Management hierarchy: strategic, managerial and operational

Management hierarchy: strategic, managerial and operational


rapid emergence of end-user computing was at least in part responsible for the inadequacy of this benchmark variable.

The authors hope their analyses have highlighted some of the problems faced by DP/MIS managers and end-users when relating to each other. Specifically, the re- search should help the DP/MIS managers focus their attention on improving those maturity variables which are most in need of improvement and weigh the conse- quences of these expenditures in terms of improved users” satisfaction before ven- turing forth.

Even though the research presents significant progress toward relating the bench- mark maturity variables to the users” satisfaction variables and hence the is organiza- tion’s effectiveness, further research is needed in this area. The following are suggested;

(1) Since all past validation studies for Nolan”s stage model have been criticized because of measurement problems [5], and since measurement problems may occur from failure to perform reliability and validity tests on measuring instruments, it would be worthwhile to perform validity tests on the benchmark maturity variables used in the study.

(2) It would be appropriate to perform a longitudinal study of different is organi- zations progressing through different Nolan”s stages. One could measure user satis- faction at each stage for each organization and compare them for different organiza- tions at the same stage, as well as for the same organization at different stages.

(3) Additional research on the type of DP/MIS organizational structure which is appropriate for the later stages of organizational maturity would be worthwhile.

(4) It would be helpful to determine whether the organizational demographic variables (size, DP budget, etc.) or Greiner”s [17] maturity variables can be used to predict user satisfaction.


1. Ahituv, N. and Neumann, S. Principles of Information Systems for Management. Dubuque. Iowa: W. C. Brown, 1982.

2. Alter. S. Decision Support Systems: Curren! Practice and Continuing Challenges. Reading, Ma.ssachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1980.

3. Bailey, J. E., and Pearson, S. W. Development of a tool for measuring and analyzing computer u.ser satisfaction. Management Science. 29, 5 (May 1983), 519-529.

4. Benbasat, I.; Dexter, A. S.; and Mantha, R. W. Impact of organizational maturity on information system skill needs. MIS Quarterly. 4 (1980), 21-34.

5. Benbasat, I.; Dexter, A. S.: Drury, D. H.: and Goldstein, R. C. A critique of the stage hypothesis: theory and empirical evidence. Communications of the ACM, 27, 5 (May 1984), 476-485.

6. Brown, F. G. Principles of Educational and Psychological Testing. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976.

7. Cambell, D. T , and Fiske, D. W. Convergent and discriminant validation by the multi-trait, multi-method matrix. Psvchology Bulletin. 56, 2 (March 1959), 81-105.

8. Chronbach, L. J., and Meehl, P. E. Construct validity in psychological data. Psycho- logicat Bulletin. 52, 1 (January 1955), 281-302.

9. Churchill, N. C ; Kempsler, J. H.; and Uretsky, M. Computer Based Information


Systems for Management: A Survey. New York: National Association of Accountants, 1969. 10. Drury. D. H., and Bates. J. E. Data Processing Chargeback Systems: Theory and

Practice. Hamilton. Ontario: Society of Management Accountants of Canada, 1970. 11. Drury. D. H. An empirical assessment of the stages of data processing growth. MIS

Quarterly. 7. 2 (June 1983). 59-70. 12. Ein-Dor. P.. and Segev. E. Managing Information Systems. Lexington, Massachusetts:

Lexington Books. 1978. 13. Ein-Dor. P.. and Segev. E. Information systems: emergence of a new organizational

function. Information Management, 5, 4-5 (September-November 1982). 279-286. 14. Gallagher. C. A. Perceptions of the value of a management information system.

Academic Management Journal, 17. 1 (January 1974). 20-29. 15. Gibson. C. E.. and Nolan. R. L. Managing the four stages of EDP growth. Harvard

Business Review (January-February 1974). 76-88. 16. Goldstein, R. C , and McCririck. I. The stage hypothesis and data administration:

some contradictory evidence. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Infor- mation Systems, Boston. Massachusetts. December 1981, 309-324.

