Information Management: The Organizational Dimension

By Michael J. Earl | Go to book overview

24 Integrating IS and the Organization: A Framework of Organizational Fit

MICHAEL J. EARL


Strategic Management of IT

Much of this volume has been concerned with the integration of IS activities with the organization. Underpinning these concerns, perhaps, is the notion that information resources should be efficiently and effectively managed. This is one available definition of information management. When surveys are done of the most important issues facing the managers of the IS function, we find they rarely change. Different language may be used, contemporary rhetoric introduced, and priorities alter, but they are usually concerned with how to get strategic advantage from IT and how to align IS strategy with business strategy, how to organize the IS function, and how to manage the ever-changing boundaries between users and specialists, and how to plan and build IT infrastructures and cope with the latest technologies (see, for example, Brancheau and Wetherbe 1987; Niedermann et al. 1991). These are as much general management issues as specialist, functional issues since they potentially affect organizational effectiveness. This issue-set therefore is described increasingly as the strategic management of IT.

In the early 1980s one indicator of the 'elevation' of such issues in organizations was the formulation of so-called IT-strategies. As a result of action research in a number of companies, I called for a distinction to be made between IT strategy and IS strategy ( Earl 1987). This was, quite simply, because I found that most of the IT strategies of the time were strong on technology issues and technical terminology and weak on identifying application needs and business thinking. I suggested two levels or domains of information strategy: IS strategy, concerned with the firm's required information systems or applications set, or the 'what' question; and the IT strategy concerned with the technology and infrastructurebuilding set, or the 'how' question.

This distinction today may seem obvious and somewhat immature, but then it was found useful by many general managers and IS executives. A number of implications followed from the distinction. The IS strategy

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