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Alignment of business strategies and information systems and processes in large organisations

Gabriel-Seow, Mona (2018) Alignment of business strategies and information systems and processes in large organisations. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

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Many organisations are finding that their IT systems and processes are not supporting their business directions. Strategic alignment refers to how an organisation’s business direction aligns with their information technology systems and processes. The premise underlying the research described in this thesis is that strategic alignment is beneficial for organisations on the basis that to fully engage in the required business and to gain the outcomes expected, the IT systems and processes are needed to support the business strategies. Two research questions were posed to explore the way organisations can address this problem: what initiatives an organisation can put into place to undertake strategic alignment; and the dimensions of an organisation that influence its choice of alignment approach.

Six case studies within four large organisations were investigated across three approaches to strategic alignment identified from the literature: One-Off Alignment; Continuous Alignment Driven by Business Direction; and Continuous Alignment Driven by IT Systems and Processes. A research methodology was developed for this study, adapted from Eisenhardt’s (1989a) case study methodology, to exploit the opportunities provided to the researcher as an experienced industry practitioner and significant director of events. Case study data were collected based on the role of the researcher within the organisation and were discussed in light of issues of relevance identified from the literature. Comparisons were made between the case studies and across alignment approaches. Alignment criteria, adapted from previous research were used to draw general conclusions regarding the commonalities and the differences amongst the case studies. The relationship between the alignment of IT systems and processes with business directions was investigated within each alignment approach. Additional issues were raised regarding the organisation’s strategy and culture specific to each case study, leading to post-hoc investigation, additional conclusions and future research directions.

It was concluded that One-Off Alignment was an effective approach for large scale business diversification requiring significant IT restructuring. Continuous Alignment was found to be effective for evaluating business driven IT initiatives while the establishment of a projects office supported continuous alignment to business strategies. The success of three different alignment approaches within the same organisation during the same time period showed that different alignment approaches can be successful depending on the context. There was also evidence that the four organisations displayed expected alignment behaviour according to Defender and Prospector organisational characteristics (Miles and Snow 1978).

These findings are expected to contribute to strategic alignment decision making for organisations in similar sets of circumstances. This project confirms the value of the insider researcher and provides the opportunity for real world projects to inform theory and be informed by theory.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Information Technology
Supervisor(s): Armarego, Jocelyn and Hobbs, Val
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