17. Greiner, L. E. Evolution and revolution as organizations grow. Harvard Busine.s.s Review (July-August 1972). 37-46.

18. Hotteling. H. The most predictable criterion. Journal of Educational Psychology, 26. 1 (February 1935). 139-142.

19. Hotteling. H. Relations between two sets of variâtes. Biometrika, 28. 4 (December 1936). 321-377.

20. Ives, B.; Olson. M. H.; and Baroudi. J. J. The measurement of user information satisfaction. Communications of the ACM. 26. 10 (November 1983). 785-793.

21. Keen. P. W, G.. and Scott Morton. M. S. Decision Support Systems: An Organization- al Perspective. Reading. Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. 1978.

22. Larker. D. E.. and Lessig. V. P. Perceived usefulness of information: a psychometric examination. Decision Science, 11. 1 (April 1980). 121-134.

23. Lucas. H. C , and Sutton, J. A. The stage hypothesis S-curve: some contradictory evidence. Communications of the ACM, 20, 4 (April 1977). 254-259.

24. Nolan. R. L. Plight of EDP managers. Harvard Business Review, 51. 3 (May-June 1973). 143-152.

25. Nolan. R. L. Managing the computer resource: a stage hypothesis. Communications of the ACM. 16. 7 (July 1973). 399-405.

26. Nolan. R. L. Thoughts about the fifth stage. DATABASE. 1, 2 (1975). 4-10. 27. Nolan, R. L. Controlling the cost of data services. Harvard Business Review (July-

August 1977), 144-124. 28. Nolan, R. L. Managing the crisis in data processing. Harmrd Business Review

(March-April 1979). 115-126. 29. Nunally, J. C. Psychometric Theory. New York: McGraw Hill, 1978. 30. Pearson, S. W. Measurement of Computer User Satisfaction. Ph.D. dissertation,

Arizona State University, Tempe, 1977. 31. Swanson, E. B. Management information systems: appreciation and involvement.

Management Science, 21, 2 (October 1974), 178-188. 32. Zmud, R. W. An empirical investigation of the dimensionality of the concept of

information. Decision Sciences, 9, 21 (April 1978), 187-196.

Research on MIS Planning: Some Guidelines from Strategic Planning Research


N. VENKATRAMAN IS Assistant Professor of Management at the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. Massa- chusetts. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration (with major area of concen- tration in Strategic Management and minor area of concentration in Management Information Systems) from the Graduate School of Business. University of Pitts- burgh. His research interests focus on strategy formulation and implementation issues in business organizations and the relationships between business strategy and the use of management systems (such as strategic planning systems and information systems), as well as methodological issues in strategy and MIS research. His papers have been published (or forthcoming) in professional journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, the Academy of Management Review, Strategic Manage- ment Journal, Omega, Planning Review, and Proceedings of the Academy of Man- agement. He is a member of The Institute of Management Science (TIMS), The Academy of Management, Strategic Management Society, and the American Insti- tute for Decision Sciences.

ABSTRACT- Recognizing that MIS planning is fast emerging as an important topic for both practitioners and researchers, this paper develops key guidelines for MIS plan- ning research. By illustrating similarities between the research streams of MIS planning and organizational strategic planning, we derive three major guidelines from a critical review and evaluation of the progress made in the strategic research stream over the last decade. These are: (i) recognition of hierarchy of MIS planning levels and corresponding hierarchy in MIS planning benefits: (ii) specific attention to operationalization of constructs to ensure correspondence between theoretical con- ceptualization and empirical observation: and (iii) the adoption of an overarching research framework rooted in the contingency theory tradition. We hope that the discussion will stimulate researchers’ attention toward developing a program ot research on MIS planning.

KEY WORDS AND PHRASES: Mis planning, research methodological issues in MIS planning research, linkage between MIS planning and strategic planning.

The initial draft of this paper was completed during the author’s affiliation with the De- partment of Business Administration. College of Commerce and Bu.smess Administration^ University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The comments provided by Vasu Ramanujam of Case Western Reserve University and anonymous JMIS reviewers on an earlier version were useful in revising the manuscript.

