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Department of Computation, University of Manchester Institute of Science
and Technology, Sackville Street, Manchester M60 lQD, UK

  °    °        

uow do organizations currently plan for their information systems, and equally
importantly, ensure that the systems to be developed will be relevant to their
information needs and capable of being implemented successfully? This crucial
question forms the basis of this article, which aims to briefly compare five
well-known strategic information systems planning (SISP) approaches and to
present the findings of a survey, carried out by the authors, on the use of such
approaches in a number of UK organization s. This will offer a clearer picture of
current practices in the SISP field in the UK.
An µalignment¶ view of SISP is that it is an application strategy that aims to
align IS development with current business needs and goals and to seek
competitive advantage from them (uartog and uerbert, 1986). The potential for
using information technology (IT) to affect the competitive capability of an
organization is already well-established (uochstrasser and Griffiths, 1990). An
alternative, µimpact¶ view (Vitale Y 1986) focuses on SISP as a business
analysis process which seeks to identify strategic opportunities for the firm by
applying IT to optimize business performance in new areas.
The importance of such planning is recognized in several surveys of IT
(Niederman Y ""#The main reasons, which are common to both views
mentioned above, are firstly, that information systems which are complex or
aim for distinct competitive edge require long -range planning. Secondly,
decisions on future information systems have organization -wide impact,
affecting turnover and staff motivation, and therefore, information systems
planning should be carried out within the larger framework of corporate
planning. Thirdly, investment in information systems has increased significantly
because of the influx of products and support, based on new computer and
telecommunications technology. Such commitment requires careful and
systematic planning (Awad, 1988).
rut how does SISP lead to increasingly more successful sy stems being
developed? A successful system may be defined as one that meets its targets of
quality and productivity (Flynn, 1992). The quality target refers to the system
meeting its requirements whilst the productivity target refers to the system
being developed on time and within budget. SISP aims to address possible
problems associated with quality and productivity in two ways. First of all,
planning focuses on information systems that fit in with organizational
objectives and activities.
Secondly, planning involves the allocation of resources in advance and the
planning of an infrastructure which will take into account evolving technology
and the establishment of information needs, on which future application
development will
be based.
There is a substantial body of literature on the topic of SISP (McLean and
Soden, 1977; Cash and Konsynski, 1985; Vitale Y 1986; Ward Y 1990),
as well as reports of empirical work which attempts to capture actual
experiences of SISP approaches and their effects. For example, Galliers (1987)
surveyed 209 organizations in a study of SISP in the UK and Australia,
reporting on a range of factors such as distribution of planning horizon,
planning approach used, planning objectives and linkage to corporate planning.
In addition, there are interviews with chief information officers by Lederer and
Mendelow (1987) concerning problems of convincing top management of
strategic IT potential; interviews with IS and non -IS
managers (Johnston and Carrico, 1988) concerning the ap plications of strategic
IT; and a comparison of two µimpact¶ techniques for identifying competitive
advantage, Porter¶s value chain and Wiseman¶s strategic thrusts methodology
(rergeron Y 1991). Lederer and Sethi¶s 1988 study has surveyed 80 US
organizations for the problems they experience in implementing SISP. Galliers
(1987) and O¶Connor (1993) contain brief reviews of empirically -based work.
This paper, based on a relatively small sample of only 18 respondents, each
from different organizations, aims to investigate important aspects of SISP in
UK organizations, and to highlight the problems and levels of satisfaction
experienced by the respondents with different aspects of SISP. The findings
contribute towards the body of knowledge concerning current SISP practice in
the UK, providing further evidence supporting (or in some cases disagreeing
with) conclusions of other empirical studies, and are important for outlining
issues for further research. Obtaining information on current practice provides,
for practitioners, an appreciation of the penetration of SISP in the UK and an
opportunity to see how other organizations approach SISP problems. Academics
and researchers benefit from this form of feedback as they are ab le to take into
account experience with existing SISP approaches to enable them to develop
more effective approaches forthe future.
The plan of the rest of the paper is to outline the main features of some
well-known SISP approaches and then, against this background, to present the
results of the survey into current UK strategic IS planning. We will then discuss
these results and conclude with some important points and ideas for future
Vol2 No 4 December 1993 293
r    !"!#  
Due to the fact that there is no industry standard for SISP, many organizations
select features from various SISP approaches, and then, possibly with outside
consulting assistance, develop their own in -house approach. Whatever approach
or combination of approaches is chosen, it will then have to be adapted to suit
the environment, culture, experience and skills existing in the organization
(Ahituv and Neumann, 1990).
The five SISP approaches we will examine are the Ward Y (1990) approach,
Information Engineering (Finkelstein, 1989), the Dickson and Wetherbe (1985)
approach, the Multidimensional approach (Earl, 1989) and Information Strategy
Planning (ISP) (Martin and Leben, 1989). These approaches will be analysed
using a framework consisting of the following factors: philosophy and aims,
planning processes involved, resulting output, and how the specific issue of
exploiting IT for strategic advantage is tac kled.
These approaches were selected as, taken together, they address all the activities
and issues that arose from the survey responses and two of them (Ward Y 
And Information Engineering) were used by the organizations. In addition, the
approaches offer a contrast, in that Ward Y aim to be very comprehensive,
while Dickson and Wetherbe cover many activities but in less detail.

