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IT governance in SMEs: trust or control?

  • Devos, Jan
  • Van Landeghem, Hendrik
  • Deschoolmeester, Dirk
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2009
Ghent University Institutional Archive
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It is believed by many scholars that a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) cannot be seen through the lens of a large firm. Theories which explain IT governance in large organizations and methodologies used by practitioners can therefore not be extrapolated to SMEs, which have a completely different economic, cultural and managerial environment. SMEs suffer from resource poverty, have less IS experience and need more external support. SMEs largely contribute to the failure of many IS projects. We define an out-sourced information system failure (OISF) as a failure of IT governance in an SME environment and propose a structure for stating propositions derived from both agency theory and theory of trust. The theoretical question addressed in this paper is: how and why do OISFs occur in SMEs? We have chosen a qualitative and positivistic IS case study research strategy based on multiple cases. Eight cases of IS projects were selected. We found that trust is more important than control issues like output-based contracts and structured controls for eliminating opportunistic behaviour in SMEs. We conclude that the world of SMEs is significantly different from that of large companies. This necessitates extra care to be taken on the part of researchers and practitioners when designing artefacts for SMEs.

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