The information technology investments have increased significantly with time and advancement in technology. In this study, an attempt is made to highlight how the information technology influences the organization productivity. The correlation between the information technology (IT) and productivity was very argumentative. Many studies were conducted to identify the impact of IT on productivity conclude different results. It is impossible to estimate the productivity growth due to the availability of so many advanced computer technologies, as it’s tough to consider all parameters involved while calculating productivity growth. Several researches and studies were documented stating positive effects of IT on productivity growth. But still there were few against this statement.
The advancement in the information technology made both consumers and business enterprises to use it. Computers, laptops, wireless communications etc. are all part of IT and incorporated in every industry. Enterprises invest in these technologies because it was assumed technologies will enhance productivity. Companies aim to generate more business and high turnovers through less investment. In a race to gain more efficiency, the enterprises are adapting new technologies. Huge investments are made on new technologies to survive in industry. The major challenge is to produce high quality goods and services at low prices. Some enterprises understood the value and importance of information technology and used it to deliver more products in less time and more reliable and convenient services at lower cost. This will also help to gain competitive advantage over rivals. It was illustrated in a study to generate high productivity growths from information technology; enterprises should change the existing infrastructure as well as business practices (Brynjolfsson & Brown, 2005).
Many enterprises changed the organizational structure to exploit the full potential of information technology and its applications. Brynjolfsson and Hitt (1998) linked productivity with living standards to understand it better. They mentioned that value of productivity can be easily understood when related with our living standards. They highlighted the significance of productivity by comparing it with our living standards and mentioned that, “productivity growth determines our living standards and the wealth of nations.” This reflects the customers’ behavior to consume more in less money. They also point out that the concept of productivity is simple and vast but tough to measure with accuracy. Information Technology and Productivity
Productivity was described as the amount of output generated for a certain amount of input (Brynjolfsson, 2003; Hitt & Brynjolfsson, 1995). Productivity can also be defined as the measure of the quantity of outputs in goods and services per unit of input (Muriwai, 2006). Productivity can be measured either by keeping the output static or input. Productivity can be increased with increase in output keeping input constant or by decreasing the input keeping the output static. The term information technology was defined narrowly as the expenditures made on the computing hardware (Brynjolfsson, 2003 and Hitt & Brynjolfsson, 2005). It was elaborated a little more as. All the computer software and hardware, tools and services used in the business processes and operations are a part of information technology. The investments in information technology were defined as the expenses on the computer hardware and software and all other devices related with IT (Morrison, 1997).
The main purpose of these investments is developing a modern infrastructure within the organization to boost productivity of both organization and employees (Dehning, Dow, & Stratopoulus, 2003). It was documented by Mahmood and Mann (2005) that investment in IT was not sufficient enough to increase productivity. Strategic decisions had to be made whether investment in IT would help to accomplish objectives and goals set. A harmony must occur between IT investments and changes in business process to have high productivity growth, even greater than investment in information technology. Keller (2004) also stated that when IT is utilized appropriately at workplace that also helps a lot in productivity growth. Just investing in information technology is not sufficient to gain growth in productivity; but organization can visualize changes brought by information technology (Brynjolfsson & Hitt, 1998; Dedrick, Gurbaxani & Kraemer, 2003).
A significant relation between IT investments per employee and overall productivity of company was found by Brynjolfsson (2003). The enterprises gained high productivity growth who invested huge sum in information technology effectively. But pattern of productivity growth across the enterprises varied no doubt the return from IT investment were positive (Brynjolfsson & Hitt, 1998). It takes time to realize productivity gains from investments in information technology. It was supported by Mahmood and Mann (1988) that productivity growth and performance of the organization improves in time period of two or three years after investing in information technology. Dedrick et al. (2003) also believed that productivity gains are realized after a long time period. It was highlighted in their research that information technology payoffs are high when firms’ effectively apply information technology in long run.
