Strategic Alignment Practices in Organizations: Assessment of Strategic Alignment Planning
and Implementation in Kenyan Universities
Student: Kiyeng’ Chumo
Supervisors: Prof. Frederik Gailly (VUB, Belgium)
Prof. Timothy Waema (UoN, Kenya)
Prof. Eddy Vandijck (VUB, Belgium)
Table of Contents
1.0 Introduction ............................................................................................................................1
1.1 Research Background and Motivation ........................................................................................... 1
1.2 Problem Statement ........................................................................................................................ 4
1.3 Research Objectives ...................................................................................................................... 5
1.4 Significance and expected outcome of the research ....................................................................... 5
1.5 Research Limitations and Delimitations ........................................................................................ 7
1.6 Definitions .................................................................................................................................... 7
2.0 Literature Review .................................................................................................................10
2.1 Introduction ................................................................................................................................ 10
2.2 Review of Strategic Alignment Studies ....................................................................................... 10
2.3 Strategic Alignment Models ....................................................................................................... 12
2.4 Alignment Assessment Approaches............................................................................................. 19
2.4.3 Alignment Assessment at IS Project Level ............................................................................. 26
3.0 Research Methodology .........................................................................................................33
3.1 Research Paradigm and Theoretical Issues ................................................................................. 33
3.2 Research Design and Process ...................................................................................................... 34
3.3 Study quality measurement ......................................................................................................... 44
Research schedule (work plan) .................................................................................................................47
1.1 Research Background and Motivation
Organizations consider strategic alignment as an important aspect in achieving value of
Information System (IS) investment since it is believed that organizations will realize benefits
by aligning IS strategies and business strategies. For over 20 years alignment has been one of
the top management concern (Luftman et al., 2005) of most organizations. Henderson and
Venkatraman (1999) and Chan et al. (1997) argued that IS strategies and business strategies
independently cannot bring about performance improvement, but it is the strategic alignment
of the two. This is also supported by (Tallon & Kraemer, 2003) who asserted the validity of
the relationship up to a certain threshold where any further increases in alignment may not
lead to an increase in IT returns. This finding highlights the need to get a better understanding
of the dynamics of strategic alignment.
While it is generally accepted that information systems affects organization’s performance
and distinctiveness, different organizations in different sectors exhibit different outcome
despite similar investments in IS (Dhar and Sundararajan, 2006). This varied impact is
attributed to the assumption that IS impacts on an organization’s performance by enhancing
processes and that the level of impact will depend on the organization’s internal
characteristics including skills, infrastructure and corporate culture which vary from
organization to organization and also the external competitive environment which the
The impact of IS investments in an organizations depends on the combination of hard IS
investments including computer hardware, software and networks and soft factors including
organization practices, culture and skills, business processes reengineering and innovation
(Melville & Kraemer, 2004). Strategic alignment is one of the soft factors which has the
capability to bring about a variety of potentials such as organizational restructuring like
flattening hierarchies and delegation of responsibilities, re-engineer business processes like
introducing just-in-time management or engaging in e-business and developing completely
In order to achieve their strategies organizations implement IS projects through the process of
Strategic Information System Planning (SISP) that ensures that IS strategies and applications
are aligned with the business strategies of an organization(Peak, Guynes, & Kroon, 2005).
Jenkin and Chan (2010) found out that it was during the project execution and not during the
corporate planning that the key alignment process took place and therefore IS project is an
important aspect in both strategy implementation and as a connection between strategic and
operational levels. Information System (IS) alignment is the degree to which IS project
deliverables are consistent with project’s objectives which are shaped by organization’s IS
strategy (Jenkin and Chan 2005). To achieve strategic alignment organization’s IS projects
have to be well aligned with the corporate objectives because they are means by which
strategy is implemented (Jenkin & Chan, 2009; PMI, 2008).
Alignment process needs to extend from strategic alignment to project alignment by focusing
on the process of achieving alignment at the project implementation. Project alignment
requires strategic alignment as a starting point and strategic alignment requires project
alignment to successfully implement the organization’s alignment strategy. Therefore the two
types of alignment are tightly connected (Jenkin & Chan, 2009). Alignment leads to more
focused and strategic use of information system resources which in turn results to increased
performance (Chan et al., 2006). It is therefore important to understand alignment at both
project implementation level and corporate level in order to understand the overall
organization business-IS alignment
Literature reveals that strategic alignment has positive impacts on organizational performance
(Reich & Benbasat, 2000; Sabherwal and Thartcher, 2006), and therefore the continuous
failure of IS projects (Taylor, 2000) implies lack of strategic alignment. Stanleigh (2010)
found out that only about 12.5% of the companies evaluate their projects to determine
whether they are strategically aligning with business and (68%) do not prioritize their
projects. Ryan and Hamson (2000) also found out that over 50% of IT project
implementation cost more than twice the estimated cost and time due to human and
organizational costs. This is an indication that there is lack of strategic alignment and
therefore it is important to understand the link between strategic planning and IS project
Motjolopane & Brown (2004) investigated the success of aligning IT strategies with business
using a case study of a tertiary institution and found out that there is high investment in IT to
improve efficiency and effectiveness of the administration processes as well as for teaching
and educational purposes. However the study was carried out in one organization and used
qualitative data and therefore proposition could not be statistically proved.
In Kenyan education system the Ministry of Higher Education is responsible for overseeing
the policy issues in the universities. Under the ministry of education there is the Commission
of Higher Education which is the regulatory organ of the government licensing and regulating
the operations of higher Education. Commission for Higher Education was established in
1985 by an act of parliament, the Universities Act (Cap. 210B) of 1985 to oversee the
accreditation and quality assurances of university education in Kenya. As at March 2011,
Kenya had seven public universities, fifteen public/constituent colleges and twenty four fully
chartered private universities. In addition, over ten private universities had a letter of interim
authority from the Kenya government through the Commission for Higher Education. The
estimated number of enrolled university students in the universities then stood at about
110,000 of which 85% are enrolled in public universities, and the rest private universities
Universities and education sector in general are experiencing increased use of information
systems in an attempt to harness the benefits which come with the new technologies.
According to Chumo, Muumbo and Korir (2011) Kenyan university face various challenges
in adopting and using ICTs leave alone strategic alignment. These challenges include; high
cost of deploying the technologies, lack of ICT Institutional Strategies and Policies, lack of
technical skills and cultural issues such as resistance to change
Despite the challenges, universities have been investing in ICTs for administrative, teaching,
research, communication, and networking purposes. There have also been many initiatives
aimed at coordinated harnessing benefits of ICTs. Kenya Education Network (KENET)
which is a trust aimed at bringing Higher Education Institutions and other education
institutions together in bargaining for services like the internet bandwidth has yielded good
result with most of the universities using the facility (Chumo, Muumbo and Korir, 2011).
Generally strategic alignment in academic institutions is more complex considering the
diverse nature of organizational structure and operational activities ranging from academic
(research, teaching etc.) to administrative (e.g. human resource, finance etc.) thus there is a
difference in business dynamics. It is therefore interesting to study how universities
strategically align IS and business to achieve optimal benefits and competitive advantage
from IS investments and how IS project implementation is carried out and its relationship
with the overall organization strategic alignment
1.2 Problem Statement
The process of achieving strategic alignment requires information systems strategic planning
to ensure that the IS investments are in congruence and support the overall organizations
strategies. Most of the research studies on strategic alignment have mainly been concentrated
on strategic level of an organization through interview of corporate or strategic management
members to establish maturity level of the strategic alignment in an organization (Lycett et
al., 2004; Srivannaboon, 2006). This does not provide the detailed reasons of the alignment
level of an organization since it does not consider the factors contributed at the strategy
implementation level. Suer and Reich (2009) found out that there is a complex relationship
between strategy formulation at the corporate level and strategy implementation at the IS
projects level. It is therefore important to consider strategic alignment practices at both
corporate and IS project implementation level in order to understand the overall organization
Despite several proposition of strategic alignment theories and approaches by practitioners
and researchers, there has been no solution to the complexity of alignment which is still
ranked highly as a concern by organizations (Weiss & Thorogood, 2006). Moreover there is
limited research directed towards understanding and establishing alignment practice in
organizations especially in developing countries. The outcome of this study in terms of theory
and empirically is expected to contribute to both academic and practitioner field.
This research is aimed at exploring how universities in Kenya are practicing strategic
alignment by identifying strategic alignment factors at both corporate level (IS strategy
formulation) and project level (IS strategy implementation), proposing a framework which
can be used to assess the practice of strategic alignment in an organization at both levels and
establishing the relationship between alignment at project level and corporate level.
The main research question therefore is ‘How strategic alignment is practiced at strategic
and IS project level in Kenyan universities?’
