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The social and organizational consequences of the implementation of electronic data interchange systems: reinforcing existing power relations or a contested domain?

David Morris

Abstract

This paper is based on a survey of UK firms making use of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), and deals with the social and organizational consequences stemming from the adoption of these systems. It was found that a major factor impelling the adoption of EDI systems was pressure from major customers rather than a desire to streamline work organization. However, they do represent a capital intensification of work in the areas of purchasing and supply. This may ultimately erode the position of the less skilled incumbents of the lower job bands, standardizing functions, and, over the medium and long terms, may facilitate downsizing. It is concluded that, above all, EDI represents a strengthening of existing power relationships and imbalances between organizations, a process which opens up few opportunities for the empowerment of the rank-and-file within them.

Keywords: electronic data interchange, empowerment, supply chains, inter-organizational relations

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This paper focuses on the social and organizational consequences of the increased use of electronic data interchange (EDI) systems, based on a survey of UK-based work organizations. A central theme is the extent to which EDT reinforces inter- and intra-organizational ties. There is increasing recognition of the vital linkages between the deployment of technology and broader organizational strategies (Loveridge and Pitt 1990: 3). Based on a survey of firms making use of EDI in the United Kingdom, we seek to examine whether the deployment of EDI is primarily a reflection of internal or external strategic objectives; the desire to improve efficiency and enhance control within the firm, or to recast inter-organizational linkages.

EDI represents an attempt to manage the interdependency of organizations, creating closer and better relationships both within and between organizations (Grimaldi 1990). As a form of lateral communication, EDIs can facilitate the coordination of activities and goals within and/or between organizations (see Torrington and Hall 1991: 136). EDIs represent a form of inter-organizational information system. The latter can be defined as 'automated information systems shared by two or more organizations' (Cash and Konsysnski 1985: 135). EDI provides direct computer-to-computer exchange of business documents between work organizations. Although much has been promised from EDT, actual usage appears more limited (La Londe and Emmelhainz 1985).

Traditional business transactions between organizations in terms of invoices, purchase orders, transactions, etc., represent a highly labour-intensive process, allowing for both errors and delays. EDIs can potentially result in the fundamental recasting of existing relations within a network organizational scenario (i.e. a fluid family of organizations) with a widespread use of subcontracting, centring on a single enterprising individual or team (Kreitner and Kiicki 1998: 603). Within such an arrangement, the returns will be high for the small elite core of entrepreneurs and engineers, while conditions at smaller subcontractors could closely approximate those of a traditional sweatshop (p. 603). However, research would indicate that only a small minority of EDI users would be involved in that kind of total business network redesign and integration (Pfeiffer 1992).

Strategic Choice and New Technology

There is considerable evidence to suggest that firms are increasingly adopting a strategically proactive approach with regard to the use of technology; 'managers may husband, utilize, or transfer their technological competencies and resources according to changing environmental and internal opportunities, and competitors' actions' (Saren 1990: 209). In other words, it has been increasingly recognized that it is strategically vital 'to define and appropriate the benefits of technology in terms of both the social and technical requirements of the organization' (Loveridge and Pitt 1990: 2). Indeed, choice of overall strategy may have a crucial role in determining the use of technology (p. 209). However, it should be recognized that while strategy may determine the initial pace and direction of strategic innovation, this may be altered by economic and social factors, as well as the implications of delegating decision-making, and information and communicative factors such as contacts with scientists and technologi sts (p. 209). Moreover, technology may be strategically deployed to suit external or internal objectives.

Technology and External Strategic Objectives: Recasting Dependency

Conventional determinist theories of organizations see organizations as passive recipients of external forces -- such as the emergence of new technologies -- in a direct and inevitable way (Freeman and Barley 1990: 128). In turn, social arrangements revolving around the organization of work are 'erased by the dominance of technological requirement' (Child and Loveridge 1990: 19). Nonetheless, the relative autonomy of work organization has been increasingly accepted (p. 22).

In contrast, voluntarists imply that the relations between the outside environment and the internal organizational structure can be manipulated to suit the needs of management (Freeman and Barley 1990: 128). Voluntarists may start from a contingency approach, which tends to take the external environment as given. Alternatively, it may be argued from a resource-dependency perspective that the immediate external environment consists of the set of organizations with which the firm exchanges goods and services (p. 129). Organizations are rarely self-sufficient, and depend on others for sustenance; to reduce uncertainty, they seek to develop stable ties with the organizations on which they depend. Ideally, organizations will seek to reduce their own dependency, while enhancing the dependency of their exchange partners (p. 129). Technological change does not take place in a vacuum, but rather in 'a context shaped by the history and specific conditions of the sectors and societies concerned' (p. 34).

Technology and Internal Strategic Objectives: The Exigencies of Control

Traditionally, computers have been seen as a powerful mechanism for centralizing knowledge and power within organizations (Lilienfeld 1978). It has been argued that contemporary technology has the potential to reduce individuals to automatons, without delivering on 'its side of the bargain' in terms of increased social prosperity (Dunkerley, quoted in Grint 1999: 736).

