Information Management: The Organizational Dimension

By Michael J. Earl | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

When this volume's predecessor was published, terms like 'strategic information systems' and 'IT for competitive advantage' were very much central to the hype of IT in the 1980s. Many managers since have become cynical and sceptical about the strategic potential of information technology, partly because it always seemed to be the same case studies that were presented on how firms could and should discover strategic advantage in IT. Information Management: The Strategic Dimension started to correct some of this naïvety, but did not doubt that IT was a strategic matter.

In that volume, Earl and Runge argued from Runge's research that seeking competitive advantage from IT was partly dependent upon organizational processes of innovation. This work and the early results of two projects reported in the current volume were important in influencing Earl's paper in The Strategic Dimension on IS strategy formulation, where he proposed a multiple methodology which included some technique and some process. So in some ways, Section II here takes off from where those papers ended. Evidence from research on 'strategic information systems' and 'IS strategic planning' and 'business strategy-making' is collated to try and understand how to mobilize the organization to achieve the full horizons of IT capability.

Ives and Vitale studied strategic information systems in the late 1980s. First they disclose some less well-known examples of IT being used for competitive advantage. More particularly they cast doubt on the use of techniques and frameworks, and argue that organizational mechanisms and processes may have more promise. Interesting is how important it is for users and line managers to take the initiative, and for IS professionals to change their traditional attitudes and practices. To encourage these changes, Ives and Vitale contend that general managers need to create a context for discovery, experimentation, and innovation. This includes elements of organization design, control systems and incentives, and management and organization development programmes.

Lockett presents some similar findings and recommendations, using the paradigm of innovation as his framework. Drawing on a one-company study of successful and failed IS innovations, he identifies technical and organizational factors which matter. He also suggests how innovation processes in IS can be managed, drawing on his subsequent experiences of information management. I am pleased that we have been able properly to put this work into the public domain for the first time.

Earl's chapter on strategic information systems planning draws on more recent research. His five approaches to planning were published in 1993, when it was suggested that one approach--the organizational approach--outperformed the others. The chapter here seeks to elaborate

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