1.3 Research Objectives
To achieve the above stated aim the following objectives are set;
a) Develop a strategic alignment assessment approach to enable understanding of
strategic alignment practices in organizations at corporate and project level.
b)a) Use the developed strategic alignment assessment approach to Aassess
strategic alignment at both corporate level and IS project levels in Kenyan universities
using an appropriate conceptual framework.
c) Establish the causes of low and high alignment levels of factors at each level and the
challenges of attaining higher level of alignment.
d)b) Establish and explain the relationship between alignment at corporate and IS
project levels in an organization.
e)c)Determine the relationship between project management practices and the strategic
alignment in an organization. ???
f)d)Review the significance relevance of the strategic alignment assessment approach
based on the findings and make proposals for an appropriate IS strategic alignment
1.4 Significance and expected outcome of the research
This study will enable the understanding of the strategic alignment practices in Kenyan
universities and by extension strategic alignment practices of universities in developing
countries. Most of the earlier researches of strategic alignment have evaluated strategic
alignment by considering views from the senior management of organizations who are
mainly involved in the strategic decision making/planning without looking at views of
operational staff who are involved in the implementation of the strategic decisions. This point
of view does not give a complete picture of the strategic alignment practice in an
organization, since it lacks the complete picture of the organization. Majority of the studies
have also considered a cross sectional interview of senior management of organizations from
various sectors through a survey by evaluating the alignment maturity level of the factors
There is limited research focusing on comprehensive evaluation of strategic alignment at all
organization levels and with focus on a particular industry. This research is aimed at
understanding strategic alignment practices in organizations by evaluating the practices at
strategic level and at IS project level by considering information systems project
Strategic alignment has been found to contribute immensely to achieving value for
information system investments. The study is expected to provide useful information to
organizations on the factors which are important in achieving strategic alignment and their
relationship. These findings are important to university management and information system
project managers especially those who are involved in the strategic decision making and ICT
management. This study will also contribute to the literature on the practice of strategic
alignment, especially in the university sector since it will carry out a detailed analysis.
Additionally the study will contribute to the understanding of the importance of linking
strategic level and the IS project level in achieving strategic alignment in an organization.
To achieve the above aims the research is expected to come up with the following outcomes: Comment [TW1]: Are these really outcomes.
Some of them look like activities. You need to think
a) Suitable factors and framework for assessing strategic alignment in an organization at more carefully about the outcomes of your study
and explain who would find these outcomes useful
both strategic level and IS project implementation with a focus on the universities in (significance of the study)
b) Comparative analysis of alignment maturity levels of the identified strategic
alignment factors at corporate level and IS project level
c) Comparative analysis of maturity levels of the strategic alignment factors for the IS
and business units at the IS project level and the corporate level. Comment [TW2]: What is the difference
between b) and c)?
d) Comparative analysis of maturity levels of factors across the cases or cross case
e) Discrepancies and the causes in maturity levels of factors among the respondents at IS
corporate level and IS project level
f) Discrepancies and the causes in maturity levels of factors among the respondents at IS
and business unit at the IS project and corporate level
g) Discrepancy and the causes in maturity level of the factors across the cases.
1.5 Research Limitations and Delimitations
This study is confined to selected universities in Kenya which have implemented information
systems. The assessment will cover the participants in the management level who are
involved in the decision making regarding choice and implementation of the information
systems and project level consisting of the participants who are actually involved in the
implementation of the information system.
The fact that this study is limited to a number of universities and selected information
systems might affect the generalizability of the findings regarding the strategic alignment
practices of Kenyan universities and universities in general. Regarding methodological
limitations we expect to face challenges when dealing with participants from different
organizational levels and the different backgrounds in both business and IS.
In the study literature there is a serious issue on the varied use of terminologies. It is therefore
paramount to give working definitions of some of the key terminologies which are used in
this research. In this study there are terminologies in literature that have been used by the
researchers to mean the same thing according to their study, but otherwise their meanings are
Information Technology (IT), Information and Communication Technology (ICT),
Information Systems (IS) have been used interchangeably to mean the same by
authors referenced in this study.
Strategic Alignment, IT/IS-Business Alignment and IT/IS Strategic Alignment have
also been used interchangeably and in some studies just alignment in some of the
We shall first attempt to define our understanding of these terminologies based on the
previous researches and narrow down to a working definition in our research project;
1.6.1 Information Technology
Information Technology includes hardware, software and telecommunication equipment that
is used to capture, process, store and distribute information. Information Technology is a
collective term that represents the means by which data, information and knowledge are
captured, processed, communicated and stored. (Ref)
1.6.2 Information Systems
An information system is defined as a socio-technical system comprised of two sub-systems:
a technical sub-system and a social sub-system. The technical sub-system encompasses the
technology and process components, while the social sub-system encompasses the people and
structure components. An organization’s Information System(s) is that combination of
resources consisting of Information Technology, Human and Organizational resources
organized in such a manner that they are directed towards achieving a given set of objectives.
‘Information System is what emerges from the usage and adaptation of the information
technology and the formal and informal process by all its users’ (Paul, 2002, p.194).
From the above definitions it is clear then that Information Technology is a subset of
Information System and thus unless otherwise stated, the term Information Systems (IS) will
be used by default in this thesis and assumed to have the above definition.
Definition of the term strategy will vary depending on the context. According to Mintzberg
and Quinn (1991) strategy is the pattern or plan that integrates an organization’s major goals,
policies, and action sequence into a chosen whole. Porter & Millar (2001) defines strategy as
the act of aligning a company and its environment as well as the firm’s own capabilities in an
attempt to maintaining a dynamic balance.
1.6.4 Strategic Information System Planning (SISP)
Refers to the organizations endeavor in coming up with a strategy to balance the capacity and
capability of information, systems and information systems, and the goals, aspirations and
objectives of the business. This can be achieved by aligning the IS demand to the business
strategy and, at the same time, searching for opportunities for IS to improve the overall
competitiveness of the business (Peppard & Ward, 2004).
The term alignment arises from the idea that organizations should strive to match, align, or fit
the organizational resources to the competitive context in which the organization operate
(Andrews, 1971; Chandler, 1962; Venkatraman and Camillus, 1984). Generally alignment
can be defined as the degree to which the needs, demands, goals, objectives, and/or structure
of one component are consistent with the needs, demands, goals, objectives and/or structure
of another component. (Nadler and Tushman, 1980, p. 40).
1.6.6 Strategic Level and Project Level
Conventionally organization levels are divided into strategic, tactical and operational.
Organizations strategies aimed at supporting the achievement of the organization’s
competitive strategy (Milesevic, 2003) are formulated at the corporate level and the
implementation is done through projects which are implemented at tactical and operational
levels. Projects are basic building blocks of organizational strategy and their implementation
and management impacts the achievement of the organizational strategy.
Aligning project implementation and management to business strategy is important in
achieving organizations strategic objectives; however there are challenges because objectives
of corporate strategy are not always well communicated and consistent with the project
implementation. This has resulted in the implementation of projects which are not consistent
with the original organizational strategies formulated by the executives at the corporate level
without involvement of the project managers at the tactical and operational level.
Corporate Level Comment [TW3]: You also refer to this as
Refers to the organization level where the strategic decisions of an organization are made.
This level is made up of the board members, directors, the CEO and senior management
whose role is to steer the organization
Project Level Comment [TW4]: You also refer to this as
operational of implementation level. Where is
This refers to organization level where the decisions made at the corporate level are tactical level in all this?
implemented. Projects of an organization including the IS projects are implemented by the
technical staff who are mainly found at the traditional tactical and operational levels of an
2.0 Literature Review
This chapter will review literature related to strategic alignment starting with a review of
earlier theories, models and frameworks of strategic alignment, an overview of the approach
to the assessment of strategic alignment in organizations at corporate level and project
management. The aim is to understand how researchers and industry players have dealt with
research in this area and eventually advance a proposition based on identified gaps.
2.2 Review of Strategic Alignment Studies
Defining strategic alignment is challenging considering varied terminologies which have
been used by different researchers. Some of the prominent terminologies which have been
used to represent alignment include ; integration (Weill and Broadbend, 1988); fit (Porter,
1996); strategic alignment (Henderson and Venkatraman, 1993); harmony (Luftman, 1996);
bridge (Ciborra, 1997); fusion (Smaczny, 2001); IS alignment (Chan et al., 2006; Benbya and
McKelvey, 2006) business-IT alignment (Luftman, 2007a); and IT alignment (Chan, 2007).
Strategic alignment examines the link between IT strategy and organizational strategy
(Sabherwal & Chan, 2001). It is therefore important to understand the constructs which
define strategic alignment in order to understand its practice.
Different researches have offered different perspectives of strategic alignment. According to
Chan (2002) we can roughly distinguish two prevailing conceptualizations of the alignment
problem. The first one, based on the work of Reich & Benbasat (1996), focuses on planning
and objectives integration. Reich and Benbasat view alignment as the degree to which the IS
mission, objectives and plans support and are supported by the business mission, objectives
and plans. Kearns & Lederer (2000) follow this vision by arguing that by aligning the IS plan
and business plan, information resources support business objectives and take advantage of
opportunities for strategic use of information systems.
The second conceptualization, based on Henderson & Venkatraman (1999), take a more
holistic view on alignment by defining four domains that need attention. They include
business strategy, IS strategy, business infrastructure and processes, and IS infrastructure and
processes. For each of these domains they identified constituent components comprising of;
scope, competencies, governance, infrastructure, processes and skills. Maes (2000) further
refined this framework by splitting it up into a business, information/communication and
technology column, and a strategy, structure and operations row. This stream of research
identifies more alignment components thus increasing both the complexity and the richness
of the concept of alignment. This research takes into consideration the two conceptualizations
by considering the planning and objective integration together with the attention on the four
domains in the understanding of the strategic alignment in organizations.