JaurmI o) Managemen, Informaron Sss,c«,sliW,„u:, 1985-86. Vol. 11. No. 3



THE ROLE ACCORDED to the management information systems (MIS) function in today’s complex organization has undergone important changes in recent years. Long regarded as merely a “service” function—charged primarily with the task of efficient data processing—the MIS function is beginning to be viewed as being more central and critical to an organization’s growth and survival. In this context, an important issue relates to planning effectively for this transition. Several recent studies have documented that effective MIS planning is perhaps the most important challenge facing the MIS professionals today (see for instance Ball and Loftin [4] and Dickson and Nechis [9]).

Any increased recognition of the importance of formalized approaches to MIS planning is likely to trigger research efforts aimed at developing research proposi- tions and normative guidelines grounded in descriptive research. Many research studies have already addressed this issue [23, 38J, and in view of the criticality of this topic we are likely to see more studies focusing on the role and benefits of MIS planning.

In such a context, MIS researchers are unlikely to find the existing paradigms and research frameworks to be useful for incorporating MIS planning concepts. This is true partly because the dominant research perspectives within the still-evolving MIS discipline are either rooted in computer science—in relation to aspects such as software, hardware, and other technical characteristics of the system; cognitive sciences and human information processing—in relation to the designing and tailor- ing of the system to the information processing capabilities of the decision maker; or organization theory:—in relation to considerations of effective implementation and administration of MIS within an organizational context.

While these perspectives are certainly relevant and useful, they do not adequately address the long-range (or strategic) planning requirements of MIS. Until recently, MIS research studies have rarely reflected strategic management concepts, although arguments have long been presented in favor of such an integration [12, 19]. Guided by an assumption that MIS research can benefit from strategic management research, this paper has the limited objective of developing some research guidelines for MIS planning research through a critical review and evaluation of the progress made in strategic planning research. This paper has three major sections. The next section traces the reasons for the growing importance of MIS planning as a research stream. The reasons for developing research guidelines from strategic planning research are presented in the subsequent section, while the third section develops the research guidelines in detail.

The Growing Importance of MIS Planning: Significant Trends

THE GROWING IMPORTANCE of MIS planning as a key task of MIS professionals can be traced to at least four significant trends. In this section, these trends and their impact on formalized approaches to MIS planning are discussed.


First, the level of investment in the MIS department has increased significantly due to the proliferation of products and services based on the new generation of comput- er and communications technology. One account notes that a typical organization spends approximately 1.5% to 2% of its revenue on information systems with the financial services sector spending an even higher level [8]. The general expectation is that the level of investment will continue to increase in the near future with organizations investing in not only efficiency-oriented products and services—such as office automation, data and work processing, and electronic mail—but also effectiveness-oriented products and services—such as artificial intelligence ma- chines and other specialized machines designed to enhance their competitive edge in the market place.

Significant increase in resource commitment requires systematic planning ap- proaches for ensuring that the resources are deployed both efficiently (in the short run) and effectively (in the long run). Historically, pressures for organizing produc- tion planning, financial planning, and marketing planning functions have largely emerged from increases in resources directed to those functions in organizations.

Second, as the technical base underlying many of these products and services changes, there exists a real danger in terms of a proliferation of incompatible systems (see for instance, discussions by McKenney and McFarlan [33]). Such a situation calls for a formal approach to planning-which provides a system for recognizing and reflecting rapidly changing trends in the broader environment into a specific plan for the procurement and implementation of new systems and technol- ogies. The underlying assumption in adopting the formal planning philosophy is that it provides a structured mechanism for forecasting key environmental trends as well as recognizing “weak signals” [1] and responding to them in the best possible manner. This seems to fit well with today’s uncertain and fast changing characteris- tics of MIS. .

nird. it appears that decisions taken with reference to the MIS function nave ramifications beyond the boundaries of the MIS department. The efficient introduc- tion and adoption of new technologies underlying MIS requires corresponding changes in other functions of business. For example, it has a direct impact on the human resource function in terms of refocusing recruitment, training, motivation, and control of the workforce in all areas of operations. Along similar lines, signifi- cant interrelationships between MIS and other organizational functions can be identi- fied. This calls for integrating the MIS plan with the plans of other functional areas as well as the overall organizational strategic plan.

