Information Management: The Organizational Dimension

By Michael J. Earl | Go to book overview
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13 IT Outsourcing and the Changing Shape of the Information Systems Function



There has been considerable academic interest in recent years in three debates that come together in this paper.1 The first concerns the causes, attributes, and consequences of emergent forms of organization, for example, Clark and Staunton ( 1990), Clegg ( 1990), Drucker ( 1991), and Whitaker ( 1992). The second focuses on structuring the information systems function, for example, Feeny et al. ( 1989), George and King ( 1991), and Hodgkinson ( 1991). The third relates to the reasons for, and the nature and impact of Information Technology (IT) outsourcing, for example, Buck-Lew ( 1992), Lacity and Hirschheim ( 1993), and Loh and Venkatraman ( 1992a, b, c). Our research programme from which this research paper is derived, in the form of thirty detailed case studies in the UK, has been conducted primarily through the lens of questions raised in the third of these areas. This has produced evidence that links the three debates in certain ways. In particular, we take two examples of the more radical (or 'total') forms of IT outsourcing occurring in the context of significant changes in broader organizational structure and strategy as a basis for examining the implications for Information Systems (IS) structures, management processes, and distribution of expertise in newer, emergent forms of organization.

In what follows, IT is used to refer to the supply of information-based technologies. IS is understood as organizational applications, more or less IT-based, designed to deliver the information needs of the organization and defined stakeholders. To introduce much-needed conceptual clarity we use the term 'IT outsourcing' narrowly--it is the commissioning of third-party management of IT/IS assets, people and/or activities to required

Our thanks go to the sponsors of this research, Business Intelligence, to the survey respondents, and to the many managers we have been interviewing. Without their co-operation and generosity with their time this research would not have been possible.


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