One of my research papers was recently nominated as a candidate for the Best Paper award at the 2012 International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS), the flagship conference and most prestigious gathering of information systems researchers in the world. Titled “Juggling Paradoxical Strategies: The Emergent Role of IT Capabilities”, the paper has been co-authored with Benn Konsynski, the George S. Craft Distinguished University Professor of Information Systems & Operations Management at Emory University. In this study, we assert that in the 21st century, different IT capabilities act in differing ways to individually and jointly enable or impede firms to simultaneously pursue paradoxical strategies as an emergent means of attaining competitive advantage.
Such an ability to follow two conflicting strategies at the same time is termed organizational ambidexterity. Firms which concurrently engage in the paradoxical strategies of exploration (or radical innovation) and exploitation (or incremental innovation) are able to address the needs of new and existing customers and thereby attain higher competitive performance. Our research finds that Transform IT capability, which leads to redefining and recreating business practices, strongly supports this instance of ambidexterity. On the other hand, IT Informate Capability, which results in greater information access across the organization, and IT Automate Capability, which facilitates automation of existing business processes, both hamper ambidexterity by ossifying business processes and reducing flexibility. Transform IT capability reduces these harmful effects. Our findings also suggest that a balance of IT Automate, Informate and Transform capabilities enables organizational ambidexterity, hitherto a challenging competitive possibility.
Data for the study was gathered from 352 manufacturing firms of all sizes in high growth sectors in India – a setting that provides an exemplar for the world’s enterprises undergoing rapid changes in the 21st century. These findings not only showcase the emergent role of IT in facing the complexities inherent in juggling paradoxical strategies, but also throw light upon previously unexplained variance in IT payoffs in the emerging economy and small and medium enterprise contexts.
A link to the paper in the conference proceedings is here.