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Understanding the business strategy and IT strategy Alignment in organizations Essay Example

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Research Methods For Information Systems

Final Assignment

Research Proposal

Understanding the Business Strategy and IT Strategy Alignment in

Organisations—Case Study of United Arab Emirates


Alignment of information technology (IT) and business strategy has been recognized as significant issues managers in United Arab Emirates (UAE) have to grapple with for the success of their organisations. It is also worth noticing the elusiveness of information on alignment of technology and business strategy which make it technical to identify the tenets related to understanding such alignments. The introduction of eGovernment services and smart government (mGovernment) platform in Saudi Arabia that has aimed at facilitating the functioning of organization such as First Gulf Bank is not enough to quantify what IT and business strategy alignment ought to be. That is, there is much interest in strategic alignment to an extent that both business and IT have moved from being an operational function to becoming a critical strategic orgnisational resource or tool that needs to be shaped to deliver business needs. Since the introduction of models such as Dubai Service Excellence Scheme, European Foundation for Quality Management and Commission for Academic Accreditation in Saudi Arabia alignment of business and IT strategies in UAE have risen to prominence. The central place of this argument is that understanding IT and business strategic alignment requires appropriate choices that positions Saudi Arabian organisations with regard to a dynamic and effective decision that define implementation for operating and building the information systems infrastructure. In the actual sense, we argue that challenge of managing such alignment must first parallel that of strategic management of the identified organization of enterprise. This is the point of departure in this proposal. We undertake to critically understand the Business and IT strategy alignment in Saudi Arabian organisations.

Literature Reviews

To underpin the literatures within the context of UAE, understanding guiding concepts is essential. Beginning with business strategy, Broadbent and Weill (2007) define the term as the process that should encapsulate a statement of enterprise’s vision or mission so that one has a clear and consistent point of focus. Conversely, this definition is in tandem with what Bashein and Markus (2003) term as 21st century business strategy. In their understandings, such strategies must encompass visions and missions but provide a deliberate plan for actions. We can now ascertain that Broadbent and Weill’s definition tends to argue that a strategy is a form of internal assessment tool which can identify weakness and strengths as part of the internal scanning process that formulate strategies.

On the other hand, scholars have shown that definition of IT strategy is equally multifaceted. For instance, Choe (2010) believes that IT strategy has the same definition as business although organisations in such cases focus specifically on technology. Feeny and Willcocks (1998) once defined the concept from IT management perspective and therefore added specified aspects of IT strategy. They argued, “Unlike business strategy, this encompass a situation where organisations are able to address its hardware and software resources and such enable it to support planned changes in future resources and directions” (p. 372). From the perspective of these definitions, it can be argued that understanding business and IT strategy alignment in organisations means the process of amalgamating the tenets of business and IT strategy so that there is strategic business tool that reflects on the relationship between business and IT thus making the interface that the two strategies are indeed primary business tool.

With regard to current changes, technological innovations within the UAE industry, understanding business and IT strategy stretches beyond what the definitions above can offer. As a matter of fact, it needs to noted that with the introduction of services such as mGovernment and eGovernment that are currently operational in all UAE emirates, achieving alignment between IT and business strategies is now elusive task for organisations. Contrariwise, Haeckel and Nolan (2011) studied 24 Dubai firms engaged in IT and banking services. They found that of the 19 executive responses received, 15 (80%) stated that failure to understand what it takes to align both strategies meant that they had clue how to make an alignment to the same. This conceptulises what AlGhamdi et al. (2011) argue about when they research on, ‘Firms’ Dilemma in Aligning IT and Business Strategies.’ In this study AlGhamdi et al. (2011) believe that due to cultural diversities and religious acrimonies in UAE, understanding such alignment means looking at the extent to which business strategies are supported, enabled and stimulated by information strategies. One missing link with regard to Broadbent and Weill (2007) definition is that it only focuses on how such alignment will suit an organization. However, it is essential to establish alignment, not as a general concept but within the context of UAE. This is why organization such as Dulsco LLC raised concern that there is missing link when it comes creating cohesiveness between goals and aspirations when doing such alignment.

