Information Management: The Organizational Dimension

By Michael J. Earl | Go to book overview

17 The Project Champion

CYNTHIA MATHIS BEATH


Introduction1

The literature on strategic uses of information technology (IT) suggests that a very important, if not the most important, antecedent to a successful implementation of a strategic information system is a 'champion' for the new system ( Runge 1985; Lockett 1987; Vitale and Ives 1988). We consider IT champions to be managers at fairly high levels of the organization who take on the responsibility for shepherding an IT innovation project through the development process. Champions are more than leaders and they are different from sponsors. Sponsors have the funds and authority to accomplish their goals ( Vitale and Ives 1988). Champions, on the other hand, bring about change in their organizations in spite of having less than the requisite authority or resources. They push, they overcome resistance to change, they remove impediments to progress. In the end, they are usually seen as having been necessary to the success of the project, but the methods by which they achieve success sometimes run roughshod over organizational norms.

There seem to be two ways in which IT champions are important to successful implementations of strategic systems. First, strategic information technology ideas frequently require significant organizational upheavals. Successful implementation may require adjustments to reward schemes, changes in authority or responsibility patterns, and shifting of power centres ( Markus 1984). An enthusiastic, visionary champion works around and through the organization, resolving turf disputes, overriding established norms, ignoring anguished cries of 'It won't work!' from those who stand to lose with the new system. Looking on, the IS manager may wonder who is right.

Secondly, IT champions may use the same techniques for cutting through bureaucracy on the processes of public review and rational investment which underlie most systems-development life-cycles. With competitive

____________________
1
This chapter, given as a paper at the Oxford PA Conference in September 1990, is an early version of a paper published in MIS Quarterly ( Beath 1991). The author wishes to thank Blake Ives, Brian Dobing, Macedonio, Alanis, Rosann Collins, and Marianne D'Onofrio for their kind assistance on this paper.

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