April 26, 2000 Tech Arena Presentation

by Ann Willis, Ph. D.

Information Technology in EM
Challenges for Management


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About Ann Willis

Case Study Abstract
Agencies Studied: Iowa, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia


EIIP Tech Arena Online Presentation
Wednesday - April 26, 2000 - 12:00 Noon EDT

Information Technology in Emergency Management
Challenges for Management

Ann Willis
Systems Engineer
National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA)

Amy Sebring: EIIP Moderator

The EIIP Technical Arena featured Ann Willis who recently completed her Ph.D. at George Washington University. Ann currently works as a Systems Engineer for the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA). Her research has been in the area of information technology and its impacts on emergency management organizations; her presentation was based on some of her most current research -- information technology use in State emergency management agencies.

Ann explained that she chose this topic because little research has been devoted to State emergency management agencies and even less on the effects of introducing information technology (IT) into these agencies. Ann's presentation described the State agencies surveyed/interviewed and listed eight factors she found that limit the results achieved from IT, based on the data collected.


Ann Willis recently completed her Ph. D. in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. Her research has been in the area of information technology and its impacts on emergency management organizations. She received her B.S. from Boston University and her M.S. from The Johns Hopkins University

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The purpose of this research was threefold. (1) To identify how information technology has changed the way state emergency management (EM) organizations structure themselves and their employees’ work. (2) To model the process used by agencies to introduce new technology into their existing operations. (3) To identify the results state EM organizations have obtained from the use of information technology.

A case study methodology was used to allow for the full consideration of organizational context. A single longitudinal case with multiple retrospective cases was chosen as the design to improve the validity of the resulting observations and recommendations. 97 emergency managers from four state emergency management agencies were interviewed as to their use of IT and its effects on their jobs. A pilot study was conducted to verify the research protocol used to guide the interviews. All interviews were audiotaped and transcripts were prepared from the tapes. The transcripts were ingested into Atlas/ti (a commonly used qualitative research tool) and coded. A comparative analysis was then performed on the data.

The results of the analysis indicate that while IT has drastically changed the way individuals accomplish their work, it produced only superficial changes to organizational structure. A five stage process was identified for technology introduction. The five stages were: Need, Adoption, Acceptance, Use, and Outcomes. Finally, eight factors were identified, which appeared to limit an agencies’ results from IT. They are: (1) Insufficient IT management resources. (2) Insufficient emphasis on IT training and education. (3) Insufficient awareness of the potential IT represents. (4) Insufficient system integration. (5) Insufficient information management. (6) Insufficient systemwide connectivity. (7) Insufficient documentation of key processes. (8) Reliance on “found” money. These eight factors represent substantial management challenges for EMAs, and provide areas of focus for those state agencies wanting to improve their utilization of IT.

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