Title

When Comfortable Tradition Meets Jolting Novelty

Authors

Bernard Mallia

Abstract

When Comfortable Tradition Meets Jolting Novelty, viewable here, was a study undertaken in 2009. It looked at the interaction between modern Information Systems, platforms, transmission media, and their understanding vis-à-vis current issues and management precepts. The research used Malta as the basis for the case study it undertook, but the findings are applicable generally to small state and SME contexts.

Among other things, this research provides:

  • an overview of the operating environment of organisations operating within different political-economic and social spheres with respect to ICTs;
  • a comprehensive summary of existing ICTs and their interplay in an IS(s) context;
  • a picture of the evolution, coalescence and consilience of technologies, particularly those that have been or may be easily adopted in SME and small states contexts;
  • an epitome of the potential of these converged technologies and systems built around them;
  • awareness of the impetuous potential of this new consilience of technologies and systems in enhancing productive potential and in better tailoring products and services to maximise earnings from foreign-market ventures;
  • a knowledge base for understanding the implications of the interaction of these environmental variables on the different Maltese sectors at the aggregate level.

The themes treated in this study are:

  • The importance of knowing what managers in operating environments characterised by ISs are managing if their management decisions are to be both informed by realistic expectations and appropriate for the objectives that are being set;
  • The importance of refraining from importing precepts from other countries with different set-ups, lock, stock, and barrel and applying them to one’s country without discrimination to differences that underlie native culture, structures and precepts;
  • The increasing complexity and fast-paced evolution of the technology base, making specialisation and division of labour, to some extent, necessary and desirable, but also necessitating the person entrusted with oversight to have an overview of everything, though that does not mean becoming an expert at everything;
  • The increase in competition brought about, to some extent, by increasingly-efficient technical, engineering and managerial processes and capabilities which, however, necessitate savvier and more knowledgeable managers too;
  • Increasing political pressures due to new capabilities to organise by grass-roots movements that were hitherto fragmented and unable to organise;
  • The operating entity as a more integrated business unit and the possibility of its being more fragmented in terms of space without any adverse consequences on the efficiency or the effectiveness of its operations;
  • ISs becoming business contributors rather than remaining merely business enablers;
  • The restructuring analyses required when pondering the introduction or extension of ISs which might turn out to be beneficial in terms of the mere review of procedures even if the ISs are not subsequently introduced;
  • Complex ISs might not be required by SMEs, especially micro-enterprises, but are becoming more of a must for both them and larger organisations, including parastatal and governmental ones;
  • The advantages and disadvantages to be had from ISs cannot be determined a priori but must be based on good case-by-case judgement;
  • ISs and data retention come with legal obligations that have to be taken seriously and which might drive costs up;
  • Ethical considerations are also important insofar as actions considered by society to be unethical can earn disrepute and might thus result in loss of goodwill and custom;
  • The need for security cannot be over-emphasised. Security presents an evolving threat (and an evolving opportunity for some) and an IS’s security must evolve pari passu with evolutions in threats if commercially-sensitive data is to be guarded and if client data retention is to be ethical and acceptable by the data subjects;
  • ISs disadvantage SMEs which have a positive business case for ISs but whose owners want them to remain small, or cannot do otherwise but to keep them small due to personal life-style considerations.