Alternatively, it has been suggested that computers could, in fact, facilitate decentralization. The hypothesis is that a decentralization of information represents a decentralization of power, enabling IT to become a mechanism for furthering organizational democracy and political decentralization: the new power source is not capital in the hands of a few, but rather information in the hands of many (Toffier 1980). Critics of this viewpoint have argued that power resides in systems and structures, not individuals (Kling 1980: 92). Automated information systems reinforce the power of the already dominant, increasing the influence of those who have ultimate knowledge over the technology. Indeed, it can be argued that the increased use of computer technology enhances pre-existing trends in work organization rather than 'bringing about a brave new world' (Grint 1999: 732). However, while new techniques of electronic communication are unlikely to disrupt existing hierarchies of control, the process of implementati on is likely to be contested on an ongoing basis between various groupings within the organization (p. 740).

Horizontal mechanisms of communication do not necessarily provide the basis for an alternative locus of power. Indeed, the increased use of communication -- including electronic data interchange -- can reinforce the notion that people are an essential part of the organization, but can, in fact, serve to erode the position of those in lower levels (Holden 1999: 1-50). Any form of standardization of office work can simply represent the expansion of Taylorist strategies of control, rather than a fundamental reorganization.

Indeed, Child and Loveridge (1990: 316) argue that, in the case of the service sector, there seem to be very few instances where the introduction of new technology was taken up as an opportunity for instituting innovations in work organization. Indeed, this conservative outcome has been encouraged by the ongoing concentration of decision-making power in the hands of those whose current position would encourage them to maintain the status quo; consequently the use of new technology has not led to 'markedly different work roles and organization'.

As Poynter (2000: 1) notes, experimentation with new forms of work organization in the service sector (and, it might be added, in support functions within manufacturing firms) has resulted in the emulation of labour processes which were once the preserve of manufacturing work. Not only may tasks be greatly standardized through the use of electronic mechanisms, but also performance more closely monitored on an ongoing basis. In addition, existing human relationships may be recast: even emotional signals may be manipulated and rechannelled to facilitate preconstituted forms of interaction (p. 1). Child and Loveridge (1990: 343) argue that the introduction of new technology has resulted in the de-skilling of a number of direct service jobs, while also making inroads into 'back office jobs', eroding employee autonomy. Even in those instances where greater autonomy was accorded, the thrust of managerial reconstitution of work has been towards the intensification of work, rather than the empowerment of the workforc e (p. 343).

Thinking about EDI: Recent Advances

Recent research on EDI provides further illumination on the issues and possibilities outlined above. Media richness theory draws a distinction between the relative quality of information embodied in different media forms. Lean mediums such as EDI embody far less information than face-to-face contact; what is being interchanged is hard data rather than subjective perceptions (Ross 2001: 75). While electronic communications have the potential to bring people together, they can force contacts into a fixed mould. While the behaviour of sender and receiver remains embedded in the culture of their own organization, standardized processes force a greater uniformity, limiting the range of expression (p. 75). Indeed, drawing on the interpretive sociological tradition, and on contemporary critical theory (above all, the works of Jurgen Habermas), it can be argued that, while an automated communication form, EDI can assume far greater importance than its role as a quantitative form of data interchange would suggest (Her acleous 2001: 755). Indeed, it can contribute to the construction of individuals' social and organizational reality, impacting on actors' thoughts, interpretations and actions (p. 755).

Critics have also charged that EDI 'automates tasks that are already automated' (Anonymous 2001). This may not only have negative implications for employees, but also firms in an age where flexibility is seemingly prioritized. One managerial critic from the same source remarked: 'They concentrate on easy stuff...not where I need to make any improvement', such as in promoting innovative thinking. In view of this, Noyce (2002: 71) argues that there needs to be a 'humanizing approach', supplementing electronic contacts with new channels of communication to personalize relationships. However, it can be argued that behaviour in new 'virtual environments' opened up by EDI is 'still evolving', and the outcomes remain uncertain (Ross 2001).

Of course, EDIs do not only impact on interpersonal relationships, but also the relationships between work organizations themselves. Based on a multinational survey of finns employing such technologies in the USA, Japan and Westem Europe, Sohel and Schroeder (2001: 16-30) found that EDI stabilizes inter-organizational relationships, leading to better delivery performance. However, Lewis (2001: 5-13) suggests that, coterminous with this process, new electronic hierarchies emerge. Generally, the outcome is that supply chains get shortened, the role of intermediaries reduced, and the position of dominant players strengthened (Lewis 2001; Rasheed and Geiger 2001; Rutner et al. 2001).

