Year

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Mechanical, Materials and Mechatronic Engineering

Abstract

Top Management Support (TMS) is widely claimed to be a critical success factor (CSF) responsible for Information Technology and Systems Project Performance (ISPP). However, the literature has yet to unequivocally nominate the constituents of TMS and its varying nature in Information Technology and Systems (IT/IS) projects. Moreover, researchers have not made substantial progress towards consensus on a definition for TMS. This undesirable situation has led practitioners to a rather vague and superficial view of TMS. As such, top managers remain oblivious to optimal behaviours that ensure TMS in IT/IS projects. As a result of this lack of information, ISPP continues to suffer. This study investigates TMS in detail and its influence on ISPP in an effort to improve the awareness and help achieve better ISPP.

In order to improve understanding, thus, manageability for TMS, a definition that is both theoretically and empirically sound is needed. Managerial roles that are widely accepted in the discipline of management specify and categorise top management actions. The author argues in this thesis that, actions considered as TMS are part of a top manager’s responsibility, therefore, already established in the managerial roles. A definition for TMS therefore is proposed based on the traditional managerial roles from Mintzberg’s (1973) Role-Theory. In defining this new concept definition, the academic guidelines of Osigweh (1989) were followed. The research was further extended to investigate the effect of managerial role based TMS on ISPP. The theoretical notions were examined with empirical investigations.

A pluralistic approach with a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods was used in the investigations. The mixed-method approach consisted of a series of interviews, a focus group exercise and a questionnaire survey. The interview and the focus group methods were carried out first, in order to gather further understanding of the research context. Findings from these methods were utilised to refine the proposed concept definition for TMS and the conceptual framework. The survey method was carried out last to further investigate the refined concept definition and the conceptual framework, and was considered the more prominent of the methods, considering the relatively large number of participants and advanced statistical techniques employed.

The findings indicated that top management engagement in specific managerial roles leads to TMS. Consistent with the literature, the statistical results indicated that TMS is possibly among the top three most important CSFs for ISPP. It was also found that the need for TMS varies across a project and that certain top managers perform some roles better than the others.

The study contributes a new definition for the concept of TMS that is able to adapt to different situational circumstances by adjusting the level of abstraction. The constituents illustrated at the lowest level of abstraction identify that the Monitor, Disturbance Handler, Figurehead and Nurturing Leader play key roles in TMS. The definition also identifies that the Negotiator, Entrepreneur, Resource Allocator and Technical Expert play less important, but supportive roles in TMS. This study also contributes a new questionnaire that is statistically tested and verified. The questionnaire adheres to latest measurement trends in the literature and surpasses other tools by allowing concurrent investigation of ten managerial roles. The tested conceptual framework and the easily adaptable operational definitions are also contributions to the literature. The author further contributes an index that depicts the varying nature of TMS across an IT/IS project.

Findings from this research study promote TMS as a multifaceted concept and also as a resource that needs to be planned and managed in IT/IS projects. The findings and the contributions from this study allow access to a level of knowledge of TMS that was not previously available. Practitioners and academics can now potentially make use of this information for training purposes, planning and managing TMS in IT/IS projects.

The thesis concludes by discussing the applicability of the contributed knowledge and tools to improve ISPP and advance the area of research. Planning for TMS is advised to eliminate the competition in a multi-project environment. Training the top management, making them aware of key and supportive roles in TMS could potentially minimise issues with communication. Academics are encouraged to utilise the contributed information and tools to advance the knowledge regarding TMS and related disciplines.

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