Strategic alignment literature looks at the functioning of an organization from two opposite
perspectives (Cumps et al., 2007). The first approach examines the strategies, structures and
planning methodologies in organizations and perceives organizations as formal, corporate
entities, which can be engineered and lacking personalities. The second explores the actors in
organizations, examining the values, communications with each other and the understanding
of each other’s domains and perceive organizations as social systems of interrelated elements
(Ciborra, 1997; Maes, Rijsenbrij & Truijens, 2000). We consider the two perspectives
important in understanding strategic alignment practices in organizations.
Chan (2002) emphasized the importance of informal elements in achieving long term
strategic alignment with the argument that informal elements such as trust, communication,
culture and social bonds allows the organization to respond quickly to internal and external
shocks and to continue to excel while more formal strategies and structures need more time.
This is also supported by Reich & Benbasat (2000) who concludes that investment in
informal aspects of alignment are more lasting than formal alignment aspects. Since both
formal and informal factors affect alignment we consider them important.
Another aspect of contention in the study of alignment is whether alignment should be
studied as a process or an outcome (Avison, et al., 2004). There are studies which
conceptualize alignment as an outcome of a process rather than a process (Reich & Benbasat,
2000; Bergeron, Raymond & Rivard, 2004). Others view alignment as a continuous process
involving constant balancing act (Maes, Rijsenbrij and Truijens, 2000; Chan, 2002).
According to Chan & Reich (2007), factors that contribute to strategic alignment can be
divided into two groups namely background factors such as corporate culture and prior
experience with IT, and foreground factors that are visible actions of the organization that
influence alignment. Alignment is a dynamic and continuous process in an organization and
in order to understand strategic alignment we shall consider it as a process and it is necessary
to evaluate its practice across the organization at the corporate level where strategy is
formulated and at the project level where the strategy is implemented.
Another important contribution in the study of strategic alignment is the review of potential
inhibitors and enablers of achieving strategic alignment which was carried out by Luftman et
al., (1999). The study suggested that to improve IS and Business alignment, organizations
need to focus on activities which should be done or not done to achieve its goals. The
identified enablers and inhibitors of alignment are shown in table 2-1.
Table: 2-1: Inhibitors and enablers of IT-Business Alignment
Senior Executives Support for IT IT/Business lack close relationship
IT involved in strategy development IT does not prioritize well
IT understand the business IT fails to meet its commitments
Business IT partnership IT does not understand business
Well-prioritized IT projects Senior executives do not support IT
IT demonstrates leadership IT management lacks leadership
Adopted from (Luftman et al., 1999) Formatted: Danish (Denmark)
Field Code Changed
2.3 Strategic Alignment Models Formatted: Danish (Denmark)
Formatted: Danish (Denmark)
This section focuses on immediate discipline theories by reviewing literature in the research
problem domain area. Strategic alignment studies dates back to 1980s with a study research
conducted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Scott Morton (1991) aimed at
understanding the strategic power of IT (figure 2-2). It came up with what is popularly known
as the MIT model which argues that revolutionary change involving IT investment can bring
about substantial rewards as long as the key elements of strategy, technology, structure,
management processes and individuals and roles are kept in alignment. The following is a
review of some of the key theories and frameworks in the strategic alignment field which
shall guide this study.
Figure 2-2: MIT Strategic Change
Strategy Management Technology
Roles Organizational Boundary
Adapted from Scott Morton 1991
We shall start by reviewing strategic Alignment Model (SAM) by Luftman followed by other
developed frameworks which are either extension of SAM or with different perspectives.
a) Strategic Alignment Model (SAM)
One of the widely cited models in strategic alignment studies is the Strategic Alignment
Model (SAM) which was advanced by Henderson & Venkatraman (1999) with a borrowing
from MIT research. The SAM is based on four related key domains of strategic choice,
namely business strategy, organizational infrastructure and processes, IT strategy, and IT
infrastructure and processes (see Figure 2-3).
Figure 2-3: Strategic Alignment Model
Business Strategy IS Strategy
Distinctive Business Systemic I/T
Competencie Governan Competenc Governan
s ce es ce
STRATEGIC FIT Automation Linkages
Processes Skills Processes Skills
Organizational Infrastructure & Processes IS Infrastructure & Processes
Business FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION Information Systems
Source: Adapted from Henderson & Venkatraman (1999)
The SAM identifies four key factors to be considered and prescribes certain alternatives and
approaches which requires the organization to define in order to transform the internal
organization structures and processes. The SAM is conceptualized in terms of two
fundamental characteristics of strategic management called strategic fit and functional
integration. Strategic fit is the vertical linkage (the interrelationships between external and
internal domains) in the model and refers to the use of strategy to determine the infrastructure
of the business whereas functional integration (integration between business and technology
domains) refers to linkage between information technology and the business and determines
the ability of the business to successfully position itself by leveraging the use of information
technology. These linkages are necessary since all the quadrants and components have to
work as a whole unit to bring about competitive advantage and maximize the value of
information technology (Henderson & Venkatraman, 1999; Papp, 2004).
There are eight different alignment perspectives resulting from simultaneous assessment of
strategic fit and functional integration that are formed from the different quadrant
combinations of the strategic alignment model. These perspectives are constructed in a type
of triangular format based on that simultaneous assessment. Every perspective is made up of
three items that are simply designations for the quadrant and how it is affected in that
particular assessment (Luftman, 1996).
b) Other related Strategic Alignment Models
Various other studies have led to emergence of models of strategic alignment which are either
extension on the SAM or arguments to criticize or reinforce the SAM. It was necessary to
review and appreciate their contributions to strategic alignment research.
Maes, Rijsenbrij & Truijens (2000) presented a generic framework derived from extending
the Henderson & Venkatraman (1999) SAM horizontally and vertically to create extra
column and row respectively. Vertically structural and operational levels are created and
horizontally a middle column called communication is created. This extended model thus
creates three levels in an organization; the strategic level to address higher level strategic
issues, the structural level which explains the resource and core competence and the
operational level dealing with skills and processes. Communication column caters for use and
sharing of internal and external information which is necessary for alignment to occur. Maes,
Rijsenbrij & Truijens (2000) further redefined alignment as a continuous process that
involves management and design problem. The proposed model has three dimensions of main
architecture (horizontal), design phases (vertical), and specific architectural viewpoints
(depth). The main architecture includes business processes, information provision,
information systems, and technology infrastructure. The design phase includes the contextual,
conceptual, logical, physical, and transformation phases. The authors regard their framework
as a design tool to enable management position and inter-relate different types of IS in order
to achieve alignment.
Figure 2-4: Maes Generic Framework
Adopted from Maes, Rijsenbrij & Truijens (2000) Comment [TW5]: Why does this figure details
Goedvolk et al. (1997, 2000) extend the SAM model by focusing on technical and
architectural requirements by reviewing the development of information communication
technologies (ICTs). The authors cite important ICT trends such as the global infrastructure,
the communications power, and the increasing reality of digital information, knowledge
creation and exchanging, and the emergence of a virtual world. Goedvolk further developed a
framework called integrated architecture framework (IAF) that focuses on the architectural
side of SAM and aims at integrating the architectural design of business and IT and is an
expansion of Maes’ idea on internal information requirements through adding an additional
column, separating the information providers from the systems that provide the information.
The new information domain represents the knowledge, communication and co-ordination of
information. It also adds a third dimension to the model, which contains specific sub-
architecture areas. These prescribe the design of organizational aspects that are the
consequence of the introduction of an information system.
Baets (1992) developed a model of alignment adapted from the alignment models of
MacDonald (1991) and the enterprise wide information model (Parker et al., 1988). Like the
SAM model, it depicts the interaction of business strategy, organizational infrastructure and
processes, IS infrastructure and processes, and IT strategy. Baets’s model (figure 2-5) also
recognizes that alignment takes place in a broader context and incorporates factors such as
competition, organizational change and human resource issues, the global IT platform, and IS
implementation processes. Baet’s model does challenge a SAM assumption of participant
awareness of the economic environment and the corporate strategy. He argues that in most
organizations, there is no monolithic, widely accepted strategy and further, that most
organizational members do not know the strategy. The model is therefore an alternative
approach to IS and business strategy alignment, based on the observation that corporate
strategy is either unknown or not easily adaptable once it is fixed. The proposed approach is
based on the current theoretical concepts in information management, linking them in a
framework and integrating the process of corporate strategy definition with the process of IS
Figure 2-5: Baets Model
Impact IT Strategy Global IT
Business Strategy Technology
Strategic Plan Opportunities
Business Organization Alignment Opportunity
Organizational IS Infrastructure and
Infrastructure & Process
Processes IS architecture
Change and Business Organization Alignment Organization
Human Resource and process IS Implementation,
Issues process, tools….
Adopted from Baets W., 1992
Generally, organizations are skeptical of the benefits of IS investment owing to its difficulties
in achieving tangible benefits (Weill and Broadbend, 1998), however there is evidence that
corporations with clear strategic goals for IT achieve higher levels of strategic alignment,
therefore higher IS business value (Tallon et al., 2000; Tallon and Kraemer, 2003). Tallon et
al research focused on the alignment analysis at process level to gain a deeper insight as
compared to other researches on firm’s level. Tallon and Kraemer also found that there is an
alignment paradox and that strategic alignment can improve the business value of IS but
highly tight strategies between IS and business strategy could prevent organizations from the
flexibility required to react in a dynamic environment. Thus, the business value of IS depends
on the organization flexibility to link its strategic process with the IT strategic process.
