The Impact of Technology on Management Theories

by Tara Duggan; Updated September 26, 2017

Management theory, developed over the past century, describes how companies plan, organize, staff, lead and control their employees. Effective managers get people to accomplish goals and use materials wisely to achieve profitability and maintain a competitive advantage. Advances in technology have enabled standardization, automation and globalization at a rate that early management theorists probably never thought possible. Complex information technology solutions, including hardware and software, allow businesses to create, store and retrieve data from locations throughout the world. In businesses large and small, all departments, including marketing, sales, finance and manufacturing, now typically depend on the company's IT infrastructure to manage the operations and functions necessary to complete business processes.

Impact on Scientific Theory

In the early 1900s, Frederick Taylor, an American mechanical engineer, described how the scientific method could be applied to managing workers. By simplifying and optimizing the way tasks were performed, managers could direct workers to complete tasks in one consistent way. By improving industrial efficiency and reducing human error, managers improve productivity and increase profits. Through the introduction of technology, such as computer hardware and software, tasks formerly performed by humans are now done by specialized machines, reducing monotony, safety concerns and variation.

Impact on Organization Theory

Also in the early 1900s, Henri Fayol, a French mining engineer, developed a series of 14 principles that described how to manage a company. He theorized that there were six functions of management: forecasting, planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating and controlling. The impact of technology on his management theories extends to every department in most companies, as computer hardware and software applications have replaced paper-based systems of organizing and directing work.

Impact on Contingency Theory

The contingency theory of management states that there is no one best of managing. Leadership style that proves effective in one situation may be inappropriate in others. Success often depends on a variety of situational factors, including the capabilities of the manager’s subordinates and the information the manager has available to make an informed decision. With the use of mobile computing, mobile phones and other always-available technology, managers have more information at their disposal than ever before. In fact, too much information may make it difficult to make a decision. Managers need to filter the news, data and other content they receive in print, audio and video formats in order to function effectively.

Impact on Systems Approach

Using a systems approach to management allows managers to view their company as a complex system consisting of interdependent departments. By aligning employee performance goals to strategic goals, all personnel work to solve the same problems. Technology enables all parts of an organization to communicate easily. Using telecommunication, email, social networking tools such as wikis, blogs and forums, managers and employees collaborate across the globe to solve company problems. Enterprise software and hardware systems link departments so the entire entity functions as cohesive whole.

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About the Author

Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.