Title

Information technology and the fabric of organization

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

9-2007

Publisher

INFORMS

Abstract

Technology has been an important theme in the study of organizational form and function since the 1950s. However, organization science’s interest in this relationship has declined significantly over the past 30 years, a period during which information technologies have become pervasive in organizations and brought about significant changes in them. Organizing no longer needs to take place around hierarchy and the collection, storage, and distribution of information as was the case with “command and control” bureaucracies in the past. The adoption of innovations in information technology (IT) and organizational practices since the 1990s now make it possible to organize around what can be done with information. These changes are not the result of information technologies per se, but of the combination of their features with organizational arrangements and practices that support their use. Yet concepts and theories of organizational form and function remain remarkably silent about these changes. Our analysis offers five affordances—visualizing entire work processes, real-time/flexible product and service innovation, virtual collaboration, mass collaboration, and simulation/synthetic reality—that can result from the intersection of technology and organizational features. We explore how these affordances can result in new forms of organizing. Examples from the articles in this special issue “Information Technology and Organizational Form and Function” are used to show the kinds of opportunities that are created in our understanding of organizations when the “black boxes” of technology and organization are simultaneously unpacked

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