The point is, currently, competitions coupled with different theoretical models have made it technical for organisations to operate and the consequence of this is that there is a general theme emerging that alignment should be synonymous with concurrent and cohesive achievement of mutual goals existing between IT and business. Recent schools of thought posit that within the Saudi Arabian market, the concept of business and IT strategy alignment must seek to develop processes and information systems infrastructure and organizational infrastructure (Broadbent and Weill, 2008). Alkadi (2013) finds this view to be flawed as it contradicts general theme of achieving mutual goal. Overall, organisations in Saudi Arabia are as multifaceted as any other in developed economies. Therefore understanding business and IT strategy alignment still remains as essential organizational issue that has plagued management.

Research Questions

Alignment has been conceptualized differently in the academic literature and this is to mean that several dimensions of alignment exist within UAE organisations and as such, within the realm of the same organisations, alignment is contingent on many of the cultural and social aspects of such organisations. As this continues to be the case, this research seeks to be specific in its understanding of business and IT alignment. To achieve this, the following research questions have been identified:

R1: What is the strategic integration involving the alignment between marketplace and organizational domains?

R2: What is the functional integration involving alignment between business and IT domains?

R3: What is cross-domain alignment involving the relationships among domains that lie along the two diagonals of a matrix implied by the above two domains?

The identification of these research questions embeds the research to a specific purpose. Therefore its main purpose is to understand the meaning of business and IT strategy alignment within the context of UAE organisations. Such will try to focus on recent practices of the identified organization but assessing such withing the contexts of the definitions provided above. In addition to this, the research also recognizes that management and capability skills are essential element as far as such alignments are concerned and therefore must be developed in both IT and business strategy for the research to answer the above questions. Considering cultural diversities and the introduction of services such as mGovernment in UAE, there is worry that business and IT strategies may not be consistent and clear with business goals for organization to understand the meaning of successful alignments. Due to this, the proposal sets to provide ground for further research into understanding how different organisations can be helped to understand different aspects of IT and business strategy alignments.

In order to find the divergence of such understandings within the theoretical models, we need to focus the attention of this research proposal by exploring how organisations have attempted to align their IT and business strategies. More significantly, the best way to find how such alignments have been done is to revisit literatures detailing such alignments within the country of study as this will form the foundation of further analsysis and provide guidelines for the hypotheses, and the theoretical frameworks to be adopted. Secondly, this study will be focused on comparative analyses of what currently constitute IT and business strategy alignment in UAE. Finally, we focus the research proposal on one concept; that a two way relationship between the IT and business is needed during the process of strategy formulation as such enables strategic alignment.

Study Population, Sample Size and Unit of Analysis

Based on the research questions above, the solution to the understanding of IT and business strategy alignment needs recent cases studies from leading organisations within Saudi Arabia. For such organisations to give data that answer such questions, we will be working with various organisations in all the 7 emirates at regional and national level with such also touching on corporate companies and multinational companies operating in the country. To effectively integrate research data within the context of the research questions, each organization will represent a single unit of analysis thus regarded as a case study. Working with the research topic as a guideline, the identified organisations will be a tool for analysis where we will focus on several participants within every organization.

The sample population for the study will include large, medium and small sized business organization and not for profit organizations where participants in such organization will be limited to top management executives who understand the position of the firm and at one point in their positions, have been involved any form of alignment. Based on the sampling frame, the proposal will focus on individuals directly linked with the organization identified but individuals at policy planning, human resource departments, and public relations will be included in this case. In order for the research data to answer specific questions as outlined, there will be a survey questionnaire sent in prior as a source of primary information with such given to top management of the organisations. For the consistency of data from survey questionnaire, the same questions will be prepared regardless of the level of or the location of the organization where each questionnaire is sent.

