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

Date of Submission:
Word Count: 4,932 (inc. questions, titles
Week 3 - Objectivist and Practice Based Perspectives on
Luftman, J and Brier, T. (1999) Achieving and Sustaining Business-IT
Alignment, California Management Review, Vol.41, No.1


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


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.
c) 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

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.60-65-


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.


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

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.
c) 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
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
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.

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
Philippe Baunard and William H. Starbuck. Learning from failures: why it
may not happen. Long Range Planning. 38, 2005, pp.281-298.


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.


• 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

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

• ‘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

• ‘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

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.

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.


 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
Ethics of Information Management

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.


• ‘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

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.