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There is no doubt that information technology (IT) has dramatically impacted many if not all aspects of the business environment. However, the ability to capture, measure and analyze the effects of IT has been elusive. At the aggregate level it has only been in recent times that the net positive effects of IT have been acknowledged (McGee, 2000). Yet the identification and measure of these effects are still under debate.
As of 1999, statistics from the B.E.A. state that over $390 billion was spent on IT, including both hardware and software (B.E.A., 1999). The continued investment in IT is testament to the high expectations that businesses place on the ability of IT to improve the productivity of its workers, as well as its organizations, even if it cannot be isolated and measured. As IT becomes more and more enmeshed with the business organization, the ability to evaluate its contribution becomes more complex and more difficult. This complexity-intensifying infusion of IT into the business processes restricts substantive observation windows to two levels: corporate aggregates and individual users. Intermediate evaluation of the effects of IT on subdivisions or work groups are almost impossible given the integration of IT into the fabric of business processes.
Corporate aggregate productivity has been a research focus for some time. It has only been recently that a consensus has begun to form that measurable business productivity improvement can be attributed to IT investment (Brynjolfson, 1993; Whelan, 2000; Oliner & Sichel, 2000).
The second level has received much less attention. The ability to measure improvement of end user productivity, while easier to isolate and measure, severely lacks the generalities necessary for widespread utilization or business decision impact. It is further complicated by the increasing rate of technology improvement and innovations that increasingly expand the breadth of utilization in the workplace. This is characterized by the expanding number of workers who utilize a computer in their place of employment. In 1984, 24.6% of the workforce used a computer (C.P.S., 1984). In 1997, that percentage had increased to 49.8% (C.P.S., 1997)
Productivity measurement has never been an easy task and is even more difficult given the unique characteristics of IT and its effects in and on business processes. This chapter presents a framework for classifying information technology productivity improvement at the user level. By identifying specific productivity categories, IT effects may be uniquely identified and more easily measured.
Using this classification scheme a study is presented that isolates and measures the productivity improvement for a specific classification of end user productivity.
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