Information Engineering emphasizes the building of an information

architecture, the Multidimensional approach adopts a contingency framework,
while ISP is targeted at the level of the whole organization. This range of
approaches allows an appreciation of the fact that approaches may vary
considerably from organization to organization.
The intention in this section is not to exhaustively analyse the approaches we
have chosen, but to compare them by presenting their main points of emphasis
enough detail to form a context within which the survey results may be
We shall first present a general outline of a comp rehensive abstract SISP
and use this as a basis for the individual approach comparisons where
A Y 
A SISP approach consists of a number of key analytical, evaluative and creative
(Earl, 1989) activities which result in a final strategic plan. The main activities
covered by the approaches we compare are:
1. consider organizational goals and strategies and the business and IT aims;
2. assess the current set of information systems;
3. identify information needs of business processes;
4. evaluate the external competitive environment (business threats and
opportunities and competitors¶ use of IT);
5. assess the external technological environment (technological trends);
6. agree system priorities concerning old and new systems and systems under
7. provide individual project planning so that each project has clearly identified
factors such as timetable, budget and personnel;
8. involve users in the planning process;
9. gain top manageme nt support and commitment.
‰"$Journal of Strategic Information Systems
In addition, the following outputs are produced as components of the strategic
1. organizational objectives and activities;
2. information architecture;
3. application portfolio (the set of required applications);
4. portfolio priorities (prioritized applications);
5. IS management strategy (structure and activities for the IT management
function to deliver the benefits promised in the plan);
6. IT strategy (technological infrastructure in terms of hardware, software,
7. individual project plans.
Earl (1989) classifies SISP approaches according to the emphasis they place on
of three factors: (1) awareness - the importance of IT to create strategic
advantage; (2) opportunity - the identification of threats and opportunities which
IT may address; (3) positioning - the assessment of the status of IT in the
A complementary view is that of uirschheim (1989), who views approaches as
being: (1) IS or IT led; (2) strategic (top-down); or (3) non-strategic (bottom-
In addition, two major aims are associated with the current era of strategic
information systems planning (Vitale et  Ward et 1990). Firstly,
 of IS/IT investment with business needs and secondly,    
through IS/IT by exploiting opportunities and countering threats in
external business environment, us ing the strengths of the organization.
Central to the perspective of Ward et (1990) is the concept of information as
key strategic resource, and a major consideration is that a detailed strategic plan
should be closely integrated with the business pl an. The approach is clearly
alignment-based and the underlying aim is impact - and opportunity-oriented,
is, the aim is to deliver increased value to the business by exploiting
and countering threats. Their approach also stands out as a s trategic approach,
where the top-down analysis ensures that business needs lead IS/IT
The Dickson and Wetherbe (1985) approach provides a four -stage framework
addressing key problem areas of information systems, such as the alignment of
with overall organizational objectives and the rational allocation of resources.
approach is alignment-based, employing top-down analysis and includes
comprehensive project planning stages.
The Information Engineering approach (Finkelstein, 1989) cons ists of a
continuous process of strategic planning, strategic implementation and strategic
management. At the strategic and tactical modelling stages, a set of strategic
statements leads to the construction of a data model, which is revised to adapt it
the business plan and to test out various alternatives. Alignment of the strategic
plan with the corporate plan is also a central feature of this approach, which is
essentially top-down and IS led.
In the Multidimensional approach (Earl, 1989) the key areas of interest are the
clarification of business needs in IS terms, current systems provision and use
new strategic opportunities offered by IT. The contingency nature of the
Multidimensional approach is provided by the use of strategy modes, which
Vol2 No 4 December 1993 295
the planning approach to correspond to the firm¶s sector, which may be
infrastructure (bottom-up), business (top-down) or opportunity-led (inside-out).
This approach is alignment - and impact-based and permits flexibility in the
selection of the approach used, according to the organizational features.
The central aim of the ISP approach (Martin and Leben, 1989) is to build an
information architecture (a detailed description of info rmation needs) for the
organization. This is in contrast to the Multidimensional approach, where
takes place at business unit level. The ISP approach is IT led, strategic (top -
and is based on establishing the organization¶s current IS /IT position.