The fourth, and perhaps the most important, trend is that there is a growing belief that MIS has a “strategic” role in today’s business organizations [5, 7, 17, 20, 42], Such a role is visualized at two levels-one in relation to the decision support that can be provided for strategic decision making which reflects the now familiar notions of information support for strategic planning [21], and the other in relation to an emerging view that competitive advantage can be derived through appropriate design and use of information systems. The latter perspective is reflected m a recent editorial column of the Management Information Systems Quarterly by King, who noted that,”Information (and is) has the potential to be a primary source of com-


Table 1 Significant Trends Related to MIS and Their Impact on MIS Planning Tasks

Trends Impact on MIS planning

Rapid changes in the technical Ensuring compatibility of isolated systems through hase of MIS forecasting key technological trends and adopting a

more “macro” perspective in systems design

General increase in the level of Initiating and organizing the overall MIS planning resource commitment to the MIS efforts to allocate (and control) effficient and function effective deployment of resources.

Organization-wide impact Integrating MIS plan with other functional plans and ramifications of MIS decisions, the overall organizational strategic plan.

MIS as a tool for competitive Planning for and developing ways for exploiting advantage information and is for achieving competitive


parative business advantage in the marketplace rather than merely a resource to be efficiently managed or a service that is periodically turned on and off as needed [20]. Similar notions of information-based competitive advantage underly the writings of others [5, 23, 30. and 37, for example].

Table 1 summarizes these four trends and their impact on MIS planning tasks. These trends—when viewed both individually and collectively—indicate that MIS planning is likely to be an important topic for the practicing MIS professional. Con.sequently, if the MIS discipline is to develop further as a “field of practical endeavor, as well as of academic inquiry, devoted to the investigation and development of information systems in support of management functions” [50], future research efforts have to be directed at MIS planning.

To facilitate research in this stream of inquiry, this paper aims to develop guidelines based on a review of strategic planning research. However, such an attempt is dependent on the underlying assumption that the two streams share some common characteristics. The next .section identifies some similarities between the two streams to support this assumption.

Similarities in the Two Research Streams

MANY REASONS exist for developing research guidelines based on the experiences of the strategic planning research stream. Three major reasons—developed based on the similarities between the two streams—are highlighted in the following para- graphs to justify our contention that the strategic planning research stream is an appropriate benchmark for identifying research approaches and perspectives for the MIS planning research stream efforts.

The first similarity relates to the assumptions guiding the research studies in these two streams. Both streams assume that formal planning systems and processes will lead to better decision choices, more informed evaluation of alternatives, and


ultimately better levels of organizational performance. The quest for establishing the link between the level and degree of strategic planning and organizational performance has hardly waned. Similarly MIS researchers are and will be eager to demonstrate that systematic and formal approaches toward MIS planning do make a difference.

The second similarity relates to the type and focus of the research questions addressed in the two streams. Strategic planning research has been concerned with the role and benefits of formalized systems and processes adopted by organizations as an integral part of their strategic management processes. It is beyond the scope of this paper to review the literature on strategic planning research in any detail, and readers desiring a more comprehensive treatment are directed to sources such as Armstrong [2], Hofer and Schendel [16], King and Cleland [22], Lorange [26], Lorange and Vancil [27], and Steiner [44].

Research questions on strategic planning have mainly focused on issues such as: (a) the effectiveness of strategic planning systems (see, for example. Herold [14], Karger and Malik [18], Kudla [24], Thune and House [46], and Wood and LaForge [49]); (b) the organizational factors facilitating planning (see, for instance, Ring- bakk [40] and Steiner and Schollhammer [45]); (c) managerial participation in strategic planning (see. for instance, Dyson and Foster [10]); and (d) broader contingency influences on the design and use of strategic planning systems (see Lindsay and Rue [25] and Lorange [26]).

MIS planning as an emerging research stream today is concerned with similar themes such as the appropriate mode and mechanism for organizing MIS planning efforts, the roles and responsibilities of the different actors in the planning process including issues of user participation, the broader impact of organizational factors on MIS planning efforts especially the linkage between the MIS plan and the organiza- tion’s strategic plan, and fmally the impact of MIS planning efforts on MIS effective- ness.

