A study of the impact of information systems implementation on care service organizations in the public sector
The use by organizations of information systems to increase efficiency by rationalising, work activities has been the subject of much attention in academic literature. However, only a very small amount of this literature has been focused on the impact of information systems on the caring services.
The Social Services directorates which supply domiciliary care services within England and Wales have, up to now, operated cm un-automated system involving decentralised care work. This sector therefore provides a unique opportunity to view how organizations initially interact with information systems which may have originally been designed for use in different environments. This investigation also pursues much wider societal concerns regarding how technologies impact on the nature of ‘caring’ occupations which involve emotional as well as physical labour. Consequently questions are raised regarding how we reconcile the apparent contradictions between a caring service and the implementation of information systems which emphasise rationality objectivism, control and efficiency.
This research study in volves a homogeneous organizational sector in which all of the examples are using a near identical information system, thus reducing the confusion and disorder attached to carrying out research into differing sectors and systems. The research employs a multi-method research strategy combining both quantitative and qualitative research approaches.
The research study found that the actions of senior management in the organizations investigated were on the whole driven by the twin goals of efficiency and cost saving; targets set for them by central government. The emotional element involved within care work was generally seen to be a negative one and counter to the achievement of the primary goals. Senior managers sought to use information systems to achieve their targets rather than being driven by the technology. The information technology available for implementation was invariably developed for use in other environments, reflecting a narrow focus, not necessarily suitable for the caring services. The study also showed that the approaches adopted by senior management to view the organization and select and implement information systems rarely accorded with the views of frontline staff. Domiciliary care workers, despite feeling resentful about the removal of their influence, use of initiative and the imposition of surveillance were a surprisingly committed work force, greatly concerned with delivering the best service possible to their equally disempowered clients.
In conclusion this study has explored the importance of using multiple devices to view the organizational approaches adopted by the sample organizations implementing information systems. It has also considered the m is alignment of the approaches adopted by senior managers with the views of front-line staff. In contrast with senior management, care workers perceive their service sector to be unique in that it is concerned with delivering care that involves genuine emotional commitment to their clients.
Engineering and Physical Science Research Council
- Business and Economics