Information Technology Alignment : The Role of Organisational Structure

Abstract: Information technology (IT) alignment studies which focus on conceptual debates have left little room for studies investigating practical issues such as organisational structure. On the other hand, the attention paid to private and commercial organisations has resulted in findings that might not apply to public organisations. To address this gap in the literature, and respond to calls for further research, this study explored the influence of formal and informal organisational structures on IT alignment in a public organisation.This thesis is a compilation of three studies—a systematic literature review and two case studies. The literature review revealed the lack of IT alignment studies in public organisations focusing on organisational structure. The findings of the case studies, conducted in one Swedish municipality, indicate the simultaneous existence of a formal and informal organisational structure which influenced IT alignment. The result of the qualitative case study revealed a centralised formal organisational structure, and three forms of informal organisational structure—interpersonal relationships, cross-departmental relationships, and professional networks—were identified. The findings also seem to indicate that the identified organisational structure forms have influence on IT alignment. The second (i.e. quantitative) case study established the strength of these effects.Among the identified organisational structure forms, cross-departmental relationships were found to have the most substantial influence on IT alignment, particularly on communications, partnership and the dynamic IT scope. The influence of a centralised organisation structure on IT governance was also confirmed.  While the influence of interpersonal relationships on the three dimensions of IT alignment—communications, IT governance and skills development—was established, the influence of professional networks on IT alignment could not be substantiated.This study makes several contributions to research and practice in IT alignment. Although prior studies have investigated the role of different organisational structures in IT alignment, the contribution of this research is that it looked into the influence of both formal and informal organisational structures on IT alignment, simultaneously. The research has also assessed the relative significance of various forms of organisational structure on IT alignment. Leaders and managers in the public sector can make use of the findings of this research to help them identify different organisational structure forms and make the necessary adjustments to improve IT alignment.