An ethnography of a federal agency enterprise: social and technical change
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Introducing information technology (IT) causes radical change, not only in business and academia, but in not-for-profit and governmental agencies as well. This ethnography explored both technological and organizational changes in a complex government agency, as it evolved from a minimally networked organization to a full enterprise agency. In this study enterprise is the alignment of information technology to support organizational processes or goals. Additionally, enterprise relates to the incorporation of software, hardware, telecommunication and network devices and affects cultural, as well as technical, change. The researched organization underwent rapid and radical change in business processes and organizational culture, in response to top-down driven information technology initiatives. The study explored several questions. Did management’s culture change? Did the overall organizational culture change? What primary activities occurred during this evolutionary change? What information, opinions, and beliefs became obvious? As a not-for-profit agency, how did it handle the diffusion of innovations or acceptance of change? What strife was evident? What successes and challenges were realized? The methods used in this study examine the consequences of the changes and summarizes observations and interviews. This study is event-oriented and intended to portray the everyday experiences of individuals by participant observation, interviews, and review of recorded memoranda and other artifacts gathered over four years time. This research concerns process rather than outcomes, regarding how the studied individuals made sense of their experiences, and how the data collected is mediated through the participants observed. Results from the study suggested substantial organizational change occurred in the agency, but it was unlikely changes were fully attributable to technological change alone. During this same time the researched agency experienced other changes such as the implementation of Total Quality Management processes that had organizational impacts. The conclusions of the research were that work processes, relationships, and the organization itself did change during the period of the study, and study participants believe these changes were at least moderately attributable to the introduction of information technologies.