زمینه استراتژیک و الگوهایی از قابلیت زیرساخت های فناوری اطلاعات
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|447||1999||31 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Volume 8, Issue 2, June 1999, Pages 157–187
The importance of a firm's information technology (IT) infrastructure capability is increasingly recognised as critical to firm competitiveness. Infrastructure is particularly important for firms in industries going through dynamic change, for firms reengineering their business processes and for those with multiple business units or extensive international or geographically dispersed operations. However, the notion of IT infrastructure is still evolving and there has been little empirically based research on the patterns of IT infrastructure capability across firms. We develop the concept of IT infrastructure capability through identification of IT infrastructure services and measurement of reach and range in large, multi-business unit firms. Using empirical case research, we examine the patterns of IT infrastructure capability in 26 firms with diverse strategic contexts, including different industry bases, level of marketplace volatility, extent of business unit synergies and the nature of firm strategy formation processes. Data collection was based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods with multiple participants. More extensive IT infrastructure capability is defined as a combination of more IT infrastructure services and more reach and range. More extensive IT infrastructure capability was found in firms where: (i) products changed quickly; (ii) attempts were made to identify and capture synergies across business units; (iii) there was greater integration of information and IT needs as part of planning processes; and (iv) there was greater emphasis on tracking the implementation of long term strategy. These findings have implications for both business and technology managers particularly in regard to how firms link strategy and IT infrastructure formation processes.
Although there is no single universally accepted definition of business strategy (Mintzberg and Quinn, 1991) a number of scholars emphasise the importance of choice. Porter (1996) argues that competitive strategy is about being different requiring the choice of a different set of activities and capabilities to deliver a unique mix of values. Markides (1999) identifies three dimensions where firms must make these choices: who to target as customers, what products to offer and how to undertake the related activities efficiently. Core competencies are at the centre of these strategic choices (Hamel, 1989 and Kay, 1993) to create and sustain advantages and implement effectively. Information technology (IT) infrastructure capability is a firm resource (Barney, 1991) and potential core competence that is difficult to imitate requiring a fusion of human and technical assets. IT infrastructure is increasingly seen as a fundamental differentiator in the competitive performance of firms (McKenney, 1995). New competitive strategies (Boynton et al., 1993) and progression through higher levels of organisational transformation (Davidson and Movizzo, 1996) each require major IT infrastructure investments. IT infrastructure capabilities underpin the emergence of new organisational forms (Davidow and Malone, 1992), such as global virtual corporations (Miller et al., 1993), facilitate electronic commerce via the development of virtual value chains (Rayport and Sviokla, 1995) and are part of a firm's strategic choices (Porter, 1996 and Markides, 1999). IT infrastructure capability is critical to globally competing firms (Clemons, 1989 and Neo, 1991) to provide connectivity and integration. IT infrastructure can be a significant barrier or enabler in the practical options available to planning and changing business processes (Grover, 1993 and Wastell, 1994). The support of enabling technologies and platforms is an important contributor to successful business process change (Caron, 1994 and Furey, 1994). Cross functional process changes require a shift in the role of the IT function from being guardians of information systems to providing infrastructure support, particularly in the form of data management expertise (Dixon, 1994 and Earl, 1994) and connectivity across areas and computer platforms. While the significance of IT infrastructure is now being recognised (Davenport and Linder, 1994), this is often as a by-product or retrospective analysis of the success of strategic initiatives or process change implementations. Knowledge of the value of IT infrastructure remains largely “in the realms of conjecture and anecdote” (Duncan 1995, p. 39). In this paper, we develop the concept of IT infrastructure capability through identification of IT infrastructure services and measurement of reach and range (Keen, 1991 and Keen, 1994) in large multi-business unit firms. We examine the patterns of IT infrastructure capability in 26 firms with diverse strategic contexts, such as different industries, different strategic intents and different levels of synergies between business units. We compare the number and nature of services and the level of reach and range to understand patterns of IT infrastructure capability and discuss the implications for both business and IT management.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
We have provided an empirically based starting point to describe features of IT infrastructure capability, highlighting the role of human expertise in the development and management of infrastructure services. The patterns of infrastructure capability amongst the firms in this study indicate an iterative link between the efforts to garner synergy from business units and the consideration given to investment in IT infrastructure services and extending reach and range. The identification and achievement of business unit synergies seem to be primary drivers for firm-wide IT infrastructure capability and is seen as an attempt to generate ‘system value’ (Viscio and Pasternack, 1996, p. 13) which is more than the sum of each of the separate business units. Higher levels of IT infrastructure capability were associated with greater integration of information and IT needs in strategy formation processes. This relationship could indicate that a deeper consideration of the IT implications for strategic choices leads to more extensive investment in IT infrastructure services. A question for further investigation is whether different strategic intents lead to deeper consideration of IT implications and thus more extensive IT infrastructure. Alternatively it may be that firms which better integrate IT needs with business strategy tend to have more extensive IT infrastructure regardless of strategy. Firms which tracked long term strategy implementation had greater IT infrastructure capability. The implication here could be that more careful post implementation assessment focuses on how strategic choices can be implemented, and thus greater realisation of the role of IT infrastructure capability in their achievement. Another trend we observed was the increasing use of outsourcing for IT infrastructure provision. The firms studied were modest users of outsourcing averaging 9.7% p.a. of their total IT investment. However, their use of outsourcing was also growing at 8.2% p.a. We demonstrated statistically that the firms, which outsourced more, had lower IT costs and were also more likely to compete predominantly on price. Firms which outsourced more also had longer time to markets for new products than their competitors (Weill and Broadbent, 1998, p. 64). Although not conclusive these findings provide evidence that outsourcing IT infrastructure impacts both cost and strategic flexibility. Future work can focus on at least four areas: further analysis of each IT infrastructure service through the development of depth indicators to measure the level at which each service is offered; application of the notion of IT infrastructure services to other levels in the firm, such as within business units; analysis of other industries to provide a rich source of comparison; the impact of outsourcing IT infrastructure on flexibility and deeper examination of the management processes by which firms link strategy and IT infrastructure formation processes. From a management perspective the results provide an indication of the importance of IT infrastructure for different strategic contexts. If a firm's strategic intent is focused on synergies between business units (rather than on autonomous business units or on lowest-cost production) then IT infrastructure must be actively managed. To actively manage IT infrastructure requires having a senior person or firm-wide committee to take responsibility for IT infrastructure. Thus a strategic choice is required (Porter, 1996). While firms may focus on executing a single strategy they must also build and maintain a portfolio of strategic options for the future investing in new capabilities (Williamson, 1999). Adopting Williamson's strategic options approach would lead a firm to provide an extensive information technology infrastructure capability beyond today's needs. A firm desiring greater IT infrastructure capability will need to provide more IT infrastructure services as well as more extensive reach and range carefully tailored to meet the particular strategic needs.