Table 1 shows the level of detail of the process for each approach, based upon
set of activities identified in the previous section. The table shows that all
approaches take organizational goals into consideration, examine the
environment and identify information needs. All approaches, with the exception
Information Engineering, also provide an assessment of current systems
and use and the external technological environment, together with system
Most notably, the Information Engineering approach is the least detailed.
Neither the internal nor the external technological environments are analysed.
approach does, however, enable various strategic alternatives and their
implications to be evaluated. Initially, the strategic statements are used in
and tactical modelling to identify the information needed to support business
activities at different management levels throughout the organization.
In contrast, the comprehensive nature of the Ward et process emerges. A
° $ % r 

Ward et al. Information Dickson/ Multidimensional Information
Engineering Wetherbe Strategy
Consider organizational x
goals and strategies
Assess current set X
of IS
Identify information X
Evaluate competitive x
Assess external X
technical environment
Agree system X
Provide individual -
project planning
Involve users X
Gain top management x


‰  Journal of Strategic Information Systems
preplanning stage sets the framework for the planning study proper. The
can be seen as two-dimensional; analytical in the way the organization is
decomposed in order to derive the key business activities and their information
needs, and creative in the way new and enhanced business opportunities can be
created through IS/IT.
The Dickson and Wetherbe approach is the only one to extend to detailed
individual project planning, in terms of task definition, cost and completion
and progress tracking. As regards the optimal allocation of development
the authors stress that MIS projects are often not easily quantifiable in terms of
and benefit, as organizational factors such as relative power or aggressive
bargaining may influence the final allocation.
Securing top management support and commitment features extensivel y in both
the Ward Y and ISP approaches. Martin and Leben (1989) describe
as a vital corporate resource, affecting productivity and strategic decisions, and
such, requiring top management involvement.
The Ward and Multidimensional approaches initially appear to be very
similar, as they both have analytical and creative stages. The main difference
lies in
the contingency nature of the Multidimensional approach. The approach
the use of strategy modes which ensures that SISP is in line with the
sector. Earl (1989) proposes a classification of four industry sectors - delivery,
dependent, drive and delayed - which describe the strategic impact and potential
of IT in different sectors. A µthree-legged¶ approach is then constructed which
this classification, suggesting whether a bottom-up, top-down or inside-out
approach should be employed. The inside -out approach identifies areas which
yield unique and competitive advantage from IT.
The final strategic plan is a reference document which will be employed to: (1)
initiate new IS projects, (2) serve as a means of auditing current information
systems provision of IT use, (3) act as a project management tool, in terms of
deadlines and priorities, and (4) serve as a means of assessing new IS project
proposals. Table 2 shows a comparison of the breadth of the outputs of the five
° $ ‰ r 

Ward Y Information Dickson/ Multidimensional Information
Engineering Wetherbe Strategy
Organizational objectives x
and activities
Information Ë
Application portfolio Ë
Portfolio priorities Ë
IS management Ë
IT strategy Ë
Project plans -
Vol2 [ ' December 1993 297
approaches, based on the comprehensive set of outputs we identified in the
previous section.
Each of the approaches outlined can provide a basis for an effective strategic
plan, when applied in the appropriate circumstances. Table 2 shows that the
Dickson and Wetherbe approach delivers the widest range of products in its
strategic plan, extending to project planning. uowever, the level of detail is
less than that given by the Ward approach, which produces three distinct
detailed outputs: (a) business IS strategy, (b) IT strategy, and (c) IS/IT
management strategy. The business IS strategy consists of an IS strategy and
policies, the application portfolio and tables detailing information requirements.
The Multidimensional approach produces a more directional than detailed
strategic plan, although it gives the most comprehensive application portfolio.
IS management strategy is covered at a later stage. The applicat ions strategic
is described as a µshopping list¶ of applications and projects, giving clear
for IS development. This includes mandatory applications, strategic systems,
research and development and infrastructure investment.
Finally, the ISP approach produces various enterprise and data models as its
main output, which form a detailed knowledge base for the creation and
maintenance of future information systems. The absence of an IS management
strategy from the output of ISP reflects the data-oriented nature of the approach.

The exploitation of IT for strategic advantage has been widely documented
1985; Rackoff 1985; Jackson, 1989), particularly the ways in which IT
support business strategy and create strategic options. The Ward approach
and Earl¶s Multidimensional approach are the only approaches which explicitly
address the use of IT for strategic advantage. A difference of viewpoint exists
between the two approaches, as Ward argue that rather than being
incremental extensions from earlier developments or backlog lists, IS
developments need to be driven by current or future business needs.
Earl points out that many strategic systems have been evoluti onary rather than
revolutionary and that the addition of a later facility to an existing system may
competitive advantage.
Within the Ward approach, the creative approach is used to identify
business opportunities, which can be sustained, stre ngthened or created by the
of IT. The Multidimensional approach proposes an µinside -out¶ stage to focus
on IT

All the approaches share the view that information is a key resource and,
correspondingly, they all produce an information (or data) architecture, using
sources such as staff interviews and current systems. All approaches except
Information Engineering use this to prioritize a set of information system
Approach differences are due mainly to the bre adth of activities included, as
some approaches cover pre -planning, assessing the external technological
environment, and producing IT and IS management strategies. Approaches also
differ in their aims, as one may be more impact -conscious than another (Ward

and Multidimensional approaches), and they may also differ in their ability to
themselves to different organizational circumstances, such as the
‰"Journal of Strategic Information Systems
Organizations with less SISP experience may prefer to concentrate on detailed,
step-by-step approaches which provide guidance frameworks, such as the Ward
al. or Multidimensional approaches. As SISP experience increases, the approach
can be adopted to suit changing organizational circumstances and different
No single approach is optimal for every organization, although there may exist a
particular set of circumstances unde r which it is superior. Another view is that
strengths and weaknesses of an approach are determined by the types of issues
it does or does not consider.
c     !"!#   
r !

