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Review of Business Information Systems – Fourth Quarter 2011

Volume 15, Number 4

Examining Changes In The Strategic Alignment Model’s Alignment Factors Over Time: A Case Study Kerry Ward, University of Nebraska, Omaha, USA

ABSTRACT The strategic alignment model of Henderson and Venkatraman (1994) views IS alignment as occurring among four factors: business strategy, organization infrastructure and processes, IS strategy, and IS infrastructure and processes. Henderson and Venkatraman view strategic alignment as occurring via “simultaneous or concurrent attention to all four domains.” A single case study was conducted to examine how changes in the alignment factors actually occur over time. Our findings suggest that while H& V indicated the SAM is a descriptive model, it explains few of the changes that actually occurred in the case and has limited applicability as a descriptive model. Keywords: IS Alignment; Strategic Alignment Model; Case Study

INTRODUCTION

T

hat strategic IS alignment has long been a significant topic of interest to both the IS professional and academic communities is substantiated by the fact that it has been among the top ten IS issues identified by CIOs over the past several years (see for example, Luftman and Ben-Zvi 2010; Luftman and McLean, 2004; Luftman, 2005; Luftman, Kemppaiah, and Nash, 2006; Watson and Brancheau, 1991; Watson, Kelly, Galliers, and Brancheau, 1997). The commonly-held belief among practitioners and academics is that appropriate IS alignment results in better organizational performance (see, for example, Chan 2002; Chan, Huff, Barclay, and Copeland 1997; Henderson and Venkatraman 1993; Sabherwal and Chan 2001; Sabherwal, Hirschheim, and Goles 2001). Despite the substantial body of accumulated research, the continuing presence of IS alignment on the list of most important issues is evidence that IS alignment and how to achieve it remain illusory. One of the most prominent works integrating information technology into strategic alignment has been the strategic alignment model (SAM) of Henderson and Venkatraman (1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996). Henderson and Venkatraman (1993) state that IS alignment involves “fit” and “integration” among business strategy, IT strategy, business infrastructure, and IT infrastructure. They indicate that the SAM can be applied as either a descriptive, prescriptive or dynamic model (Henderson and Venkatraman 1994). In this paper, we investigate how the alignment factors actually change over time to examine whether Henderson and Venkatraman’s model of alignment explains alignment as it actually occurs in practice, in essence, testing the descriptive nature of Henderson and Venkatraman’s strategic alignment model. We used a single case study research design (Benbasat, Goldstein and Mead, 1987; Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 1994) and apply pattern matching to evaluate the SAM based on changes in the alignment factors. In the next section we examine Henderson and Venkatraman’s model of strategic alignment and set the scene for the study that we conducted. The research methodology is then presented including a description of the way in which the data was analyzed to investigate the alignment process. Next we present the findings of our study and discuss the implications for both research and practice.

© 2011 The Clute Institute

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Review of Business Information Systems – Fourth Quarter 2011 THE STRATEGIC ALIGNMENT MODEL

Volume 15, Number 4

In response to the growing strategic role of information systems in modern organizations, Henderson and Venkatraman developed a framework to conceptualize the strategic use of information technology, which they referred to as the strategic alignment model (see Figure 1). Henderson and Venkatraman present their work on alignment in multiple versions (see, for example, Henderson & Venkatraman 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996). These variations address essentially the same basic model with only minor...
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