China is rapidly rolling out its reforms and has undergone many changes in recent years. One area of interest to many researchers and business people is the role that Information Systems/Information Technology (IS/IT) plays in aidingChinese businesses to make the transition from a planned to a free-market economy. The present reform leadership in China has identified the importance of Information Systems/Information Technology in achieving its goals of modernization and technology sophistication through scientific instead of ideologic means (Tate and Maier, 1987). In 1991, Franz, Wynne and Fu (1991) conducted a study of five state-owned businesses in Nanjing, China. They found that IS/IT primarily supported the business objective of reporting on how the company met monthly production and sales quotas passed down by the state planning centers. IS was not found to support strategic decision-making in the organizations. Emphasis was placed instead on accounting for material costs, rejects, production quantity, and efficiency. The IS/IT manager mainly focused on the technical issues of managing data resources for IS/IT applications. The present study revisits the IS/IT situation in Chinese businesses after four more years of economic reform. Four state-owned companies were selected for this study. All are in Beijing, the capital and political, industrial, technological, and cultural center of China. The goal was to study the changing role (situation in 1995 compared to 1991) of IS/IT in Chinese state-owned businesses, focusing on three aspects: the business objective of these companies and the evidence of IS/IT to support it, the role of the IS/IT manager, and the evidence of technological advances in these companies. It was hypothesized that with four more years into economic reform, this study would find advances in IS/IT's presence especially in decision support areas, and that the IS manager role would grow beyond its "technology manager" base, and that more advanced technology would bein place, especially as this study considers larger companies in a larger city. The results of the study of the four companies yielded the following: two companies, although still state-owned, have begun to realize the importance of IS/IT in order to grow in an evolving market-based economy. Competition from private companies that have appeared in the past few years, most with strategic alliances with western multinational corporations, have forced the top management of these companies to address the importance of IS/IT to support critical decision making areas for strategy planning. The role of the IS/IT manager is not really changing. While at least one manager in this study sits on the company's strategy planning committee, not one manager was found tomake any real impact at the top decision-making level. Generally, these companies have begun to implement much more advanced information systems and technology to achieve their business objectives. Networked systems, integrated database plans, and decision support systems are among the many technological advances that these companies are implementing today. This study's contribution is the documented picture it draws of the little reported IS/IT area in an emerging market economy. In addition, because the cases studied are among the top organizations in their industry in all China, it provides extraordinary insight into this once hidden world.
Dologite, Dorothy G. and Mockler, Robert J., "The Changing View of Information Systems In Chinese State-Owned Businesses" (1995). AMCIS 1995 Proceedings. 161.