Bases of power

 

Building on early work by French and Raven (1959), Hales (1993) showed that a person’s power is not just a personal characteristic, but follows from their position in the organisation. The five sources of power (each of which can have’both a personal and an organisational aspect) are outlined below.

Coercive: This is the authority to give instructions with the threat of sanctions or punishment available to back them up. Managers with this power can use it to instruct development staff about priorities or to instruct users to use (or not use) a new system.

Reward: This is the ability to use the financial and other resources of the organisation to bestow status or rewards on others in return for their support. Managers with large budgets and links into valuable networks of contacts have power. They can commit some of their resources to others in return for the support they need – for example to persuade a manager in another department to support their IS project or to commit staff to work on the design.

Administrative expertise: This is the power that the holder of a position has to create organisation policies that bolster their influence. They may use their position to decide which IS projects go ahead, what their objectives are or who will be on the project team – which in itself wili shape the direction of the project.

Technical expertise: As well as an individual’s personal expertise, power can also arise if a person holds a position that gives them access to information so that they are aware of what is happening and of emerging threats or opportunities. They can use their position, and the contacts that go with it, to build their image as a competent person and to influence the direction of an IS project.

Referent: This refers to situations where managers can use their position to influence others by showing that what they propose is consistent with the accepted values and culture of the organisation. They invoke wider values in support of their proposal or of their opposition to a proposal.