Higher-level process theory motors of Strategic Information Systems (SIS) alignment: an exploratory study

McCarthy, John (2013) Higher-level process theory motors of Strategic Information Systems (SIS) alignment: an exploratory study. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The need for IS Strategies to be optimally aligned with business strategies in order to maximize both value for the business and usability of technology has lead to an understandable emphases on strategic IS alignment for both academics and practitioners (Henderson and Venkatraman, 1999; Galliers and Newell, 2003). However, on review of both the IS strategy and alignment literatures, important limits in current understanding were identified. Although there has been an increasing acceptance of IS strategy as more likely to have an emergent (Avgerou, Ciborra and Land, 2004) rather than a planned rational nature (apropos the seminal work of Mintzberg and Waters (1985)), descriptive and theoretical understanding of this emergent nature was lacking. Further gaps in the IS alignment literature were identified. The predominant emphases of alignment research were on the outcomes and causes of alignment with insufficient consideration given to the ongoing processes of alignment. Very strikingly, the roles of the informal organisation in alignment had been hitherto underexplored and although process (and indeed strategic process) theory had attained a level of maturity; application in alignment process research was conspicuously absent. In essence, literature evaluation had identified that there was an insufficient understanding of IS alignment as an emerging strategic process, from both theory and practitioner perspectives. The following research question could therefore be derived: What process theory motors and relationships characterise SIS alignment process?

The most apposite perspective on process for this research was to frame alignment as a developing sequence of events, rather than the alternative approach of a set of concepts of categories (VanDeVen, 2007) necessitating a longitudinal approach to data collection. The principal motivation of the research question was a nascent attempt to explore and understand rather than measure alignment, so a subjective qualitative approach was most appropriate. Alignment process data was collected at multiple organisational levels and from both primary (i.e. semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in the alignment process) and second sources (i.e. formal strategy documents and planning schedules). The process of alignment was presented in the form of a case narrative. SIS alignment process events were identified and their progression visually expressed by applying techniques from process research literature (Langley, 1999; Pentland, 1999). Applying the well-established relationship between even progression, generative mechanisms and motors (Pettigrew, 1990; VanDeVen and Poole, 1995) enabled Strategic IS alignment process to be conceptualised in the form of high-level process theory motors. The contributions of this research are as follows. A process theory perspective on Strategic IS alignment process is offered which addresses the identified literature gap. Methodological contributions also arise due to the structured and explicit application of process research analyses techniques, still relatively rare in IS research. Recommendations for managerial practice also arise from the detailed explication of the alignment process and the causes and outcomes of key process events and their progression.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Chesney, Thomas
Wastell, David
Keywords: Strategic Information Systems, information systems, strategic planning
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 28977
Depositing User: Hatton, Mrs Kirsty
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2015 12:34
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 22:15
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/28977

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