The primary purpose of this questionnaire -based survey is to establish a clearer
picture of current practices in SISP, particularly with regard to the approaches
techniques used. ry evaluating the extent to which specified SISP objectives are
met and by identifying the problems encountered, a profil e of SISP experiences
be built. Of particular interest is whether certain management or organizational
factors influence SISP by increasing or decreasing its effectiveness, as
perceived by
responses concerning problems found and levels of satisfaction.

Of the 140 private and public sector organizations that were invited to
participate in
the survey 18 responded, all of which were engaged in SISP. This reflects one
of the
key problems associated with mail surveys, namely the risk of obtaining a
prohibitively low response rate. The size of the sample should thus be taken into
account when interpreting the results. Nevertheless, the results obtained do
provide a useful indication of the ongoing concerns in the SISP field. The
was carried out in the spring and summer of 1991.

The survey instrument was a three-part questionnaire, included in the appendix.
The first part of the survey contains a number of questions related to respondent
and organizational characteristics. In the second part, respondents identify the
SISP approach used, its primary focus, and the extent to which various SISP
objectives are met. Other questions relate to the extent of par ticipation of the IT
department (we use this term to refer to the central department responsible for
computer hardware and software development in an organization) in business
planning, the initiator of the SISP study, the existence of contingency plans, t he
scope of the study and the factors involved in the choice of study planning
The third part identifies the extent to which particular problems are encountered
and the level of satisfaction experienced with various aspects of SISP.
Owing to the small size of the sample, sophisticated statistical techniques have
not been used to analyse the results. Instead, the frequencies (or, where
appropriate, the means) of responses to closed questions have been used as the
basis for the analysis.
! (   

The sizes of most of the organizations participating in the survey ranged from
Vol2 No 4 December 1993 299
to over 400 000 employees, and only three had less than 300 employees. Table
shows the size and industry representation of the organizations. The
was addressed to the head of the IS department in each organization.
had a mean of 21 years¶ experience in IT, with values ranging from 7 to 30
Changing management roles and increasing awareness of the importance of IS
planning were reflected in five of the job titles, including information services
director, business services manager, information architect and information
planning manager, signalling a specialization of the traditional role of the data
processing manager. It should be noted that the responses only reflect the views
IT personnel, and only one individual in each organization.

Fifteen respondents (83 per cent) indicated that systems were mainly developed
centrally via the IT department. Only two respondents i ndicated that system
development was decentralized to user departments and one (the largest
organization) replied that all three types given in the question were used.
Q2: ) ! 

We used the term µInformation Systems strategic planning technique¶ in this
question, contrasting with µin-house planning technique¶ in the next question, as
wanted respondents to identify recognized SISP techniques or approaches that
used. The results are shown in Figure 1, where six respondents (33 per cent)
identified one of the following as a SISP technique they used: Ward 
success factors (CSF), CCTA (Strategic planning for IS), Oracle, Information
Engineering Workbench (IEW) and Information Engineering. The mean of the
number of years experience with these was just over 4 years.

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Figure 1 shows that 10 respondents (56 per cent) used in -house techniques,
° $ 3. )
Number of employees
Less than 1000 3
1000 to 10 000 8
More than 10 000 7
Distribution 2
Manufacturing 6
Government 2
ranking/Insurance 2
Transport 1
Utilities 1
uealth :
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including critical success factors, cost/benefit analysis, strengths/weaknesses/
opportunities/threats (SWOT), feasibility studies, business/marketing -led
functionally-based IT steering groups and quarterly user group meetings.
Responses to questions 2 and 3 indicate that there is a difference in respondents¶
perceptions as to whether a technique is a recognized SISP technique, an in -
technique or is even related to SISP. For example, sever al techniques which
be regarded as SISP techniques (such as CSF and SWOT) are given in response
question 3, while a DrMS tool such as Oracle, given in response to question 2,
not normally regarded as a SISP technique (although, conceivably, pla nners
use this for its information architecture capability). A feasibility study was
given in
response to question 3 as an in-house technique.
Our conclusion is that recognized SISP techniques are not well -known to the
majority of these respondents, and they differ as to what constitutes such a
Q4:    '  

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Figure 2 shows that, of the six objectives, four received a rating below µaverage¶
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the extent to which they are met by the organizational planning technique. The
most positively rated objective was MIS -0    '  

  where the mean rating was 3.5. This is a well-known finding from other
studies, and has been noticed to apply particularly to IT respondents (Galliers,
 was also rated slightly above
 - !  
        and -

  were both rated below average. The objective which
rated lowest was new  
that SISP does not extend to the region of IS/IT management.
The other objective ranked lowest was    
either not consider the creation of competitive advantage, systems which could
bring about competitive advantage may not be implemented, or such advantage
may be difficult to measure. rergeron (1991) question whether IT can
about significant competitive advantage that will not be eroded as soon as
competitors follow a similar IT path.


