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Backbone or helping hand?: On the role of information systems and non-systematic information in managers’ work
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Economic Information Systems. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Economic Information Systems. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Information systems are often described as horizontal integrators, supporting and integrating core processes and providing vast amounts of real-time data in organisations. However, previous research indicates that managers use an “information mosaic” - a variety of pieces of information and information sources, rather than one centrally planned and unified information system - to control their work. In this paper, we explore recurring work activities among a number of managers with different responsibilities, and the use of information associated with these activities. The purpose is to put the formal computerised information system into the context of the information mosaic, thereby providing insight into how formal information systems support and do not support these managers’ work. Personnel responsibility is a uniting factor in the way these managers handle information and is an area where information systems seem to mainly support minor activities. Furthermore, the use of formal and informal information sources appears to be intertwined. The main contribution of this paper lies in charting managerial information behaviour in the light of technological development.

Keyword [en]
Information use; information sources; managerial work; management information
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-67618OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-67618DiVA: diva2:411920
Available from: 2011-04-20 Created: 2011-04-20 Last updated: 2011-04-20Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Puzzle or Mosaic?: On Managerial Information Patterns
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Puzzle or Mosaic?: On Managerial Information Patterns
2011 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Managers and information are key components in most management control literature, and a range of tools and concepts have been developed to better accommodate the information needs of managers so as to ensure efficient action and intelligent decisions. At the same time, the managerial work is often described as highly fragmented, unstructured and interpersonal, with little time for planning and isolated reflection. It is therefore relevant to explore how and to what extent new technologies come into play in managerial information patterns. Furthermore, new management concepts and tools could potentially give rise to new control practices, resulting from e.g. novel relations between managers and other actors, new influential roles, and alternative forms of information flows.

These issues are addressed in three papers. The first paper examines the portfolio of information that managers use in their daily work, thereby putting formal information systems into the context of less formal sources. The study is based on interviews with a variety of managers in different organisations. The second paper discusses the interplay between formally designed information-based practices, and the individual perceptions and habits that emerge in relation to the formalised. People at different levels in two public-sector organisations form the basis of the second paper. The third paper explores how various control practices operate together in a government agency, thereby providing new perspectives on how management control is exercised in a knowledge-intensive organisation.

It is suggested that managerial information patterns evolve slowly compared to the technological development. Obtaining an overview of one’s area of responsibility is mainly achieved through dialogue and interaction with others. However, new technologies have influenced the more routine exchange of information, thereby causing increased dispersion among users and creating new roles. Subordinates constitute a vital influence on the managerial role and on how managers reason concerning their use of information. This people-oriented type of management results in the use of a multitude of pieces of information that is sometimes very subtle and retrieved in spontaneous interaction. The multidimensional and emerging nature of information provides insight into both the strengths and the limitations of formalising managerial information patterns. Furthermore, various information patterns are interrelated, e.g., they complement each other, substitute each other, or serve different purposes at different times. In total, managerial information patterns resemble a mosaic rather than a puzzle that can be solved by specific pieces. Management information should therefore be viewed from a broader perspective in order to better understand managers’ information needs, how control practices emerge and how information systems come into play.

Abstract [sv]

Chefer och information utgör vanligen viktiga bitar i styrningslitteraturen, och ett antal koncept och verktyg har utvecklats för att bättre stödja chefers informationsbehov och för att strömlinjeforma beteenden och bättre underbygga beslut. Samtidigt finns en uppfattning om att chefers arbete är fragmenterat, ostrukturerat och karaktäriserat av interaktion med andra, vilket medför begränsat med tid till att planera och reflektera i ensamhet. Det är därför relevant att undersöka hur och i vilken utsträckning ny teknik kommer in i chefers informationsmönster. Dessutom kan nya koncept och verktyg potentiellt skapa nya styrmekanismer, som en följd av exempelvis nya relationer mellan chefer och andra aktörer, nya inflytelserika roller, samt alternativa informationsflöden.

Dessa områden hanteras i tre artiklar. Den första artikeln undersöker den blandning av information som chefer använder i sitt dagliga arbete, och sätter formaliserade informationssystem i en kontext av mindre formaliserade informationskällor. Studien är baserad på intervjuer med chefer i olika organisationer. Den andra artikeln diskuterar samspelet mellan formaliserade informationsbaserade styrmekanismer, och de individuella uppfattningar och rutiner som uppkommer i relation till det formaliserade. Personer på olika nivåer i två organisationer i den offentliga sektorn utgör basen i den andra artikeln. Den tredje artikeln undersöker hur olika styrmekanismer fungerar tillsammans i en myndighet, vilket bidrar till att belysa hur styrning av en kunskapsintensiv organisation kan hanteras.

Chefers informationsmönster utvecklas långsamt i jämförelse med den tekniska utvecklingen. Att skaffa sig en överblick av det egna ansvarsområdet görs främst genom dialog och interaktion med andra. Dock har ny teknik förändrat den mer rutinmässiga informationshanteringen, vilket har ökat avståndet mellan olika aktörer och skapat nya roller. Underordnade har en viktig påverkan på chefens roll och utgör en viktig influens i hur chefer tänker kring sin informationshantering. En sådan typ av människoorienterad management tycks ge upphov till en mångfacetterad informationsanvändning som ibland är mycket subtil och baserad på spontan interaktion. Informationens mångfacetterade och framväxande karaktär ger en indikation om såväl styrkor som begränsningar i att formalisera chefers informationsmönster. Dessutom är olika informationsmönster relaterade, t.ex. kan de komplettera varandra, substituera varandra, eller tjäna olika syften vid olika tidpunkter. Totalt sett tycks chefers informationsmönster likna en mosaik, snarare än ett pussel som kan lösas med hjälp av specifika bitar. Styrinformation bör därför ses i ett bredare perspektiv för att bättre förstå chefers informationsbehov, hur styrmekanismer växer fram, och hur informationssystem kommer in i detta.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2011. 26 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Thesis, ISSN 0280-7971 ; 1483
Keyword
information patterns; information behaviour; information systems; management information; management control; governance; management control as a package
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-67604 (URN)LiU-TEK-Lic 2011:22 (Local ID)978-91-7393-167-0 (ISBN)LiU-TEK-Lic 2011:22 (Archive number)LiU-TEK-Lic 2011:22 (OAI)
Presentation
2011-04-29, Carl Malmstens lokaler, Larsbergsvägen 8, Lidingö, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-04-19 Created: 2011-04-19 Last updated: 2013-02-18Bibliographically approved

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Gullberg, CeciliaWestelius, Alf

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