Research Method: Survey Questionnaire

As can be noted, the research proposal seeks to answer three critical questions with a view to understating what it means to do business and IT strategy alignment within the context of UAE organisations. This is to mean that the prepared primary source of data sampling—survey questionnaire will be used to conduct the survey for considerable period of time. This proposal has considered such to be after 7 months through which data will be collected and analysed. To be in tandem with the research question, research hypotheses and theoretical framework, the questionnaire will be designed on the basis of existing empirical studies, literatures reviewed and previous studies on similar or related topics. Since this proposal recognizes existence of empirical studies that may mislead, Emiral and ProQuest 5000 have been identified as relevant journal databases. To ensure relevancy in accessing journal articles from these databases, the following key words were used: “business alignment”, “business strategy”, “IT strategy”, “Islamic adoption of business alignment”, “Islamic adoption of IT alignment”, “business and IT alignment in UAE.”

Due to unavailability of some participants targeted by the questionnaire, it will be made available 24/7 online thus ensuring that participants with busy schedule will find time at one point to access and fill the questionnaire. To ensure that each questionnaire is sent to a given organization, it they will be coded (such code also identifying the name of the organization). This coding will help discern the number of respondents and the organization such questionnaires are from. However, to ensure integrity and confidentiality of the questionnaire, such codes will not help respondents know other details that are supposed to be confidential.

Before these questionnaires are sent, participants will be informed of the purpose of the study and their confidentiality communicated to using introductory letter. To allow participants answer specific targeted questions and at the same time express themselves, the questionnaire will consist of both close and open ended questions but at the same time respecting anecdotal scale of response. The scale of 5 to 1 or level of agreement as postulated by Likert has been adopted especially where respondents have the liberty of ignoring some questions.

Data Collection

Data collection needs consent from the participant and the reason given why the data should be collected in the first place. As the introductory letter will have informed the participant on the purpose of the data from them, in this case we deal with operational measures and definitions. Based on the purpose of the research, sources of data will be primary and secondly with the former obtained through the aforementioned questionnaire and the latter from relevant sources as we highlighted in research method section. Basing on such collection, we schedule first phase to encompass data collection from the identified executives and employees at lower ranks. This process intends to run concurrently for all the identified organisations and respondents to minimize bias and simultaneous data analysis. This process will be divided in weeks with each week dealing with specific organization. More details on how the research proposal will progress are as detailed in appendix 1.

However, before commencement of data collection, the proposal will seek consent from research committee and research ethics committee especially on whether or not to engage the identified participants. This will then be followed by availing the questionnaire online. After successful data collection, a letter of thank will be sent to all respondents and further notification on the progress of the research. Also considered in this phase is that targeted respondents will be familiarized with the questionnaire such that upon received the link the online one they will be aware of what is expected of them.

Data Analysis and Interpretational Methods used

Since we intend to interact directly with respondents through the questionnaire, thematic analysis model is going to be adopted to augur well with our quantitative analysis of the set survey questions. As answers from the questionnaire are expected to be divergent, as a model, thematic analysis will seek to find meanings to the comments given thereafter categorizing such comments into understandable format. In addition, this model has been adopted to ensure that comments that are similar or suggest the same theme are categorized differently. Once we have coded and categorized these comments into unique and or related themes, they are therefore synchronized and ranked according to their importance to the research question and purpose of the study.

Also important to note is that the comments provident will have different levels of acceptance and relationship to the research purpose. Therefore we will further analyse the already categorized or ranked comments to conceptualise the underlining meaning. This will further be underscored by applying relevant statistical analysis models so as to reach intended conclusion that also supports research questions. A blueprint of this information is as provided below:

  • Application of confirmatory factor to test hypotheses

  • Application of regression coefficient in measuring variables

  • Specific coefficient correlation whereby we relate aspect such as r <= .3 as the weakest and p<=0.05 and r >= 0.4 as the strongest. This will also be applied when correlating between two varialbles.

