Monday, January 26, 2009

Using IT to create a post-bureaucratic organization

Bringing Change in Government Organizations: Evolution Towards Post-Bureaucracy with Web-Based IT Projects;
This paper examines the following question: How do government organizations become more “post-bureaucratic” with web-based IT projects? It draws on evolutionary thinking to conceptualize processes of change in government organizations as involving sequences of variation, selection, and retention as well as to identify various sources of change: internal ones (e.g. administrators), as well as external ones (e.g. technological innovations and institutional pressures). The paper relates findings from four in-depth qualitative case studies of web-based IT projects in different government organizations. The interpretation of these findings helps expand the evolutionary conceptualization by suggesting how different sources of change interact in the change process and variously affect different stages of the evolution.

Three quotations from the paper;
One of the things that my boss actually wanted to do is start building a knowledge management database, so that when people get phone calls, regardless of what agency does the phone call, there is a knowledge management database that they can refer to be able to better help point that customer in the right direction. That hasn't happened. Part of it was a funding issue also – those packages are very, very expensive - so we just didn't go there.”

“The fear [of government employees] of doing something in a way less than perfect primarily exists toward the outside world. Generally, the way it works in government is that when government makes a mistake, you can read about it in the papers the following day. This, in my view, is the predominant fear of government employees.”

We see people wanting to create an online application that basically mimics the paper process […]. Take [for example] … environmental permits…. There may be paper signatures that are required right now, ink signatures, that are not mandated by any statute or regulation, it’s just that for the last hundred years we've done it this way, so they immediately think, ‘Oh my god, I need an electronic signature’. So we go back and ask, ‘Why do you think you need an electronic signature?’ ‘Because the paper is signed.’ ‘Well, where does it tell you that the paper has to be signed?’ And when they go back and they look at their regulations and statutes, they say, ‘You're right, there's nothing here that says that, so we don't need that, we need to authenticate where the paper's coming from, but we don't need a signature.”

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