Kearns and Lederer (2000) argues that alignment of the information systems plan with the
business plan (ISP-BP) is as important as the reciprocal alignment of business plan and IS
plan (BP-ISP). They also argued that organizations that only aligned ISP to BP and failed to
do the reciprocal alignment failed to gain the competitive advantage. This has also been
supported by research by Sabherwal and Chan (2001)
Basir & Yusop (2006) used Structural Equation Modeling to make a comparison of two
Strategic Alignment Models to determine their suitability in assessing alignment. The first
model is the well-known Strategic Alignment Maturity Assessment Model (SAMM) by
Luftman (2000) which was developed for commercial organizations, and the second model
was a Strategic Alignment Model (SAM) by Motjolopane & Brown (2004) that was
developed for Public Institutions of Higher Learning (PIHL) in South Africa. The study
found out that though the two models were applicable in the Malaysian Public Institutions of
Higher Learning (MPIHL), the SAMM by Luftman (2000) was more suitable for the context
under study. The study also came up with an alternative model based on the combination of
Avison et al. (2004) carried out an empirical research using completed projects to determine
the degree of alignment between business and IT strategies by modifying SAM by Henderson
and Venkatraman and analyzing IT projects data instead of collecting the executive’s
perception. This approach emphasizes the relevance of having clear business goals and a
prioritization process to align the IT projects to the organizational goals. This forms a
practical approach of examining the current alignment and can also be used to monitor and
track alignment in a flexible way by re-allocating project resources when strategy changes or
if the project is not more aligned with the strategy. However the matching of project process
to identify the alignment perspective the organization follows is considered by the author as
not conclusive. In addition, the assessment results do not help to identify details of those
areas that need improvement in terms of strategic alignment.
A review of strategic alignment literature reveals that most of the studies on strategic
alignment in organizations refer to Strategic Alignment Model (SAM) advanced by
Henderson & Venkatraman (1999). However SAM and other models which follow are
mostly conceptual and theoretical in nature except the research by Avison et al. (2004) which
is empirical and attempts to operationalize the strategic alignment framework though the
results were not conclusive. Therefore we can conclude that there has been no much
empirical research and operationalization of strategic alignment since most of the models are
conceptual and lack constructs which are measurable.
According Burn and Szeto (2000) the model’s applicability may vary depending on how IT
intensive an industry is since the assumptions of the SAM model may not hold. Therefore
there is need to critically review each industry critically to understand strategic alignment
factors in a particular industry.
Ciborra (1997, 2000) criticize SAM as too theoretical, rigid and limiting in a constantly
changing environment and views IS and IT as social disciplines rather than scientific
disciplines, and claim that alignment is a dynamic process.
We can therefore observe that SAM does not provide guidelines on how to identify strategic
alignment factors and how to achieve and improve on strategic alignment. The next chapter
will look at some of the approaches which have been proposed and used to assess strategic
alignment practices in organizations
2.4 Alignment Assessment Approaches
To understand how organizations practice strategic alignment it is necessary to carry out an
assessment of their approaches in achieving strategic alignment. This is done by identifying a
framework which best represents the factors involved in strategic alignment and establishing
2.4.1 Antecedent Alignment Assessment Approaches
Various researchers have carried out studies aimed at establishing components of strategic
alignment, their relationship and its impact on the organization. One of the earlier researches
was a research aimed at constructing an assessment instrument for SMEs by Cragg (1996)
using a combination of Venkatraman’s instrument called STROBE (Strategic Alignment of
Business Enterprises) to conceptualize business strategy and Chan’s STROIS (Strategic
Alignment of IS) instrument to conceptualize the IT strategy produced a positive yield but
required more empirical research. Papp (2005) developed a web based tool utilizing the
concepts of Henderson and Venkatraman’s strategic alignment model (SAM), and suggested
that strategic alignment could be achieved by selecting appropriate alignment perspective.
However, the tool does not give any guideline in determining the right perspective and
therefore empirically not viable.
In order to assess strategic alignment, it is important to understand how organizational
strategic goals are achieved and how investments in IS contribute to the achievement.
Martinson (1992) suggested framework called balanced IS scorecard with four perspectives
to explain the balanced IS scorecard borrowing from the BSC framework (Kaplan and
Norton, 1996, 2003). The four perspectives are user orientation, business value, internal
processes, and future readiness. Corporate contribution perspective evaluates the
performance of the IS from the viewpoint of executive management. The customer (User)
orientation perspective evaluates the performance of IS from the viewpoint of internal
business users. The operational excellence (internal Process) perspective evaluates the
performance of the IS processes from the viewpoint of IS management and the future
readiness perspective shows the readiness for future challenges of the IS organization itself.
Therefore BSC framework can be used for the management of the integration of IT strategy
and business strategy. However BSC framework serves as a mechanism of achieving
strategic alignment and it is more of an internal performance management tool and does not
consider the external environment therefore it is not suitable for assessing strategic alignment
in an organization.
As presented earlier Avison et al. (2004) used SAM by Henderson and Venkatraman
approach to develop a framework for determining and tracking alignment by utilized outcome
of completed projects to determine degree of alignment between business and IT strategies.
However this approach was inconclusive and could not help identify areas that required
improvement since its main aim was to assess strategic direction rather than assess the IT
Sledgianowski et al. (2006) developed and validated an instrument to measure IT business
strategic alignment based on Luftman’s Strategic Alignment Maturity Model (SAMM) and
concluded that the tool is useful to organizations as it enables assessment of the current
strategic alignment maturity and enables formulation of ways of improving it by
implementing best practices from more mature levels provided in the instrument. They also
recommended further research of strategic alignment practices at operational level.
Gutierrez and Serrano (2008) using Luftman’s SAMM developed a framework to assess
strategic alignment across all the organization’s levels. The results showed that there is
varied alignment levels for different IS projects and proposed carrying out alignment
assessment for each IS project independently and summing up to come up with the overall
alignment level for the organization.
Gutierrez et al. (2009) carried out a comparative study of the antecedents of IS alignment and
found out that among the existing strategic alignment assessment approaches Strategic
Alignment Maturity Model (SAMM) was the most suitable. They argued that SAMM is
developed from the Strategic Alignment Model (SAM) by Henderson and Venkatraman
(1999) which is the most agreed basic model of strategic alignment and that it facilitates
connection between theoretical knowledge and practical actions in both strategy formulation
and strategy implementation.
Initial SAMM by Luftman (2000) indicate that each of the strategic alignment factors
consisting of Communication, IT Value, IT Governance, Partnership, Scope and Architecture
and Human Resource Skills carry out equal impact in determining the strategic alignment
maturity of an organization. However further researches have shown that the different
components of the strategic alignment have different impacts and relationships. Gutierrez
(2009) for instance found out that IT governance can improve the rest of the alignment
factors and that Business IS planning integration is precondition for factor relevance.
This research therefore carries out further review of Strategic Alignment Maturity Model to
understand its constructs and how it can be applied to assess strategic alignment in an
organization at corporate and IS project implementation level.
Strategic Alignment Maturity Model (SAMM) Assessment Framework
Strategic Alignment Maturity Model (SAMM) which was developed by Luftman (2000) was
preceded by earlier research (Luftman, 1996) which resulted in identification of enablers and
inhibitors of alignment and the conclusion that the harmony between the twelve components
of the strategic alignment framework is impacted by the following six factors namely;
communication, measurements, governance, partnership, scope and architecture, skills
(Figure 2-6). Luftman (2000) argues that in the increasingly competitive global market,
organizations success depends on the four categories that make up the twelve components of
alignment working in harmony and that the relationship between the twelve components
defines strategic alignment.
Figure 2-7 Factors that impact the components of SAM
Source: Adopted from Gutierrez and Serrano (2008)
For each of the six factors, there are attributes (figure 2-7) that determine the level of
maturity of each of the factor and eventually the maturity level of the organization. The
SAMM alignment assessment approach can be extended to different organizational levels
though it has been mainly used at strategic level at large organizations.
Figure 2-8: Strategic Alignment Maturity Factors and associated attributes
Communication Understanding of business by IT
The exchange of ideas, knowledge and Understanding of IT by business
information among the IS and business Inter/Intra-organisational learning
managers, enabling both to have a clear Protocol rigidity (understanding and ease
understanding of the organisation’s strategies, of access).
business and IS environments including Knowledge sharing (Leveraging
communication with consultants, vendors and intellectual Assets).
partners and dissemination of organizations’
learning internally. Liaison(s) effectiveness (IT-Business
IT Value IT metrics
The measurement of the organization Business metrics
performance and value of its projects. Integrated Business and IT metrics (links
Evaluation of completed projects to between IT and business metrics)
determine the success and failure factors and Service level agreements
how to improve internal structures to ensure
Formal assessment/reviews of IT
future success of projects.