It’s easy to measure productivity when tangible products and goods are produced as in the manufacturing sector. An input alteration in the manufacturing process can bring substantial changes in productivity. For instance, the use of automation technology and robotics produce outputs of good quality (Kao & Liu, 2005). On the contrary, it’s tough to measure and improve productivity in service sector. It’s next to impossible to evaluate the productivity of an employee. A method was proposed by Tallon and Kraemer (2006) to measure precisely the impact of information technology on productivity. A method of perceptual measures was recommended by them. Perceptual measures would bring new scope to study impact of technology on productivity. They described it as “perceptual measures, if structured around information technology impacts at the process-level, can yield richer insights than objective criteria alone”.
Authors’ Agree and Disagree:
The research was done by many to study the impact of IT on productivity (Brynjolfsson & Brown, 2005; Brynjolfsson & Hitt, 1998; Melville, Kraemer & Gurbaxani, 2004 and Kudyba, 2004). The expectation that productivity will certainly increase by utilizing the IT were not always true. But researches ended up with different conclusions, some stated positive impacts of IT on productivity and others negative.
Information technology had negative impact on productivity. Mahmood and Mann (2005) mentioned in their study that there is no adequate evidence available in past researches showing the positive effects of IT on productivity. It was also supported by Dedrick et al. (2003) stating, “Studies have failed to identify a relationship between information technology investment and firm profitability.” The term productivity paradox was introduced by Robert Solow in 1987 explaining the inability of the information technology contributing towards firm productivity (Solow. 1987). He made a statement that growth in productivity was not accompanied by the information technology. He also discussed that the companies didn’t had expected results in productivity after investing in Information technology. He quoted, “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics”. In my opinion and during my research I realized that impact of IT on productivity had mixed reviews from different authors, researchers and economists.
Researchers used new approach to reveal the hidden positive effects of IT on productivity. Brynjolfsson and Hitt (1998) illustrated that “Information technology has a positive and significant impact on firm output, contradicting the claims of a productivity paradox (p52).” This was also supported by Brynjolfsson (2003) and Dedrick et al. (2003) that productivity including the output per worker annually had increased significantly with use of information technology. It was mentioned by Kudyba (2004) that the output can be upraised with increased information technology skills. The new information technology and techniques effectively when used by the companies, those companies are productive than who don’t use it (Brynjolfsson & Brown, 2005). When the technologies and techniques were used perfectly and timely, yield high level of productivity.
The three ways were discussed by Brynjolfsson (2003), Keller (2004) and Brynjolfsson & Hitt (1998) to recognize productivity growth from IT: by decreasing the cost on Information technology and keeping the benefits from business stagnant; increase the benefits from business and keeping the investment in Information technology constant; or reduce the cost of information technology and benefits increase from business. The information technology is important and valuable for organization (Melville et al., 2004). They also stated that effective and efficient use of information technology can yield potential benefits, like cost reduction, improving quality and at last productivity. The companies, who used information technology effectively, had also observed an increase in price of their market share more than others. It had been reported by Mahmood and Mann (2005) that both IT labour and computer resources contribute towards return on investments.
They also mentioned in their report that effective enterprises have developed and improved their infrastructures and investing highly in information technology. Information technology is a medium through which the information can be distributed easily within organizations. The highly advanced IT infrastructures create an atmosphere within organization that encourages decentralized process of decision making (Brynjolfsson & Brown, 2005). When modification of the business processes is done within organizations, it becomes necessary to integrate information technologies. The productivity can be enhanced by integrating information technology investments with decentralize process of decision making (Melville et al., 2004). The integration of information technology investments and other investments within business also proves to be beneficial (Brynjolfsson & Hitt, 1998). The operations and business processes within the organization must be evaluated and ensure that existing business environment can adapt the new technology, before future information technology investments made (Zhou & Chen, 2003).
The predictable and estimated outcomes can be realized from IT investments through integration of technologies and current business processes (Kudyba, 2004). It becomes important to restructure the business processes with the changing business environments when new information systems are set up (Zhou & Chen, 2003). McNamara and Watson (2005) also reported that the integration of the existing technology systems with new technologies within organizations yields the expected productivity growth. They also discussed how the existing technologies can be employed in various business operations, it equally productive as investing in new information technologies. Brynjolfsson and Hitt (1998) found that “The greatest benefits of computers appear to be realized when computer investment is coupled with other complementary investments; new strategies, new business processes and new organizations all appear to be important in realizing the maximum benefit of information technology”.