Use of EDI: Process and Applications

In a comprehensive review of the existing literature, Wrigley (1991) found that despite admirable success stories, the use of EDT was still moderate and to some extent only experimental. According to Pfeiffer, due to the small number of organizations implementing it and the low level of usage within those organizations, in 1992 EDT was still at a rather embryonic stage, especially outside the USA and the UK (Pfeiffer 1992). Since then, usage of EDT has significantly increased. EDI employs proprietary software, and requires dedicated links between private networks; the effect of this is to shorten supply chains, reducing unnecessary intermediaries (Lewis 2001; Marguilis 2002).

It is thought that EDI is similar to facsimile transmission and electronic mail, in the sense that they all move data electronically. However, facsimile transmission is the movement of a digitized image of a document over telephone channels, and electronic mail is the use of computer to communicate person-to-person. In contrast, EDT is a way to communicate computer-to computer. As the data transmitted in the case of faxing or e-mailing are free-format and cannot be processed without re-keying and interpretation, the essential features of EDT are missing from both of these communication media. With EDI the data are in a structured and machine-processable format. The transfer of information in machine-readable and processable form is the key element and fundamental benefit of EDT technology. At the same time, data flows are limited to technical information, reducing interpersonal communications (Noyce 2002: 71).

The Process of EDI

In a traditional flow of transactions between finns, there can be 22 human interventions and re-keyings required for one transaction. In this process it is mostly accepted that 70% of one company's data output eventually becomes another company's data input (Emmelhainz 1990). Moreover, the repeated rekeying of identical data in this traditional method creates problems that can be enormously reduced or totally eliminated by using EDT. One study found that even expert-level data entry operators mis-key 2% of the time (Harrington 1988). The problems of the traditional process are: increased process time, low data accuracy, high labour requirements and increased uncertainty.

The high levels of human intervention and possibility of error make the accuracy of traditionally processed data low. Also, the re-keying and the comparison of documents such as purchase orders and invoices are labour-intensive and unproductive activities. Finally, the traditional flow creates high uncertainty as well, because of mailing and processing delays. Sometimes a purchase order is never received or is received very late by the supplier, resulting in non-delivery or late delivery to the customer. In the EDI flow of transactions there are normally one or at most only three human interventions or re-keyings. Considering that there are thousands, even millions, of transactions to be processed, the need for EDI technology becomes obvious. At the same time, relationships become depersonalized. Consequently, Noyce (2002: 71) argues that the use of EDI needs to be supplemented by additional 'humanizing' forms of contact if relationships are to be maintained in their existing form.

In an EDI environment there are two different methods of computer linkage: direct and indirect (third-party providers) (Emmelhainz 1990). A direct system works well if a company is communicating with a limited number of trading partners. In this case the sender's computer is linked directly to the receivers' computers. Both ends have a computerized mailbox to receive messages. These messages can be transmitted according to industry standards or in a unique format agreed by the trading companies.

In an indirect linkage, a third-party network provider, also known as a Value Added Net (VAN), serves as an intermediary between trading partners. The VAN in the EDI flow of transactions takes the post office's place in a traditional flow of transactions, maintaining a mailbox for both the sender and the receiver. If a company has a large number of electronic purchase orders to send to different sellers, the company would transmit all of them to the VAN in a single 'connect' or 'call'. The VAN would then sort the purchase orders. Then the seller contacts the VAN again in the same way for its multiple buyers' orders. A third-party network not only provides translation and mailbox services but can also deliver more far-reaching organizational benefits such as reducing the number of communication links which an organization must manage; enabling suppliers to send product catalogues electronically; transmitting forecasting information from buyers to suppliers; helping to keep an organization's EDI system up to da te; and enabling communications between different industries (Reich 1985). According to several authors (Reich 1985; Lydecker 1985; Emmelhainz 1990) the availability and usage of third-party networks is considered to be a positive factor in the growth of EDI technology.

The Applications of EDI Technology

EDI technology is being used in almost all industries, such as automobiles, consumer goods, transport, chemicals, electronics, health, construction, and tourism. Emmelhainz suggests that more than 200 electronic documents can be transmitted via EDT technology and lists the most common documents as follows:

'purchase order, purchase order acknowledgement, purchase order change request, purchase order change request acknowledgement, request for quotation, response to request for quotation, planning schedule, release notice, invoice, receiving advice, functional acknowledgement, bill of lading, shipment information, freight invoices, status report, shipment pickup order, waybill interchange.' (Emmelhainz 1990: 18)

The Data Interchange Standards Association (DISA) has catalogued more than 245 transaction sets, or EDT applications (Hart and Saunders 1997).

The level of application of EDT among the organizations that participated in the pilot interview study for this research showed that EDT usage was limited but expected to grow significantly. The same study revealed that almost all of the purchasing documentation was transmitted electronically, but the most popular documents transmitted via EDT were 'orders' (10 out of 12 respondents), followed by 'schedules', 'order acknowledgements', 'delivery instructions', 'delivery prenotifications', 'delivery confirmations', and 'receipt confirmations' (9 out of 12). The least popular document transmitted via EDT was 'invoices' (only 4 out of 12). However, 5 of the companies stated that they had plans to transmit invoices in the near future via EDI technology.

