Managerial Control of IT Professionals Via IT Systems
Through analysis of qualitative data collected across multiple teams at two public sector organizations in the UK the paper discusses how a range of IT systems are routinely implemented from a ‘commercial-professional’ logic and serve to operate as mechanisms of control over the everyday experience of IT ‘professionals’ trained to practice from a ‘technical-professional’ logic (Spence and Carter, 2014). A hierarchically-structured model is induced to illustrate how a range of IT systems combine to contribute to changed realities of work for ‘managed professionals’ (Russell, Trusson and De, 2015) working within managerially-designed process-oriented structures. Whereas the introduction of IT systems is generally considered from the perspective of providing efficiency benefits, this research demonstrates how IT systems implementation might also be seen from an alternative perspective of enabling the achievement of managerial rationalisation and control objectives: in this case by rationalising both the experience and the expertise of professional workers, thus reducing opportunities for autonomous working. Through observation and interview data, it is specifically illustrated how these IT professionals’ everyday experiences are controlled through the prescription and intensification of the labour process (enabled by integrated systems comprising: computer telephony, workflow management and statistical surveillance technologies). It is also shown how managers implement knowledge management systems in an attempt to rationalise and thereby control and undermine the IT workers’ professional expertise.
With a view to a broader contribution to the sociology of professional work, the induced model is tentatively expanded to include other rationalising IT systems implemented in other ‘managed professional’ spheres.