Research Questions

Global Organizational IS Issues

One stream of research dominated by the U.S. view is key IS management issues. The IS management issues refer to organizational concerns related to IS/IT. The key IS management issues in American corporations were initially examined periodically every three or four years, dating back to the early 1980s. For over a decade now, they are examined annually and reported in the MIS Quarterly Executive (MISQE). For example, the top issues in the latest U.S. study include: alignment of IT with business, security & privacy, innovation, and IT agility (Kappelman et al., 2017).

There have been a few scattered studies outside of the United States, but they have largely been on ad hoc basis and have not followed any systematic pattern. Clearly, what is lacking is a comprehensive world view or any organized effort to examine organizational IS issues across the globe. We are addressing this need in our project by proposing the following research question:

Research Question 1: What are the important organizational IS issues in different countries and regions of the world?

We expect to see clear differences in our results from what is reported in the U.S. studies. Many of the top issues in the United States have been strategic in nature; we expect that several countries and regions will highlight more operational and tactical issues. We also plan to examine organizational IS issues by the economic levels of nations and political systems. A cluster analysis is also under way which will group countries with similar priorities.

Global Technology Issues

The annual MISQE articles referred to earlier also report the technologies considered most important and receiving heavy investments in the United States. In the latest survey (Kappelman et al., 2017), the technology issues which were listed at the top include: data analytics, application development, security, cloud computing, customer relationship management, and enterprise resource planning (ERP). This kind of analysis is not readily available for other parts of the world. Should we assume that the same technology issues are relevant in other countries? Obviously not! Thus, our next research question is:

Research Question 2: What are the important technology issues in different countries and regions of the world?

Wide differences are expected simply because the technology development and infrastructure vary widely across nations. While the developed nations enjoy the fruits of strong technological advances, there are many under-developed countries where IT has not permeated to any significant level. At the same time, there are countries that have been able to leapfrog into new technologies and may be at some advantage because they are not constrained by the weight of legacy systems. Such differences among countries may have varied consequences for technology vendors and the types of IT initiatives under consideration.

Information technology and national culture

Geert Hofstede was a pioneer in defining and measuring national culture (Hofstede, 1980). While there are many definitions of national culture, it is commonly understood to be the collective programming of mind and refers to the values, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a large group of people. Initially, Hofstede defined four dimensions of national culture: uncertainty avoidance, power distance, masculinity, and individualism. He even provided numerical values for these dimensions for a large number of countries based on a large-scale global survey of IBM employees between 1967 and 1973. He later added the fifth dimension as long-term orientation. More recently, House et al. (2004) conducted the GLOBE study and provided nine dimensions of culture. While researchers have begun to use the GLOBE dimensions, they have not gained the same level of popularity as Hofstede’s dimensions.

IS researchers have widely used Hofstede’s dimensions in global IT research and have used the culture scores provided by Hofstede. There are two potential issues with using the Hofstede scores. First, even though culture is relatively stable and is slow to change, the Hofstede dimensions are more than 40 years old. Second, the Hofstede scores apply to the general population, and are not necessarily applicable to IT professionals. People who enter the IT profession may not necessarily reflect the characteristics of the general population of the entire country. Consequently, it may be erroneous to apply the Hofstede national culture scores to IT employees. Thus, the following research question:

Research Question 3: How do the national cultural values of IT employees compare with the national culture values of the general population in each country?

Research Question 4: Do the national culture values of IT employees exhibit similarities across countries?

Information technology occupational culture

IT is frequently described as having its own occupational culture which is different from and often conflicts with the business management culture. Occupational culture refers to the beliefs, attitudes, and values of people who share the same occupation. Anecdotal evidence has indicated that IT employees have their own culture that differs markedly from the business management culture. Fortunately, this concept has been recently formalized by the development of the ITOC construct and an accompanying instrument to measure it (Jacks et al., 2018). The ITOC instrument has six dimensions abbreviated as ASPIRE, which include: autonomy, structure, precision, innovation, reverence for knowledge, and enjoyment. This instrument has only been validated in the United States. Therefore, we have the following research questions:

Research Question 5: Do ITOC values differ by country and/or region of the world? And, if so, how?

The ITOC in the participating countries was measured by using the ASPIRE scales. There is a certain expectation that many countries will exhibit similar ASPIRE values. But we are prepared to be surprised as the ASPIRE values themselves may be influenced by many country and regional factors, such as the national culture, political beliefs, and religious beliefs. More realistically, clusters of countries will emerge, which will show similar IT occupational cultural aspects.

Individual issues and outcomes

Individuals in the IT profession, as in any profession, possess particular attributes as well as face many issues which affect their quality of work life and personal outcomes. Many studies are available in the IT literature, which examine the antecedents of specific variables, mostly focusing on job satisfaction and turnover intentions. Again, these studies are based on data from western countries, and it would be naïve to assume that they apply equally to all nations. In the World IT Project, we captured a number of such variables, namely: professional self-efficacy, work overload, work exhaustion, work–home conflict, job insecurity, job satisfaction, turnover intention, and turnaway intention. Note that while turnover refers to changing jobs within the same profession, turnaway means leaving the profession altogether. While there may be several research questions worthy of investigation, we list a few salient ones below:

Research Question 6: What are the antecedents of job satisfaction among IT employees, and how do they differ from country to country?

Research Question 7: What are the antecedents of turnover and turnaway among IT employees, and how do they differ from country to country?

Research Question 8: What are the differences due to gender in the individual variables and the relationships between the antecedents and the consequents? How do gender effects vary from country to country?

Social Capital and Friendship Circles

During our pilot study and data collection efforts, we noticed that IT employees in certain countries focused on building social capital and relied heavily on friendship circles. Friendship circles are informal groups, made up of people in the same profession but outside of one’s organization. Typically, an IT employee will approach his/her friendship circle for advice and consultation on job or technology-related matters. Thus, we explore the following question:

Research Question 9: How do IT employees use social capital and draw from friendship circles when contending with dynamic elements of the organization? What are the differences from country to country?