Exploring the role of the governing body (board) in information technology governance : a study of Australian universities

Buckby, Sherrena (2011) Exploring the role of the governing body (board) in information technology governance : a study of Australian universities. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


In this thesis, I advance the understanding of information technology (IT) governance research and corporate governance research by considering the question “How do boards govern IT?” The importance of IT to business has increased over the last decade, but there has been little academic research which has focused on boards and their role in the governance of IT (Van Grembergen, De Haes and Guldentops, 2004). Most of the research on information technology governance (ITG) has focused on advancing the understanding and measurement of the components of the ITG model (Buckby, Best & Stewart, 2008; Wilkin & Chenhall, 2010), a model recommended by the IT Governance Institute (2003) as ‘best practice’ for boards to use in governing IT.

IT governance is considered to be the responsibility of the board and is said to form an important subset of an organisation’s corporate governance processes (Borth & Bradley, 2008). Boards need to govern IT as a result of the large capital investment in IT resources and high dependency on IT by organisations. Van Grembergen, De Haes and Guldentops (2004) and De Haes & Van Grembergen (2009) indicate that corporate governance matters are not able to be effectively discharged unless IT is being governed properly, and call for further specific research on the role of the board in ITG. Researchers also indicate that the link between corporate governance and IT governance has been neglected (Borth & Bradley, 2008; Musson & Jordan, 2005; Bhattacharjya & Chang, 2008). This thesis will address this gap in the ITG literature by providing the bridge between the ITG and corporate governance literatures.

My thesis uses a critical realist epistemology and a mixed method approach to gather insights into my research question. In the first phase of my research I develop a survey instrument to assess whether boards consider the components of the ITG model in governing IT. The results of this first study indicated that directors do not conceptualise their role in governing IT using the elements of the ITG model. Thus, I moved to focus on whether prominent corporate governance theories might elucidate how boards govern IT. In the second phase of the research, I used a qualitative inductive case based study to assess whether agency, stewardship and resource dependence theories explain how boards govern IT in Australian universities.
As the first in-depth study of university IT governance processes, my research contributes to the ITG research field by revealing that Australian university board governance of IT is characterized by a combination of agency theory and stewardship theory behaviours and processes. The study also identified strong links between a university’s IT structure and evidence of agency and stewardship theories. This link provides insight into the structures element of the emerging enterprise governance of IT framework (Van Grembergen, De Haes & Guldentops, 2004; De Haes & Van Grembergen, 2009; Van Grembergen & De Haes, 2009b; Ko & Fink, 2010).

My research makes an important contribution to governance research by identifying a key link between corporate and ITG literatures and providing insight into board IT governance processes. The research conducted in my thesis should encourage future researchers to continue to explore the links between corporate and IT governance research.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 43881
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Nicholson, Gavin & Ryan, Christine
Keywords: information technology governance, Australian universities
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 09 Aug 2011 05:08
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2017 14:43

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