IT (Information technology) has become an indispensable component of business infrastructures and in certain industries, the entire business (Baines A, 1998). The latter is particularly pertinent to this organization as UND relies heavily on state of the art technology for its day to day running. For example, the farm uses fully automated modern milking parlours and sophisticated feed mixing and distribution vehicles, while the processing plant uses pasteurizing and bottling equipment, advanced refrigeration systems and the beverage plant uses carbon dioxide generators and a fully automated bottling and canning production line. UND depends on ACCPAC – a computerized business management and accounting software that generates regular reports on all aspects of the company to monitor and control the organization.
Other examples of modern technology used by UND include swipe card systems which facilitate the monitoring of its employees’ attendance and the authorization of entry to restricted sections of the organization and surveillance cameras installed at every exit and entrance (as a security measure). All of these technologies serve to ease Dr. Narendran’s daily workload as they summarize the day to day operations of the company, thus reducing uncertainty as well as the “time spans of decision-making processes (and allows the processing of more complex sets of data before alternative courses of action can be evaluated) and allows faster response to customer needs and to a changing environment.” (Baines A, 1998).
An open system approach is extremely useful in situations involving complex situations in a dynamic environment. UND as an open system is a living entity, according to Robbins et all (2006), comprising of “individuals, groups, attitudes, motives, formal structure, interactions, goals, status and authority.” But this concept also means that there is interaction and interdependence between the organization and its environment (Katz and Kahn, 1966). According to Anna Baines (1998), “the relationship between the environment and the organisation changes the organisation, as the organization will adapt in ways which show real, measurable change.”
The factors that make up the “environment” include (but is not limited to) competitors, economic crises, socio-cultural forces and supplier forces. As far as UND is concerned, the current economic crisis does not affect them in any way as it has had no effect on Saudi Arabia, especially in the dairy food industry. Dr. Narendran feels that although Saudi Arabian banks have become tight-fisted with credit, UND will face no problem as they have a long standing credit history with their banks. He also feels that UND will not be afflicted by the current economy crises (or any foreseeable crises in the future) as it is in the essential food sector, so he feels that “as long as people eat or drink dairy products, we will be in business”.
Dr. Narendran also believes that for this very same reason, socio-cultural forces will not have as big as an impact on UND as it might on other industries. Although UND is very particular about the quality, price and credentials of their suppliers, Dr. Narendran is not too worried about possible threats to the organization as dairy industry suppliers are plentiful in Saudi Arabia. But as a safety precaution, he insists that suppliers must have ISO certification and that UND uses multiple suppliers for every item required.
“No organization is completely autonomous” (Baines A, 1998). For example, UND’s pricing strategies are based on prevailing market conditions and major competitor’s prices. This process is facilitated by market research which helps UND to understand the behaviours, whims and preferences of their customers. As such, IT has an obvious role to play in the process; in collecting, analyzing and presenting data on various parts of the environment to provide the necessary information. As UND’s competitors are also making use of sophisticated technology to keep abreast of the changing environment, Dr. Narendran believes that UND must establish a competitive edge by possessing “better” information, and thus “better” information systems to provide it, than their competitors.
In conclusion, the findings of this interview provide strong support to Robert L. Katz’s (1955) theory that managerial skills are crucial to a manager’s daily work; “successful organizations have managers with well-developed people skills” (Whetten and Cameron (2001, p. 5)) and are reflected in Dr. Narendran’s work. It also shows that UND’s dynamic organization structure is closely allied with its “environment” and its technology as these three components are interdependent and that UND (and Dr. Narendran) consider them as a whole, thus enabling them to be confident about any future crises.