Avoiding the 10 Common Pitfalls in Office Automation Implementation

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Carnegie Mellon University]On: 19 October 2014, At: 02:33Publisher: Taylor & FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Avoiding the 10 Common Pitfalls in Office AutomationImplementationPhilip N. JamesPublished online: 30 May 2007.

    To cite this article: Philip N. James (1984) Avoiding the 10 Common Pitfalls in Office Automation Implementation, Journal ofInformation Systems Management, 1:3, 3-12, DOI: 10.1080/07399019408963039

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  • Avoiding the 1 0 Common Pitfalls in Office Automa tion Implemen ta tion Philip N. James

    Office automation (OA) can be a major contributor to an organization's success, or it can be a major drain with few benefits. Because of its experience in introducing new technologies to the organization, MIS management can help guide the implementation of office technologies. This article describes 10 common pitfalls in implementing OA and explains how to avoid them in order to help organizations reap its substantial benefits.

    The road to successful office automation (OA) is paved with stumbling blocks. User impatience to acquire OA, the difficulty of its cost justifica- tion, the lack of understanding among senior executives, the proliferation of incompatible OA systems, unsuccessful pilot projects, successful pilots that never spread-these are some of the challenges confronting those responsible for managing the implementation of OA in their or- ganizations. MIS managers can, however, gain control over this complex process and avoid the pitfalls.

    1. Failing to Plan OA will cause more organizational change than

    Philip N. James is director of strategy planning for the Northrop Corporation Information Resource Management Department, Hawthorne CA.

    any prior use of the computer. Planning for the introduction of office technology, its manage- ment, and the training of its users.is therefore essential.

    S o m e organizations try to formulate a comprehensive strategic plan that provides for the systematic testing and introduction of office technologies over several years. Given the cur- rent state of the art, such an approach is probil- bly unnecessary and may even be counterpro- ductive. Office technologies are evolving so rapidly that organizations must maintain flexibil- ity to take advantage of new developments. A comprehensive, detailed plan in this area rarely provides sufficient flexibility.

    What planning, then, should take place? The answer depends on many factors. The most important determinants are the character-

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  • istics of the organization. A "mom and pop" store would naturally require very different so- lutions than a major corporation, and govern- ments and universities would also differ. Some key' planning questions follow.

    How much risk can the organization man- age? The greater the organization's "risk to tol- erance," the more likely it is that it can pioneer new technologies. Although new technologies can provide significant competitive advantages, vendors likely to offer these technologies are equally likely to be out of business when help is needed. This strategy therefore risks the costs associated with converting to alternative equipment. .

    If its risk tolerance is low, the organization should stay with vendors that have good track records and prognoses and with systems that have been effective with many users. Such a low-risk strategy significantly limits the organiza- tion's options in a dynamic field, but those that are available can be used effectively, as many major corporations have demonstrated.

    How large and complex is the organiza- tion? The options of a multinational corpora- tion that desires a worldwide integrated elec- tronic office are severely limited. Those organizations that are willing to allow different units to adopt different approaches will have more options; however, they must then consid- er such complex problems as providing gate- ways for the transfer of documents, messages, and other communications among several sys- tems. Allowing local independence without gateways limits the potential benefits of OA for the corporation, because a principal value of OA is improved companywide communica- tions.

    The smaller and more coherent the organ- ization, the more options it can review. At the low end is the mom and pop store, which can probably meet its needs with a single personal computer. Such needs may even include online relationships with its suppliers and/or custom- ers.

    Those who work in small units of large corporations often pursue independent efforts, because they do not expect significant interac- tion with the rest of the organization. Experi- ence has shown that such people come to real- ize the value of interconnection as they become

    familiar with what their equipment can do for them. This is organizational learning, which is addressed later. If a company can effectively manage equipment redeployment, it may find that it is better to start such people with the lim- ited equipment they want, then replace it when the need for interconnection is clear.

    How entrepreneurial i s the organiaa- tion? This is related io the question of risk to]- erance but may further limit the options in a company that can otherwise tolerate risk. Con- versely, it may open options to a company that probably should not pursue them. The entre- preneurial environment can substantially influ- ence the choice of options in any company. If the decision maker cannot afford to fail, he or she will look at the safest options and forego some potential benefits.

    What technology should be introduced where? A requirements analysis is the starting place for most OA initiatives. Some OA advis- ers feel, however, that the preceding three questions must be answered before the require- ments study can begin. This allows the real op- tions available to be held in mind as the require- ments are developed.

    In some cases, an organizationwide "go for broke" approach to OA is

    reasonable.

    A requirements study documents the company's mode of doing business and quanti- fies the flow of information among its units. Its principal objective is to find high-payoff applica- tions of office technology and to assess their prospects for success. Often someone has suffi- cient knowledge of the company to simplify or eliminate a comprehensive requirements study and to direct the focus to two or three obvious areas. If document creation is the issue, word processing may suffice. If heavy travel is the is- sue, teleconferencing may suffice. If "telephone tag" is the issue, voice mail may suffice. If a vendor performs the requirements study, how- ever, it is likely to find.a problem that its system will solve.

    An important step is to find a reasonably localized application. Here, localized means lo- cal with respect to organizational variables (a

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  • 10 Common Pitfalls in OA Implementation

    , EXHIBIT 1

    Pilot Project Planning Questions

    Why is the pilot project being conducted, and what results are expected? How will the pilot change the nature of the work in the target. organizatkn?

    What benefits will people realize? What should they not expect? What problems might occur? How will they be handled? What should people do if they encounter anything unexpected? What records should the participants keep? How should they share their experiences with each other and with the pilot project management?

    What training will be provided? What feedback is desired on the effectiveness of the tra