An empirical study of the role of IT flexibility and IT capability in IT-business strategic alignment

Date13 March 2017
Published date13 March 2017
AuthorSaeid Jorfi,Khalil Md Nor,Lotfi Najjar
Subject MatterInformation & knowledge management,Information systems,Information & communications technology
An empirical study of the role of
IT exibility and IT capability in
IT-business strategic alignment
Saeid Jorfi and Khalil Md Nor
Faculty of Management, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai, Malaysia, and
Lotfi Najjar
College of Information Systems and Technology, University of Nebraska Omaha,
Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Purpose The purpose of this study is to contribute to the current discussion on strategic alignment of
information technology and business (strategic alignment) by developing a model for conceptualizing how
strategicalignment can be enabled through of IT exibility and IT capability.
Design/methodology/approach A questionnaire instrument was created to measure the constructs
and it was assessed in a pretest and two pilot-tests. The main data set was collectedfrom IT managers (or
similar titles)of medium- and large-sized rms.
Findings Strategic alignment seems to be moving closer to rmscore activity in todays business
environment. Thendings revealed that strategic alignment was signicantlyaffected by four dimensions of
IT exibility and IT capability. Furthermore, the signicant role of two dimensions of IT exibility in IT
capabilitywas supported.
Research limitations/implications Single key informantswere used for data collection that couldbe
a potentiallimitation.
Practical implications It seems likely that rms will benet from the results to manage and control
their scarceIT resources more effectively for aligningIT with business strategies, goals andneeds.
Originality/value Strategic alignment has become a more complex and unstructured phenomenon
and many rms are still considering how to reconcile to it. Furthermore, the lack of empirical examination
of IT exibility and IT capability in relation to strategic alignment from important perspectives, and the
lack of research of the dimensions of IT exibility for supporting IT capability, determines the purpose of
this study.
Keywords IT capability, Strategic alignment, IT exibility, Medium- and large-sized rms
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Information technology(IT) has become a critical tool for the execution of business strategy
and a driver of business strategy (Rathnam et al., 2005).In this regard, business, public and
governmental organizations confronted with time and other pressures must adjust their
strategies, but frequent change cannot be accomplished unless the IT is able to align with
business strategies in an efcient and effective manner (Peppard and Ward, 2004;Byrd
et al., 2006;Papp, 1999;Tan and Gallupe,2006). Thus, the alignment of IT and business is a
crucial issue for organizations (Silvius, 2007;Keand Kalika, 2005;Ward and Peppard,
2002). According to Luftman (2000), the strategicalignment between IT and business refers
to applying IT in an appropriate and timely manner, in harmony with business strategies,
goals and needs. Conceptually, strategic alignment is viewed as a bridge that links IT to
Received20 October 2016
Revised6 February 2017
14July 2017
Accepted1 August 2017
Journalof Systems and
Vol.19 No. 1/2, 2017
pp. 2-21
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JSIT-10-2016-0067
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
other domains of an organization and its environment(Avila et al., 2009; Chebrolu and Ness,
The alignment of IT and business strategy has been among the top concerns of the
business leaders for several decades (Street et al., 2017). The strategic use of IT and the
alignment of IT with business needs are important managerial issues that need to be
addressed if optimal organizational performance is to be achieved (Renaud et al., 2016).
Despite the fact that there are many benets related to strategic alignment, organizations,
owing to the ever-increasing rate of change in their business environments, are confronted
with critical challengesfor maintaining strategic alignment (Giannakisand Harker, 2014). In
general, the quest for strategic alignment has become more complex and unstructured
phenomenon, owing to which organisations are nding it hard to align their IT with
business strategies in todaysever-changing business environment (Chowdhry, 2010). For a
quarter of a century, the lack of strategic alignment between IT and organizational
strategies has been frequently cited as an important problem in surveys of business
executives and IT managers (Turban et al., 2009). Specically, the gap between IT and
business strategies has been frequently reported in developing countries, especially Iran
(Manyan et al., 2008; Faryabi et al., 2012;Abdolvand and Sepehri, 2016). Thus, this study
seeks to address the research problem of the lack of alignment between IT and business
strategies, and it is important to identify important factors that might support strategic
2. Literature review
Performance is a function of the alignment between IT and other business domains.
However, prior researcheshave focused on outcomes, rather than on the processes by which
alignment is developedand supported (Levy et al., 2011). In this regard, factors affecting IT
business strategic alignment have been investigated in numerous research studies, mostly
in developed countries including Western Europe and North America. Given that the
Western world has a distinct businessculture, there is a reason to investigate the boundaries
of the generalizability of these research studies (Abdolvand and Sepehri, 2016). Therefore,
there is an opportunity to investigate factors affecting strategic alignment in a developing
country context. In addition, the literature review revealed that there are important factors
(i.e. some aspects of IT exibility and IT capability) for maintaining strategic alignment
which were ignored in previous studies, especially in developing countries (Goepp and
Avila, 2015;Tallon, 2009). Furthermore, there is no discussion on factors affectingstrategic
alignment from the resource-basedview (RBV). RBV can provide a better understanding of
factors affecting strategic alignment by considering these factors as a set of resources and
capabilities (Khani et al., 2011;Ohet al., 2014). For more detail, some aspects of IT resources
have been investigatedfor supporting strategic alignment; however,these factors separately
have no innate value, and a combination of aspects of IT resources, business and human
resources, as complementary resources, can guarantee higher strategic alignment. In this
regard, we considered IT capabilitiesas a set of IT infrastructure, IT architecture, IT human
resources and IT relationship resources that coversthe aspects of IT resources, human and
business resources (Zhang and Tansuhaj, 2007). In addition, owing to the importance of IT
exibility to support IT capability, as well as strategic alignment, the research studies
considered it as a set of connectivity, compatibility and modularity (Tallon, 2009;Burke,
2011;Bani, 2011).
Resource-based theories that view valuable, rare, non-substitutable and immobile
resources as the ultimate arbiter of superior performance, argue that rms with IT
capabilities and exible IT are more likelyto sustain a tighter t between IT and business,

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