The third similarity is in relation to the research philosophy and the type of research methodologies adopted. Both streams began approaching their respective research objectives by focusing on selected case studies. While many case studies on strategic planning emerged from the Harvard Business School in the 1970s, later studies on strategic planning have moved toward comparative analysis using large samples. Similarly, while studies on MIS planning are beginning to be developed (e.g.. Highsmith [15]), there are increasing concerns that MIS planning research should move away from generalizations based on isolated case studies toward a systematic program of comparative research. We are beginning to see important steps being taken in this direction (.see. for instance, Pyburn [38]).

Due to the similarities in the two research streams it appears that useful guidelines can be developed by critically evaluating the progress made in the strategic planning research stream so that some of the shortcomings can be avoided in the context of MIS planning research. The next section presents key guidelines based on a critical review of strategic planning research.


Research Guidlelines

THE GUIDELINES for MIS planning research derived from a critical review of strategic planning research focus on both substantive (i.e.. conceptual or theoretical) and methodological (i.e., research philosophy, research design, measurement, etc.) issues. These are broadly categorized as (i) recognition of hierarchy of MIS planning levels and corresponding hierarchy in planning benefits; (ii) specific attention to the operationalization of constructs to ensure correspondence between theoretical con- ceptualization and empirical observation; and (iii) the adoption of an overarching research framework rooted in contingency theory tradition. Each of these is dis- cussed below.

Hierarchy of MIS Planning Levels

In the initial stage of research on MIS planning, it is necessary to formally recognize the existence of multiple levels of analysis in conceptualizing MIS planning. Even after more than a decade of research on the role of organizational strategic planning, little consensus exists as to what planning really means (see. for instance, the debate between Mintzberg [35] and Snyder [43]). In the absence of a reasonable agreement on the meaning of terms employed in research, it is nearly impossible to accumulate research findings across different studies in any meaningful fashion. In strategic planning research such a problem has seriously limited the possibility of arriving at a “unified theory of strategic planning.”

In MIS planning, at least three different (but interrelated) levels of analysis can be identified. At the first level, the planning task focuses on systems design issues for an individual system with a specific task such as payroll accounting, inventory control, or other needs. Here, planning can be largely viewed in terms of familiar notions of systems design aimed at providing the necessary informational support for decision making. While planning at the first level may appear to be somewhat simple and systematic, it becomes more complex and assumes a larger role at the next level.

MIS planning at the second level is viewed as being concerned with integration of many individual systems toward the accomplishment of an overall task of providing informational and decision-support for decision making at all levels of the organiza- tional hierarchy. Issues of interdepartmental communication and information shar- ing across managerial levels as well as problems of system compatibility become crucial.

MIS planning at the third level focuses on the relationship between the MIS plan and the organization’s overall strategic plan. This link is different from the linkage between any other functional level planning and strategic planning. The linkage between a functional plan and the organization’s overall strategic plan is typically conceptualized in terms of (i) ensuring that the requirements and constraints such as manufacturing capabilities and technical limitations of the particular function are reflected in the overall strategic plan; and (ii) deriving the functional level action


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plan (e.g., marketing programs or manfacturing plans) in accordance with the strategic plan development (for a more detailed discussion see Camillus and Venkatraman [6] and Lorange and Vancil [27]).

However, the linkage takes on a different perspective in the case of MIS planning. At one end, we can view information and information systems as a “function” (similar to marketing and manufacturing) and evaluate new opportunities for information-based competitive advantage. Similar to deriving comparative advantage in marketing or manufacturing, many examples of information-based competitive advantage have been recently presented in the literature (see King [20], McFarlan [30], Rockart and Scott-Morton [42]). At the other end, MIS serves a useful purpose in providing the necessary “information base”‘ to evaluate strategic alternatives in the process of strategy development and implementation. Thus, the two-directional linkage between MIS planning and strategic planning raises a set of important issues for MIS practitioners in terms of how to link the two planning processes and the planning outputs.

Hierarchy of MIS Planning Benefits

A related issue pertains to the benefits of MIS planning. The benefits of strategic planning are still a source of controversy. While managers and researchers alike recognize the non-economic benefits such as management motivation, avoidance of problem-areas, evaluating alternatives based on more relevant information (see discussions in King and Cleland [22] and Steiner [44]), most empirical attempts have relied exclusively on economic benefits such as Return on Investment (ROD or Return on Equity (ROE).