Figure 3 shows that the majority of respondents c ited alignment as the primary
focus of their organization¶s planning technique. This is consistent with the
of question 4. Only two respondents indicated that impact of competitive
advantage was the central aim of their respective organization¶s p lanning
while one respondent did not complete this question.
Q6: 4 
Figure 4 shows that only nine respondents indicated that their organization¶s
planning technique defined the data architect ure, while eight respondents said it
did not. One respondent did not complete this question. Goodhue (1992)
ridgood and Jelley (1991) have noted problems related to inadequate or
analysis, or inapplicability to all organization types, concerning the production
of a
data architecture.
Responses to questions 5 and 6 imply that the majority of the planning
techniques in use in the organizations may not be very broad, confining
to alignment only, omitting consideration of technol ogical impact, with only
going on to produce a data architecture.
planning technique
alignment impact

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Only one reply indicated that automated support facilities were used to assist
(IEW planning/analysis). This follows from the response to questions 2 and 3,
indicating that mainly in-house techniques are used, rather than recognized
techniques for which more tools are available. It also suggests that SISP is not
sufficiently standardized to justify tool investment by software houses. It also
imply that the volume of data (particularly that of the data architecture)
during the process is not sufficiently high to warrant the use of standard systems
analysis tools such as entity-relationship and dataflow diagrams.
Q8: 4   
  3 -  
Figure 5 shows that, for most of the respondents, the IT department participates
the organization¶s business planning often or sometimes. Only four respondents
replied that the IT department never participated in any business planning.
Q9: )       
The IT department figures as the most frequent SISP study initiator, shown in
Figure 6, whilst management sometimes assumes this role. Other initiators of
SISP study given include users, the roard of Directors, and the corporate
Vol2 No 4 December 1993 303
Initiated  r  r Initiated   @ r
function (one response each).
Responses to questions 8 and 9 indicate that the IT department has considerable
influence over SISP, and some influence over business planning.
Respondents were asked to identify the extent to which certa in activities (based
the key activities used in the earlier section for SISP approach comparison)
covered by the organizational SISP technique. The results, for µoften¶ responses,
are shown in Figure 7, and the emphasis on organizational goals and strategies
again confirms earlier findings. It is also clear that users, with their knowledge
business processes and organizational goals, are fully involved in the process.
than half of the respondents assess the organizational environment often. Of the
eight µnever¶ responses,    

had the most (three) responses.



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From question 10, only two of the respondents indicated that contingency plans
were often used in the planning process, although 13 said they were used
sometimes. If contingency plans were used, they were sometimes based on
different assumptions concerning organization strategy, were never as detailed
the main strategic plan and were only sometimes developed alongside the main
plan. The reason for this lack of emphasis may be to reduce planning time.



Figure 8 shows the responses to this question. ualf the respondents cited the
organization and a particular functional area as the scope often chosen for a
planning study. The planning study would only sometimes cover a division.
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The business planning horizon was identified as the m ost important factor
in the choice of IT planning horizon, and Figure 9 shows the responses. Other
factors (five responses) were finance, technological lead time and the ability to
predict events.

