The Social Antecedents of Business/IT Alignment: Reviewing the Role of Social Network Structure in Alignment Research

The Social Antecedents of Business/IT Alignment: Reviewing the Role of Social Network Structure in Alignment Research

Katja Walentowitz (University of Bamberg, Germany) and Daniel Beimborn (University of Bamberg, Germany)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/jitbag.2011070102
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Business/IT alignment is a major source of business value generated from IT and social structures at the interface between a firm’s business and IT units are of vital importance to business/IT alignment. Yet, there is a substantial gap in understanding the nature of these social structures. Based on a literature review comprising all related articles published in the AIS Senior Scholars’ Basket journals between January 2000 and August 2011, this paper identifies antecedents of alignment related to social network structure. These are translated into formal SNA concepts. The identification and formalization of social network structures allow IT governance to implement social engineering mechanisms influencing the social network structure, thus improving business/IT alignment and IT value. Examples for such translated arguments are high degree centrality of CIOs vis-à-vis other executives and strong ties in terms of cross-domain knowledge between CIOs and other executives. Finally, important avenues for future research are highlighted.
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Carr (2003, p. 49) cites a senior executive saying “most companies spend too much [on IT] and get very little in return.” According to alignment research, this situation can be (partly) mitigated by the help of business/IT alignment (Henderson & Venkatraman, 1993) because it enables firms to invest in the right IT according to their business strategy and to make proper use of it. Thus, business/IT alignment is of vital importance for IT value creation, and lack of it destroys IT investment returns.

The Strategic Alignment Model (SAM) by Henderson and Venkatraman (1993) is a widely excepted model of business/IT alignment (Chan & Reich, 2007). It claims that business and IT strategy and structure need to be multivariately aligned. It describes six dimensions of alignment: the alignment of (1) business strategy and business structure, (2) IT strategy and IT structure, (3) business and IT strategy, (4) business and IT infrastructure and processes, and finally two cross-domain perspectives: (5) the alignment of business strategy and IT structure, and (6) of IT strategy and business structure.

Several extensions have been made to the SAM. For example, the Generic Framework for Information Management adds new aspects to the SAM: A middle layer between business and IT describes communication and information that highlights the importance of information sharing rather than provision between them. Further, the structural level is separated into structure and operations in order to highlight the strategic importance of structure (Maes, 1999).

The Alignment Maturity Model of Luftman (2000) measures alignment along six criteria: communications, competency and value measurement, governance, partnership, scope and architecture as well as skills. Avison, Jones, Powell, and Wilson (2004) propose a framework to determine, monitor and change a company’s alignment level based on an examination of its project portfolio.

Similarly, several new definitions of alignment have emerged since the publication of the SAM. A recent review of the alignment literature by Chan and Reich (2007) distinguishes three principal dimensions of alignment:

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