Valuing Information Technology

Valuing Information Technology

Robert A. Schultz (Woodbury University, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-779-9.ch011
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Besides being of interest in its own right, the question of the value of information technology (IT) has ethical implications, primarily for policymakers and managers in organizations. IT professional duty and managerial duty require undertakings that have a reasonable expectation of improving the organization and its prospects. Since IT plays a complex role in providing benefits for an organization, and also since IT projects can fail in ways that have major negative impact on an organization, the valuation of IT impacts the ethical responsibilities of policymakers and managers. In the late 1980s, a number of researchers set out to quantify the value added to an organization by computerization or automation (two terms commonly used in those days). To their surprise, they found no or comparatively little value added. This result became known as the “Productivity Paradox” (Brynjollfson, 1992; Loveman, 1988; Roach, 1991). The ensuing discussion continued through the 1990s and beyond. Whatever else the discussion accomplished, it showed the complexity of questions about the value of information technology. There are cases in which IT has clearly added value to a particular organization at a particular time. It is also true that, in some cases, IT has added more than shareholder or monetary value so that from any social point of view, the result is positive. The World Wide Web is an example. The difficulty in assessing value comes when one tries to reach conclusions about the overall contribution of IT to the economy or to society. It is widely known that IT benefits are far from automatic and sometimes difficult or impossible to achieve. So, overall, do the benefits outweigh the costs? How do we go about answering this question? What are the appropriate points of view from which to determine value?1 The two main appropriate points of view are: 1. The user point of view. The user is whoever employs the technology, whether an individual, organization, or organizational department. 2. The socioeconomic point of view, which is the point of view of the society or economy, whatever promulgates overall economic policies. From the user point of view, typical questions would be as follows: • Individual: Is it worth it for me to purchase this firewall software? • Organization: Should we install ERP software companywide? What are the benefits and liabilities for the organization? Is the investment worth it? • Independent Department: Should we switch our production software to another company’s product? Again, what are the benefits and liabilities for the department? (In the background, there should be a procedure insuring that potential impacts for the rest of the organization are considered.)

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