- #
Respondents were presented with a set of 10 problems commonly encountered
SISP, compiled mainly from the ranked problem list identified by Lederer and
Sethi (1988), and were asked to rate the problems on a scale from 1 to 5 in order
significance, and the results are shown in Figure 10.
The most commonly experienced problems were:
1. success of planning technique dependent on team leader;
2. difficulty in securing top management commitment for implementing plan
3. planning exercise very long;
4. difficulty of convincing management to implement planning technique.
All the problems appeared under control, in that they were clustered around the
and 3 ratings (termed µinsignificant¶ and µminor¶ respectively in the
The problem concerning the length of the planning exercise may perhaps be
to the finding of question 12, where the entire organization was identified as the
most common scope for a planning study.
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/59Journal of Strategic Information Systems
Areas concerned with organization structure/size or expense of planning
exercise, inappropriate planning horizon considered and finding the planning
technique too rigid and constrained, were the least problematic areas.
Organizations feel that they can adapt SIS P techniques for their own use, as
suggested by question 3. One public sector organization stated that µFinding and
determination of business objectives (is) difficult when requirements
upon political initiative¶.
We asked about levels of satisfaction with four factors relevant to SISP:
technique, resources required, the planning process and planning process output.
The results may be seen in Figure 11. ualf of the respondents gave an average
better rating to the planning technique they used, while for resources required,
dissatisfaction was recorded. The planning process itself was the factor with
most dissatisfaction was felt.
Respondents were most satisfied with the output of the planning proces s. One
respondent commented that µIt is not the Method or tools which determines the
success of planning but the management of the process throughout¶. Several
respondents indicated that they were contemplating the acquisition of a formal
approach to planning. We discuss some implications of these findings in the
The aim of the survey was to identify broad approaches to SISP, to discover the
extent of problems experienced and to gauge the levels of satisfaction with
aspects of SISP. Respondents were not asked to base their questionnaire
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Vol2 No 4 December 1993 307
on a recent project and replies should be taken as a reflection of their general
experience. Although, as remarked, the number of responses is relatively small,
number of interesting points do emerge from the survey.
The fact that only a third of respondents perceive that their organizations use a
recognized SISP technique contrasts with the results in Lederer and Sethi
where 66 per cent of the organizations used well -known SISP techniques. This
indicate that US organizations are more developed in their use of SISP. In
in our survey, no organizational technique was described as both impact - and
alignment-oriented, which would have suggested a higher level of sophistication
SISP. Galliers¶ survey (1987) found that only 25 per cent of UK organizations
what he termed common or proprietary planning approaches.
uowever, another way to look at the results, ignoring respondents¶ perceptions
as to what does or does not constitute a SISP technique, is to include the
techniques given in response to question 3 with those from question 2. This
in a figure of 44 per cent of organizations that, to some extent, use a recognized
SISP technique. Four organizations also stated that they intended to move
more formal planning in the near future. Compared with Gallie rs¶ survey (1987)
1985/86, referred to above, this indicates that UK organizations may be
their use of recognized SISP techniques.
The great majority (83 per cent) of respondents identified  of
systems objectives with organizational goals, as opposed to impact, as the key
of their organization¶s planning technique, as shown in Figure 3, reinforcing
Galliers¶ (1989) finding concerning the favoured SISP focus for IT personnel.
survey (1990) found alignment to be the primary SISP benefit realized.
Lederer and Mendelow (1987) suggest that if senior IT personnel participate in
SISP, they will have a greater understanding of top management objectives and,
a result, the output of any SISP study is more likely to be aligned with
organizational goals. This was borne out by the survey, as Figure 5 shows that a
large majority (77 per cent) of respondents indicated that the IT department
participated often or sometimes in the organization¶s business planning and,
Figure 2, the objective most frequently met was =-0    '  

Despite the wide variety of SISP techniques and tools used, and the fact that, as
shown in Figure 6, it is the IT department who are more likely to initiate the
study, almost all planning takes place with user involvement, as shown in
Figure 7.

In contrast to Earl (1989), Ward (1990) argue that SISP is not effective
the scope covers just a strategic business unit, although this may be modified if
emerges that key integral business activities extend into other parts of the
organization. Figure 8 shows that, for half the organizations, the SISP study
covers the entire organization (a finding shared by Lederer and Sethi (1988))
could be linked to one of the major problems found, that is, the length of the
/5Journal of Strategic Information Systems
Figure 9 shows that the business planning horizon is cited by a small majority as
the most important factor involved in the choice of IT planning horizon,
the notion of a bias towards alignment of SISP and business planning. We may
hypothesize that this indicates stronger links between SISP and business
than those found in Galliers¶ survey (1987), who found that SISP was
undertaken in
response to business planning in only 27 per cent of organizations.

  ,the most significant problem highlighted by the
as shown in Figure 10, is the fact that the success of the SISP technique depends
the team leader, a problem also cited by Ward et (1990). An individual is
required who combines both business (theoretical and practical) skills as well as
skills, can communicate equally well with senior management and IT
who can balance varying demands of different divisions of an organization, can
successfully manage a complex and highly political planning study, and who
finally convince management to implement the plan¶s findings. Finding such an
individual is clearly a problem.
·  ,another problem found was the length of the SISP
study. Martin and Leben (1989) suggest that a lengthy SISP study may be
to the absence of a firm methodology or firm management of the planning
Ward (1990) address this problem in the pre-planning stage, by
that a planning schedule is pr oduced, outlining the various stages of the SISP
=  ,it was difficult to convince management of the
both to adopt a SISP technique and, having completed a SISP study, to
the findings. For example, one respondent stated that µIt is extremely difficult to
senior management to plan beyond the end of the current year¶. In one small
organization, the respondent identified the main problem as being that
management had still not perceived the potential of IT (the most common
for difficulty in convincing management about IT benefits found in Lederer and
Mendelow (1987)).
There is an apparent conflict between these management problems and the
second highest rated objective attained from Figure 2: 

This might be explained by the fact that the existence of SISP plans
with organizational objectives has made management consider the IT
more favourably.


,it is interesting to compare a list (Lederer and Sethi, 1988) of the
most commonly found problems in a SISP study, shown in Table 4, with those
found in our survey. Lederer and Sethi classified problems as resource, process
output based. For resource based problems, the surveys are in agreement, as the
team leader problem was rated highest in both. Similarly, the problems of the
length of the SISP study as well as the difficulty of obtaining top management
approval were both highly rated. For their output based problems, there is
agreement with our survey with respect to the problem of securing top
commitment (Lederer and Mendelow, 1987).
Vol2 No 4 December 1993 309
° $ ' 2  $    !"!#   £  
           ,  !

