Scandinavian Working Papers in Business Administration

SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration,
Stockholm School of Economics

No 2002:15: IT Project Governance: A Process-Oriented Study of Organizational Control and Executive Involvement

Magnus Mähring ()
Additional contact information
Magnus Mähring: Dept. of Business Administration, Stockholm School of Economics, Postal: Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: This paper reports on a study of organizational control of IT projects, specifically how control forms and evolves over time and how executives engage in the control task.

Viewing executive involvement in its organizational context, the study builds on studies on executive involvement in IT (including top management support), IT project escalation and IS project control, while drawing upon theories on projects, commitment, organizational control and professions. An in-depth, interpretive case study of a large, multi-year IT project in a financial company forms the empirical basis of the study.

The study uncovers how characteristics of information systems development work tasks stack the deck against controllers, rendering output control and behavior control largely impracticable. Instead, control is constructed through selection of key people (input control), rituals resembling output and behavior control, reliance on evolving trust and other people's assessments, and through the construction and reconstruction of a project image, which summarizes scope and aims of the project.

In contrast to earlier studies, "strong top management support" is found to be an extraordinary measure for extraordinary circumstances, but problematic as prescription for regular organizational practice. Commitment is decoupled from resource allocation, refuting a central assumption of escalation theory.

Keywords: IS project control; IT project management; top management support; executive involvement in information technology; organizational control; case study; interpretive research

13 pages, July 31, 2002

Note: This paper briefly summarizes the Ph.D. thesis "IT Project Governance" by the same author.

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