in a pharmaceutical company whereby the operations department may follow a codified plan to determine working techniques. This may include databases and real time data logging. Comparing this to the innovation or R&D department where they are more likely to rely more heavily of team working than a set codified plan. They would be more likely to use forums to promote the team-working element. However these sub cultures are likely to feed into the one coherent goal. In terms of a small organization; they are less likely to have distinctive sub cultures, as employees are more likely to be working together in cross-functional work. They share common values across departments and divisions are less rigid. The single coherent corporate goal is more likely in this scenario.

The two ideas are shown to be very industry specific, in the case of the pharmaceutical company we understand how it is likely to see sub cultures feed into the single overall company goal. However a large company may not have any distinctive sub cultures. For example, in the game or software development industry employees are more likely to carry out cross-functional work and be working towards to the single coherent goal. If this is the case, do you think management would be better to try and shape sub-cultural values to encourage the standardized use of knowledge management tools, or accept and embrace cultural diversity and allow knowledge management tools to be used in a diversity of ways?

Both a standardised and diverse use of knowledge management tools can carry benefits. A standardised use will give the overall company a clear understanding all technological products they use. Problem solving may be easy because of this and employees are more likely to have transferable skills between departments. Senior managers therefore will have better control in terms of analysis between departments as the knowledge base is shared throughout all departments. In terms of a diversified system; it is more likely to promote the expertise in each division. Employees can benefit from the appropriate knowledge tools for themselves and for the business they may see a productivity increase. I believe that companies would be advised to accept and embrace cultural diversity between departments and allow for technology to be applied to the nature of the department. The productivity and over all knowledge increase from this method I believe outweighs any potential problems that may occur. Potential problems may include over rigid departments where by employees lack any transferable skills and shared data becomes a minimum. There is a need for flexibility between departments to allow for any cross-collaborative work to take place.

Ethics of Information Management
Summary Misuse of IT in companies in the UK is obviously a major problem. However, employers are not likely to dismiss employees because of the costs involved. One of the major problems is the ‘immediacy of email’ where by employees don’t think about the consequences of sending something inappropriate because of this immediacy. Dealing with the problem of IT is not straightforward, as both technological and social issues need to be explored. A purely technological approach; for example a system engineered to block any inappropriate access is likely to lead to a demotivated workforce because of a lack of trust shown so the promotion of social responsibility is becoming increasingly popular. Creating and promoting the social responsibility may involve giving employees the freedom to access what they want when they want to try and gain a trust that employees won’t abuse their access. The costs involved for businesses are a lot greater than just pure technological costs. The main cost is the loss of competitive advantage caused by an unproductive workforce and the opportunity cost involved because of any legality fees, software or engineer costs. It is therefore obvious that firm’s need to cut out IT misuse. However it is unlikely that they will be able to prevent it entirely. So the best answer to the problem is creating a strong mix between a technological system and social responsibility. Guidelines should be clear to employees what they can and can’t do, and the disciplinary issues with not adhering with these guidelines. It is a balancing act for the company and is obviously very unique to the company and they industry they are in. Questions • ‘A quarter of UK companies have dismissed employees for internet misconduct.’ Does this figure directly indicate the level of intensity of abuse of Internet resources? What other indicators are given? Do the figures suggest that prevention has been more employed than litigation?

In the article it states that 72% of companies have had a problem with internet misuse, however this only leads to a quarter of UK companies dismissing employees because of it. There is a clear refusal to dismal employees because of internet misuse. There are potentially many reasons for this.

The main reason is the cost of reemployment. A study found that the cost of replacing key staff could be as much as 150% of their annual salary; the focus on all companies need to lower costs may cause these cases to be taken more lightly. In addition companies run the risk of extra costs and time spent if the dismissal process was completed inaccurately which has led to a tribunal case. The last main issue is the detrimental effect it would have on the firm’s image. Any negative image could lead to a loss in contracts and so it is clear to see why dismissal is avoided. Instead, companies may be encouraged to have a ‘quiet word’ with said employee and make them aware that their actions haven’t gone unnoticed. This is likely to cause a cease in this misuse. Therefore I think that it is clear that litigation isn’t as strong as it could potentially be. However the issue may be slightly inflated because of the where the statistics have come from. Websense; the company behind the statistics are a provider of internet management solutions and therefore could be using the article as a case for self-promotion. • ‘20GB (gigabytes or billion bytes) of unacceptable material in corporate storage systems ... ‘Apart from anything else, that represents a serious management cost, perhaps $250,000 worth’’. Are real costs primarily located in the storage of data or in dealing with the issues arising from data storage?

IT misuse causes several costs to the business, both directly and indirectly. The direct costs may involve; the software purchased by the company as a prevention method, the cost of storage and backups, and any cost to fix problems if the misuse has led to system failures. Indirect costs however I think is the most important issue in regards to the misuse of IT resources .The money spent on direct costs causes an opportunity cost to the business. They may therefore be unable to spend that money on internal investment, and growing the business. The cost of IT misuse is likely to lead to a decrease in employee productivity. Employees spend time trying to get around prevention software, decreasing overall productivity. The cost of this loss in productivity is hard to calculate but clearly is a huge expense to the company. Other indirect issues involve legality costs if IT misuse has caused a potential legal case against the company and a loss of reputation if the problem is reported in the media. These indirect costs, particularly through the loss of productivity are likely to reduce the competitive advantage of the firm. This I think is the real cost of IT misuse in businesses. Without a focused and trusted work force, communication will break down and staff may become highly demotivated. A poor work force cannot aid the company to grow or maintain itself as a market leader.