Method

This article was based on a self-administered postal questionnaire. The structured questions in the questionnaire provided a broad perspective across a large number of organizations in the various industry sectors. The questionnaire was sent to over 800 TIMES 1000 organizations. Most of the factors included in the questionnaire were based on previous research in this area to ensure broader consistency with the literature and provide a framework for comparison with previous studies (such as Pfeiffer 1992; Banerjee and Golhar 1993; Reekers and Smithson 1994,1995). In short, the variables were derived from an extensive literature review, and are fully detailed in Tables 1-7.

Background and factual information was requested in direct questions, such as the number of years of EDT usage. Where personal opinions were sought, such as on the perceived benefits and difficulties of EDT usage, a 5-point Likert scale was adopted. There were many open questions included, so that respondents could provide further details concerning critical issues in the implementation and operation of EDT technology and any additional information. Moreover, the respondents were provided with the opportunity of a free-format response at the end of the questionnaire so that some of the phenomena addressed in the questionnaire could be investigated in more depth.

The 184 organizations from one of the industry classifications of the TIMES 1000 list, Investment Trust, were excluded from the questionnaire analysis after the second mailing responses received, as the nature of the business was not suitable to the research aims. A response rate of 31.4% comprising a total of 173 responses was achieved.

The responses to each question generated a variable which was coded 1 to 5 based on the ratings on a 5-point Likert scale (1 strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree). For the purposes of statistical analysis these have been treated as a non-parametric variable and therefore correlations between pairs of variables have been calculated using Spearman's rank order correlation coefficient. The distribution of the Spearman coefficient approximates that of the Pearson correlation coefficient for larger samples (n > 100).

Statement of Hypotheses

On the basis of existing work on the subject, a number of key issues emerged (see Pfeiffer 1992; Banerjee and Golhar 1993; Reekers and Smithson 1994, 1995; Lewis 2001; Ross 2001; Marguilis 2002) that formed the basis for the set of hypotheses below. First, it can be suggested that EDIs are adopted to suit internal organizational exigencies, rather than as a result of pressure from an external partner. In other words, EDIs represent a component of managerial efforts to improve internal efficiency and control, rather than reflect (and, perhaps strengthen) inter-organizational power imbalances. Does EDI represent little more than an attempt to refine and strengthen existing relationships at the workplace, consolidating power in the hands of management (Sayer 2001: 404)? Second, it is hypothesized that EDIs result in an intensification of work, especially among those in purchasing departments. EDIs constitute a lean form of information exchange, reducing the room for richer -- but more time intensive -- personali zed forms of contact (Ross 2001: 75-81). Third, it is hypothesized that EDIs have far-reaching effects on existing relationships between individuals and/or collectives at intra- and inter-organizational levels. At the individual level, EDIs create an evolving virtual environment, potentially eroding the existing specific cultural embeddedness of individuals (Ross 2001). At the organizational level, EDIs have the potential to create new electronic hierarchies, strengthening the position of the dominant, and eroding the role of intermediaries (Rasheed and Geiger 2001).

Findings

The Spearman coefficient between the ex ante pressure from customers to implement EDI technology and the expectation that customers would gain greater dominance post EDI implementation was positive and significant (see Table 1). In addition, the relationship between the desire to improve responsiveness to customers as a reason to implement EDI and the greater dominance of customers post EDI implementation also showed a positive, significant statistical relationship. This confirms the importance of customers to the organization. Moreover, these significant correlations show that there is a tendency for major customers to put pressure on organizations to implement EDI and that participant organizations attempt to satisfy their customers by improving the response time through implementing EDI technology.

The longer the EDI usage time, the more likely organizations were to shed personnel, particularly in the areas of clerical work (29% of all respondents had already experienced this) and accounting work (24%). Short-term use of EDT was unlikely to result in any changes in staffing numbers. However, although staff numbers in purchasing also decreased over time, this was at a very much slower rate than in the other two areas.

The correlation between the reduction in the clerical, accounting and purchasing personnel was positive and significant. Moreover, the correlations between all these outcomes from the adoption of EDI technology were positive and significant, except the relationship between the change in the number of purchasing personnel and reduction in human intervention, and elimination of re-keying of data (see Table 2 for more details). Given the limited time since EDI had been first adopted, the number of personnel had not changed in the majority of the participant organizations.

We then analysed the effect of implementation and use of EDI technology on 'the methods, tasks and the way of working'. About 80% of the respondents agreed that the implementation and use of EDI technology had changed work methods and systems in their organizations; more than three-quarters said that 'EDT was a new way of work'. Moreover, two-thirds of the respondents reported that implementation and use of EDT technology had changed the tasks in their organizations. Spearman correlations of factors relating to forms of work organization are depicted in Table 3.

