Information Systems, IT and Organization Culture
Organizational culture is a way of behavior, living, interaction and overall conduct of people in an organization. Culture is fundamentally the collective development and understanding of human minds that differentiate the members of a human group in relation to others; therefore, culture can be defined as a system of communally held values . Schien describes organizational culture to be the deeper point of basic conjectures and values that are fundamentally shared by elements of any organization, that operate instinctively and defined in basic fashion the organization‘s view of its environment and its self. Quinn and Cameron state that organizational culture describe the underlying assumptions, values, expectations and even definitions present in an organization. Organizational culture reflects the ideology which people carry within themselves. It also conveys the sense of identity within the employees, provides understood and, mostly, unspoken guiding principles for how behave in an organization, and further enhances the constancy of the community system that the organization has. Any organizational culture has following functions:
- It provides unspoken and unwritten ways for getting along in an organization while enhancing the constancy of the communal system.
- It enables dealing success completely with the problems of outer adaptation and inner integration.
- It enables differentiating between out-group and in-group people.
Information Systems or simply IS has a significant role to organizations’ achievement, particularly in this modern era, where digital economics, globalization, and the digital organizations take place so the weak points of IS are considered as dangerous threat on organizational achievement in broad. In addition, the question is not just about that whether an organization should have the Information System or not, but it is about the effective development of the Information System . The success of Information System and the relevant determinants considered in the regard are critical in evaluating the level of effectiveness of the development of the IS. The organizational culture of any organization is the most critical determinant in this context while developing an Information System for the organization.
Information System development in Unilever
Unilever is a multinational consumer goods company which started its operations in 1930 with a quick growth across the globe in following decades. The company started developing its information system in the mid 90s which were developed gradually by each of its subsidiary rather than developing and implementing as a whole. Unilever has a wide range of demographic variance present in its staff due to its worldwide operations. The differences in demographics create unique set of culture for each of the geographical divisions of the company. The management at Unilever was hesitant at start to develop Information System for the company and lacked the communication level required for developing such system due to independent working of the divisions of the company.
The culture of Unilever was to take up its staff along with rather than hiring new ones for technological changes. So was the case with developing Information System in Unilever. The IT experts that formed the part of team for developing the required Information System were mostly from the existing ones and the people who were supposed to use the IS were also the existing ones after acquiring the necessary training. The management of the company faced difficulties from most of the staff during training as they were not quite familiar with the working of computers at that time.
Unilever has accomplished development of the information system software and its implementation ensuring the stock of products in an organized manner in stores. The consumer related goods giant, who produces brands like Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Surf washing powder and Dove soap has successfully implemented an Information System from its supplier Kalido, to process the in-store related audit data which is sent from shops to Unilever warehouse.
Unilever is intelligently using Kalido's Dynamic Information Warehouse and Master Data Management as well to produce reference data and analyze the transaction data. The information data is first translated into the relevant and actionable data by its new software in order to ensure that the executives can make decisions to develop the supply chain effectiveness and efficiency while ensuring that the shops have no shortage of the Unilever products. Unilever has also been using the SAP's systems for supply chain management extensively and its own Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. The development of such systems was customized to the Unilever’s organizational culture in order to facilitate its staff in implementing the systems successfully. Recently, the company has revealed that it is in the middle of a program named ‘One Unilever’ designed to reduce the costs through standardizing the regional businesses process while streamlining its IS systems.
There are certain factors that play key role in assuring success of IS implementation. Unilever tried its best in meeting the requirement of all these factors in the development of there is system. These factors are listed below with brief description of each :
System Quality: It can be best defined as guidelines or standards used to ensure quality in system like the high reliability of the implanted system, the level of reliance and relevance, efficiency and effectiveness and the time it takes to respond. The system quality of Unilever was of world class standard so it faced almost no difficulty in this regard while developing the IS.
Information Quality: This refers to the extent to which the system is productive to give the required outcomes and benefits. It also entails the degree of appropriateness, conciseness, impeccability, accessibility, objectivity and top of all security. The quality of information was also one of the strong point of Unilever due to which it developed its IS successfully.
Service Quality: It is related to the quality of services being provided to the customer through incorporating best available IS system. We can include such attributes like timely delivery, empathy, guarantee, reliability and security. The service quality of Unilever was exceptional which contributed a lot in the development of IS.
System usability: It is the most crucial and little complex factor as it entails the measurement of IS utilization by the IS beneficiary. And it is measured on the scale of robustness, capability and adaptability. The optimum consumption shows the proficiency of the system as it would save the resources and time. Unilever had a stable system of about 80 years so this was also a strong point for Unilever in developing the IS.
User satisfaction: The basic idea of every business is to make its internal process efficient so as to reduce the resource wastage and to increase the productivity in order to achieve high level of satisfaction from the clients. Therefore IS system should be capable enough to provide accuracy, in time availability, comprehensiveness, robustness with all time assurance of consistency. User satisfaction data of Unilever was quite satisfactory across the globe which indicated good results of developing the IS for Unilever.
Models of Organizational culture
The cultural of an organization impacts on its internal process and ultimate the outputs get affected too. There are numerous models that tackle the culture of the organization that modify the type of systems being used by the organization to improve its process. There are few important models that limelight the concept of relation between an organization cultural and its IS system execution .
Hofsted: This model focuses on making comparison of cultures of different nations
Schiens: This model mostly addresses the different levels that exist in cultures and their relation to people, and organizations. This model further describes the quantitative and qualitative standards being used to assess the behaviors of people and communities.
Orielly : This model involves systematic comparison between the culture of organizations while focusing mainly on the workforce demographic and behaviors.
Information Systems Development
Information Technology (IT) departments in large organizations usually tend to robustly influence their Information System (IS) development process, usage, and its applications. A series of processes and methodologies can be employed in the development and usage of the Information System in an organization. Many IT developers have used an engineering approach like the System Development Life Cycle (SDLC) : a systematic process for the development of an IS through steps occurring in a logical sequence. An IS can also be developed within the organizations’ available resources rather than simply outsourcing. Another way is to outsource some parts of the IS which are more technical in nature and have least concerns to the organizational culture while developing the organizational culture related parts in house.
Geographic IS, Land IS and Disaster IS are also few of the up-and-coming ISs but they can also be broadly well thought-out as Spatial ISs. Information System development is primarily done in several steps which are as following:-
- Problem recognition followed by specification
- Information gathering and analysis
- New system requirements specifications
- System design and construction
- System implementation, review and maintenance
The five key components that are required to come together to produce an effective Information System are:
The last one is basically the key factor in shaping the overall structure of the IS. The people are the ones who develop, maintain, use, implement and modify the IS. The organizational culture is the best known factor to measure the effects of the people of an organization on the development of an IS since the beliefs, practices and in fact the overall behavior of people in an organization is best reflected in organizational culture.
CATWOE in an organizational problem
Root Cause Definition of Management Commitment
The root cause of the management commitment in Unilever can be traced through following steps:-
- Middle level management lacked commitment in developing IS
- The lack of commitment was due to the fear of job security in new system due to lack of expertise
- The high level management should have provided the related incentives and job security to the company middle level management and employees.
- Hence the development and implementation of new IS was not accompanied with related incentives and job security which was the root cause of the management commitment.
CATWOE in an organizational problem
Root Cause Definition of Communication Issues
The root cause of the communication issues in Unilever can be traced through following steps:-
- The geographical divisions of the company lacked communication in development of IS
- The lack of communication was due to the cultural and geographical differences of the management and staff of the divisions
- Hence the development and implementation of new IS was not taking place properly due to the geographical and organizational cultural differences of the company’s divisions.
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