1. Difficult to secure top management commitment
2. Post-analysis required after study completed
3. No training plan for IT department
4. No financial plan for IT department
5. No overall data architecture or databases determined
6. No permanent IS planning group
7. No data administration need addressed
1. Success dependent on team leader
2. Difficult to find team leader meeting criteria
3. Methodology lacks sufficient computer support
4. Planning exercise takes long time
5. Difficult to obtain top management approval
6. Difficult to find team members meeting criteria
7. Documentation is inadequate
8. Planning exercise very expensive
1. Ignores plan implementation issues
2. No analysis of IT department strengths/weaknesses
3. No analysis of technological environment
4. Too much user involvement
5. Questions difficult for managers to answer
6. Ignores organization changes during SISP
,however, there is no agreement on the issue of post -analysis
required (post-analysis is the addition of detailed information to a strategic
The reason for this being perceived as only a minor problem in our survey may
due to the fact that our planners do not consider it to be a necessary output. This
would fit in with the point made in the analysis of question 6 above, concerning
lack of breadth in planning techniq ues used. A similar explanation may be
to the fact that, for output and process problems, IT department improvements
(considered a problem by Lederer and Sethi) were not considered an objective
our survey, as su¶ggested in the analysis of questi on 4.
Rigidity of the planning procedure was considered less than insignificant in
surveys, implying that organizations feel free to adapt approaches and
as they see fit.

Earl (1990) found that resource constraints were ranked at the top of the list of
unsuccessful SISP features, with the length of time taken by the study amongst
top five features. The team leader problem found in our survey was not
mentioned. Top management acceptance was another problem, as wa s the fact
much of what was proposed by the strategic plan was not developed further or
implemented. When asked to list SISP success factors, top management
involvement and support were rated highest, followed by the availability of a
business strategy.
/5Journal of Strategic Information Systems

In Galliers¶ survey (1987), while senior management commitment and
ranked in the top three critical success factors for SISP (as perceived by
systems planners), the problems concerning team leader dependence and the
length of the planning exercise were not regarded as amongst the top ten factors.
The levels of satisfaction shown in Figure 11 indicate that 44 per cent of
respondents report average or above levels of satisfaction with the planning
process, rising to 67 per cent when the output of the planning process in
These figures are lower than those in Galliers (1987), although not exactly
comparable, where 71 per cent of UK respondents perceived SISP, as viewed by
management, to be successful. Earl (1990) found that 76 per cent of IS directors
perceived the level of SISP success to be average or above average. (Galliers
and Earl (1990) show that SISP success may be perceived differently by
organizational groups. Our survey records only the success of SISP as perceived
IT management.) In the conclusions we discuss how the output of the planning
process, which has the highest level of satisfaction recorded, may be limited in
many cases to plans only and may not be implemented.
The levels of satisfaction may be considered with Figure 2, which shows that
of the six objectives receive a rating of less than average for the extent to which
they are met by SISP.
" &        
In this section, we have attempted to relate organizational factors to different
of questionnaire responses. recause of the small number of organizations
the results should be treated with caution and, at best, viewed as possible
hypotheses which might form the basis of future, more comprehensive surveys.

The survey involved both private and public sector organizations and there was
some indication that the private sector experienced less SISP problems (also
in Lederer and Sethi (1988)). In the public sector, problems that were resource
based received a high rating and also included the difficulty of convincing
management to implement the SISP technique.
Notably, there was less participation of the IT department in organizational
planning. In one public sector organization, no formal SISP process was used;
instead, individual departments identified information systems needs at an
application level.

Senior management involvement and commitment is critical to the success of
SISP initiative (Martin and Leben, 1989). uence top management initiation of
planning study should reflect that commitment and less severe planni ng
should be anticipated (Lederer and Sethi, 1988). uowever, survey results
that the IT department was more likely to initiate the IS planning study and no
relationship was found between top management initiation of the planning study
and reduced planning problems.
Vol2 No 4 December 1993 311

We found that the majority of organizations who used a recognized SISP
also produced a data architecture. Conversely, those wh o used an in-house
technique tended not to produce a data architecture.

