Over the last decade, general managers who report to functional areas other than information systems — “line managers” — have increasingly gained information technology (IT) management responsibilities.1 Perhaps the single most important factor underlying this dispersion is an increased need for line managers to manage interdependencies within and external to the firm in light of (1) pressures to globalize operations and (2) new competitive requirements such as increasing product quality and decreasing time to market.2 For example, IT resources are being used to solve business and strategic challenges associated with cross-functional integration, coordination and control of mutually dependent value chain activities, and team development across organizational and geographic boundaries.3 Line and IT managers must increasingly work closely together.4 Although IT managers possess important technical and systems know-how, IT applications are best led by line managers who thoroughly understand the business situation.
The technological and strategic complexities of managing IT resources have increased dramatically over the past decade. These complexities are motivating many organizations to reexamine their IT management architectures. An “IT management architecture” is the locus of decision making for IT-related processes within a firm. We use this term to draw a parallel with the technical IT architecture within a firm and to focus attention on the general management issues underlying IT resource application. Our concern is not with the location and distribution of the IT resources themselves, but rather with the location, distribution, and pattern of managerial responsibilities and control that ultimately affect how IT resources are applied and then implemented.
Consider the following example, based on a composite:5
A large financial institution maintained a centrally managed group of analysts, programmers, and project managers. This group provided support for multiple business units responsible for their own product introductions and subsequent profits and losses. The firm was facing rapid product obsolescence in a fast-changing industry and, consequently, needed to be able to rapidly introduce new products.
Battles between information systems (IS) and managers from the business units were an accepted way of life. Early efforts to disperse system development activities had resulted in poor system quality and slower development cycles, so system development responsibilities were returned to central IS. One line manager summed up the situation: “We don’t understand their language, and they don’t understand ours.