Management Information Systems Quarterly


Many information technology (IT) projects in the U.S. federal government have been plagued with failures and overruns in recent years, wasting a large amount of tax revenues and undermining the public’s confidence in the government’s ability to manage such resources and deliver on its commitments. What affects the performance of IT projects in the federal government? We find that prior literature on IT project management from the private sector setting is inadequate to answer this question. In addition, to the best of our knowledge, information systems (IS) research thus far has not considered how the decision-making authority of an IT unit influences IT project performance at the organizational level. We leverage several unique characteristics of the public sector, vis-à-vis for-profit firms, in developing our theory and hypothesis. Utilizing official datasets on IT projects and human resource records, we find that the more IT managerial officials and supervisors a federal bureau has, the lower time overruns it experiences in its IT projects. Interestingly, this relationship is weakened when the bureau has a larger number of ongoing IT projects. Our findings offer new theoretical insights for the IT project management literature and provide meaningful policy insights into government IT management.