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Research Proposal on Technology

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Sample Research Proposal on Technology and Its Impact

One of the definitions of “technology” given in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary is “the totality of the means employed by a people to provide itself with the objects of material culture” (1872). Modern technology includes e-mail, cellular phones, conference calls, fax machines, computers, pagers, and video conferencing. Technology is apparent in every aspect of life. It has changed everyday living dramatically, both in positive and in negative ways.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of business. Everything from decision-making to human resources has been affected by new technology. This paper will discuss the impact of technology, both positive and negative, on business.

Technology’s Impact on Decision Making
Technology, especially the Internet, has made obtaining information a much quicker and easier process. In the past, obtaining information required days or even weeks of research in the library, often tying up the time of several employees. Today, one researcher, using online sources, can compile more up-to-date research in a matter of hours. Having so much information, literally at one’s fingertips, allows for quick, informed decision-making. This is especially important in today’s global market where it is essential for multi-national organizations to have current information from around the world before making crucial decisions.

However, there is a downside to this process. In the past, managers took more time processing the information they received. They shared the information with other concerned parties and came to an agreement regarding the goals of the project. Today’s technology may have decreased the amount of time it takes to accumulate data, but it has also decreased the amount of time managers have to assimilate that information and make decisions. According to an article by Paul Rogers, “Internet time encourages immediate decision-making, even at the cost of mistakes” (15). As a result of such quick decision making, there may be less buy-in by stakeholders because there was no time for information sharing and reaching agreement on project goals.

Technology’s Impact on Communication
Today, business communications is alive and well through e-mail. E-mail allows for quick communication and efficient organization of that communication. Messages can be routed to folders, prioritized and, if necessary, immediately responded to. In addition, new hand-held computers, such as “the Blackberry,” allow managers to receive e-mails from any location. This device, which takes pagers to a new level, beeps or vibrates when e-mail is received on the computer back in the office. The manager can then read, forward, fax, delete, save or ignore the message (Maciag, 52). It is like carrying a portable office.

However, e-mail can also make business communications overwhelming. Many individuals have numerous e-mail accounts, requiring a system to manage them all. In one day, hundreds of e-mails can come across a manager’s computer. Although managers can filter this e-mail using selection software, there is an inherent danger in doing so. If an important e-mail does not meet the software’s criteria for response, it could go unnoticed.

Technology’s Impact on Human Resources
Due to advanced technology such as computers, fax machines, and video conferencing, many organizations are implementing telecommuting as an option for their employees. This is expected to create a significant increase in worker productivity. Other benefits that have been cite include reduced costs, improved recruitment and retention, reduced stress, reduced travel time, and increased job satisfaction (Harvey, 58). Additionally, telecommuting has global advantages because it will allow an organization to develop a team of employees from virtually any location in the world.

However, this new technology will require the development of new management and communication skills. In addition, organizations will need to develop creative benefit packages to attract and keep employees since the “job market” will not be limited to their demographic area. Organizational loyalty may become a thing of the past.

Technology’s Impact on Marketing
Marketing may well be the one area on which technology has had the greatest impact. The virtual marketplace is everywhere, from Amazon Books to Virtual Universities. The Internet takes the product to the customer, saving the customer time and, in some cases, money (Graham, 8). The Internet allows companies to sell merchandise throughout the world without having to amass a great deal of inventory which they might not be able to get rid of later. For example, Amazon Books has over 1.2 million different books to sell. No one bookstore could possibly stock all those titles. Even companies that have a physical location, like Home Depot and Office Max, are marketing their products through the Internet. For some companies, this is an additional marketing appeal. For example, Best Buy advertises the fact that a customer can purchase items online, but return them to the store if they are dissatisfied.

Best Buy has managed to circumvent one of the chief disadvantages of the virtual marketplace. One disadvantage for consumers buying from an Internet site, as opposed to a physical store, is having to return unsatisfactory merchandise to the company, often at their own expense. Another disadvantage is that a customer has to wait for the merchandise to be delivered, a problem that became very apparent two Christmases ago when parents waited in vain for toys that did not arrive.

Technology’s Impact on Competitive Advantage
Quicker decision-making, made possible by the easy accumulation of information, enables a company to gain and keep a competitive advantage. Michael Colcannon, vice-president of business development at Bovis Lend Lease Inc. says that technology “has helped us plan our future and allows us to do things in a much more condensed time frame and make decisions in faster scenarios” (Rogers, 16).

Better and faster communications, made possible by e-mail and hand-held computers, can also help a company gain and retain a competitive advantage. Since managers are always available, any problems that come up can be dealt with immediately, rather than being placed on the back burner. Additionally, the web can allow companies to develop better customer service which creates a competitive advantage. Company web sites allow the company to stay in contact with customers. Dell is a company which has built web sites around the world. They have found this to be a tremendous cost saving as far as customer service is concerned, allowing them to easily answer customer questions and keep the customers up-to-date on new products (Gates, 15).

Technology has certainly made a tremendous impact on the business world. In many ways, it allows an organization to gain and maintain a competitive advantage. Quicker access to up-to-date information allows for more rapid decision making. E-mail, video conferencing, and hand-held computers allow for quicker communications and more rapid problem solving. Computers, fax machines and conference calls allow organizations to employ highly skilled individuals, disregarding demographics.

However, technology is not without its drawbacks. Along with rapid decision-making comes more frequent errors. Quality can suffer as a result. Along with rapid communication, comes a loss of free time. If a manager is always accessible, his or her personal life will suffer. Along with this comes increased stress from being constantly under pressure. This could lead to increased health problems. Although there is a real advantage to telecommuting, it can lead to a lack of organizational loyalty both for the employer and for the employee. More rapid turnover in employees can cause discontinuity in an organization. For employees, there will be less job security and less opportunity for long-term employment.

The benefits of technology need to be closely weighed against its costs. Managers will need specialized training if they are to keep pace with our ever changing technology. Part of that training should include the decision making process in a fast paced environment. Perhaps managers should heed the old sayings ‘Act in haste, repent in leisure’ and ‘Make haste slowly.’ Additionally, managers will need to establish personal boundaries. No one can or should be “on the clock” twenty-four hours a day. Finally, organizations will need to focus on practices for attracting and maintaining good employees and find means to develop organizational loyalty even when employees are located throughout the world.

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