Paul Strassman

Abstract

Paul Strassman is one of the most outstanding gurus in the field of organizational politics and governance. This paper provides a brief insight into Strassman’s vision of information technologies management and its implications for politics and governance.

Paul Strassman’s book The Politics of Information Management: Policy Guidelines is used as the primary source of information about Strassman and his vision of information management in organizations. The issues of power, politics, organizational relations, and a balance between organizational power and reason are discussed.

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Managing information is a complex process. The role of information technologies in all fields of organizational and human performance constantly increases, and information systems management is gradually becoming the issue of the top public concern.

It should be noted, that managing information systems is not merely a matter of technological decision-making. In the world of globalization, integration, and sophisticated technologies, information systems exemplify a unique source of power, which can readily change the balance of political, social, economic, and cultural forces at a global scale. Unfortunately, not everyone can easily recognize that information systems have profound implications for organizational politics and governance.

Paul Strassman suggests that, to ensure that information technologies matter, Chief Information Officers must have sufficient authority to set and execute information systems management policies. However, this is only one side of the coin, since organizations must be able to maintain a reasonable balance of information power. Organizations must limit CIO’s authority to the degree, which does not damage their corporate reputation and performance.

Paul Strassman is an outstanding professional, expert, and guru in the field of information management. His book The Politics of Information Management: Policy Guidelines provides a brief insight into how information systems management is related to politics, power, authority, and governance in organizations. It should be noted, that the discussion of information systems management is often limited to its technical and technological aspects.

This, according to Strassman (1995), is one of the major organizational mistakes. A former chief executive and strategic planning professional in three multinational corporations, Strassman (1995) is confident that “managing information systems is primarily a matter of politics and only secondarily a matter of technology” (p.xxv).

Strassman (1995) believes that information management is inseparable from politics, as long as management of information defines the patterns of organizations, and availability of information in the free market system predetermines the scope and availability of market power. Thus, organizations and their information resources are synonymous with power; consequentially, organizations and information systems management are also synonymous with politics (Strassman, 1995).

This is, probably, why Strassman (2005) suggests that a CIO must have sufficient authority to create, set, and execute information systems management policies. Otherwise, information technologies and information will never become sufficiently important for organizations (Strassman, 2005).

Strassman’s suggestions regarding the politics of information management are not without controversy. His ideas regarding the CIOs’ role in information management and information politics pose a serious challenge to organizational stability, growth, and governance principles.

That information is inseparable from politics cannot be denied (Finney, 1999). Failure to recognize the political implications of information creation and management limits the scope of information management power in organizations (Finney, 1999; Strassman, 1995).

However, whether or not CIOs can turn information systems into the source of organizational and market power is difficult to predict. On the one hand, political information structures vary across organizations: Finney (1999) lists at least five different information management systems and claims that true IS professionals must be able to determine, in what kind of environment they operate.

For example, federalism implies that the process of sharing information takes place through negotiation (Finney, 1999). In the conditions of feudalism, individual departments control all information processes (Finney, 1999). Needless to say, different organizational systems impose different requirements on IS professionals, organizational members and stakeholders.

On the other hand, not all CIOs have skills, abilities, and knowledge to cope with their information management obligations. In information systems management, the boundary between success and failure is increasingly blurred. The case of the CIO described by Evan Schuman (2005) is very demonstrative: non-technical partners do not care of the negative aspects of technology projects.

Rather, “they want to know that their problems are being heard […] and to hear that responsible adults are taking care of the matter and that all will be fine” (Schuman, 2005). When Strassman (2005) writes that CIOs must have power and authority to set and execute information management policies, he must also add that setting and executing information management policies must not damage corporate reputation.

Obviously, the power and authority of CIOs can be equally beneficial and detrimental to companies’ organizational and market performance. As a result, companies must develop policies that give CIOs the power and authority to manage information systems but limit their obligations to the degree that does not damage corporate performance and reputation.

Conclusion

The process of managing information systems is integrally linked to the questions of power, authority, and politics. Strassman (1995) is correct in that managing information systems is a matter of politics rather than technology. Information has already become an efficient source of organizational and market power; as a result, information systems are synonymous with politics. Unfortunately, Strassman’s suggestion that CIOs must set and execute information management policies is not without controversy.

On the one hand, different organizations run different systems of information management, which impose unique information management requirements on them. On the other hand, not all CIOs have skills and abilities needed to manage information systems and, consequentially, power relations within organizations.

As a result, given the profound political implications of information resources, organizations must give their CIOs power and authority to set and execute information policies and, simultaneously, limit their obligations to the extent that does not damage corporate reputation and performance.

References

Finney, R. (1999). The politics of information and projects. Itm Web. Retrieved from
http://www.itmweb.com/essay008.htm

Schuman, E. (2005). The CIO who admitted too much. CIO Insight. Retrieved from
http://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Retail/The-CIO-Who-Admitted-Too-Much/1/

Strassman, P.A. (1995). The politics of information management: Policy guidelines. New York: Strassman Inc.

Strassman, P.A. (2005). Check: How to verify if you are important. CIO Insight. Retrieved from http://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Expert-Voices/Check-How-to-Verify-if-You-are-Important/

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