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close this book Expanding access to science and technology
close this folder Session 5: From new technologies to new modalities of cooperation
close this folder Systems management for information technology development
View the document Abstract
View the document 1. Introduction
View the document 2. A gateway strategy for information technology developments
View the document 3. Knowledge facets for systems integration and information technology development
View the document 4. A newness matrix approach to information technology development
View the document 5. Phased life cycles for system acquisition
View the document 6. Evaluation of technologies
View the document 7. Information technology perspectives
View the document 8. Summary
View the document References

1. Introduction

There is much contemporary interest in the use of science and technology to aid humankind. Often, this is related to such issues as technology transfer or infusion, innovation, entrepreneurship, and other efforts associated with the effective and appropriate development of technologies for increased competitiveness and satisfaction of market-place demand for societal betterment. Much of the effort to date centres on the transformation of already developed innovative technologies into viable commercial products [41].

Often, basic research and development will have been accomplished in other organizations, and even other countries, and there may be a lack of an adequate technological base to immediately assimilate a new technology by units desirous of developing a product based on such R&D. This may occur because of a lack of financial resources and expertise to develop these systems, or to extend the initial developments such as to enable integration with existing systems. An objective in the use of a systems engineering approach to information technology development is to enable a focusing of research and development and associated infrastructure concerns, such as to enhance the potential for productivity, including commercialization of the resulting technological products or services.

This paper reports on one effort in this direction. It is an introductory paper and describes an overview, framework, and architecture for systems management of information technology development that could lead to implementation of a support system for technology developments and enhanced use of contemporary science and technology for international betterment. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant EET-8820124. The Government of the United States has certain rights in this material.

Identification of an operational set of critical success factors and use of them in a successful phased study of systems management of information technology development for enhanced access to science and technology is aided by a systems engineering, or systems management, process that will provide:

- the ability to quickly identify ideas and potential technologies that are worth pursuing, and that are not worth pursuing;

- the ability to identify a reasonably short, reasonably low-cost sequence of activities that will result in a cost-effective and societally desirable implementation of a product, process, or service;

- the ability to identify specific projects that will potentially allow such implementation and provide for detailed implementation efforts; and

- the ability to identify impediments or barriers to successful information technology project implementations that will not likely allow success, and either remove the barrier or provide for a mechanism for disengagement from the potentially unsatisfactory technology implementation.

Accomplishing this will require a quick-response, action-oriented group attitude, an awareness of practices and future perspectives that affect the technology under consideration, the systems management of this technology, and the market-place potential for the technology and the products and services that result from its use. To be sure, there are other challenges and critical success factors associated with the overall process of information technology implementations in developing nations.

The US National Research Council sponsored a 1987 study that identified eight critical success factors [30]:

(1) integration of technology into the overall strategic objectives of the firm;

(2) ability to get into and out of technologies faster and more efficiently;

(3) accessing and evaluating technologies more effectively;

(4) accomplishing technology transfer in an optimum manner; (5) reducing new-product development time;

(6) managing large, complex, interdisciplinary and inter-organizational projects and systems;

(7) managing the organization's internal use of technology; and

(8) optimal leveraging of the effectiveness of technical professionals.

These critical success factors are associated with the entire life cycle of system development. While they were developed specifically for the United States, these prescriptions appear sufficiently generic that they are universally applicable. They can, therefore, be used as some of the attributes to evaluate information technologies proposed for development. There are, of course, many other attributes that affect technologies, including information technologies, in developing nations. These include technology transfer issues [44], national and international standardization issues [6], and issues that affect information technology development forecasting, planning, and management [1, 13,17, 27, 64, 36].

A phased life cycle methodology for systems management [58] is especially important due to the rapid shrinking of the time between initial technology conceptualization and subsequent product emergence. The major causes of this shrinkage would appear to be the increased intensity and significance of international competitiveness and the technological changes made possible by information technology itself - such as computer-aided design, manufacturing, and production methods. One result of these two primary factors, and a host of secondary ones as well, is a shortening of the life cycle of the typical product development process. Another result is the ever increasing importance of information and knowledge as driving forces in competitive strategy selection.

The usual listing of the three primary factors of production includes capital, labour, and materials. However, information is an increasingly important driving factor in our economy, and, in particular, information technologies, including computer-aided design and production methods, are a major force in shrinking the time between technology conceptualization and product emergence. I have, therefore, included information as a fourth primary factor of production and have indicated this in figure 1. Many would argue, as does Thurow [63], that human resources and information dominate raw materials in importance in present economies. It seems clear that information now needs to be a separately identified factor that is explicitly included in the usual listing of the three primary factors of production, capital, labour, and raw materials.

Only now is this need beginning to be recognized [34, 40]. Among relevent research that explores this new phenomenon of the increased role of information in the production process are Cohen and Zysman [9], who suggest that American industry has not adapted to flexible manufacturing systems as quickly as it might have; Kaplan [24], who faults US management accounting systems for failing to adapt to new production patterns; Dertrouzos, Lester, and Solow [11], who discuss needed efforts for the United States to regain the productive edge; Hayes, Wheelwright, and Clark [20], who are very concerned with improving the manufacturing process through infrastructure improvements that involve the vital resources of humans, information, and leadership vision; Zuboff [66], who is very concerned with using information technology to empower people with process knowledge such that they are capable of crucial and collaborative judgement as contrasted with simply automation of production tasks; a series of reprints [19] that discusses many aspects of information technology management; and a series of papers edited by Bainbridge and Ruiz-Quintanilla [4] that explore the impact of information technologies on human work and the need for appropriate training and aiding supports to assist humans in using information technology-based systems.

Figure 1 Four primary factors of production for economic rationality

The use of computers by management and in organizations as decision support systems or executive support systems is the subject of three recent efforts [45, 46, 27]. In the decision and control trilogy of strategic planning, management control, and task control, computer-based information systems are especially useful in the management control function [3]. It is especially necessary to be able to valuate potential investments in information technology, and four recent works provide detailed commentary [61, 34, 62, 7] on this subject. There are many legal implications to information technology implementations, especially when systems integration and systems management considerations are involved [5], as is invariably the case. The implications of information technology innovations on human performance are a subject of much current interest [39, 4]. Information technology has the potential for support in a variety of organizations and for a variety of purposes [2, 20]. To achieve effective support, it will be essential to manage information technology developments, to integrate information technology and institutions and organizations and, thereby, to enable appropriate design through information technology.

There are many ways in which the critical ingredients of a systems management approach to innovation and emerging engineering technologies could be described. As just mentioned, they could be described as production, capital, raw materials, and knowledge. The steps to be accomplished in each phase of an emerging engineering technology effort involve the interaction of:

- problem-solving steps;

- knowledge of technologies, and the characteristics of humans, organizations, and the environment;

- learning over time about these; and

- environmental interaction and systems management, including crisis management strategies, as shown in figure 2. We are surely describing a dynamic process that involves the interaction of many variables. An important issue for information technology transfers to, and associated development in, developing nations is the use of systems management and integration procedures that effectively and efficiently cope with this process in ways that support continued productivity and competitiveness through advantageous use of science and technology. A major challenge in this is that the knowledge base will be different across various units. An appropriate set of development strategies and tactics must incorporate this reality, as well as the difference in various environmental variables.

Figure 2

Critical ingredients in systems management of technologies for development or transfer