Running head: Socio-technical perspective: help for managing information overload
Mod 1-Session Long Project
ITM501-Mgmt Info. Systems & Business Strategy
April 14, 2011
Information overload is a big problem in most if not all organizations. As business, technology and education expand so does the data, information and knowledge backgrounds. In order to go forward, information retention is necessary. Because of this, a socio-technical perspective is needed within each organization to better organize the communication between the personal and technical sub-systems and manage the information overload. The purpose of this paper is to establish how taking a socio-technical perspective can be more productive in helping organizations manage information overload than either technical solutions or organizational solutions alone. Establishing this perspective and approach can be done in a few different ways. First, an understanding of the two systems and their interactions is critical. Secondly, that understanding must be applied so as to minimize overuse (confusion) and underuse (loss of information). Finally, it needs to be continually evaluated so as not to fall into a trap where an organization is operating barely above collapse; or worse- failure. Body
Before we can understand this perspective, we need to understand the concepts, terminology and their usefulness. The Socio-Technical theory “hypothesizes the presence of two subsystems in every organization or corporate; they are the technical sub-system and the social sub-system.” (Cartelli 2007). Another way to explain it is it “considers that every organisation is made up of people (the social system) using tools, techniques and knowledge (the technical system) to produce goods and services valued by customers (who are part of the organisation’s external environment)” (Liu & Errey 2006). To further grasp the understanding of the two systems and their interactions we need to comprehend the basic components of the perspective. Bellinger, Castro, and Mills (2004) help to explain the concepts of “data”, “information”, and “knowledge.” Data is symbols, the raw “facts.” It means nothing in and of itself, it’s just reporting. Information is “data that are processed to be useful; provides answers to "who", "what", "where", and "when" questions.” The information gives data meaning. Knowledge is “application of data and information; answers "how" questions.” It is the collection of information, more or less memorizing it. These all build the framework to understanding which is the “appreciation of ‘why’” and the “difference between memorizing and learning” (Bellinger et.al.). Furthermore, the concepts of “tools” and “uses” need to be viewed together. A specific tool in and of itself is not beneficial unless the full scope of its capabilities are fully understood. Beyond that, its uses and benefits within a specific organization and its practices have to be understood and evaluated in order for that tool to be maximized and at the very least, “useful.” Phil Green (2010) illustrated this best when he described a situation in which your car breaks down. The tools to fix your car are useless unless you have mechanics with not only an understanding of the technology and tools, but if they are able to understand and apply it. Just because you have a good tool doesn’t mean it’s going to 1.) give you the best result and 2.) doesn’t mean it’s the best for the job. This is where the social aspect comes into play. There is a dance between the technical and social systems because not all information can be codified and not all humans can just use a tool or information and make it work. Taking everything mentioned above, this understanding needs to be applied in order to minimize over use or under use. One of the most important ways we can apply the information is to our...
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