The Role of Technology in Shaping Organizations
Technology, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the use of knowledge in a particular area, and the capabilities gained by doing so. It is the interaction between science and society; usage of knowledge to conduct tasks of value. Being a very broad term, technology includes everything; from a simple stick used to light fire to a complex artificial intelligent system running on super computers for analyzing, lets say, the impact of nuclear warheads. Technology, depending upon its usage, is both beneficial and harmful.
The usage however varies from filed to field and individual to society. Among many things that have been created and designed by men, many are too simple for a second thought whereas others are too complex to even be understood by a single individual. Organizations, being entities (at least in legal terms), are arguably one of the most complex creations of mankind. Organizations are the result of coordinated efforts put in by individuals to use resources to achieve a common goal.
The managing, directing and leading of such a huge group of individuals and budgeting the use of resources is indeed a very demanding process, and like other walks of life, even organizations have prospered (or suffered) at the hands of technology. Organizations used to be simple things. A leader with a few men working under him, the methods were reminiscent of monarchies dating as far back as Sumer and Indus Valley. Humans lived in groups cultivating the land around them. People not dedicated to agriculture however did other things like metallurgy, astronomy, arts and finance.
These both were contributing to knowledge in one way or the other; building canals for irrigation and accounting systems for record keeping with the head of the society holding responsibility for the distribution of resources among the rest. As generations passed, this cumulative knowledge and its application to day to day living grew. Gutenberg’s printing press further banished the barriers known to knowledge and allowed for its dissipation far across the face of the earth.
People no longer just told stories, but had proof in the form of written scripts and artifacts and with this came a better understanding of everything and applicability of new skills to existing methods. Thus, organized societies grew ever more complex with a need for better management techniques. Technology has thus played an important role since the beginning of time and its usage in every walk of life can be seen today. Organizations that grew complex by the day needed a better way to do things.
The industrial revolution heralded by Watt saw a completely new turn and proved that in order to survive, organizations had no choice but to incorporate new technology in order to compete in their respective markets. Henry Ford by bringing in the assembly production line revolutionized the way work was looked at. Toyota by popularizing Just In Time techniques ushered in the importance of managing time and costs. Nike started outsourcing and calculating work done per product down to fifteenths of a second.
A six sigma approach of producing no defects in a million units made Motorola and others global leaders in their industries. Ducati through an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system became as nimble as its product and Dell redefined how distribution is done. All this was possible through technology which has reshaped organizations today and better equipped them to compete in the future. Extensive capital being invested in newer technologies has not only changed the labor requirements and setup of these organizations, it has also changed its overall capital structure and hierarchy.
Organizations are moving towards the networked economy, with the boundaries between functions blurring to form self managed teams. No longer does every employee have to be physically present at a firm’s premises; work can be done from home or while commuting as long as enough technology is used. All the above methods and theories might have been proposed or researched by scientists, managers or other experts from various fields, however, it is these organizations that apply them practically which turn them into a success and a must have for their competitors as well.
Time and time again, technology has raised the bar higher and modified organizations in such a way as to leave a lasting impact and has pushed firms to their limits; it has heralded them into new ages every step of the way from which there is no looking back. The only thing that matters is how well can organizations react to such extensive technological change and how they can harness its infinite potential to further their own purpose.