A study of the inter-relationship of management control systems in information technology projects

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Burga, Ruben Antonio

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University of Guelph


This thesis investigates the inter-relationships between management control systems in the management of information technology (IT) projects. IT projects are an important and ubiquitous part of the operation of firms. However, both anecdotal and empirical evidence report that many of these IT projects are failing to achieve their targeted budget, design or duration which often translates into catastrophic results not only for the project team but also for the sponsoring firm. The project team is managed by a project manager who applies control mechanisms to make performance-related decisions. These control mechanisms can be viewed through the levers of control (LOC) framework described by Simons (1995). I will focus on the diagnostic LOC and the interactive LOC in my research as they demonstrate the feedback, monitoring and active parts of the framework. I show that the diagnostic LOC and the interactive LOC are inter-related but that this relationship is emphasized differently depending on contingent environmental conditions. I show that the external variables of stakeholder management capability (SMC) and environmental munificence (EM) moderates the relationship between the levers of control and the project performance as perceived by the project manager. I contribute to the concept of complementarity by providing evidence of the moderated mediation of the diagnostic LOC relationship with project performance by the interactive LOC in IT projects. I also find that while the contingency variables are moderators for all projects, their impact depends on the size of the projects which is a contribution to the contingency stream of project management and IT projects. To my knowledge, this is the first such exploration of a moderated mediation model using Simons's framework of control levers in a homogeneous industry grouping at the project level and indicates a research stream for the exploration of project management controls in the IT industry.



management control systems, information technology, project management