Continuous improvement practices
IT Governance Business strategic planning
The degree to which the authority for making IT strategic planning
IS decisions is defined and shared among IT Reporting & organisation structure
management. Determine whether projects IT Budgetary control
being undertaken are based on the IT investment management
understanding of the business strategy. IT Steering committee(s)
IT Prioritisation process
Partnership Business perception of IT value
The relationship among the business and IS Role of IT in strategic business planning
managers. It includes IS involvement in Shared goals, risks, rewards /penalties
defining business strategies, the degree of IT program management
trust between IS and business managers and Relationship/trust style
how each perceives the contribution of the Business sponsor/champion
Scope & Architecture Traditional, enables/driver, external
How organisation’s infrastructure, change IT standards articulation and compliance
readiness, flexibility in structure and the Architectural integration
management of emerging innovations are Architectural transparency to change
coordinated to enable business growth. IT Infrastructure flexibility
Managing emerging technology
Human Resources Skills Innovation, entrepreneurship
Human resource considerations for training, environment
performance feedback, encouraging Cultural locus of power
innovation and providing career Management style
opportunities. It also includes an Change readiness
organisation’s readiness for IT change, Career crossover
capability for learning and ability to leverage Education, cross-training
Social, political, trusting environment
Attract and retain talent
Source: Adapted from Luftman, 2000
The alignment maturity level of an organization is determined by the management practices
and strategic IT decisions within an organization based on the above six alignment maturity
factors. The five possible alignment maturity levels shown in figure 2-8 are defined below;
1. Initial or Ad Hoc Process: Business and IT are not aligned or harmonized.
2. Committed Process: The organization has committed to becoming aligned.
3. Established Focused Process: Strategic Alignment Maturity is established and focused
on business objectives. There are established processes (such as a systems steering
committee), and activities (such as portfolio management capabilities to evaluate IT
investments) to realize strategic alignment.
4. Improved or Managed Process: IT has been reinforced as a value center. IT
applications are leveraged across the enterprise to drive process enhancements that
sustain competitive advantage.
5. Optimized Process: The organization has integrated business and IT strategic
Figure 2-9: Strategic Alignment Maturity Level Summary
Source: Adopted from Luftman, 2000
The Luftman’s SAMM assessment process considers six factors (communication,
measurement, governance, partnership, technology scope, and skill) to assess alignment
maturity in any organization as well as to achieve and maintain such maturity alignment. This
approach for assessing, achieving and maintaining alignment suggest a dynamic paradigm
process to understand alignment (Gutierrez, Orozco & Serrano, 2006). Maturity assessment is
based on the popular work done by the Software Engineering Institute (Humphrey 1988), and
an evolution of the Nolan and Gibson stages of growth (Nolan 1979). The five levels of
maturity are attained through the assessment of the qualities of the attributes associated with
Strategic alignment levels as depicted in figure 2-8 can be compared to the Maslow’s
hierarchy of needs since for an organization to move to a higher level it must have fulfilled
the requirements of the preceding lower level.
Figure 2-10: Convergence of Strategic Alignment gaps
Strategy Level 3 Strategy
Source: Adopted from Luftman, 2000
As an organization moves from level one of the strategic alignment maturity, which is the
initial level, the gap between IT/IS strategy and business strategy continues to shrink until the
top most level of optimized process where an organization has an integrated Business and IT
strategic planning and alignment convergence is achieved.
2.4.2 Alignment Assessment incorporating IS Project Implementation Level
For a long period of time organizations structures were designed for regular operations,
however changes in environment has resulted in organizations adopting project oriented
structures. This implies that organizations employ and manage projects targeted at achieving
the set objectives and goals. Project management has therefore become an important
component in organization management.
Project management is a specialized form of management, similar to other functional
strategies, that is used to accomplish a set of business goals, strategies, and work tasks within
planned budget (Srivannaboon, 2006). Organizations which align their projects to their
business strategy achieve their organizational objectives and goals by treating projects as a
functional strategy and aligning with business strategy. Project management is a support of
the execution of an organization’s competitive strategy to deliver a desired objective
Information System projects like any other projects have to be aligned to the corporate
strategy in order to realize the desired benefits from the IS project investment. To improve
the probability of project success, companies are recognizing project management as a key
business process that enables them to implement value delivery systems so that when they
link their projects to their business strategy, they are better able to accomplish their
organizational goals (Milosevic & Srivannaboon, 2006). Strategic alignment at the project
management level is considered as a function within an organization aimed at fusing projects
to derive synergy and develop an efficient system (Aubry, Hobbs, & Thuillier, 2007)
Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project
activities to meet project requirements (PMI, 2008). Organizations monitor their project
management progress by assessment which involves looking at each of the project
management knowledge areas and project implementation process. The results of project
management assessment enable managers to set goals and prioritize the areas that require
improvement. It also provides the baseline from which the organization can track the progress
made towards achieving its goals.
Project Management Assessment
One of the ways of assessing the project management is establishing the maturity of the
project. There are various maturity models in use currently all with the same approach of
categorising the maturity of a project management into five stages. Maturity models provide
an assessment framework that enables an organization to compare its project delivery with
best practices or against competitors, and ultimately defining a structural route to
improvement (Korbel & Benedict, n.d.). Project management maturity assessment is an
effective method for establishing a baseline and provides an impetus for organizational
change. The methodology allows for the setting of organizationally specific maturity goals
with the ability to implement improvements in a staged approach at a pace which is logical to
an organization. Research indicates that organizations that improve their project management
maturity experience improved return in investment and customer satisfaction (loader, 2006)
As stated there are several maturity models in use, but most common among them are the
Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3) developed by Project
Management Institute (PMI) and Project Management Maturity Model (PM3) developed by
Project Management (PM) Solutions. The maturity models utilize the Project Management
Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide in evaluating project management practices. PMBOK
is an inclusive guide that describes the sum of knowledge within the profession of project
management. There are nine knowledge areas that are divided into two main categories,
namely core functions (scope, time, cost and quality) and facilitating functions (human
resource, communication, risk and procurement) with integration management tying it all
together. The knowledge areas are subdivided into processes which are mapped onto the five Comment [TW6]: This mapping is not shown in
Fig 2.6!! These stages of PM should be outlined, and
process groups consisting of initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing. The if they are not part of Fig 2.6, their relationships to
Fig. 2.6 should be discussed.
model has five distinct levels of maturity patterned after the Software Engineering Institute
(SIE) Capability Maturity Model (Grant & Pennypacker, 2006).
Figure 2-6: PM Solutions’ Project Management Model
Adopted from PMI, 2008
The nine knowledge areas and their processes are listed below; Comment [TW7]: These knowledge areas have
some relationships with the 6 Luftman’s SAMM
Knowledge Areas Processes (Attributes constructs, esp. project scope management (scope),
project cost management (value), project HR
Project Integration Management Project plan development management (skills), and project communication
Project plan execution management (communication). In addition, the 5
stages of PMMM look like Luftman’s 5 SAMM
Change control stages. This begins to tell you that PMMM at the IS
Project information system project level is another framework of looking at
strategic alignment at IS project level. I will refer to
Project office this later.
Project Scope Management Business requirements definition
Technical requirements definition
Definition of work scope
Work breakdown structure
Project Time Management Activity definition
Project Cost Management Resource planning
Budgeting (creating budgets)
Project Quality management Planning
Project Human Resource Organizational planning
Management Staff Acquisition
Project Communication Management Communication planning
Issues tracking and management
Project Risk Management Risk identification
Qualitative and quantitative qualification
Control (risk management)
Project Procurement Management Procurement planning
Solicitation/ Source Selection
Based on the assessment of Project Management Maturity an organization can be placed in
one of the five categories. The categories which represent the maturity levels are outlined
At this level the organisation recognise projects and run them differently from its on-going
business (Projects may be run informally with no standard process or tracking system.)
At this level the organisation ensure that each project is run with its own processes and
procedures to a minimum specified standard (There may be limited consistency or co-
ordination between projects)
At this level the organisation have its own centrally controlled project processes, and
individual projects flex within these processes to suit the particular project
At this level the organisation obtain and retain specific measurements on its project
management performance and run a quality management organisation to better predict future
At this level the organisation run continuous process improvement with proactive problem
and technology management for projects in order to improve its ability to depict performance
over time and optimise processes.
In this chapter we have reviewed strategic alignment literature to understand the importance
of context under study, the relevant constructs in the strategic alignment assessment and
various approaches which have been used in attempt to understand strategic alignment in
organizations. From the various assessment models we have found out that the Luftman’s
Strategic Alignment Maturity Model (SAMM) assessment framework is the most suitable for
assessing alignment at the corporate level of an organization. The approaches which have
applied factors of SAMM to assess strategic alignment in organizations have mainly
concentrated on evaluating strategic alignment of the organization based on views of the
strategic level members of the organization. We have also seen one research which used
SAMM framework to assess strategic alignment by focusing on the entire organization
(strategic, tactical and operational) level (Gutierrez, et al., 2008)
This research will therefore adopt the same approach by using SAMM factors to assess the
strategic alignment maturity of the components in order to understand the strategic alignment
practice at the corporate level. This gives a view on how organizations plan for strategic
alignment, the underlying constructs and their relationship.
The same constructs derived from SAMM shall be used with variations to suit the IS project
level. Project management practices in the IS projects shall also be assessed to facilitate
understanding of alignment practices at the IS implementation level. The focus on both the
corporate level and project level is aimed at addressing the following;
Information system projects are conceived and planned at the corporate level but the
implementation is done at the tactical and operational level (project level) therefore
relevant constructs and their relationship for assessing strategic alignment at corporate
and project level will be identified (Lederer and Salmela, 1996; Campbell et al.,
Value of IS investments is achieved if IS project are successfully implemented and
therefore there is need to establish and understand the strategic alignment constructs
at project level.
