National culture and it management
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National Culture and IT Management. ECIS591. Culture…isn’t everyone basically the same?. Japanese prefer fax to email… Israelis are not big users of word-processing packages Indian programmers are too polite… In Spain, the “OK” symbol is considered vulgar

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National Culture and IT Management

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National Culture and IT Management


Culture…isn’t everyone basically the same?

  • Japanese prefer fax to email…

  • Israelis are not big users of word-processing packages

  • Indian programmers are too polite…

  • In Spain, the “OK” symbol is considered vulgar

  • Malaysian programmers may be fluent in English but have no idea of slang terms….

What is Culture?

  • “…culture is defined as an integrated system of learned behavior patterns that are characteristic of the members of any society. It includes everything a group thinks, says, does, and makes – its customs, language, materialartifacts, and shared systems of attitudes and feelings “- Czinkota, et al (1996), p.298

Researchers agree that…

  • Culture is learned and shared from generation to generation

  • Cultural norms may be acquired through parents, schools, religious organizations, and social organizations

  • Elements of culture include both verbal and non-verbal language, religion, values and attitudes, perceptions, and protocols

Dimensions of Culture

  • Hofstede

    • Power Distance

    • Individualism/Collectivism

    • Masculinity/Femininity

    • Uncertainty Avoidance

    • Confucianism/Dynamism

  • Hall

    • Space

    • Material Goods

    • Friendship

    • Time

    • Agreement

Hofstede’s Dimensions of Culture

  • Conducted between 1967-1978

  • Collected over 100,000 surveys from IBM employees around the world

  • Single, consistent control group

  • National differences emerge despite strong corporate culture

Power distance

  • Also referred to as Revering Hierarchy

  • Extent to which subordinates expect and accept the fact that power is distributed unequally in a firm

  • Some cultures see large gaps between hierarchical levels

  • Panama scores highest, Israel lowest


  • Extent to which individual sees themselves as part of a group

  • Individualistic Cultures

    • Expected to have opinions

    • Stress personal achievements

    • Independence

    • Individual rights

  • Collectivist Cultures

    • Harmony

    • Welfare group

Implications for IS Management?

  • Systems Design

    • Inherently group effort

    • Process designed for conflict

  • Incentive Schemes

    • Reward individual or group?


  • Taking care of business

    • “toughness” in meeting goals

    • “softness” in taking care of people and quality of life

  • Japan ranks as highly masculine

  • Scandinavian countries rank low

  • Implications?

    • Work hours

Uncertainty Avoidance

  • Attitudes towards risk, ambiguity, predictability, and control

  • “High avoidance” cultures place emphasis on stability

  • “Low avoidance” countries embrace change and innovation

  • Japanese high on Uncertainty Avoidance

  • Hong Kong low on Uncertainty Avoidance


  • Recent addition to cultural dimensions

  • Here-and-now vs. future

  • Confucian traits

    • Thrift

    • Persistence

    • Diligence

    • Patience

    • Patriarchal authority

Hall’s Dimensions of Culture

  • Space

    • Close-talker?

    • Queues

  • Materialism

    • Danish CEO admired for driving old car

    • Americans fight for corner office with biggest desk

    • Japanese manager may sit with other employees to downplay role of status and material goods

Hall’s Dimensions

  • Friendships

    • Some western cultures make and lose friends quickly (due to high mobility)

    • Other cultures may take longer to develop relationship but long-lasting

    • Holds for businesses as well … relationship first, then business

Hall’s Dimensions

  • Time

    • Monochronic cultures

      • See time as linear

      • Events taken one at a time

      • Stress on punctuality and deadlines

    • Polychronic cultures

      • See time as non-linear, simultaneous, unlimited

      • Plans constantly change

      • Delays less important

  • Germans considered monochronic, French are polychronic

High Vs. Low Context Cultures

Japanese, Chinese,

Mediterranean, Latin, Indian

High context

(Implicit details)

American, German, English,


Low context

(Explicit details)

Opinion 1: Culture Does Not Matter

  • Cougar (1990)

    • Compared motivation and personal growth needs of systems analysts

    • Compared US, Austria, Singapore, Israel

    • Found great similarities between all countries

    • Suggests overpowering effects of professional culture

Culture not important….

  • 1996 study of software development tool preferences between Europe, Japan, US… no significant differences

  • 1989: Danish and Canadian analysts had similar design values

    • First technical values

    • Second, economic values

    • Sociopolitical values (concern for users)

Opinion 2: Culture matters

  • Mostly anecdotal evidence…

    • French better at object-oriented design

    • Japanese better at metrics

    • British know about Jackson Methodology… unknown in US

    • Belgians more “process-oriented”

    • Americans code first and design later

Consider Japan

  • Quality assurance

    • Japanese fixed all bugs… regardless of severity

  • Meaning of requirements

    • Americans see the requirements as a contract negotiation… Japanese do not charge for minor changes

  • Designers

    • Americans tend to take a top down approach… Japan takes bottom up approach

Global Information Systems

  • Information Technology (IT) facilitates the global transformation of business

  • Crossing border poses challenges to technology managers

    • geographic

    • legal

    • cultural

    • temporal

  • need radical changes to existing technology infrastructures and management

Types of global enterprises

  • Devised by Bartlett and Ghoshal (1989)

  • International

  • Global

  • Multinational

  • Transnational

The International Strategy

  • Subsidiaries leverage parent competencies

  • Coordinated federation


  • R&D, manufacturing done at HQ

  • Strategic decisions are centralized

  • Central hub


  • Multidomestic

  • Aims at local responsiveness

  • Knowledge developed/retained at subsidiary level

  • Decentralized federation


  • Shared decision-making

  • Complex coordination

  • Centers of excellence

  • Dispersed resources

  • Integrated network

Jarvenpaa and Ives (1993)

  • Built on work by Karimi and Konsysnki

  • Based their work on Information Processing Theory (Galbraith 1973)

    • Good fit when information processing capacities of firm match requirements of environment and technology

  • Jarvenpaa and Ives develop typology of 4 global IT management configurations

The Global IT Strategies

  • Intellectual Synergy

  • Headquarters Driven

  • Independent IT Operations

  • Global Integrated IT

  • IS managers strive for best fit between above strategy and perceived global strategy

Intellectual Synergy

  • Includes several global systems

  • Each likely to be tailored for individual use

  • Each run independently by the subsidiary

  • Subsidiary-HQ IS relationship characterized by

    • Personal contacts

    • Cooperation

    • Shared learning

Headquarters Driven

  • All IT-related decisions made by headquarters

  • Goal is

    • To achieve efficiency

    • To avoid duplication of development effort

Independent IT Operations

  • Independent systems initiatives in each subsidiary

  • Focus on local responsibility

  • Few, if any, common systems through the firm

  • Fosters sense of systems ownership

Global Integrated IT

  • Strives for worldwide integration of IT that supports core competencies of firm

  • Dispersed resources

  • Numerous common systems

  • Applications for non-core areas run locally

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