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Bert Painter Essay

Computers, computerized information system, and communication networks have a profound impact on work. They eliminate some jobs and create others. They free us from the repetitious, boring aspect of jobs so that we can spend more time being creative and doing the tasks for which human intelligence and problem solving are necessary. The theme of this paper is to examine on how the information systems change. To give more explanation to the topic, the case study of Bert Painter about Socio-Technical Design Work and other studies are also stated in this document.

Background on Socio-Technical Design of Knowledge Work & IT A Socio-technical system (or STS) is an approach to complex organizational work design that recognizes the interaction between people and technology in workplaces. [1] This is a case study of a public insurance company’s conversion of long-standing paper-based work processes to an electronic document management system, “E-File”, with imaging, data integration, and automated workflow. Simultaneously, significant redesign occurred in jobs and organization structure, business processes, and people development.

The E-File experience is an imperfect but powerful illustration of the challenge and potential of designing social and technical elements of knowledge work concurrently and interactively. The hypothesis of a “socio technical” approach to “jointly optimize” the potential of information technology, while achieving positive potentials from organization design to up-skill jobs, was validated by an outcome where over 90% of the highly skilled employees surveyed in this white-collar organization regard the new “E-File” system as a substantially positive change.

Innovative job and organization structures have also maximized the business potential of the technology, in helping to develop a customer service culture. This longitudinal study and project was developed within a framework of action research to illuminate human dimensions of information technology in relation to knowledge work, and to help manage the change process. [2] Why a Socio-Technical System? You will find us using the phrase “socio-technical system” a great deal in this web site. It is not just because we like big words (though we do).

The idea of a socio-technical system (abbreviated as STS) is an intellectual tool to help us recognize patterns in the way technology is used and produced. Identification of these patterns will help us to analyze the ethical issues associated with the technology-and-its-social-system. It is by now a truism to say that any single technology can be used in multiple, and sometimes unexpected, ways. But we need to add to this observation that, in each different use, the technology is embedded in a complex set of other technologies, physical surroundings, people, procedures, etc.

that together make up the socio-technical system. It only by understands this system that we can parse out the ethical issues. Let’s take as an example a relatively simple technology: a set of 10 microcomputers connected to by a network. The social and ethical issues associated with these networked computers will change dramatically depending upon the socio-technical system in which they are embedded. For instance, are the networked computers? • part of the intake unit of an emergency room • a small, public lab at a university • the computing lab of an elementary school

• a risk analysis office in an insurance firm • a military supplier testing manufactured parts The networked computers in each of these different circumstances are part of different socio-technical systems. The “ethical issues in computing” arise because of the nature of specific socio-technical systems, not because of the computers in isolation. Many of these ethical issues are intimately related, however, to the technology: issues of reliability of the system in the emergency room, data privacy in the insurance company, free speech and misuse in the public university lab.

These are not just social systems, they are socio-technical systems, and the ethical issues associated with them are based in the particular combination of technology and social system. It is the technology, embedded in the social system that shapes the ethical issues. [2] Business Process Changes A constraint on the project from the very beginning was that there had been no detailed mapping of business processes to inform systems design. As in many white collar workplaces, Compensation Services had a lot of implicit business rules and “idiosyncratic” work practices that had developed over the years in the paper world.

Yet, frustration was so great with previous aborted efforts to sort out these issues that there was “no appetite” to start the E-File project with an analysis of business processes. Nevertheless, a commitment to standardize and formally document E-File business processes and rules became necessary, once E-File was extended beyond the “pilot” Office. The issue was made obvious, when different users in different offices put the same information in different locations within E-File, thereby jeopardizing a main objective of the new system, effective collaboration among co-workers with simultaneous access to files.

Ironically, in most of the period while the E-File system was being implemented, one key aspect of business process did not change—active and re-activated paper claim files did not disappear, and even grew in volume. If employees had a choice, they concentrated on the E-File claims, to the disadvantage of prompt closure of paper files. Lack of an effective strategy to deal with “old” paper-based work Would have a substantial negative impact on initial, overall productivity in the “new” world of claims processing. Conclusion

In short term, how will we deal with the dislocations caused by loss of jobs and need to be retrained? In the long term, will we have masses of people out of work? Will the need for increased training and skills create wider divisions between those who can obtain the new skills and those who cannot? “Telework” and “telecommunicating” have become part of our vocabulary, describing the growing phenomenon of working at a distance from the traditional company office, connected by computers. Computers and communication networks are causing changes in the size of businesses and in the number people who are self-employed.

The physical distribution of population is likely to change: Communications networks make it possible for companies to locate in small towns and work with dispersed consultants instead of having hundreds or thousands of employees in larger population center. As more people work at home, they can live farther from business centers. [3] At the same time that information technology is giving some workers more autonomy, computers are giving employers increased power to monitor the work, communications, movements, and Web activity of employees.

These changes affect productivity, privacy, and morale. References [1]http://computingcases. org/general_tools/sia/socio_tech_ system. html viewed 12 May 2008 [2]http://www. moderntimesworkplace. com/good_reading/GRNewTe ch/STS. Design. of. KnowledgeWork_IT. v2. pdf viewed 12 May 2008 [3]Apt, Alan R. (2003), A GIFT OF FIRE: SOCIAL, LEGAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES FOR COMPUTER AND THE INTERNET, 2nd edition by BAASE, SARA, published by Pearson Education, Inc.

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