All of these findings indicate that implementation and use of EDT technology has an impact on methods, systems, tasks and the way of working.

The Spearman coefficient of correlation with regard to time taken to process a purchase action was positive and significant (Table 4); this confirms that there is a tendency for work methods, work systems and traditional way of working to be changed.

The Spearman coefficient of correlation between the change in interpersonal interaction and the change in the number of telephone contacts was positive and significant. Again, the correlation between the change in the interpersonal interaction externally and the change in number of face-to-face contacts was positive and significant. Moreover, the correlation between the change in interpersonal interaction externally and the change in personal relationships with trading partners was positive and significant. Finally, the correlation between the change in personal relationships with trading partners and the change in number of telephone contacts was positive and significant.

These significant correlations indicate that there is a similar trend in experiencing changes in the factors examined for the assessment of the impact of EDT technology on relationships (see Table 5 for more details).

The survey revealed that the effect of EDI technology on interpersonal interactions was strongly related to the duration of EDT usage. The longer the time, the more sharply the respondents felt the impact of EDI technology on personal relationships.

We then looked at the impact of EDI on interdepartmental relationships (Table 6). While there were differences in the proactiveness of the departments in the implementation of EDI technology and also in the use of it, it can be assumed that adoption and use of EDT technology could change the relationships between these departments.

Although the implementation and use of EDI technology did not have a structural impact on the participant organizations, they confirm that the implementation and use of EDI technology affected interdepartmental relationships, particularly where there had been long-term use. As can be seen from Table 6, in the early years (1-5 years) of EDT adoption, most of the respondents reported that they had not experienced a change in interdepartmental interactions. But in the long-term uses (over 5 years) group most of the participants reported that they had experienced a change in interdepartmental interactions.

The Spearman coefficient of correlation between the change in interdepartmental interaction and the change in organizational structure was positive and significant (Table 7).

The results in Table 7 suggest that EDT can facilitate broader changes in organizational structure, standardizing procedures, and reducing the possibility for human interventions (and errors) outside of procedural guidelines. The resultant organizational changes did not result in a decentralization of power, although in some cases there was a limited strengthening of the powers of information technology sections.

To return to the hypotheses. The first hypothesis was not supported - the study found that EDIs represented the product more of external than internal pressures. As suggested by the literature, EDIs can speed up the flow of information between firms, facilitating more rapid and cost-effective coordination of activities (cf. Lewis 2001; Marguilis 2002). At the same time, this is likely to strengthen the position of dominant partners within the supply chain (cf. Lewis 2002; Rasheed and Geiger 2001). The second hypothesis was supported: EDIs did indeed cause far-reaching changes in the nature of work. The use of specific forms of communication is likely to impact on actors' thoughts, interpretations and actions (Heracleous 2001). However, EDIs constitute a lean medium of information exchange, forcing individuals into a specific mould and reinforcing existing structures of authority. Third, the analysis revealed that the effect of EDI technology on interpersonal interactions was strongly related to the duration o f EDI usage - EDIs did affect interpersonal relationships, as suggested by the third hypothesis, but specifically in the medium and longer terms. Sender and receiver both remain embedded in existing organizational cultures; behaviour in the virtual environment is a process that is subject to ongoing evolution (Ross 2001).

The survey findings indicate that the increasing use of EDI does not reflect a new epoch of work organization characterized by increased employee empowerment. Rather, the adoption of this technology reflects external contingencies, and primarily affects the manner in which organizations relate to each other. Most organizations desire stable exchange relations with their principal partners. However, in practice, as Freeman and Barley (1990) suggest, it is only relatively powerful actors who can manipulate their relationships with the external environment to suit specific managerial needs. Dominant firms within the supply chain are able to use their position to increase the dependency of more 'junior' partners. In contrast, the latter generally have to adopt EDI to suit the needs and concerns of more dominant partners, the effects of EDI on internal work organization being largely shaped by these external pressures.

The survey revealed that EDI affected interpersonal relationships over the medium and longer terms. However, there was little evidence to suggest that this resulted in significant empowerment. Rather, it appeared that this reflected an intensification of work, with existing human relationships being recast to facilitate 'preconstituted forms of interaction' (Child and Loveridge 1990). In other words, the use of EDT confirmed existing (and often classically Fordist) forms of work organization, with individuals being more closely interlinked with and between each other, reflecting the closer ties between firms. However, as noted earlier, the logic of this process reflects the needs of existing management, and, between firms, of the dominant partners in any supply chain.

