Institutional change in a higher education environment: Factors in the adoption and sustainability of information technology project management best practices
John LeTourneau, Michigan State University, United States
Michigan State University . Awarded
The public higher education economic and competitive environments make it crucial that organizations react to the circumstances and make better use of available resources (Duderstadt, 2000; Floyd, 2008; Shulman, 2007; State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), 2009). Viewing higher education through the perspective of new institutionalism can help explain its conservative view of change including a resistance to ideas associated with management efficiency and innovation (Cameron, 1984; Carrol, 1993; Gumport, 2000a; Kraatz & Zajac, 1996; H. D. Meyer & Rowan, 2006b; J. W. Meyer, Ramirez, Frank, & Schofer, 2005). Information technology is an increasingly important dynamic in higher education where changes in costs and efficiencies can be studied. A sub-section of information technology shown to help organizations become more economically efficient and competitive is the use of information technology project management best practices (Kerzner, 2001; Thorp, 2003; U.S. Government Accountability Office, 1994). This dissertation uses a case study to investigate how one higher education institution successfully adopted information technology project management best practices as a means of becoming more effective and efficient, improving customer satisfaction and quality, and addressing environmental complexities. This study was not a measure of how many best practices were put in place but rather how change was adopted, with guidance from an institutional change perspective framework (Van de Ven & Hargrave, 2004). Data were collected onsite via individual interviews with the senior IT staff at a major research university with a reputation of project management best practice adoption.
The findings include identification of those responsible for the promotion of PM adoption and of those who resisted. Documented as well were the actions taken by the organizational leaders enabling the changes, including process improvements, team development, communications, and skill development. The findings recognize why PM best practices were pursued, including the pursuit of higher productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction; as potential solutions to goals and complexities in the work environment; and based on the influence of outside sources including consultants and higher education resources. Factors were also identified in the cultural environment that contributed to the changes that took place.
The implications for practice focus on actions done well by the participating organization including the development of adaptive and transformative leaders through training and mentorship; building a foundation of organizational skills and tools expertise; successfully managing relationships; and effectively communicating with employees, customers, and campus collaborators. Activities requiring more attention are planning around management strategies including adoption of project management and service management best practice, and persuading university executives to plan and prioritize major project initiatives including those that are information technology related.
The implications for research include examples of coercive, mimetic, and normative isomorphism (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983) in higher education information technology, with efforts at legitimacy not consciously recognized. Documented institutional change (Van de Ven & Hargrave, 2004) included examples that fit with the perspectives of institutional design, adaptation, and diffusion, with individual leader agency a contributing factor in each.
LeTourneau, J. Institutional change in a higher education environment: Factors in the adoption and sustainability of information technology project management best practices. Ph.D. thesis, Michigan State University.
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