The strategic dimensions of information systems capability : case studies in a developing country context
This research addresses the issue of how organisations can build capabilities to acquire, deploy, exploit and sustain computer-based information systems. With the application of information technology dramatically altering the strategies, structure, and processes of organisations, capabilities in acquiring and deploying computer-based information systems are considered critical to organisational success. It is often presumed that firms have similar capabilities to derive maximum value from deploying computer- based information systems. However, they have been shown to exhibit disparate capacities to successfully implement and exploit such systems. The concept information systems capability is introduced and refers to an organisation's capacity to effectively orchestrate the processes of acquiring, deploying, exploiting and sustaining computer-based information systems to support its strategic and functional objectives. Emphasising evolutionary and resource-based perspectives of the firm the research stresses the firm-specific, cumulative, and path-dependent nature of organisational IS capability. Three strategic dimensions of IS capability are identified. These are routines, resources, and contexts. Routines refer to the IS-related processes and practices of the organisation. Resources are its endowments. Contexts reflect the environmental factors influencing IS investment opportunities and decisions. Capabilities develop through a prescient understanding of the contexts, the strategic acquisition and deployment of IS resources and the establishment and enaction of effective organisational routines. Researchers are concerned about the persistence of ineffective information technology transfer and diffusion in developing countries. This research seeks to explicate the concept of information systems capability by drawing on examples from a developing country context. Through case studies and surveys done in Zimbabwe it explores organisational efforts to develop IS capability. The findings of the case studies confirm the significant impact of macro-contextual and organisational factors on capability building. A framework for IS capability building is proposed.