The Cranfield PhD - The co-evolution of business and information technology strategies

Cranfield School of Management

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PhD Opportunities

The co-evolution of business and information technology strategies

Supervisor: Joe Peppard BBS MSc PhD FICS

Professor Joe Peppard is interested in hearing from potential PhD candidates who would like to consider research addressing any of the themes outlined below.

The Co-evolution of Business and Information Technology Strategies

The sustained interest in strategic information systems (IS) alignment is greatly owed to research that continues to advance empirical evidence of its positive effects on IS and business success (Chan and Huff, 1993 Chan et al., 1997 Sabherwal and Chan, 2001). The notion of strategic alignment, as exposed in the literature, builds on three central arguments (Hirschheim and Sabherwal, 2001). First, organisational performance depends on structures and capabilities that support the successful realisation of strategic decisions second, alignment is a two-way process, where business and IS strategies can act as mutual drivers third, strategic IS alignment ?is not an event but a process of continuous adaptation and change? (Henderson and Venkatraman, 1993). While the former aspects are well rehearsed, it is still unclear how to achieve and sustain the process of strategic IS alignment over time.

The aim of this research is to address this question by using the co-evolutionary perspective as a new lens for theorising about the dynamic, complex and interdependent relationships between business and IS strategies. Co-evolutionary theory can potentially shed insightful light on this process for two reasons: first, its central concern is to understand organisational adaptation and change by analysing the simultaneous or co-evolutionary development of organisations and their environments second, co-evolutionary theory ?will inform any research in organization studies, which spans levels of analyses and involves adaptation over time? (Lewin and Volberda, 1999, p. 520). In this quest the proposed research project responds to scholars who have been proposing ?that the literature on IS alignment is beginning to mature and that future studies of alignment could benefit from ? using established theories from IS or other disciplines? (Sabherwal and Chan, 2001, p. 26).


Chan, Y. E. (2002) ?Why haven?t we mastered alignment? The importance of the informal organization structure,? MIS Quarterly Executive, 1(2), 97-112.

Chan, Y. E. and Huff, S. L. (1993) ?Investigating information systems strategic alignment,? Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference on Information Systems, 345-363.

Chan, Y. E., Huff, S. L., Copeland, D. G. and Barclay, D. W. (1997) ?Business strategy, information systems strategy, and strategic alignment,? Information Systems Research, 8(2), 125-150.

Henderson, J. C. and Venkatraman, N. (1993) ?Strategic alignment: Leveraging information technology for transforming organizations,? IBM Systems Journal, 32(1), 4-16.

Hirschheim, R. and Sabherwal, R. (2001) ?Detours in the path toward strategic information systems alignment,? California Management Review, 44(1), 87-108.

Sabherwal, R. and Chan, Y. E. (2001) ?Alignment between business and IS strategies: A study of prospectors, analyzers and defenders,? Information Systems Research, 12(1), 11-33.

Lewin, A. Y. and Volberda, H. W. (1999) ?A framework for research on strategy and new organizational forms,? Organization Science, 10(5), 519-534.

Contact: Professor Joe Peppard, tel +44 (0)1234 754421, email

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