Integrating New Tools into Information Work: Technology Transfer as a Framework for Understanding Success

by Tora K. Bikson, John D. Eveland

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A major thesis guiding current research on social aspects of computerization is that it can be understood as an instance of technological innovation in organizations. If so, much of what has been learned about the successful transfer and use of other new technologies can be applied to understanding how best to introduce new computer-based tools into information-intensive work. This paper proposes a technology transfer framework as an appropriate model for understanding this process. This framework incorporates three key sources of effect: features of the new technology, characteristics of the organization, and properties of the implementation process. The chief conclusion from research based on this conceptual framework is that properties of the implementation process--the sequence of events that starts with the selection of a new tool and ends with its incorporation into ongoing work--are strong predictors of what individuals and work groups will do with or to new tools, and what will happen to the organization as a result. The authors explain why characteristics of the change process are critical determinants of the social impacts of computerization; describe the technology transfer framework in more detail, reviewing research results that have helped to corroborate and refine it; and identify implementation process variables predictive of successful outcomes, e.g., people effectively using new computer tools in the office setting.

Originally published in: People and Technology in the Workplace, 1991, pp. 229-252.

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