Bases of Intra‑Organizational Power: An Analysis of the Information Technology Department


  • Andrew J. Setterstrom
  • J. Michael Pearson


Keywords: Information Technology Department, Strategic Contingency, Resource Dependence, Dysfunctional Behavior


Abstract: Power is an important aspect of the social systems that make up organizations. The concept of power helps to explain how organizational decisions are made and executed, despite opposition that results from competing goals and desires amongst those in which a given decision affects. Using resource dependence and strategic contingency theories for guidance, we identify potential sources of intra‑organizational power for the information technology (IT) department and its members. The comprehensive list of propositions developed in this paper will provide researchers potential hypotheses to test in future research, as well as a means to assess overall IT departmental power. While power plays an important role in facilitating the execution of the activities by an organization⠒s IT department, it is often pursued by self‑interested individuals, due to the fact that it provides the ability to influence decisions, such as resource allocation, as well as providing a sense of control over organizational outcomes and personal satisfaction. Based on the propositions developed in this paper, we demonstrate how power considerations provide one plausible explanation for many of the poor organization outcomes that occur with respect to the IT function, including technology for technology⠒s sake, a lack of user preferences being integrated into IT systems development projects, resistance to using of knowledge management systems, and resistance to IS outsourcing. Our discussion of power‑gaining activities provides practitioners an explanation of dysfunctional behaviors that previously may have been perceived as irrational, or even undetected. In our discussion section, we provide suggestions for researching the propositions we have developed. In particular, we suggest that a longitudinal or multi‑case study approach may provide the best method for researchers to test our set of propositions. At the same time, we caution that results from case studies would be difficult to generalize, as the configuration of IT solutions adopted by organizations tend to



1 Sep 2013