There are optimist and pessimist views in the impacts of IT. The optimist view asserts that IT can increase the productivity of all concerned. Create at least as many new jobs as it destroys. Increase organizational effectiveness and efficiency. Enhance communication. Improve the quality of working life. And make it possible for more leisure and better medical facilities, etc. The pessimist view believes that most management jobs are too unstructured to be automated.
A large scale deployment of IT will lead to unemployment, deskilled jobs, less job satisfaction, deteriorated working life, centralization of power, and lessening of personal privacy and freedom. Among these two extremes lies the middle ground the relativist view that the positive or negative impacts of IT depend on the way the technology is put to use. The above descriptions are based mainly on the individual’s perception or attitude toward the impacts of introducing IT. However, it lacks systematic analysis on this issue. Indeed, according to the categories of decision problems we may face, IT has different impacts on them.
In the rest of this section, we will discuss the impacts of IT on different type of problems in terms of competence set analysis. (Churchman 2001) Competence Set and Cores of Competence Set For each decision problem or event E, there is a competence set consisting of ideas, knowledge, and skills for its effective solution. When the decision maker thinks he/she has already acquired and mastered the competence set as perceived, he/she would feel comfortable making the decision. Note that conceptually, competence set of a problem may be regarded as a projection of a habitual domain on the problem.
Thus, it also has potential domain, actual domain, and reachable domain. Also note that through training, education, and experience, competence set can be expanded and enriched (i. e. its number of elements can be increased and their corresponding activation probability can become larger). A given problem ‘E’ has been set with four basic elements for its competence. (i) Ideas, skills, information, attitudes, and knowledge have been included in the true competence set, by which, the problem ‘E’ can be solved successfully.
(ii) The decision maker perceives the true competence set, which has been referred as the perceived competence set. Impacts of IT on Routine Problems As mentioned earlier, the needed knowledge or skills of routine problems are clearly defined and acquired. Moreover, the satisfactory solutions are readily known and routinely used. As solution or sequence of solutions can be programmed into a chip (such as systems in chips), people can deal with these routine problems more efficiently by using advanced IT, which integrates computing and communication technology, and microelectronics.
Nowadays, many routine problems are already successfully solved by IT. For example, office automation is one way of making routine clerical operations efficient and cost effective. Another apparent example is the computerized patient records in the area of health care. Traditionally, the practice of medicine needs to keep a written record for each patient. Too often the current paper-based patient record is incomplete, illegible or unavailable. Computerized patient records can, to a large degree, relieve these problems.
In addition to providing previous historical information about the patient, a well-designed computerized patient record, including information about diagnoses, medications, and treatment parameters, can alert the practitioner to allergies, idiosyncratic responses to treatment previously administered. It would not be a surprise in the near future that patients’ records can be put in chips or magnetic tapes for the convenience of diagnosis and/or privacy. Maybe a more obvious example of automating routine tasks by IT is a personal digital assistant (PDA).
With PDA, people can automate daily routine tasks like managing schedule, taking note etc. PDA also can help health care professionals organize themselves, save time, and improve their productivity and personal effectiveness. It may help to reduce forgotten tasks, expedite reimbursement, replace index cards, improve efficiency of rounds, location organize to-dos, and write notes at the point-of-care. The user can even use it to download and track test results, reduce allergy/prescription errors and liability, synchronize data between the personal computer (PC) and the PDA.
Let us take a look at another example of handling routine tasks by PDA. A myriad of tasks must be performed by the military for the maintenance of the military readiness. Inspection of personnel, as well as, equipment, accounting of the personnel, training, and food preparation have been included in these tasks. In addition, maintenance of the equipment and inventory has also been included in these tasks. Remote environments are mostly the places for the implementation of many of these tasks.
Traditionally, the paper is used for the capturing of the information, and later, the computer system is entered with the activity. Mountains of paperwork can be generated alone by the inspections, in which, manual data entry is required, which can result in problems regarding the accuracy and timeliness of the information. To overcome these problems, the military try to extend much of the functionality of the military’s existing systems to the PDA format. Thus they can eliminate the problems associated with paper data collection and the manual data entry it necessitates.
. For instance, grades and deficiencies are recorded by an inspector on a paper checklist during the zone inspections. The division officer is routed with the typed report physically for the required action of the inspection. However, this paper method can be converted into an electronic system with the help of a PDA. In the result, the deficiency listing, as well as, grades can be created and completed by the inspectors on a handheld device, which can upload the files to a PC. Mixed-Routine or Fuzzy Problems versus IT
For a fuzzy problem or a mixed routine problem, which consists of a number of routine sub-problems, or fuzzy problem, we may decompose it into a number of routine problems to which the current IT can provide the solutions. This is the so-called decomposition principle”. How do we go about decomposing a mixed routine or fuzzy problem into a number of routine problems (components)? One technique is to partition the problem by the level of technical sophistication of the components, where each level of sophistication has corresponding specifications on needed skills and cost.
Though the components (i. e. routine problems), differ in complexity, scope, and level of functionality, they can be much more easily handle by the relevant available IT. Although IT may actually make managers more efficient and effective to deal with routine problems, it is still far from delivering on its promise to improve the process of managing challenging decision problems. In the next subsection, we will discuss this issue.