The companies must integrate all daily activities, decentralize decision process, flow of information from high to low level, this will enhance productivity growth and all these attributes directly or indirectly contribute to information technology (Brynjolfsson, 2003). The organizations use various methods and measures like product quality, profitability, and value of market shares to measure productivity (Dedrick et al., 2003). There is a possibility that productivity can also be gained through effective management. It was observed that productivity can be increased by information technology and make worth for consumers (Hitt & Brynjolfsson, 1995). Devaraj and Kohli (2003) proposed a method which requires elevation of the IT usage at the employees’ level individually and then finally investigating its effect on organizational performance. Employees’ of modern organization may call it push or pull of IT investments.
This phenomenon of push or pull in IT investments may inspire employees’ for using new technologies and this may lead to productivity improvements. Kudyba (2004) mentioned that competitive advantage can be gained by hiring skilled and experienced employees. In my view, the employees must be trained to use new technologies or companies should hire skilled and experienced employees. It also depends how the new technologies are being utilized by the enterprises to enhance their productivity. Only those companies will maximize their productivity that will use the technology perfectly and timely. I have also learned during my research that productivity doesn’t depend on one factor, there are number of parameters that affect the overall productivity of the organizations. The accurate methods are required for calculating the productivity, to recognize the growth of productivity. Rather than focusing on productivity only, enterprises should develop new strategies to integrate technologies with new opportunities. The barriers to entry can be easily terminated by raising the firm’s efficiency and gaining competitive advantage. Benefit to Manager
There is a big challenge ahead for all the mangers and decision makers how to consume the information technologies at best and have maximum benefits. It’s not compulsory that the companies will have same levels of productivity if provided with same information technology, it depends how the technology is utilized to have high growth in productivity (Brynjolfsson, 2003). To maintain competitive advantage in the industry, the managers had to find new ways in which they can exploit the full potential of technologies differently from their rivals. Melville et al. (2004) mentioned the competitive advantage gained through human resource and technical synergies cannot be maintained for long. A strategy or mechanism had to develop to gain competitive edge for long periods and which is not easy to imitate. The competitive advantage can be maintained until others don’t follow what you are doing, once others start following your techniques it’s tough to sustain competitive advantage (Brynjolfsson, 2003).
I believe that managers should examine future values of all IT investments when productivity results were not up to the level of expectations. The organizational leaders are not ready to invest more on technologies, when results from previous IT investments are not beneficial enough (Devaraj & Kohli, 2003). A big challenge for the leaders to justify future investments in technologies when there is no significant evidence of productivity improvement from previously investments in information technologies (Dehning, Dow, & Stratopoulus, 2003). Managers should focus on other aspects of business process also rather than on productivity alone.
Hitt and Brynjolfsson (1995) discussed that managers should concentrate more on how information technology can be used to improve product quality and customer service. Information technology has the potential to reduce the expenses on such services and change the mode of production and delivery of the goods and services so can’t be easily imitated by competitors (Hitt & Brynjolfsson, 1995). The uniqueness in utilizing the information technologies in business operations and processes is the key to stay ahead of the competitors in the market. This not only provides competitive advantage but also increases the overall growth in productivity. Conclusion
The conclusion can be drawn that investing in information technology doesn’t have any positive impact on productivity growth until utilized properly and effectively. The impact of investing in technologies can be realized how organizations utilize technologies effectively depending on the current situations of organizations and derive expected productivity results. The invention of telecommunication, computer software and hardware had totally changed operations within the organizations. The use of these forms of technology was extensively popular and in-demand among the various industrial sectors. The enterprises had changed their existing infrastructures to adapt these new technologies. The meaning both consumption and productivity have changed with innovation of information technology. Organizations across the globe are implementing new technologies to enhance the daily business activities with the purpose to survive and compete in this new global world of information technology.
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