In MIS planning research, an obvious question is: should the benefits of MIS planning be evaluated using surrogate indicators such as ROI or ROE or through a set of more “relevant” variables? This issue gets further complicated when we incorporate the hierarchy of planning levels discussed earlier. For example, “user satisfaction” measured using scales such as that of Bailey and Pearson [3] may be appropriate for evaluating MIS planning effectiveness at the first two levels but is surely not an appropriate scale for evaluating MIS planning at the third level, viz,, strategic planning for MIS. Building on the work by Hamilton and Chervany ([13])— where different approaches for evaluating MIS effectiveness were discus.sed, MIS researchers should begin to conceptualize and measure MIS planning effectiveness appropriately.

Table 2 presents an initial framework for interrelating MIS planning and MIS planning effectiveness along the hierarchical framework discussed in this paper. It is intended to serve as a reference point for recognizing the multiplicity of levels in MIS planning and for highlighting the differences in the nature of the relationships between MIS planning and MIS planning effectiveness at different levels.


Operationalization of Constructs

” M I S planning”” as discussed above in terms of the three levels is an abstract theoretical construct—which needs to be operationalized in a manner such that there is close correspondence between the theoretical definitions of constructs (at the different levels) and their empirical operationalizations. Early studies on strategic planning operationalized the planning concept using categorical variables such as: “planners”” versus “non-planners”” or “formal planners”” versus “informal plan- ners.”” Since such relatively crude dichotomizations do not reflect the “within- group'” degree of planning differences, later studies have sought to move toward multi-dimensional classifications using either Likert-type scales [48] or Guttman- type scales [49]. Systematic attention to measuring the constructs of MIS planning in the early stages of research could eliminate or at least reduce problems that occur when one attempts to integrate fmdings across research studies.

In strategic management research, researchers have begun providing systematic attention to operationalization issues only recently [47], which has seriously limited cumulative theory-building attempts. Mis researchers are urged to appropriately define and develop MIS planning constructs because as Nunnally [36] has noted. “All theories in science concern statements mainly about constructs rather than about sf)ecific, observable variables.”” Since inferences of relationships between theoreti- cal constructs is critically dependent on the quality of operationalization, it is necessary to pay particular attention to this issue in MIS planning research. The different measurement criteria such as content validity, convergent and discriminant validity, and so on. which become important in the context of operationalizing organizational level constructs such as planning, are discus.sed in more detail in the context of strategic planning in [47] and can be suitably adapted for MIS planning research.

The operationalization issue is not restricted only to the hierarcy of MIS planning levels but also equally well applies to the conceptualization and measurement of MIS planning effectiveness. While Bailey and Pearson’s [3] work represents an important step in relation to the measurement of user satisfaction, similar attempts are neces- sar>’ for the other levels of MIS planning effectiveness indicated in Table 2.

Adoption of an Overarching Research Framework

If we accept the premise that one of the ultimate aims of research is to explain the central phenomenon from a theory-building perspective, individual research efforts should be integrated along a general framework rooted in the central phenomenon. The lack of such a framework has been cited as a weakness in strategic planning research [48] in particular and strategy research [39] in general.

In contrast, while many research frameworks can be found within MIS research, they focus on specific topics. For example, Lucas”s [28] model provides an organiz- ing framework for guiding descriptive research on MIS implementation, and the Minnesota experiments developed a stream of research on the human information


processing aspect of MIS research. However, such frameworks appear to be more suited for organizing the different sub-streams individually and do not adequately reflect current concerns—which compel us to think beyond the current paradigms in MIS (for a recent discussion see Zwass [50]).

Specifically, in terms of MIS planning as a stream of MIS research, although several early conceptual writings have called for recognizing MIS planning as an important topic (e.g., [12, 19, 34]), descriptive research studies are only recently beginning to appear (e.g., [23, 38]). Additionally, interesting perspectives on the overall man- agement o/information systems (which provide a central role to MIS planning) have been reflected in a series of articles in the Harvard Business Review (see especially [7, 29, 30, 31. 32. and 33]). Thus it appears to be an appropriate stage in the evolution of this topic to pay particular attention to translating these conceptual points of view into a general research framework so that the rich array of proposi- tions can be sy.stematically tested.

