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Abstract

This research identifies how the IT function can create agility in existing information systems. Agility is the capability to quickly sense and respond to environmental perturbations. We contrasted perspectives on agility from a widely used industry framework and that of the IS research literature. Beer’s Viable System Model was a useful meta-level theory to house agility elements from IS research and it introduced cybernetic principles to identify the processes required of the IT function. Indeed, our surveys of 70 organizations confirmed that the applied theory better correlates with reported agility than does existing industry best practice. The research conducted two quantitative surveys to test the applied theory. The first survey mailed a Likert-type questionnaire to the clients of an Australian IT consultancy. The second survey invited international members of professional interest groups to complete a web-based questionnaire. The responses from the surveys were analyzed using partial-least-squares modeling. The data analysis positively correlated the maturity of IT function processes prescribed by the VSM and the likelihood of agility in existing information systems. We claim our findings generalize to other large organizations in OECD member countries. The research offers an agility-capability model of the IT function to explain and predict agility in existing information systems. A further contribution is to improve industry ‘best practice’ frameworks by prescribing processes of the IT function to develop in maturity.

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