Conclusion

The survey found that short-term usage of EDIs was unlikely to result in significant organizational change, but long-term usage was. The survey found no evidence to suggest that EDIs provided the basis for decentralizing control within the firm. Neither do they necessarily mark a general upskilling of those involved in inter-firm relations once the basic systems are in place -- most respondents felt that EDIs reduced the scope of human interventions, but did not necessarily free employees from repetitive work. Indeed, given their effect of reducing direct interpersonal contacts, it can be argued that they represent not so much a site of contestation, but an outcome, and, ultimately, strengthening, of existing power networks. Over the long term, they facilitate an intensification of work, allowing for staffing reductions in key areas. Indeed, it can be argued that they heighten the polarization between categories of work which may be quantified, and the remaining categories that cannot (see Poynter 2000: 3). M oreover, EDIs represent a fundamental shift in the nature of inter-organizational business transactions, from a labour- to a capital-intensive process. The latter, as noted earlier, may ultimately erode the position of the less skilled incumbents of the lower job bands, standardizing functions, and, over the medium and long terms, may facilitate downsizing.

Whatever their consequences, it seems that the process of adopting EDIs is generally not triggered by internal exigencies of efficiency and control. Rather, it often represents the product of external pressures posed by larger partner organizations. Generally, EDIs seem to increase client control over suppliers and subcontractors in an 'over-coding' mechanism, binding organizations together through regularized forms of information exchange. In this sense, the operation of EDIs above all represent a strengthening of existing relations and imbalances between organizations, a process which opens up few opportunities for the empowerment of the rank-and-file within them (cf. Whitley 1999:17-33).

As noted earlier, the individual firm will seek to develop stable ties with the organizations on which they depend. Ideally, organizations desire to reduce their own dependency, while enhancing the dependency of their exchange partners (Freeman and Barley 1990: 129). Organizations at the strongest position in the supply chain generally provide the driving force in the implementation of EDI; this facilitates the building of linkages, making for certainty in exchanges, and ultimately enhancing the dependency of 'junior partners' on the core firm (i.e. the principal customer of suppliers and subcontractors). Above all, it is evident that the adoption of EDI is primarily driven by external rather than internal strategic exigencies.

Table 1

Spearman Correlation Matrix, 'External Pressure'

Spearman Correlation                 1          2          3
Matrix

 1 Customers/suppliers               1.000

 2 Governments                        .1178     1.000

 3 Customers                         -.4276 **  -.0240     1.000

 4 Suppliers                          .2713 **   .0179      .0721

 5 Competitors                       -.2167 **   .1338      .2071 **

 6 Technological advances             .0677      .0971     -.0078

 7 General public                     .0125      .2680 **  -.0688

 8 Proactiveness of participant       .1361     -.0710     -.1911 **

 9 External pressure in the          -.2628 **   .0130      .2612 **
   industry

10 Pressure of trading partners      -.3843 **   .0371      .5217 **

11 Improving customer                -.2361 **  -.0371      .2910 **
   responsiveness

12 Increasing the ability to          .1627 **   .1166     -.0587
   compete

13 Impact of dominance of customers  -.5544 **   .0072      .5110 **

14 Impact of dominance of suppliers   .2647 **   .2800 **  -.1712 **

Spearman Correlation                 4          5          6
Matrix

 1 Customers/suppliers

 2 Governments

 3 Customers

 4 Suppliers                         1.000

 5 Competitors                        .1826 *   1.000

 6 Technological advances             .2160 **   .1612 *   1.000

 7 General public                     .0458      .2032 **   .1909 *

 8 Proactiveness of participant       .1154     -.0277      .1072

 9 External pressure in the          -.1162      .1375      .0332
   industry

10 Pressure of trading partners      -.0165      .1502      .0771

11 Improving customer                 .0413      .1772 *    .2200 **
   responsiveness

12 Increasing the ability to          .1000      .1979 **   .1408
   compete

13 Impact of dominance of customers  -.2329 **   .1658 *   -.562

14 Impact of dominance of suppliers   .3821 **  -.0060      .1899 *

Spearman Correlation                 7          8          9
Matrix

 1 Customers/suppliers

 2 Governments

 3 Customers

 4 Suppliers

 5 Competitors

 6 Technological advances

 7 General public                    1.000

 8 Proactiveness of participant       .0400     1.000

 9 External pressure in the           .0724     -.0278     1.000
   industry

10 Pressure of trading partners      -.0496     -.1665 *    .3904 **

11 Improving customer                 .2025 **   .2134 **   .0644
   responsiveness

12 Increasing the ability to          .1804 *    .2160 **   .0005
   compete

13 Impact of dominance of customers   .0805     -.1625 *    .3856 **

14 Impact of dominance of suppliers   .2780 **   .0786     -.1685 *

Spearman Correlation                 10         11         12
Matrix

 1 Customers/suppliers

 2 Governments

 3 Customers

 4 Suppliers

 5 Competitors

 6 Technological advances

 7 General public

 8 Proactiveness of participant

 9 External pressure in the
   industry

10 Pressure of trading partners      1.000

11 Improving customer                 .2741 **  1.000
   responsiveness

12 Increasing the ability to          .0207      .3124 **  1.000
   compete

13 Impact of dominance of customers   .5333 **   .3403 **   .0036

14 Impact of dominance of suppliers  -.1066     -.0481      .1207

Spearman Correlation                 13        14
Matrix

 1 Customers/suppliers

 2 Governments

 3 Customers

 4 Suppliers

 5 Competitors

 6 Technological advances

 7 General public

 8 Proactiveness of participant

 9 External pressure in the
   industry

10 Pressure of trading partners

11 Improving customer
   responsiveness

12 Increasing the ability to
   compete

13 Impact of dominance of customers  1.000

14 Impact of dominance of suppliers  -.1960 *  1.000

* p [less than or equal to] .05

** p [less than or equal to] .01 (2-tailed)

Table 2

Spearman Correlation Matrix, 'Number of Personnel'