While it is beyond the scope of this paper to develop such a framework, some pointers can be noted. To begin with it is important to recognize the complex array of organizational variables which impact on MIS planning in the development of the research framework. For example, in developing a model for studying the interrela- tionships of strategic planning activities, Venkatraman, Ramanujam, and Camillus [48] identified four key levels. The first level, reflecting the organizational context within which planning takes place, was captured through two dimensions—the extent of resources provided to planning indicating organization’s commitment to this activity, and the level of organizational resistance to this activity reflecting the extent of enthusiasm with which planning outputs are used for decision making.

The second level ofthat model focused on the planning activities such as the extent of coverage provided to various functional areas, the extent of focus on internal context and organizational capabilities, the degree of scanning of the external envi- ronment, and the degree of use of formal planning techniques. The third and the fourth levels reflected planning benefits in terms of improvements in the capacity of the planning system and the degree of fulfillment of the objectives set for the planning system. A model along these lines would be useful in the early stage of research related to MIS planning by reflecting the key influences and incorporating the hierarchical concept discussed earlier.

The development of any research framework must reflect a contingency or situ- ational perspective. Given the complexity of modern organizations, it is too simplis- tic to expect that the role of MIS planning (and more specifically, the impact of MIS planning on MIS effectiveness) can be described in universalistic terms. The call for a contingency perspective is not a new one in the MIS field where many early writings (see [11, 12]) have explicitly identified an array of important contextual variables for enhancing MIS effectiveness. The key challenge here is to identify and establish the key contingency influences on MIS planning efforts in the development of an over- arching research framework.

For example, in the initial stages of strategic planning research, it was felt that an organization’s size was a key contextual factor—which distinguishes the nature of


planning in large corporations from the planning practices of relatively smaller organizations (see Lorange and Vancil [27]). While this was certainly appropriate in the early 1970s—when most companies were introducing formal planning systems, recent studies argue that strategic planning in small companies is in no significant way different from its counterpart in large companies [41 j . In MIS planning research it is necessary not only to conceptually identify these critical contingency influences but also to descriptively establish their role. Further, as the degree of use of formal systems of MIS planning increases, the relative role and importance of these contin- gency factors may have to be reevaluated.

Summary: Toward a Program-of-Research on MIS Planning

THE GENERAL INDICATIONS are that organizations will continue to increase their efforts inrelation to MIS planning in view of the criticality of the MIS function. This is likely to trigger a series of research efforts within the MIS discipline. Recognizing that no organizing framework exists to guide research in this emerging area of inquiry, this paper sought to develop guidelines based on a critical evaluation of the research on strategic planning.

These guidelines, by themselves, do not form the research paradigm necessary for orderly and systematic design and execution of research studies. However, it is hoped that they provide useful pointers for MIS researchers to work toward develop- ing a program-of-research on MIS planning. It was highlighted that such a framework should, at a minimum, recognize the multiplicity of levels in MIS planning and key contingency influences as well as the unique nature of linkage between MIS planning and organization’s strategic plan.

Research on MIS planning is at crossroads today—with compelling reasons to move beyond case-based studies. The discussion here is intended to provide guide- lines rather than specific research designs to study the role and benefits of MIS planning, and it is hoped that this will stimulate further thinking among researchers interested in this area to effectively tackle the challenges in this stream of MIS


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2. Armstrong. J. S. The value of formal planning for strategic decisions: review of empirical research. Strategic Management Journal. 3 (1982). 197-211.

3. Bailey. J. E.. and Pearson. S. W. Development of a tool for measuring and analyzing computer user satisfaction. Management Science. 29. 6 (1983). 519-529.

4. Ball. L. D.. and Loftin. R. D. Special Report of SIM: SIM 1983 Membership Survey. Society for Information Managemem. Chicago. 111.. 1983.

5. Benjamin. R. I.; Rockart. J. F.; Scott-Morton. M.; and Wyman. S. J. Information technology: a strategic opportunity. Sloan Management Review 25. 3 (1984). 3-10.

6. Camillus. J. C . and Venkatraman. N. Dimensions of strategic choice. Planning

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