  • Adoption of factor analysis to find existing relationship between structures and variables

Risk and Risk Mitigation

This research proposal intends to obtain data from busy business organization therefore it may suffer low or marginal response rates. This is one of the risks we anticipate and have to be mitigated. The challenge with this risk is that in the event of low or marginal response rate, we will lack fair response. In addition to this, instance of self-motivated responses, bias misrepresentation of facts and ambiguous answers stand to be another risk.

There are significant numbers of elements that have been suggested to deal with such risks. One of such is to make respondents feel part of this research and be made aware that the outcome of the research will benefit them and their organization at large. This way, they will take the questionnaire questions as part of solutions to the inherent problems in their institutions. Another method of mitigating these risks is to provide them with relevant examples where participation of respondent led to the improvement of the researched organization.

This research proposal intends to guarantee confidentiality of the data as obtained from respondents and such will not be let to public domain. Secondly, anonymity of the data will be ensuring by also ensuring respondents are not identified by their responses. To avoid leakage of the data, after it has been analysed and results obtained, the data from the questionnaire will be destroyed and the needed results archived for future retrieval.

Limitations and Advantages of Survey Questionnaire

Aspects such as research design and desired outcome plays significant roles as far as methodology is concerned. This is where the survey questionnaire balances with respect to advantages and disadvantages it offers. Beginning with advantages of using survey questionnaire, it is cost effective. Bearing the number of institutions where data will be collected from, using online survey questionnaire particularly saves unnecessary expenditures. Other advantages attached to it are; time saving, manageable coding errors, accurate data entry into statistical package. On the other hand, unlike other methods, mostly institutions have interacted with questionnaires before therefore it is easy to build on their familiarity.

Contrariwise, this method has a number of disadvantages. One of such is the difficulty in dictating number of responses thus creating uncertainty with regard to low response. Secondly, respondent may give flawed information deliberately. In addition, there are important aspects such as body language and tone that are not captured using this method unlike other methods such as interview. Also related to this, though the survey questionnaire has open ended questions where respondents are supposed to express their views freely, accuracy of answers are not guaranteed since one is not there to ask them elaborate further thus forcing analysis process to rely on the information provided. Lastly, there are some technicalities with online survey questionnaire in the sense that once the questionnaire is posted online, it is difficult to monitor whether the expected respondents are the one who have filled the survey. In some instances, these can be done by untargeted individuals thus raises concerns on the reliability of the information.


AlGhamdi, R., Drew S. and Alkhalaf S. (2011). Government Initiatives: The Missing Key for E

commerce Growth in KSA. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology.77 (1), 1-10.

Alkadi, I. (2013). Explore the Future of Telecommunications and Information Technology in KSA, Communications and Information Technology Commission, Riyadh.

Bashein, B.J. & Markus, L. (2003) A credibility equation for IT specialists, Sloan Management

Review, Vol 38 No 4, pp 35–44.

Broadbent, M. & Weill, P. (2008) Improving business and information strategy alignment:

Learning from the banking industry, IBM Systems Journal, Vol 32 No 1, pp 162-179.

Broadbent, M. & Weill, P. (2007) Management by maxim: how business and IT managers can

create IT infrastructures, Sloan Management Review, Vol 38, pp 77-92.

Choe, J. (2010) The effect of environmental uncertainty and strategic applications of IS on a

firm’s performance, Information & Management, Vol 40 No 4, pp 257-268.

Feeny, D.F. & Willcocks, L.P. (1998) Core IS capabilities for exploiting information technology,

Sloan Management Review, Vol 39 No 3, pp 9–21.

Haeckel, S.H. & Nolan, R.L. (2011) Managing by wire, Harvard Business Review, Vol 71 No 5,

Pp 122-132.

Appendix 1: Research Timetable

Duration (In months)

Preliminary reading

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Research Proposal preparation

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Approval by research supervisor

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Preparation of survey questionnaire

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Approval by research ethics committee

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Research communication

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Data collection phase 1

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Data collection phase 2

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Data collection phase 3

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Data collection phase 4

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Data analysis

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Report preparation

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