Spearman Correlation Matrix          1          2          3

 1 Cost in reduction in personnel    1.000
 2 Reduced clerical work              .3516 **  1.000
 3 Reduced time spent correcting      .3683 **   .2781 **  1.000
    erros
 4 Helped forecasting                 .2351 **   .0450      .2143 **
 5 Reduced human intervention         .3221 **   .3688 **   .4910 **
 6 Increased productivity of          .3491 **   .4378 **   .3885 **
    personnel
 7 Eliminating re-keying of data      .2941 **   .3602 **   .4283 **
 8 Freeing professionals from         .2491 **   .2409 **   .2377 **
    repetitive work
 9 Reduction in purchasing            .3856 **   .1611      .1714
    personnel
 10 Reduction in clerical personnel   .6776 **   .2996 **   .2242 **
 11 Reduction in accounting           .5820 **   .2912 **   .1757 *
     personnel

Spearman Correlation Matrix          4         5          6

 1 Cost in reduction in personnel
 2 Reduced clerical work
 3 Reduced time spent correcting
    erros
 4 Helped forecasting                1.000
 5 Reduced human intervention         .0390    1.000
 6 Increased productivity of          .1221      3435 **  1.000
    personnel
 7 Eliminating re-keying of data      .1564     .4466 **   .2138 **
 8 Freeing professionals from         .1530     .2985 **   .2271 **
    repetitive work
 9 Reduction in purchasing            .0225     .1397      .2451 **
    personnel
 10 Reduction in clerical personnel   .2214 *   .2614 **   .3014 **
 11 Reduction in accounting           .1962 *   .2879 **   .2840 **
     personnel

Spearman Correlation Matrix          7          8          9

 1 Cost in reduction in personnel
 2 Reduced clerical work
 3 Reduced time spent correcting
    erros
 4 Helped forecasting
 5 Reduced human intervention
 6 Increased productivity of
    personnel
 7 Eliminating re-keying of data     1.000
 8 Freeing professionals from         .2018 *   1.000
    repetitive work
 9 Reduction in purchasing            .0409      .0902     1.000
    personnel
 10 Reduction in clerical personnel   .2336 **   .2815 **   .4421 **
 11 Reduction in accounting           .1978 *    .1809 *    .3394 **
     personnel

Spearman Correlation Matrix          10         11

 1 Cost in reduction in personnel
 2 Reduced clerical work
 3 Reduced time spent correcting
    erros
 4 Helped forecasting
 5 Reduced human intervention
 6 Increased productivity of
    personnel
 7 Eliminating re-keying of data
 8 Freeing professionals from
    repetitive work
 9 Reduction in purchasing
    personnel
 10 Reduction in clerical personnel  1.000
 11 Reduction in accounting           .6666 **  1.000
     personnel

* p[less than or equal to].05

** p[less than or equal to].01 (2-tailed)

Table 3

Spearman Correlation Matrix, 'Methods, Systems, Tasks and Way of
Working'

Spearman Correlation Matrix    1          2          3

1 EDI has changed methods and  1.000
 systems
2 EDI is a new way of work      .1913 *   1.000
3 EDI will change what we do    .3133 **   .4821 **  1.000

* p[less than or equal to].05

** [p[less than or equal to].01 (2-tailed)

Table 4

Spearman Correlation Matrix, 'Efficiency of the Processing of Purchase
Actions'

