Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 11 Number 4 1995 pp. 177-214

An Empirical Taxonomy of the Decision- Making Processes Concerning Strategic Applications of Information Systems

Sabherwal, Rajiv and King, William R

ABSTRACT: The strategic potential of information systems (IS) is now well recognized. However, there has been little explicit research on the process through which managers decide to develop IS applications that may provide strategic benefits. Consequently, several divergent views exist about this process, including those that consider it as a planned process, as a process that ignores formal planning methodologies, as a process that takes place incrementally, and as a process that occurs accidentally. This paper addresses this divergence of views by using strategic IS decisions in eighty-one companies to generate an empirical taxonomy including five alternative ways of making strategic IS decisions. The five decision-making processes--namely, planned, provincial, incremental, fluid, and political--seem quite distinct, in terms of the activities involved and the influences encountered, as well as the conditions under which they are used. Thus, the paper suggests to managers deciding on potentially strategic systems that no one process should be considered universally applicable. Instead, any one of five processes comprising the taxonomy may be used, depending on the specific circumstances.

Key words and phrases: empirical taxonomy, information systems planning, strategic decision making, strategic information systems