High failure rates of IS projects has been attributed to lack of strategic alignment and
therefore identification of the strategic alignment constructs and their relationship is
important (Peppard et al., 2000; Taylor, 2000; Hartman and Ashrafi, 2004).
IS investments are made to support IS strategies which in turn are driven by business
strategy (Huang and Hu, 2004).
2.6 Conceptual Framework
A conceptual/theoretical framework is a plan which helps to develop testable hypothesis and
guides in establishing and keeping research within certain boundaries (Ref). Our review of
the strategic alignment literature identified various constructs/attributes which determine the
strategic alignment of an organization. The final model adopted based on the literature is
Strategic Alignment Maturity Model (SAMM), which has its components covering most of
the attributes which explain strategic alignment practices in an organization. The SAMM
components will be used to form an assessment tool to understand the practice of strategic
alignment in an organization. The assessment process will ensure the understanding of the
strategy formulation level and the strategy implementation level of an organization.
The strategic alignment assessment tool to be used to assess alignment at the corporate level
is the validated instrument developed by Sledgianowski et al. (2006) and based on
Luftman’s (2000) Strategic Alignment Maturity Model (SAMM). The same instrument shall
be used at the IS project level with adjustments to suit the context at this level. We shall also
introduce the elements of project management by assessing the project management practices
and then comparing with the strategic alignment. This will be achieved using an instrument
based on Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM).
Alignment at the corporate level and project level shall be established separately and then
compared to understand the overall organization alignment. To further understand the
variations in the factors and the respondents; organizational alignment profiles and project
management assessment shall be carried out for the corporate level and project level
respectively. The diagram below outlines the conceptual framework for understanding
strategic alignment practices in organizations through combined review of strategic alignment
at the corporate level and at the IS project level together with project management practices
at IS project implementation level.
1. Fig 2.11 is not explained. What does it mean? What kind of relationships do the Formatted: List Paragraph, Numbered +
Level: 1 + Numbering Style: 1, 2, 3, … + Start
arrows signify? How can it guide your research and the methodology? It might not be at: 1 + Alignment: Left + Aligned at: 0.25" +
Indent at: 0.5"
necessary you create a schematic diagram of your own.
2. Inclusion of project management concepts has complicated your study. There are
possible options, including:
a. Use PMMM to compliment IS project level strategic alignment. You can use Formatted: List Paragraph, Numbered +
Level: 2 + Numbering Style: a, b, c, … + Start
the concepts to customize the SAMM-based data collection tools at this level. at: 1 + Alignment: Left + Aligned at: 0.75" +
Indent at: 1"
b. Use SAMM and PMMM as two independent frameworks to analyze
alignment at the IS project level
c. You can think of others. But you must choose what to do with PMMM and
have a reasoned argument
Formatted: Font: (Default) Times New
Roman, 12 pt
Figure 2-11 Conceptual Framework for Strategic Alignment Assessment at Corporate and Formatted: List Paragraph
Project level of an organization
Corporate Level Alignment
Practices Organization Strategic
IS Projects Alignment Practices
Project Management Practices
3.0 Research Methodology
3.1 Research Paradigm and Theoretical Issues
This chapter will highlight steps which will be taken in choosing an appropriate research
paradigm for this study after literature review in Information Systems (IS) and considering
the research problem and objectives. Research in IS cuts across all the research paradigm of
positivist, interpretivist and pluralistic (multiple/mixed method) (Lee, 1991; Mingers, 2001).
To select an appropriate paradigm it is important to understand the underlying facts about the
research paradigms. According to Henning et al. (2004) a paradigm can be viewed as a
framework within which theories are developed and determine the perspective and
understanding of the world. Research paradigms are classified based on the following
The ontological view which looks at the nature and form of reality (conceptual);
The epistemological view which looks at nature and form of relationship between
researcher and the subject (philosophical) and;
The methodological view, which looks at how the researcher gather and analyze
information of the subject of study.
Positivism paradigm which has its origin in natural science describes a phenomenon as it is
manifested and does not question whether it exists or not. It relies mainly on quantitative data
such as secondary data, field experiments, case research and surveys. Interpretivism paradigm
on the other hand has its origin in social science and searches for meaning in social context
and does not assume the existence of relationships (Orlikowski and Baroudi, 1991). The
resultant interpretation is subjective and depends on the observer, thus making this paradigm
ideal for theory building as opposed to theory testing. Methods that take interpretivist
approach use qualitative data and include Ethnography, Case research, Hermeneutics among
others (Yin 2003). Pluralistic paradigm combines both the positivist and Interpretivist
paradigms appropriately to suite the study phenomenon in a different ways (Lee, 1991; Klein
et al., 1991).
IS research is by nature a pluralistic and therefore use of different approaches and methods is
appropriate and valid. Pluralism argues that it is the combined knowledge gained from using
a variety of research strategies that enables a truly full and rich body of knowledge on a
phenomenon to emerge (Cavaye, 1996). This research shall therefore adopt pluralistic/mixed
3.2 Research Design and Process
Research design is the logical sequence that links the empirical data to be collected to the
initial research problem of the study and to the conclusion. It provides a guideline on the
questions to study, the relevant data to collect and how to analyze the data (Phillober, Schwab
and Samsloss, 1980). The research methods adopted in this research is dictated by the
objectives of the study. Existing theory and research literature in strategic alignment reveals
there is no agreement on how to achieve strategic alignment in organizations;
there is limited studies on strategic alignment which is industry specific specifically in
the education (university) sector;
there is limited research focusing on establishing strategic alignment constructs at the
information system implementation (IS project) level and;
There is limited research focusing on the relationship between project management
and strategic alignment.
Based on the research objectives and above concerns a cross-sectional case study approach
shall be adopted to enable an understanding of strategic alignment practices by carrying out a
detailed study focusing on each of the cases in detail. Case study is a research strategy that
systematically investigates a phenomenon within its real life context (Yin 2003). It is
concerned with gaining deep insights into complex social and organizational processes
(Saunders et al., 2003). Case study consists of a case (subject) of inquiry which is an instance
of a class of phenomena that provides an analytical frame (object) within which the study is
conducted (Flyvbjerg, 2006).
According to Yin (2003) a case study design is ideal study approach in one or more of the
following conditions; the focus of the study is to answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions; the
behaviour of those involved in the study cannot be manipulated; the contextual conditions
cannot be covered because they are relevant to the phenomenon under study; and the
boundaries between the phenomenon and context are not clear. The multi-faceted nature of
case research means that case research is an appropriate strategy to investigate many issues,
from different epistemological standpoints, at various stages of knowledge, using various
The research process shall encompass three phases with each phase being related to the study
aim and objectives. A combination of both qualitative and quantitative methods and varied
data collection and analysis methods shall be used to understand the phenomenon under study
(Orlikowski and Baroudi; 1991, Mingers, 2001). The following are the envisaged research
approach and phases to be followed;
Phase One: Literature Review to identify appropriate Strategic Alignment Assessment
Framework and Research Methodology Comment [TW8]: This should be covered in LR
Literature review was carried out to understand the context of the research and narrow down
on the research objectives based on researches which have been done on the area of strategic
alignment and gaps arising. Following comparison of the various researches done on
assessment of strategic alignment as outlined in the literature review area, SAMM by
(Luftman, 2000) was identified as the suitable framework for assessing strategic alignment
practices. However the use of SAMM factors to assess strategic alignment has mainly been
restricted to corporate level. To further understand the practice of strategic alignment at the
project level during the project implementation strategic alignment at the IS project level
shall be carried out. Assessment of project management shall also be carried out at the IS
project level to further understand the impact of project management practices on the
strategic alignment at IS project level. The literature review and the objectives of the study
also enabled the identification of case study as an appropriate research approach for this study
since the research is aimed at investigating the strategic alignment practices in organization
(object) with a case study of Kenyan universities (subjects). It also allows the use of
pluralistic paradigm approach to critically evaluate the study area.
Phase Two: Data Collection
To enable data collection the identification of the appropriate units of analysis or cases shall
be carried out before the design of data collection instruments and the actual assessment to
determine the maturity levels is done.
a) Units of Analysis
As outlined by Yin (2003), replication guidelines shall be followed and the choice of a
case/unit of analysis will be guided by its representativeness and ability to address the
research objectives. A multiple embedded case design shall be adopted by choosing multiple
cases of analysis (4 universities) and within case sampling to identify IS projects and
participants. An embedded case study methodology provides a means of integrating
quantitative and qualitative methods into a single research study (Yin, 2003). Embedded case
study design is desirable in an empirical form of inquiry appropriate for descriptive studies
where the goal is to describe the features, context, and process of phenomenon. The units of
analysis shall therefore be the university with sub-units consisting of both the corporate level
and the IS project level. The sub-units within a case allows for detailed level of inquiry.
Corporate level of an organization is the top level where strategic decisions are made and the
corporate or the strategic planning of the organization is carried out. Project level for this
research refers to organization level where the strategy implementation takes place. This is
achieved through implementation of strategic project including IS projects which will
contribute to the achievement of the overall organization strategic objectives. The reasons
why we have recognised two levels in this research is that organizations normally formulate
strategies at the corporate level and the implementation of the same strategies takes place at
the project level and therefore the study of project management is important.
