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The Effects Of Technology On Business

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The technological advances achieved in the past few decades have brought about a revolution in the business world, affecting nearly all aspects of working life. People can reach others throughout the world in a matter of seconds, with cost being increasingly irrelevant. Employees no longer need to be physically with their clients and co-workers; instead they can communicate effectively at home, at a distant office, across the world, and even in their car or on an airplane. With technology's penetration into every business function executives have seen first-hand how it gives them access to well-organized, quality information they can use to make better decisions, and how it fundamentally supports the day-to-day running of their business. Getting a manager to accept the new world of information technology is only part of the equation. The other part, getting employees to sign on to the new technology, requires patience and a deep understanding of human nature. Why? Because many people fear new technology. There's also a fear that new technology will either displace personnel into new and unfamiliar job functions or replace them altogether for the sake of cutting costs.

The advent of the Information Age has spawned new technologies capable of improving nearly every aspect of business. The invention of the telephone, fax machine, and more recent developments in wireless communications and video-conferencing have offered businesses more flexibility and efficiency, and those willing to embrace these new technologies found they were more likely to survive and prosper. The result is today's heavily technical workplace, where "proficiency with complex phone systems, fax machines, and often-networked computers are basic essentials." (Main) Today, business and management continue to be transformed by high technology. In order to keep pace with the increased speed and complexity of business, new means of calculating, sorting and processing information are being invented. This development in technology results in changes to lines of command and authority, and influences the need for reconstructing the organization and attention to job design. The result is a change in the traditional supervisory function and a demand for fewer supervisors. One person may be capable of carrying out a wider range of activities. Computer networks allow people to communicate quickly, share ideas, and transfer information without regard to physical locations.

The tasks that employees perform within an organization are being drastically affected by the increased mechanization and application of technology as a part of the production process. In many settings, tasks previously performed directly by human operators are being automated, changing the human's task to one of supervisory control. Now the expectations of an average employee in such an environment has to change, because they are no longer performing repetitive tasks, but rather must be able to recognize and react to problem situations. One futuristic idea whose time has come is the notion of the virtual workplace. This concept is based on the idea of employees being able to work independently as a result of having access to information. Where we work, when we work, and how we communicate are being revolutionized, as a "seamless web of electronic communications media--e-mail, voice mail, cellular telephones, laptops with modems, hand-held organizers, video conferencing, and interactive pagers"--makes teamwork and mobility a reality. (Panepinto) One article proposes "the virtual workplace provides access to information you need to do your job anytime, anyplace, anywhere . . . employees do not have to be tied to their offices to do their jobs."(Jenner) The idea of not even having a set office space certainly would be a change from the typical routine of showing up at the office from 9 to 5 and working at a desk. Such a plan would obviously be dependent on the job to be accomplished, but it is interesting to think of the supervisory implications. Such employees would have the ultimate amount of independence and would have to be managed accordingly. Tasks would have to be more objective or goal oriented and measures of job performance could no longer depend on face-to-face interaction, but rather would have to be tied strictly on the ability to complete assigned tasks.

Commercial use of the Internet, and connectivity to the Internet by commercial organizations has grown rapidly. Even companies that have been connected for years are undergoing major changes in their usage of, and attitudes toward, the Internet. There has never been an industry, since the dawn of man that has attracted so much attention like the Internet and the World Wide Web. The benefits of business Internet use can be seen from a large-scale perspective (benefits to whole industries), localized perspective (benefits to a specific business), and even an individual perspective (benefits to clients/consumers). The Internet is the least expensive marketing tool available today, as well as the most cost-effective, relatively inexpensive, compared to other forms of advertising. A company can have their Web site built and up and running for a whole year for the same cost as one day's advertising in a local newspaper. In addition, the Internet offers the opportunity with which to create one-to-one relationships with the prospect of building lasting relationships with consumers in a very personal and individualized manner.

While implementation of information systems and technology in general can be a boom to an organization and be part of a transformation that results in radical improvement, it is also essential to at least consider the drawbacks associated with this progress. The behavioral issues revolve around two key points. The first is that people and organizations tend to reject new technology because they are reluctant to change. They are either afraid of changing or afraid that they will be un-able to change. For this reason it is important that changes in technology are accompanied with changes in organizational practices and culture. It is essential to incorporate organizational learning in the acceptance of information technology. The second issue concerns employee involvement in the change and the resulting job satisfaction. This aspect relates back to the idea of "empowerment, which is needed to effectively implement technological change." (Meeker) If it is not viewed as part of an overall transformation, the addition of technological process improvements or information systems, which on the surface take away human responsibility, is likely to lead to job dissatisfaction. In one sense such advancements remove the last bit of skill that employees put into their job. They must essentially



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