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Moving Through Paradigm Shift

Richard C. Harvey

Submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Professional Studies

in Computing

School of Computer Science and Information Systems
Pace University
August 2004

1. Problem Statement
Change Happens! Organizations routinely deal with obvious changes such as application upgrades, advances in hardware capacity and invention of tools that can be assimilated; but, most businesses don’t plan for paradigm shifts. One such change is the shift from “paper based” processing to electronic processing. This shift is not just putting electronic documents into graphical form that can be displayed on a computer monitor. It includes a fundamental change in thinking (a paradigm shift) in the way that data is accumulated, processed, stored and archived.
This paper will analyze the paradigm shift of moving from paper based processing to electronic processing. First surveying the literature covering both paradigm shift and conversions from paper based processing, the goal of this paper is to identify a plan for moving through a paradigm shift in an environment where this change is not perceived to be of primary or immediate concern. In other words, how an organization can recognize a paradigm shift and how to anticipate and encourage it through “back burner” procedures, rather than a primary project.
The Research Question is: How can an organization become “Change Proficient” in the area of paradigm shifts?

2. Relevance and Significance of the Research
This paper will examine the changes that must take place in order to eliminate paper based processing and substitute electronic documents. It will examine processes such as data gathering, signatures, process flow, database use, data weeding and archiving. In the process, it will examine the use of digital signatures as a tool of routine use as well as signing of important documents. Design issues will be examined specifically the looking at issues such as how to store data so that it can be easily identified and deleted when it is no longer relevant. It will also consider the long term issues of technology change over time. Paper documents that are over one hundred years old are easily readable and useful. Electronic documents archived by mainframe computers are often useless if an organizations has transformed themselves into a PC based network environment. With this in mind, issues of data archiving so that the data can be easily retrieved 100 years from now will be considered.
This topic is relevant because many organizations respond to the symptoms of paradigm shift, but don’t recognize its roots. Recognizing a paradigm and planning for (or at least being aware of) the necessary changes will provide a competitive edge for those who can recognize it.
In the environment that I work in, Payroll and Human Resources (HR) Systems, the idea of “reducing paper” has been around for at least 20 years. The concept of electronic documents and electronic process flow systems has entered our environment only within the past 5 years. I have observed a strong tendency among HR” people to hold tightly to “the paper”. When asked to find ways to make the HR database more timely they would say that it can’t be done because it takes time to process the paper.
My experience now is that HR perceives the need to process information faster and make the database “reflect reality”; but, they don’t recognize the paradigm shift that must take place in moving from paper based processing to electronic.
HR people tend to think that taking a paper document and creating a graphic image which can be filled out on-line and moved electronically is embracing electronic processing: a simple change of media. The reality is that moving to electronic processing is a paradigm shift that requires a radical rethinking of all aspects of information flow within an organization. From the inception of data collection through archiving for possibly 20 years or more, the handling and processing of data must be revised. It is also important to consider the opposing needs of useful data storage vs. elimination of unneeded data.

3. Estimate of the Research Effort
Finding project papers about paradigm shifts in general and projects about shift from paper to electronic is not difficult. Plenty of projects ( such as those undertaken by the City of Beaverton, OR and the Bank of Baroda – India) are available. Sifting through these papers to find the relevant points to formulate a process will take some time. The major difficulty will be in finding and evaluating documents that are not about paradigm shift, but contain nuggets of important information about it.

4. Research Approach
Most organizations recognize a paradigm shift well after many of the features of the shift are underway. A major project is then required to radically alter the operations of the organization to bring it in line with the changed environment. This study will try to identify strategies for recognizing paradigm shifts that will allow appropriate planning and action. This will in turn allow an organization to transform itself in small easily assimilated steps rather that through major radical alterations.
Since this topic requires an understanding of organizational decision making, there will be some explanation of decision making structures and how they can be used to support planning for paradigm shift.
This study will use the shift from “paper based processing” to electronic processing as a specific instance of paradigm shift and from that study try to formulate a general strategy for planning for paradigm shift.
This study will be exclusively a research of existing literature. First examining projects where the goal was a shift from paper to electronic processing or other paradigm shift. I will do this to establish a base of “changes” that need to be accomplished by an organization going through the same process and to provide reasons why the changes must be made.
The next level is to examine papers about related topics that aren’t about paradigm shift but have important elements about paradigm shift hidden in the description.
Since the final result involves organizational decision making and how to use it to influence the procedures followed, there will be some review of decision and command & control theory.
The goal of this study is to find ways to get people to not “think paper” but rather “think electronic.
I see three aspects of electronic processing that must be analyzed:

1) Data Collection

2) Processing - short term processing

3) Archiving – long term processing

Each of these topics will be studied to identify an electronic environment for data usage. This will then be compared to the current processes using paper. Then the differences will be analyzed.
Based on this research, I will provide conclusions on how specifically this paradigm shift can be accomplished, but also general conclusions about how Paradigm shifts function.
Next a review of other organizations that have gone through this transition will be undertaken. Finally, a plan for moving through the paradigm shift will be mapped out assuming that the change is taking place as a backburner process rather than an outright project.


Dove, Dick, Hartman, Sue, Benson, Steve, ” An Agile Enterprise Reference Model”, Paradigm Shift International, Questa, NM 1997
Vittal, N,” IT and Emerging Challenges in the New Millennium for Banks”, Central Vigilance Commission Government of India, 1999

Joines, J. A., Barton, R.R., Kang, K. and Fishwick, P.A. eds.., “Creating a Paperless Municipal Court”, Proceedings of the 2000 Winter Simulation Conference, 2000

Accounting and Information Management Division,”Executive Guide Information Security Management”, United States General Accounting Office, May, 1998

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