At the corporate level the target shall include the respondents from relevant university senior
management from IS unit and the respective sections/units/functions where the IS project has
been implemented. At the IS project level the target shall include key people who are
involved in the project implementation including IS technical staff and respective
department/section where the system is implementation.
b) Case Selection Criteria and process
In case study research, qualitative samples are designed to make possible analytic
generalizations (applied to wider theory on the basis of how selected cases with general
constructs), but not statistical generalizations (applied to wider populations on the basis of
representative statistical samples) (Tellis, 1997)
Choice of cases in case study focuses on how cases best represents and contributes to
answering research questions (Neuman, 2000). Case studies can be single or multiple case
designs, where a multiple design follows a replication rather than sampling logic (Yin, 2003).
Multiple cases strengthen the results by replicating the pattern matching, thus increasing
confidence in the robustness of the theory. This study shall use theoretical sampling from
population of universities in Kenya to come up with suitable case universities. Purposive
sampling will be used to make a choice of two IS projects from each of the four identified
universities. The IS projects shall therefore be chosen based on how best they can satisfy the
study by considering such factors as ease of access, similarities and possibility of achieving
representative samples which will allow generalization (Seawright & Gerring, 2008).
Our study scope will be limited to universities in Kenya and includes both private and public
universities. For a university to qualify to be a study location, it should have been involved in
the implementation of information systems to achieve the organization strategic objectives.
For the choice of within case units we shall focus on four IS projects which are strategic to
university functions. To achieve uniformity and improve reliability we shall attempt to use
similar projects across the chosen cases (universities). Targeted participants should be people Comment [TW9]: This may not be necessary.
Remember the objective is to understand and
who have been involved in the implementation and management of IS projects and therefore explain how SA takes place in an organization. So
similarity of projects may not assist. What will assist
have enough knowledge. The following table is a summary of guidelines on the choice of is having several IS projects in one university
units of analysis and participants, together with the data collection strategies.
Table 2-1: Criteria for choosing units of analysis, individual participants and data collection Comment [TW10]: These are not criteria
Unit of Analysis Participants No Data Collection
Strategic/Corporate Head of ICT. (1) 6 Corporate questionnaire
Level Head of Planning. (1) Interview
(Strategy Head of Divisions/functions Corporate documents Comment [TW11]: If I was to choose, I would
have the VC, appropriate DVC(s), appropriate
Formulation) where the Information systems is Observation Registrar(s), ICT Director and a few other critical
implemented. (4) members of university management who
understand how ICT strategy is related to corporate
IS project Level Senior staff members of the units 32 Project Questionnaire strategy
(Strategy where the information system has Project Documents Comment [TW12]: 4 persons for each project is
Implementation) been implemented ( 4 Interviews far too few to get a balanced perspective of how
participants from each project) Observation alignment takes place at this level. For example, if I
was to look at a student management system, I
Four IS projects ICT staff involved in would choose senior management users, e.g. 4;
implementation (4 participants to representatives of Deans/Directors using the
system, e.g. 4; key IS managers involved in the
represent each project) project, e.g. 4; and key operational system users,
Source: Author e.g. 4. I would use snowballing to establish who to
target for both the interview and questionnaire
*Project consideration criteria: Projects completed in the last six months period
*Participants criteria: Project management/implementation experience of at least six months
c) Research Instruments and Assessment tools
To assess business-IS alignment at the corporate level and information system project
implementation level, maturity models shall be used. Maturity models are used to assess the
competence, capability and level of sophistication of a selected domain based on a set of
criteria. Process maturity is a total quality management concept which enables an
organization monitor improvement of its technical processes through a five stage process
(Kwak & Ibbs, 2000). A five point likert scale is normally used with five representing the
highest level of maturity. As stated in the literature review a validated instrument based on
the Luftman’s Strategic Alignment Maturity Model shall be used at both the corporate and
project level with necessary adjustments at the project level. Project management shall also
be carried out to determine its relationship with strategic alignment.
Various data collection strategies shall be utilized to collect data as shown below;
Corporate Profile Interview guide
This instrument will be used during the preliminary entry of the study location to understand
the settings of the study area and select the participating IS projects and respondents.
Maturity Assessment Questionnaires
Corporate questionnaire shall be used to collect data from the senior management drawn from
both IS and business units of the organization whereas project questionnaires will be used to
collect data from the respondents involved in the IS project implementation consisting of
equal representation from IS and business units. Project management assessment instrument Comment [TW13]: Equal representation is not
necessary. Think about it.
will also be used to understand the practices of project management and relate to the
alignment practices at the project level.
The instrument to be used for assessing the alignment maturity levels was developed and
validated by (Sledgianowski et al., 2006) and is based on Strategic Alignment Maturity
Model (SAMM) developed Luftman (2000). The instruments shall use the same constructs
and attributes but the questions are customized to suit the two level of analysis (Corporate
level and project level). The questionnaire is made up of questions covering the six
components (Communication, IT value/Measurement, IT Governance, Partnership, Scope
and Architecture, and Human Resource Skills) of the Luftman’s SAMM. The instrument
shall be in the form of a questionnaire with each question consisting of 5 point maturity scale
which shall be used to assess the maturity level of each component.
The instrument shall be structured into two main sections. The first section will capture the
participants profile and the second section includes the six alignment maturity factors being
investigated each with five choices representing the alignment maturity levels. The corporate
assessment shall be done using the original (Sledgianowski et al., 2006) instrument and shall
target senior managers. The project level assessment questions will be adjusted to focus on
the participants experience during the implementation of specific projects with each of the
choices representing the level of maturity. The same strategic alignment assessment
questionnaire has been used widely to assess alignment maturity and has further been
evaluated using over one third of global 1000 companies (Luftman, 2007).
Project Management Assessment Questionnaire
The project management assessment Instrument is based Project Management Institute (PMI,
2008) Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM) and focuses on the participants
experience during the implementation of specific projects with each of the choices
representing the level of maturity. The assessment instrument is based on the nine knowledge
areas derived from the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide and covers
the IS projects at whatever stage of the implementation.
Documents shall be collected from both corporate level and specific IS projects. This will be
reviewed to capture more information in line with the information source triangulation
required to enhance case studies.
Interviews will be carried out to capture further details about the maturity choices and explain
the discrepancies among the participants and variation in maturity levels among the factors in
the different levels. This shall be carried out after analysis of the questionnaires to further
establish the causes in variations in maturity levels at the different levels.
Focused Group Discussions
Focused group discussions will be carried out at the project level and corporate level to
further determine the causes of discrepancies among the respondents and variation in the
Observation or participant observation as a data collection strategy will allow the capture of
events of a context in real time (Yin, 2003). This is achieved by taking notes during each
meeting to capture details and actions which have not been captured by the questionnaire
within each case. It is particularly helpful in the initial stages of the study in identifying the
respondents and understanding the research setup.
d) Strategic Alignment Assessment Process
Strategic alignment assessment process is the actual start of data collection stage in this
research. Data collection shall be broken down into two main stages; the first stage comprises
the administration of the organizational profile questionnaire, corporate level assessment
questionnaire and IS project level assessment questionnaires. The Second stage which comes
after the evaluation of the assessment results will include further interviews, focused group
discussion and review of documents to enable understanding of variations in the maturity
levels of the factors and discrepancies in participant’s assessment.
Pilot study shall be carried out in one of the universities to test the suitability of the research
design and the research instruments in assessing strategic alignment practices at both
corporate (strategy formulation) and IS projects (strategy implementation) levels in Kenyan
university setup (Yin, 2003). The pilot study shall also facilitate the determination of the
appropriateness of the units of analysis. Each of the research instruments shall be piloted
using identified key members from each of the organizational levels and from both business
and IS units. This will enable the identification of the ambiguities and clarification of the
structure of questions in order to allow early detection of necessary additions or omissions.
The strategic alignment assessment process will involve three processes starting with the
organization profile definition; strategic alignment assessment at corporate level and strategic
alignment assessment at IS projects.
i) Organization profile in relation to strategic alignment
Data to be collected in this level will give an overview of the organization and its business
environment and includes; organization structure and size, age, business and IS objectives,
decision processes and planning strategies. This will be achieved using an interview of key
senior staff involved in organization planning and IS strategic planning. Documents such as
strategic plans, project plans will be reviewed. During this stage projects and participants to
be involved in the study shall be identified.
ii) Corporate level assessment
The second process will involve assessment at the corporate level to determine the maturity
level at the corporate level and it involves senior staff from both business and IS units.
Corporate level assessment will assess the alignment maturity of the whole organization. A
corporate assessment questionnaire shall be used.
iii) IS Project level assessment
The third process is the assessment of alignment maturity and practices at the IS project level
and assessment of project management practices at IS project level. This shall involve staff
who are involved in the implementation of the chosen IS projects. This shall be achieved
using project assessment questionnaire and project management assessment questionnaire
Once the above processes are accomplished analysis shall be carried to identify the
discrepancies among the respondents and variations in maturity levels of the factors in each
respective organization level for each for both IS and business respondents in all the cases.
