The Influence of Culture in IT Governance Implementation: A Higher Education Multi Case Study

The Influence of Culture in IT Governance Implementation: A Higher Education Multi Case Study

Isaías Scalabrin Bianchi (Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brazil), Rui Dinis Sousa (University of Minho, Centre ALGORITMI, Braga, Portugal), Ruben Pereira (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Lisbon, Portugal) and Steven De Haes (University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium)
DOI: 10.4018/IJHCITP.2019100104
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IT governance calls for the definition and implementation of formal mechanisms at the highest level in the organization taking into account structures, processes and relational mechanisms for the creation of business value from IT investments. Several factors can influence IT Governance implementation success. Culture is one of these factors and the one this research will focus on. Seen as probably the most difficult factors to change since it is grounded on practices performed over time, it should receive special attention. This article aims to analyze how culture can influence IT Governance implementation of structure, process and relational mechanisms in the context of higher education. Ten case studies in universities from three different countries: Brazil, Portugal and Netherlands were carried out. The purpose is the identification of relevant differences in IT Governance implementation among organizations from the following cultures: uncertainty avoidance and individualism. This article concludes by presenting key contributions, limitations and future work.
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The last of the well-known annual surveys on IT issues, that have been carried out since the 80s in the US by the Society for Information, shows IT governance as the second IT-related activity with which CIOs spend most of their time. The same survey reveals a significant increase of more than 20% in time spent in IT governance from the previous survey (David et al., 2018; Kappelman & McLean, 2019). IT governance makes also the top ten personal IT management issues, presented as the seventh most important or worrisome issue to IT leaders in a recent survey carried out in Europe (Kappelman & McLean, 2019). There seems to be no doubt that IT leaders see the governance of IT as quite important.

IT Governance has been defined as “an actively designed set of IT governance mechanisms that encourage behavior consistent with the organization’s mission, strategy, values, norms, and culture” (Weill & Ross, 2004, pp. 3-4). Different sets of IT governance mechanisms have already been identified across industries, like in the financial (R. Pereira, Almeida, & Silva, 2014), healthcare (R. Pereira, Silva, & Lapão, 2014) or higher education (I. Bianchi, Sousa, Pereira, & Hillegersberg, 2017).

In fact, the optimal set of mechanisms may be different and dependent on multiples contingencies in every organization. Culture, at the national, organizational or group level, is one of such contingencies. As one of the largest inhibitors to change and related business performance improvements (Gerrard, 2009), culture can influence the success of IT governance (Fink & Ploder, 2008). Research on the influence of IT governance on culture is still scarce but has gained greater attention recently (Khouja, Rodriguez, Ben Halima, & Moalla, 2018; Schlosser, Beimborn, Weitzel, & Wagner, 2015; Wu, Straub, & Liang, 2015).

Using an IT governance framework that comprises structures, processes and relational mechanisms as main components to do a systematic literature review, results indicate there is an influence from national and organizational culture on IT governance, especially on relational mechanisms (Aasi, Rusu, & Shengnan, 2014) .There is a call for more empirical research on the relationship between IT governance and culture (Aasi, Rusu, Leidner, Perjons, & Estrada, 2018; Aasi, Rusu, & Vieru, 2017; Brown & Grant, 2005; Jairak, Prasong, & Pilastpongs, 2015).

This study intends to contribute to the body of knowledge on the governance of IT in what relates to culture by answering the following research question: How does national culture influence the choice of IT governance mechanisms?

Universities will provide the context for this study taking advantage of a project on IT governance to define a baseline of mechanisms for IT governance at universities (Bianchi et al., 2017). As complex settings (Svensson & Hvolby, 2012; Wilmore, 2014), universities provide quite a challenging environment to study the influence of culture on IT governance.

This article is structured as follows: next section introduces the theoretical background to understand IT governance at universities and the influence of culture on IT governance. Then, the research methodology is presented with data collection and data analysis. The final section presents the conclusion with theoretical and managerial implications, as well as limitations and future research.

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