The modern business environment is increasingly being defined by elements such as relatively short product life-cycles, increased competition and dynamic firm structures as well as rapid technological innovations. These changes have necessitated strategic decision making and changes to firm strategies in a bid to enhance organizational performance where the support of technology has become a necessity as well as changes in firm practices and processes. Central to this is the importance of information where various technologies especially in networking have revolutionized data and information gathering, storage, retrieval, analysis, summarizing as well as dismantling towards knowledge acquisition for firm goal accomplishment. This implies the use of business intelligence (BI), which Brooks, El-Gayar & Sarnikar (2013) define as a broad category of technologies, processes and applications used in gathering, accessing and analyzing collected data to help its users especially businesses, make better decisions. However, implementation of BI in the context of a total social-technical system can be inferred as more efficient and effective than the traditional way of implementing BI in the context of social subsystem alone. This is because a total social-technical system seeks to integrate social and human-computer interaction requirements. This does not only maximizes benefits of the system as indicated by Brooks, El-Gayar & Sarnikar (2013), but also engenders enhanced operational efficiency through integration of people, technology and organizational processes in increasingly complex business environments. With regards to BI implementation, a total social-technical system supports both the social systems in the workplace as well as the technical systems, comprised of various technological tools and techniques, which aids a firm to effectively align its operations and resources towards firm goal attainment. This is more so because socio-technical systems efficiently merges technical systems to primary work, whole organization and macro-social systems which encourages positive group-relations and participative decision making in accordance to dynamism of organizations.
Ryan & Harrison (2000) affirm the importance of considering social subsystems in the information technology (IT) investment-decision processes where lack of consideration leads to reduced optimality of IT as well as the investment choices made. However, the author also reveals the potential negative effects tied to social subsystem costs which reduce anticipated IT payoffs. With regards to BI implementation, a social subsystem context alone would focus on enhancing efficiency of specific social subsystems in BI implementation without integration or the support of technical systems in terms of various technological tools and techniques. In this case, leadership and decision making still flow from senior management based on the scientific management concept, which limits vital input from relevant stakeholders. However, a socio-technical system context shifts control and learning to firm members through participative group processes aided by technological tools like virtual networks, among others and defined by elements such as work group autonomy and self-regulation. MacKrell & Van den Boogaard (2012), propose a socio-technical framework in the implementation of a suitable information system (IS) that will enhance organizational decision making in not-for-profit organizations, with regards to BI in a society where information is a vital resource. The appeal for a total socio-technical system is that it integrates social IS subsystems and technical IS subsystems which work together to maximize system benefits subsequently leading to a strategic alignment of vital firm resources including people, processes and technologies. By enhancing social connections through technological tools such as social networks and chat rooms, a socio-technical context would prove the best context for BI implementation compared to a social subsystem context alone where social subsystems work in isolation. On the other hand, socio-technical systems offer enhanced social connectivity which, with regards to BI implementation, would enhance technology adoption as well as better collaboration between and among people and systems. Therefore, a total social-technical system is more efficient and effective because it integrates social subsystems and technical IS subsystems which enhances participative decision making and enhanced group relations which is in line with dynamic changes in the modern workplace.

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  • Brooks, P., El-Gayar, O. & Sarnikar, S. (2013). Towards a business intelligence maturity model for healthcare. The 46th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences: IEEE Computer, 3807-16.
  • MacKrell, D. & Van den Boogaard, M. (2012). Making sense of business intelligence: Proposing
    a socio-technical framework for improved decision making in not-for-profit organizations, in ACIS 2012 : Location, location, location : Proceedings of the 23rd Australasian Conference on Information Systems 2012, ACIS, 1-9. 
  • Ryan & Harrison (2000). Considering social subsystem costs and benefits in information
    technology investment decisions: A view from the field on anticipated payoffs. Journal of Management Information Systems, 16(4), 11-40.