The Changing Office Scene In Organization (The Paradigm Shift)

Office Administration And Management

Topic: The Changing Office In Organization

Table Of Contents

  • How The Office Has Been Changing Over The Years
  • The Paradigm Shift That Has Taken Place Over The Years

How The Office Has Been Changing Over The Years

The office scene has been changing in the past years and will continue to change further in future. The key factors driving the changes include advances in Information Technology and increased computerization, change in organization structures, procedures and practices.

Three notable phases of the changes in the office scenes can be categorized as follows:

1. Traditional Office Of The 1950s

2. Word Processing Office Of The 1970s

3. Electronic Office Of The 1990s And The Future.

1. The Traditional Office Of The 1950s

The traditional office uses mechanical and manual devices to conduct office functions. The traditional office does not use computers. The main working tools in the traditional office include typewriters for information processing.

Files are used to store document/paper copies which are placed in file cabinets. There may be a duplicating machine in use. Information flow in the traditional office is linear, that is, from: Imput Process, Output, Distribution and Storage/Retrieval.

In this type of office, when any document is to be brought up for use, the file has to be located, the document retrieved, and if there is need to reproduce it, the document has to be re-typed for use. Workers working in traditional office use basic clerical and secretarial skills such as writing shorthand, typewriting, filing, etc.

2. Transition/Word Processing Office Of The 1970s

This office phase lies between the traditional and the electronic offices. The word processing office uses computers for word processing tasks. The computers are generally the stand alone or work stations. The word processors more or less perform the function of typewriters and generally are not linked or communicating with other computers.

The use of computers in the word processing office makes it possible for the storage and retrieval of information to be moved from the end of a linear flow process to the middle of information processing.

In effect, storage occurs simultaneously at the input stage. Storage and retrieval can be done automatically any time, for example, in text editing. Electronic scanners can be used to imput text into the computer.

The computers do not communicate electronically with each other because they are not networked. In the word processing office, hard copy of documents are generated and filed just like in the traditional office. Distribution of mail is done manually.

3. Electronic Office Of The 1990s And The Future

In the electronic office, information processing is fully computerized. More of soft rather than hard copies of documents are used. The computers are networked so that sending or receiving information and performing other duties may be conducted through the interaction of computers and other information technology gadgets.

In the electronic office, information storage takes place as information is input into the computer similar to that of the word processing office. The major difference lies in the fact that information is stored electronically in soft wares and not as hard copies in files inside drawers.

Retrieval of information from the system is also electronically processed. To retrieve information all that needs to be done is to command the computer to find the data and display on the screen or print out as hard copy.

Access to information is greater in electronic office. Workers can access information from their own computer files as well as files in the computers located in other offices within a building or in remote locations. It is this ability to network and manipulate documents electronically for use and re-use that distinguishes the electronic office from the word processing office.

In the electronic office data can be distributed electronically from one computer in the office to other computers with greater speed with less or no paper involved. Hence, the electronic office is sometimes called a paperless or virtual office.

The office of the future will tend toward internet-worked information systems for the end users, and inter-organizational computing, communications collaboration, and global networks.

The Paradigm Shift That Has Taken Place Over The Years

As a result of application of technology in the office management process and systems, the paradigm shift is notable in the following five major areas:

1. Information Flow Process
2. Access To Information
3. Changing Decision Levels
4. Organizational Restructuring
5. The Higher Caliber Of Staff And Skills Required Of Office Workers.

1. Information Flow Process

All offices process information regardless of the type of office. Information processing consists of five phases, that is, Input, Process, Output, Distributions, and Storage/Retrieval.

Modern information technology is driving the changes in the ways and sequence of information flow, and processing. The electronic information processing medium enable information input and storage to occur simultaneously, for examplle, as one is using computer to input data in a word processor, storage of information takes place simultaneously. It is even possible in a networked system for both input, process and distribution to go on simultaneously.

The segments of information processing phases and components of business services/processes are being integrated and networked to gain competitive advantage on real time on-line services delivery.

2. Access To Information

Office information can be easily accessed by any member of staff via the computer system.