Spearman Correlation Matrix       1          2          3

 1 Change in the average time
   for purchase action            1.000

 2 Participant's performance       .1765 *   1.000

 3 Participant's department's
   performance                     .2393 **   .5919 **  1.000

 4 Participant's organization's
   performance                     .1765 *    .3856 **   .4964 **

 5 Reduced time spent correcting
   errors                          .1544      .1225      .2385 **

 6 Increased accuracy and speed
   of information                  .0707      .1158      .2567 **

 7 Increased productivity of
   personnel                       .2840 **   .2801 **   .4031 **

 8 Reduced clerical work           .1789 *    .1733 *    .2748 **

 9 Freeing professionals from
   repetitive work                 .1240      .1554      .2063 *

10 Eliminating re-keying
   of data                         .2028 *    .1194      .1148

11 Reduced human intervention      .2145 *    .0681      .1596

Spearman Correlation Matrix       4          5          6

 1 Change in the average time
   for purchase action

 2 Participant's performance

 3 Participant's department's
   performance

 4 Participant's organization's
   performance                    1.000

 5 Reduced time spent correcting
   errors                          .3207 **  1.000

 6 Increased accuracy and speed
   of information                  .3145 **   .3108 **  1.000

 7 Increased productivity of
   personnel                       .2981 **    3885 **   .3054 **

 8 Reduced clerical work           .1786 *    .2781 **   .3704 **

 9 Freeing professionals from
   repetitive work                 .2008 *    .2377 **   .1055

10 Eliminating re-keying
   of data                         .2828 **   .4283 **   .1925 *

11 Reduced human intervention      .2441 **   .4910 **   .3504 **

Spearman Correlation Matrix       7          8          9

 1 Change in the average time
   for purchase action

 2 Participant's performance

 3 Participant's department's
   performance

 4 Participant's organization's
   performance

 5 Reduced time spent correcting
   errors

 6 Increased accuracy and speed
   of information

 7 Increased productivity of
   personnel                      1.000

 8 Reduced clerical work           .4378 **  1.000

 9 Freeing professionals from
   repetitive work                 .2271 **   .2409 **  1.000

10 Eliminating re-keying
   of data                         .2138 **   .3602 **   .2018 *

11 Reduced human intervention      .3435 **   .3688 **   .2985 **

Spearman Correlation Matrix       10         11

 1 Change in the average time
   for purchase action

 2 Participant's performance

 3 Participant's department's
   performance

 4 Participant's organization's
   performance

 5 Reduced time spent correcting
   errors

 6 Increased accuracy and speed
   of information

 7 Increased productivity of
   personnel

 8 Reduced clerical work

 9 Freeing professionals from
   repetitive work

10 Eliminating re-keying
   of data                        1.000

11 Reduced human intervention      .4466 **  1.000

* p[less than or equal to].05

** p[less than or equal to].01 (2-tailed)

Table 5

Spearman Correlation Matrix, 'Interpersonal Relationships'

Spearman Correlation Matrix  1         2          3         4

1 Change in interpersonal
  interactions internally    1.000
2 Change in interpersonal
  interactions externally    .4779 **  1.000
3 Relationships more
  impersonal with partners   .2944 **   .3247 **  1.000
4 Change in the number of
  telephone contacts         .0838      .2916 **   .1929 *  1.000
5 Change in the number of
 face-to-face contacts       .0691      .1375      .0604     .4928 **

Spearman Correlation Matrix  5

1 Change in interpersonal
  interactions internally
2 Change in interpersonal
  interactions externally
3 Relationships more
  impersonal with partners
4 Change in the number of
  telephone contacts
5 Change in the number of
 face-to-face contacts       1.000

* p[less than or equal to].05

** p[less than or equal to].01 (2-tailed)

Table 6

Cross-tabulation of 'Duration of EDI usage' and "EDI has Changed
Interdepartmental Interactions'

Duration of EDI Usage/Choice        Disagree             No Opinion
                              n         %         n         %

1-5 years                     28        36.8      22        29
Over 5 years                  14        25.5      11        20
Total (% in participants)     42        32        33        25.2

Duration of EDI Usage/Choice         Agree                 Total
                              n         %         n         %

1-5 years                     26        34.2       76       100
Over 5 years                  30        54.5       55       100
Total (% in participants)     56        42.8      131       100

Table 7

Spearman Correlation Matrix, 'Interdepartmental Relationships'

Factor/Question No.              1         2         3

1 EDI changes interdepartmental  1.000
  interactions
2 EDI can be used to redesign    .3231 **  1.000
  organizational structure
3 EDU utilised to redesign       .2866 **  .4223 **  1.000
  organization's structure

* p [less than or equal to].05

** p [less than or equal to].01 (2-tailed)

Note

References

The authors would like to express their appreciation for the very helpful comments of three anonymous referees.

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David Morris

David Morris is Dean of Coventry Business School. He has published widely in the business and management literature and has contributed to the development of management education nationally and internationally.

Address: Coventry Business School, Coventry University, Coventry CV1 5FB, UK. E-mail: d.morris@coventry.ac.uk

Mustafa Tasliyan

Mustafa Tasilyan was formerly a research student at Coventry Business School. He is now Assistant Professor at Kahramanmarab Sutcu Ymam University in Turkey where he teaches HRM and organizational behaviour.

E-mail. mustafatasliyan@hotmail.com

Geoffrey Wood

Geoffrey Wood is Professor of Comparative HRM at Middlesex University. Previously he lectured at Coventry Business School and at Rhodes University. He has published extensively on a range of areas including trade union renewal, new developments in organizational change and the political economy of lusophone Africa.

E-mail: geoffreywood65@netscape.net

COPYRIGHT 2003 Walter de Gruyter und Co.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group





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