Stage Two Comment [TW14]: A 2-stage data collection
might practically not work, especially given the
The next stage comes after the analysis and determination of discrepancies and variation in challenges in negotiating access (read Dr. Wausi’s
thesis on access issues) and may not be very useful.
alignment maturity and involves investigation of the root causes using interviews, focused Remember a case study must give answer how and
why. Administering the questionnaires is highly
inadequate for this. I propose you administer the
group discussion and document review. This process will be carried out after carrying out the questionnaire to carefully selected and
representative group but you also have in-depth
analysis of the maturity levels of respondent’s, the organization levels and the entire interviews with most of these selected persons. The
interviews will be guided by Luftman’s SAMM
universities. concepts, and if you like, by PMMM at the project
To enter the study site contacts shall be made in the identified projects in the institutions,
copies of research instruments will be availed to the participants to enable familiarization
prior to data collection. The choice of the data sources is guided by Miles and Huberman
(1994), Neuman (2000) and Yin (2003) recommendations on how to carry case research
Phase Three: Data Analysis
In case studies there are more variables than cases or data to be investigated, so analysis is
done to theoretical generalization and not statistical generalization. The analysis shall
examine the interrelationship among variables within each case first, and then make a
comparison across cases to determine similarities and patterns.
As mentioned in the research design this research shall adopt a mixed research approach and
in the data collection section we shall use both qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative
data arises from the use of questionnaires to establish the maturity levels at the two levels
(corporate and project) and later comparing to establish the relationship of the project
management maturity and strategic alignment maturity. Qualitative data arises during the
second stage of data collection where interviews, focused group discussion and document
review shall be used to collect data which elaborates on the discrepancies in participant’s
assessment and variation in the maturity levels of the alignment factors at different levels and
across the cases.
Analysis of quantitative data
Maturity level of the each corporate alignment factor as rated by each respondent shall be
determined then followed by determination of maturity level of each of the factors of project.
The maturity of the project management factors in the assessed IS project shall also be
evaluated. The maturity level of each factor will be determined by the simple average of the
choices made by the respondents from the five scale option. The maturity level of the
assessed IS projects shall be compared to understand the similarities and discrepancies by
establishing the standard deviation. The maturity levels of the universities shall also be
compared to understand the distinctiveness of the strategic alignment practices in the
Analysis of qualitative data
Once the variation and discrepancies in the maturity levels are established, those with high
margins shall be further investigated to establish the cause of the variation. This will be
achieved by carrying out interviews targeting at least one key person per project and also use
of focused group discussion. This shall be supported by document review and observations
recorded. The data gathered from these sources shall be analysed using the content analysis
which involves the following process;
Organize the data based on each question by checking at each respondent’s
Categorise the information/data by indexing and identifying themes, setting the
categories and grouping the themes.
Identify patterns and connections within and between categories, and establish their
Interpretation is done by using themes and connections to explain the findings and
synthesizing to suit the set objectives
a) Within Case Analysis
To understand the strategic alignment maturity practices in the universities each university
case shall be analysed individually and then a cross case analysis (replication logic) shall be
applied across the identified universities to achieve analytical generalization. The following
process shall be followed;
Determine the alignment maturity level of each factor and the overall alignment
maturity at the corporate level. This is determined by capturing the maturity scores by
respondents and determining the average score of components at corporate level.
Carry out a comparative analysis of the variation in maturity among the factors at the
Determine the alignment maturity level of each factor and overall project maturity of
the chosen IS projects. This is determined by capturing the maturity score of each
component as rated by the respondents and determining the mean score of the
maturity for each component.
Comparison of the alignment maturity level of each component at the projects shall be
determined by the average of maturity scores in the chosen IS projects.
Project Management Assessment
Carry out assessment of project management practices in each of the IS projects.
Comparison of corporate alignment maturity and project management maturity
Carry out a comparative analysis and establish the relationship between corporate
alignment maturity and project alignment maturity
Carry out comparative analysis of strategic alignment practice and the project
The variation in alignment maturity at the corporate level and project management level will
be evaluated to determine those which are extremely high and low. This will be further
interrogated using interviews, focused group discussions and document review. This will give
a hint on the knowhow of the information systems formulation and implementation among
the respondents in the different levels of the organization and in between the IS and the
b) Cross Case analysis
The above process will be repeated for each case university and then comparison will be
made to achieve analytical generalization.
The extent in the variation of the individual participant maturity rating shall be shown by the
standard deviation. For example if an IS project has high level of maturity but the variation in
the individual maturity rating is high, further analysis to determine the causes is required.
This will be achieved through analysis/investigation using interviews and document review to
get more insight on the causes.
3.3 Study quality measurement
The quality of a research study is judged by its validity and reliability (Yin, 2003). These
attributes will determine the generalization of a research finding and determine whether the
findings can contribute to the knowledgebase of the field of study. The concept of reliability
ensures consistency of results/findings under similar conditions, whereas validity ensures a
higher level of confidence with the research instrument (Maimbo & Pervan, 2005). In
qualitative research there can be no validity without reliability and therefore a demonstration
of validity is sufficient to establish reliability.
According to Neumann (2000) reliability refers to the consistency in measurement of a
variable and ensures minimal errors in the study. Reliability is achieved by designing an
accurate and consistent instrument which can produce similar results when applied
repeatedly. A reliable instrument should therefore have characteristics of stability,
representative and equivalence. A research is reliable if different researchers can conducts the
same study and obtains consistent results. There are three sources, which could affect the
reliability of research according to Cooper and Schindler (2003), namely the respondent, the
instrument and the researcher.
To address the above factors and achieve reliability the following will be adopted; for the
respondents to give honest information they shall be assured that the divulged information
shall be treated confidential and anonymous. This for example will ensure the maturity rating
of the respondents shall not be biased since they will not expect any repercussions. For the
instrument, to ensure reliability the design will ensure that the instrument is clear,
unambiguous and easy to understand. The instrument shall be tested by piloting with
respondents who are very knowledgeable in the respective areas. If the same results are
obtained then we can conclude that the instrument is reliable. Researcher’s bias shall be
avoided by having well designed and tested research instruments and protocol to ensure that
the approach of collecting data from similar respondents is indifferent.
A database of the data collected including observation notes, documents reviewed and
interview transcripts shall also be maintained so that they can be retrieved and compared
when required. This triangulation of data collection methods shall also be used to enhance
reliability in case study research (Yin, 2003).
Validity of a research instrument refers to the truthfulness of the instrument. It is the extent to
which differences found with a measuring tool reflect true differences among respondents
being tested (Cooper and Schindler, 2003). Validity is classified into; construct validity,
internal validity and external validity.
Construct validity refers to the extent to which a measuring instrument measures what it is
intended to measure. Thus the instrument should completely fit and cover the concepts being
measured. Case study research can achieve construct validity by developing its constructs
through a literature review, use of multiple sources of evidence (triangulation) and
establishing a chain of evidence. Triangulation allows for a stronger substantiation of
constructs and hypotheses that assists in generalizability of the research findings. In this
research construct validity will be achieved by ensuring that the instrument measures the
maturity of all the variables of the six factors as per the original assessment tool by
Sledgianowski et al., (2006)
Internal validity is required if the research wishes to demonstrate relationship between
constructs being studied. It requires careful specification of the units of analysis and use of
appropriate pattern matching techniques to ensure theories and data are consistent. It is about
establishing credible causal relationship between factors of study and is enhanced by
homogeneity of cases (Flyvbjerg, 2011). This will be achieved by carefully identifying units
of analysis which are consistent with the study objectives. Criteria for choice of the
universities and IS projects will be carefully drafted and observed in accordance with the
study objectives to ensure replication.
External validity refers to the generalization possibilities of the research results and
conclusions to other people, organizations and contexts. External validity tests whether a
study’s findings are applicable beyond the immediate case study and is normally a major
barrier in conducting case studies (Yin, 2003). External validity is achieved through careful
selection of multiple cases as per the research objectives to ensure that replication theory is
adhered. Within case examination and cross case examination and thorough literature review
will be used to support external validity.
Research schedule (work plan)
Activities 2010 2011 2012 2013
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6
review and Selection of
Definition of Research
Pilot Study and test of
Refinement of Research
Finalize and Defend
1. Given the difficulty of negotiating access, getting 4 universities may be a challenge. Formatted: List Paragraph, Numbered +
Level: 1 + Numbering Style: 1, 2, 3, … + Start
In any case, you can have two universities and several IS projects. The choice of the at: 1 + Alignment: Left + Aligned at: 0.25" +
Indent at: 0.5"
universities should be considered carefully, especially with respect to generalization.
If you cannot get two universities, then it might be possible to consider one university
but with very many IS projects and in-depth interviews to bring out the HOWs and
WHYs of strategic alignment at both levels.
2. If you are guided by Luftman’s SAMM concepts and PMMM concepts in the in-depth
interviews, then you will not need the second phase interviews to explain the
discrepancies in the maturity levels. These discrepancies can be explained from the
richness of the interviews. You could consider administering the questionnaire as you
do the interview, e.g. scoring the respondent’s communication factors in the
questionnaire and exploring the role of communication between IS and business
managers as the interview.
3. If you use PMMM at IS project level, then it is important to be clear how you will
analyze the data and combine the analyses.
4. You need to bring conceptual framework and methodology to a close asap so that you
can move to the next stage. You have been here for a long time and you need to make
progress, if my interest in your work is to be sustained. You are on leave and I still do
not understand why it has been so SLOW. Formatted: Font: (Default) Times New
Roman, 12 pt
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