This thesis started by stating that informal communication constitutes
an important (if not the most important) mode of disseminating and
sharing information. It provides a forum where issues, whether pertaining
to the organization or to the individuals, can be addressed and
resolved. The informal mode of communication far exceeds what is
possible with the formal information system. Interpersonal, or face-to-face,
communication has been the traditional and primary means of this
informal communication process. With organizations pouring millions
of dollars into information technology, individuals have at their
disposal many modern communication technologies. What did this do
to the informal communication process?
Under the media richness school of thought modern communication
technologies are viewed as incapable of delivering "rich" information
(Daft et al, 1987), compared to face-to-face. In ranking communication
media from `rich' to `lean' the basic argument is that the `rich'
media is better for equivocal tasks. The literature adopting this
view tends to suggest that face-to-face remains the best communication
medium for informal communication. This raises questions about the
values and benefits of investment on information and communication
However, this thesis submitted and has shown that, if a broader
and more realistic perspective is adopted, one that takes into consideration
the broad range of task characteristics and does not favour any
communication media, modern communication technologies are adding
value above and beyond that of traditional media. Modern communication
technologies both complement and supplement the informal communication
process in organizations. The following draws out some of the implications
in relation to informal communication processes and organizational
One implication of this study is that modern communication technologies
augment the informal communication process.
By adopting a fairer and more realistic task context this study
has shown, although tentatively within the exploratory nature of
this thesis, that modern communication technologies have broadened
the scope of communication and enable managers to handle a larger
variety of tasks. As one learned writer pointed out earlier:
"The issue is not one of the technologies
driving out the use of richer media, but rather of the technologies
enabling communication that otherwise would be unlikely to occur."
In addition, while face-to-face remains highly appropriate and
popular in some situations, in other contexts modern communication
media can provide a preferable solution. Indeed, it appears that
media like email can be a far more versatile medium for informal
communication. Subject to personal inhibition towards modern technologies
and social context the person is in, email can and does handle a
different variety of communication tasks.
Modern communication technologies are opening up communication
possibilities not otherwise possible. Among some of these possibilities
are: efficiency and speed of communication, coordination with and
control of multiple persons, ability to sort, send, retrieve messages
at any time and place. Managers recognise these possibilities and
do capitalise on it.
Another implication that follows from the above is in relation
to organizational information processing. As organizations became
flatter, customer-focused and dynamic, effective organizational
information processing requires what Galbraith (1973) called the
creation of lateral relations- the ability to convey information
beyond the confines of hierarchical or formal organization structure.
Modern communication technologies, in strengthening the informal
communication process in organizations, directly contribute towards
the creation of lateral relations. This is so because lateral relations,
by definition, requires the ability to cut across the formal organization
structure and to exceed the space-time boundary. The possibilities
opened up by modern communication technologies enable this.
As with all research the findings need to be interpreted with
regard to the limitations. To reiterate the major limitations noted
1. The small sample size and the specific industry group limit
the generalizability of the findings. These limits are unavoidable
given the time constraint of the honours programme. An additional
reason for the specific industry group is that it provides a more
uniform context in which to examine media choice.
2. In relation to the groupware aspect, this study has a design
flaw. Not only is the task involving group work not rigorously developed
(due to a time constraint), the study of modern communication media,
groupware, is troubled by the lack of a well-accepted definition
However, these limitations do not really detract from the validity
of the findings. In fact, the intuitive framework and the logic
of the situation suggest that the findings are not limited to the
The first two research opportunities stem directly from the above
1. This exploratory study tentatively suggests that communication
task characteristics, in addition to equivocality, do have a noticeable
influence on media choice. As mentioned previously the generalizability
of this could be a concern. To address this future research could
test the generalizability of this finding by:
(a) Performing a full scale questionnaire study; and
(b) Extending the target organization beyond one single industry
sector. This addresses the concern that the findings in this study
could be due to some peculiar aspect of the OTC sector.
Of course, in increasing the sample size and examining a broader
range of industries care should be taken to measure and take into
consideration the varying background conditions possessed by these
2. Groupware is supposed to facilitate communication, collaboration
and coordination in the performance of group oriented tasks. Yet
despite the benefits and advantages groupware has over other communication
media for such tasks, this study was unable to find an instance
where subjects would choose to use groupware. It is not clear why
this is the case. Is it because the organizations do not actually
have a groupware system? Or are the subjects confused by the definition
of groupware? Or that the task provided is inappropriate?
It seems that given the lack of a well-established definition
for groupware, a good approach to investigate the usage of groupware
is through a case study, involving perhaps some ethnographic methodology.
This is would permit a more direct observation of when, how and
why people use groupware. What communication tasks is it used for?
Does it improve the efficiency or the performance of the mangers?
3. This thesis also claimed that modern communication technologies
have augmented the informal communication process in organizations.
This is largely an inference based on the finding that modern communication
technologies enable people to handle a broader range of tasks that
is not otherwise possible. A possible research opportunity is to
add further substance to this assertion. How do modern communication
technologies augment the informal process? What exactly are the
benefits of using these technologies? What are the costs? This is
not necessarily cost in the dollar sense; rather, more interesting
would be the tacit cost involve in using modern communication technologies.
4. On the subject of cost, this thesis has tentatively demonstrated
how the logic of transaction cost economics (TCE) is applicable
to the media choice process. The extent that TCE is applicable and
what contribution it may have is unknown. Judging from the positive
result of this initial attempt to relate the fundamental of TCE
to media choice, it would seem that a more comprehensive and direct
investigation of the notion of asset specificity, opportunism and
bounded rationality, as well as other properties of transaction
like uncertainty, complexity and frequency, would provide an interesting
avenue of research.
The next step then would be the development of a complete framework
of how TCE fits in with the media choice process. Just as how TCE
has led to insight and novel predictions in an ever growing and
diverse fields of study, TCE has the potential of making a notable
contribution to the media choice process. Traditionally, TCE explain
the rise of the firm or the choice of a particular organization
structure using a transaction cost minimization argument. One potential
research that arises is to investigate what are these transaction
costs? These costs could include: cost in monetary terms, time,
efficiency in information processing, quality of the communication,
or personal satisfaction.
5. Another concept that could be used to explore the cost and
benefits of modern communication technologies is organizational
learning. Regardless of how one sees organizational learning, one undisputed
fact is that it is considered as something beneficial: it enables
the development of a flexible and innovative organization. So a
further interesting avenue of research would be to investigate whether,
and if so how, modern communication technologies together with their
effect on informal communication process impact on organizational
6. Further, this study examines only the range of communication
technologies that are more commonly available in organizations today.
Given the rapid pace in which information and communication technologies
are advancing and being adopted by organizations, the study of newer
communication technologies should be a very fertile avenue for research.
The possibilities posed by the internet, intranet and the increasing
capabilities of groupware are likely to have major implications
on not just the informal communication process, but the ways organizations
are structured, function and compete,
7. On a more general level this thesis, consistent with many prior
studies (like Mintzberg, 1975; Preston, 1986; and Bruns and McKinnon,
1993) suggests that informal communication is a very important mode
of organization communication. The question that arises is whether
the effort and money spent in designing and implementing formal
accounting information systems are appropriate? May be more concern
should be given to designing systems that facilitate and enable
informal communication. The next question is, of course, how to
 This conclusion is consistent
with a recent study by Zaremba (1996) which found, in a study of
email usage by student, that the availability of email has "fuelled
the informal network" (p160).
 Huber, G. (1990).
 Eg. Romm et al (1996) found
organization learning to be a very useful concept to explore the
diffusion of email in organization.