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The Role of Workstation-Based Client/Server Systems in Changing Business Processes: a Multiple Case Study

Description: Although several studies question information technology's contribution to productivity, organizations continue to invest in client/server systems (CSSs) particularly as enablers of business process reengineering (BPR). These efforts may be wasted if they do not improve business processes. This study focused on business processes and investigated the role of workstation-based CSSs in changing business processes. A multiple case study of workstation-based CSS databases in three organizations was performed with the proposition that they moderate the relation between managerial action and changes within business processes. The research framework suggested that changes to business processes are achieved by reducing uncertainty. In order to measure change in business processes, this study categorized business process change into: (1) compressing sequential tasks across functions, (2) compressing tasks vertically within the managerial hierarchy, (3) eliminating slack resources, (4) reducing the distance between the point of decision and the point of information or eliminating intermediaries, (5) reconfiguring sequential processes to operate in parallel, and (6) linking parallel activities during the process. Data collected from questionnaires, interviews, and observations from three case studies were used to construct network diagrams, relationship matrices, reachability matrices, and task tables of business processes. The results of this research partially support the proposition that managerial action affects business process change by reducing uncertainty. This research suggests that changes in the use of workstation-based CSSs are related to changes in business processes. However, because ofthe small sample size, no finding was made regarding changes in the strength of that relationship. Therefore, within its limitations, this research (1) partially supports the proposition that CSSs moderate changes in business processes, (2) found that both favorable and unfavorable changes may result from using CSSs, (3) explains how business process change occurs, and (4) suggests new variables for measuring successful BPR.
Date: December 1995
Creator: Nik Hassan, Nik Rushdi