Coordinating in federated information technology governance structures
Williams, Clay K.
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Federated information technology (IT) governance structures are becoming the dominant design for multi-unit organizations. This design requires highly effective coordination between autonomous units to pursue enterprise IT initiatives such as enterprise software solutions (e.g. enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) systems), data integration, information security, and highly efficient and effective IT infrastructures. Traditional research on coordination has focused on understanding how specific coordination mechanisms are applied and the contextual influences that indicate successful outcomes. This research recognizes the process nature of the coordination phenomenon and explicitly defines the coordinating process as the process of integrating information, resources, activities and people across different interdependent parts of an organization to accomplish enterprise goals. The coordinating process is explicated through inductive theory building based on results of a 40-month longitudinal, comparative in-depth study of two cases in the same public sector organization. Based on the analysis of data collected through semi-structured interviews, observations and review of archival data for the two cases, a number of significant contributions emerge. The coordinating process evolves along five stages (creation, implementation, evaluation, adjustment and termination) that can be iterative in nature. The primary contextual influences that impact the coordinating process, the duration of the stages, transitions between stages, the number of iterations, and coordinating outcomes are identified and presented in a parsimonious framework. A core contribution of the research is identifying the central role played by the generative forces of shared understanding of the operating mode and lexicon, and unit alignment with organizational objectives in driving the coordination process and the outcomes that are achieved. Additionally, this research demonstrates that these generative influences can co-occur and interact with political, rational and other contextual influences to impact the observed coordinating outcomes.