ABSTRACT

That the process by which any significant organisational change is implemented has a major impact on the success of that change has become almost universally accepted as a part of common wisdom. When dealing with office technology, however, this statement takes on added meaning. For example, based on his experience with the Canadian field trials, Taylor (1985: 213) observes that:

The experience of our field trials has brought strongly home to us the amount of time and effort that goes into making an office automation system function in practice. Equipment is less reliable than one would expect; instalment takes longer and maintenance costs are more than had originally been predicted. Response times are slower than had been expected; minicomputers and networks load up faster than had been anticipated; computer memories are less elastic than anyone had imagined, in office situations. Software is much less flexible than we had thought; furthermore the compatibility problems are much greater than we had been prepared to admit to ourselves. Finally, learning is a much longer and more complicated process than anyone could ever have foreseen.

Indeed, a major study of 2000 US firms that had implemented office systems (Bikson and Gutek, 1984) revealed that at least 40 per cent of these systems failed to achieve the intended results. Interestingly, less than 10 per cent of the failures were attributed to technical failure. The majority of the reasons given were human and organisational: unclear delineation of problems the technology was to solve, poor management of the technology, poor planning and lack of training.