Information that previously was accessible to only higer level management staff can now be easily accessed by middle and lower cadre officers. The computer provides a data base of information to enable any person who can use the proper code to access the data base. Information systems are available to give officer managers easy way to get critical information they want, when they want it, and in that format they prefer.

3. Changing Decision Levels

As information is more accessible, decision making levels are changing. Middle level and lower cadre staff have access to information that would enable them make relatively important decisions without recourse to higher level management.

Management Information System (MIS) provide end users with predefined reports that would give office managers at various levels the information required for decision-making purposes.

4. Organizational Structure

Organizational structures will tend to level out and the span of control will be wider. Since information is readily accessible for decision making, the hierarchical structure will tend to level out with managers having more personnel under their supervision.

Increasing office automation and organizational restructuring will continue to make office professionals more productive, and to play key role in organizations.

The Question is: Since networking makes it feasible for people in organizations to share information freely and frequently will we be able to release ourselves from “chain of command” organizational structures to take advantage of this capability?

5. Caliber Of Staff

With the increasing automation and organizational restructuring higher caliber of staff with increased skills will be required to cope with complex office management duties. The development in office technology will continue to bring about further changes in the nature of works done into the office with increasing managerial and human resource responsibilities.

Office workers need for new skills learning, skills adaptation, transferring of skills already learned, attitudes, perceptions and responsibilities will continue to be emphasized as the consequences of the paradigm shifts that are taking place in the domain of office management and technology. The use of automated machines and equipment is changing the distribution of work in modern offices.

6. Skills

A skill is the learned capacity to carryout predetermined results often with the minimum use of time, energy or both. There are general and specific skills.

The general skills are easily transferable from one situation or type of work to another e.g time management, problem solving skills, etc. The specific skills are the skills that are developed due to the study of particular subjects or work in particular areas e.g. Skill to operate computers.

The basic office skills; keyboarding, dication and transcriptions, communication and filing are still in demand for office workerss. There are other important skills which office workers need to master as the changing office scene continues to accelerate.

In a recent study on the “Important Employability Skills”, by the University of Massachusetts (2007), The following were the skills identified as the ones wanted in employees:

1. Information Management Skills: Ability to sort data and objects; compile and rank information; apply information creatively to specific problems or tasks; synthesize facts, concepts and principles; understand and use organizing principles; and evaluate information against appropriate standards.

2. Design And Planning Skills: ability to identify alternative courses of action; set realistic goals; follow through with a plan or decision; manage time effectively; predict future trends and patterns; accomodate multiple demands for commitment of time, energy and resources; set priorities.

3. Research And Investigation Skills: Ability to use a variety of sources to access information including computer technology; apply a variety of methods to test the validity of date; identify problems and needs; identify information sources appropriate to special needs or problems; formulate questions relevant to clarifying a particular problem, topic or issue.

4. Communication Skills: Ability to listen with objectivity and paraphrase the content of a message; communicate with words; speak to individuals and groups; use media formats to present ideas imaginatively; express one’s needs, opinion, wants and preferences without violating the rights of others; convey a positive self-image to others; use a variety of computer programs to facilitate communication.

5. Human Relations And Interpersonal Skills: Ability to keep a group “on track”; maintain group cooperation and support; delegate tasks and responsibilities; interact effectively with peers, superiors and subordinates; teach a skill, concept or principle to others.

6. Management Administration Skills: Ability to analyze tasks; identify people who can contribute to the solution of a problem or task; identify resource materials that are useful in the solution of a problem or task; assess self values in relation to important life decisions; identify one’s own value.

7. Personal/Career Development Skills: Ability to analyze and learn from life experience, Both one’s own and others; relate the skills developed in one environment (e.g. School) to the requirements of another environment (e.g work); identify, describe and assess the relative importance of one’s needs, values, interest, strength and weakness.

8. Critical Thinking Skills: Ability to identify quickly and accurately tthe critical issue when making a decision or solving a problem; apply appropriate criteria to strategies and action plans; analyze ideas and events.