The importance of middle managers is frequently noted in the context of strategic management and other key decisions (Floyd & Wooldridge, 1996; Gold, 1998; Kettunen, 2002). The role of the middle managers can, however, be much greater because they are responsible with other creative individuals for the innovations of their subunits. They assume the responsibility for developing many information systems to serve the processes of the organisation. There has been some criticism of the limited scope of information system innovation research (Lyytinen & Rose, 2003a, 2003b). The purpose of this article is to show that the information systems of an education institution can be classified according to the information environments (IEs) and other characteristics such as the organisational levels. The analysis reveals the creative class of a higher education institution (HEI) which assumes responsibility for developing the information systems in cooperation with the other units of the institution and networks. The empirical case of this article illustrates the information environments and information systems of the Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS). It is argued that technology and behaviour are not dichotomous in an information environment; they are inseparable. The analysis helps education management to develop the institution’s information systems in an innovative way.
The role of middle managers has been changing in Finland. Finnish universities of applied sciences (formerly known as polytechnics) are in an interesting phase of organisational development because a major reform of higher education took place in the 1990s. The universities of applied sciences were established by taking parts from the vocational institutions. At the same time, hundreds of separate vocational institutions merged to constitute larger multidisciplinary institutions.
The reform caused major organisational and functional changes in the education institutions. The reform produced changes in the working cultures and autonomy of the institutions and changed their patterns of management and administration. Many management tasks were transformed from the rectors of vocational institutions to the expanding middle management of the new institutions. Larger organisations demanded for more managers to take responsibility for degree programmes and also many new development functions in the institutions.
A matrix organisation is a typical model in the Finnish universities of applied sciences. Typically, the institutions have four to eight education departments (faculties) led by directors of education (deans). Each education department includes several degree programmes. The institutions have also a department of support services led by the rector and vice rectors. The department of support services includes support service units such as international relations, library, and human resources management.
In the last decade, when the structural reform of the universities of applied sciences was introduced, a reform in their operating environment took place. New constructivist ideas about learning turned increasing attention to students and their progress. These new ideas can be called a service paradigm or a customer paradigm in Finnish vocational higher education. At the same time, there occurred a major change in the technical environment and information systems, which modified the traditional ways of learning, teaching, and management.
An important group in the organisational and functional development of institutions is that of the middle managers. The middle managers of matrix organisations in the Finnish universities of applied sciences can be classified into three main groups: degree programme managers, research and development managers, and support service managers. It is emphasised that the strategic management of these middle managers can be crucial for organisational success in an HEI. This is important, if the education and business environments of departments are distinct from each other. Especially in larger organisations, a greater degree of responsibility has been assigned to subunits.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Social Capital: The social relations between individuals in the organization lay the foundation for the social capital of the organization.
Management Information System: A proper management information system entails modeling the entire management process and tailoring all necessary components of the information technology support system to meet the needs of the organization. The management information system should include a description of strategic objectives and of measures to achieve them.
Information Environment: A mechanical, organic, or dynamic area of information management consisting of different interrelated and/or isolated information systems.
Dynamic Information Environment: The virtual interface of the organization for links to the world outside. The main idea of the dynamic information environments is a strategic awareness of the potential for virtual learning, interaction, and communication.
Knowledge Management: A term applied to the techniques used for the systematic collection, transfer, security, and management of information within organizations, along with systems designed to assist the optimal use of that knowledge.
Higher Education Institution: Higher education institutions include traditional universities and profession-oriented institutions, in Finland called universities of applied sciences or polytechnics.
Information System: A system, whether automated or manual, comprising people, machines, and/or methods organized to collect, process, transmit, and disseminate data that represent user information.