When we considered the following organizational factors, and attempted to
them to the severity or lack of severity of problems reported (measured by the
problem ratings in Figure lo), we reached the following conclusions:
'          ,there was no clear
between these two factors and problem severity (planning sophistication
estimated as determining a data architecture and analysing the external
   -    ,all the departments
never participated experienced more severe problems than those who did
'        ,in contrast to Lederer and
(1988), we found that, in this situation, less severe problems were experienced,
compared to the situation where IT management initiate the study.
'      ,'did not find any relationship between these
factors (size measured by number of employees) and problem severity.
IT departments still fulfil the traditional role of being the main developer of
in the majority of the survey organizations. Furthermore, IT departmen ts are the
main initiators of SISP studies. It may thus be hypothesized that planning and
development are more likely to be IT led than user led, producing plans to fit an
conception of what the organization wants. This view is suggested in the survey,
where alignment is rated as the top SISP objective and activity. In addition, two
the four top rated problems found were related to the difficulty of convincing
management of the need either for SISP or for implementing SISP findings.
The majority of organizations use in -house rather than recognized SISP
In addition, whereas all organizations, often or sometimes, analyse
goals and objectives, analyse the current IS and identify a set of ap plications
are aligned with organizational objectives:
' less than half of the organizations analyse the external business and
environment often;
' only half (a different half to that of the previous comment) of the
frequently produce an information architecture;
' the SISP objective, ' 
is only
slightly met.
Thus, we conclude that many organizations employ SISP approaches which use
only some of the facilities of a comprehensive approach such as that outlined
in the earlier, comparative section. In particular, we hypothesize that plan
/.Journal of Strategic Information Systems
implementation details such as an IS management strategy or an IT strate gy
often be omitted from the strategic plan, and the recommendations of plans for
information systems or other types of organizational change may not actually be
implemented. This hypothesis is supported by Earl¶s (1990) findings.
The fact that there is difficulty in getting top management approval for plan
implementation may be related to the low ratings given to the extent to which
organizational planning technique meets the following objectives: new and
payback computer applications identified, better forecasting and allocation of
resources, and competitive advantage created.
The top-rated process problem from Lederer and Sethi (1988) was µignores plan
implementation issues¶, which implies that US organizations are more advanced
SISP than UK organizations, as they have identified this missing part of SISP
approaches as a problem.
We therefore suggest that SISP approaches should be distinguished into
and Implementation approaches, where Implementation approaches emphasize
way in which the plan will be implemented. We further recommend, as
by O¶Connor (1993), that in order to assess the effectiveness of, for example,
planned information systems on the organization, the levels of satisfacti on that
measured should consider the outputs from the process of plan implementation
well as those from the planning study.
We found that the top-rated problems were all resource-dependent, rather than
centred on the SISP approach itself or its outputs. This may imply that, up to a
point, any approach will do. uowever, if the need for a more comprehensive
approach is accepted, then differences between approaches (such as their
are important. Alternatively, rather than using just one approach, planners may
seek to use multiple approaches (as argued by Churchman (1971)) to check the
validity of outputs.


An important issue not covered in the survey was that of implementation of the
recommendations in the strategic plan. While it may be a relatively inexpensive
exercise to produce a list of applications that fit in with organizational
implementation obviously calls for commitment of resources of a different
Lederer and Sethi (1988) found that only 24 per cent of applications
were ultimately executed.
Lederer and Sethi (1988) also found that the second most highly rated problem
concerned the need to carry out substantial further analysis in order to
the plan. The fact that this problem was not rated highly in our survey may
that the issue of plan implementation may not be faced in all cases (Earl, 1990).
Our survey has indicated that at least half of the organizations produce only
high-level plans, which may imply that SISP is a cosmetic exercise, with no
intention to implement plan recommendations fully.
An important issue for future work thus concerns the nature o f plan outputs and
plan implementation. It is not clear whether the surveys referred to above have
distinguished sufficiently between different types of implementation, which will
obviously range in scale from the implementation of recommendations
for example, purchasing procedures for the IT department to organization -wide
data sharing systems.
Vo12 No 4 December 1993 313
Related issues are: the nature of the decision -making process to implement or
not implement plan recommendations; the nature of problems associated with
implementation; the extent of the recommendations actually implemented; the
degree to which the implemented recommendations have met objectives; ways
determining how objectives have been met; and the extent and nature of user
involvement. Another point to investigate concerns the reasons why it is the
process itself, rather than its outputs or the technique used, which causes most
dissatisfaction for IT management.
Our survey was directed only at IT management. uowever, a future survey
should be directed at non-IT senior management to gain insight into their
perspective on strategic planning and the input of IT management. In addition,
based on the fact that, as remarked earlier, respondents had different perceptions
as to what constitutes a SISP or an in-house approach, a short section on
terminology may be helpful in future survey instruments to lessen response
From this survey we have raised several hypotheses concerning the types of
approaches used in UK organizations, the types of problems associated with
carrying out SISP studies, and how different organizational factors may be
interrelated, particularly those concerning the factors related to problems f ound
when carrying out the SISP study. We regard these hypotheses as useful
which may form the basis of future work which will further test their
SISP is growing in importance as a vital process in integrating IT into
organizations, especially with the recent growth in interest in business process
reengineering (uammer, 1990), and more work is required to understand the
different types of approaches that may be used, together with a greater
of ways in which to increase their effectiveness.

 [  [  ! 3% + 

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r ?
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c 4
5    "  ! 
!    #  
The purpose of this questionnaire is to provide a better understanding of the
Systems strategic planning function, currently in practice.
For the purposes of this questionnaire, Strategic Information Systems planning
understood as:
³The process of deciding the objectives for organizational computing and
potential computer applications which the organization may implement´. Thus,
Vo12 No 4 December 1993 315 ‘