Strategic use of information technology : an empirical investigation into the level of strategic use of I.T. and the determinants of competitive advantage
Strategic use of information technology (SUIT) has often been linked to the success of an organisation. Its impact on the organisation's profitability, access to market, efficiency, productivity, effectiveness, and on industry as a whole is well recognised. Despite its widespread advances in recent years, there remains a dilemma. No agreement exists concerning what constitutes SUIT. There is little empirical evidence to support a link between SUIT and organisational competitiveness. The development of measures to determine the level of SUIT and evidence of empirical relationship between SUIT and performance are also not adequately represented in current IT research. Research into factors determining SUIT has been strongly influenced by success stories of companies which illustrate strategic effects of IT but a large-scale empirical study to confirm the existence of these factors and to establish their relationship with SUIT is still lacking. This thesis attempts to fill the above vacuum in the IT research. Based on a large-scale mail survey of 149 companies, a reliable measure of SUIT was developed. Tests of relationship showed clear evidence of a strong relationship between SUIT and the competitiveness of an organisation. Several distinctive factors have been identified to have influenced SUIT. The findings support the need to align IT with business strategy, the need to improve communications between IT staff and top management, the need to delegate authority to line managers close to customers, the need to invest more in IT resources and to expend more effort in analysing subtle changes in the business environment prior to making IT and business decisions. This thesis provides meaningful input to the body of knowledge about IT and competitive advantage as it establishes an empirically-based framework integrating SUIT, contextual variables and organisational success. It adds better understanding for managers in search of superior decisions about IT investment and to exploit IT opportunities for success. Future research is needed to extend the findings and enhance the validity of the measurement instrument presented in this thesis. It is suggested that a longitudinal study be carried out to explore a cause-effect relationship between the variables.