As the world moves online, various pressures drive changes in the way industries and organizations do business: market pressures, for example, global competition; technological pressures, for example, the use of e-commerce to lower the costs of production; and societal pressures, for example, government regulations (Turban, King, Lee, & Viehland, 2004). In considering the implications of the online world for industry, it is necessary to consider both structure and process, where process includes change processes (Gregor & Johnston, 2000, 2001; Johnston & Gregor, 2000). In Giddens’ (1977, 1984, 1991) theory of structuration, process (activity) and structure are reciprocal. As Giddens (1977) states, “social structures are both constituted by human agency, and yet at the same time are the very medium of this constitution”(p. 121) or, as Rose (1999) puts it, “agents in their actions constantly produce and reproduce and develop the social structures which both constrain and enable them” (p.643).
“Universities are due for a radical restructuring.” (Tsichritzis, 1999, p.93)
The higher education industry and universities are subject to the same pressures as other industries and organizations, and they too must change the way they do business if they are to survive (Duderstadt, 1999). To understand how universities need to be transformed, it is necessary to look at the impact of the online environment on higher education organizational structures and work groups, including organizational roles, workgroup dynamics, and communication. Specific implications for universities can be drawn from the conceptual model based on the structurational theory of information technology of Orlikowski and Robey (1991):
Key Terms in this Chapter
Virtual Organization: Electronically networked organizations that transcend organizational boundaries, with linkages that may exist both within and between organizations (Burn, Marshall & Wild, 1999).
Globalization: The trend towards thinking and acting globally, with multinational corporations, partners and competitors across the globe.
Cybermediary: An intermediary that provides its services electronically, often using software (intelligent) agents to facilitate intermediation (Turban et al., 2004).
Vertical Disintegration: Differentiation or “unbundling” of the functions of an organization, enabling these functions to be either outsourced or dealt with by partners in strategic alliances, for example, instead of an organization having its own IT department, it may outsource this function to a specialist IT service provider.
Value Chain: Refers to the way value is added to a product or service along the supply chain, from inbound logistics, through operations (manufacturing), outbound logistics, marketing and sales and service.
Structuration: Action and structure operating as a duality, simultaneously affecting each other (Giddens, 1984).
Strategic Alliances: Business alliances among organizations that provide strategic advantages to the partner organizations.