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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

National Culture and IT Management


Culture isn t everyone basically the same

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

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

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

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

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

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

Individualism collectivism


  • 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

Implications for IS Management?

  • Systems Design

    • Inherently group effort

    • Process designed for conflict

  • Incentive Schemes

    • Reward individual or group?

Masculinity femininity


  • 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

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

Confucianism dynamism


  • Recent addition to cultural dimensions

  • Here-and-now vs. future

  • Confucian traits

    • Thrift

    • Persistence

    • Diligence

    • Patience

    • Patriarchal authority

Hall s dimensions of culture

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

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 dimensions1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Types of global enterprises

  • Devised by Bartlett and Ghoshal (1989)

  • International

  • Global

  • Multinational

  • Transnational

The international strategy

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

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

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

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

Headquarters Driven

  • All IT-related decisions made by headquarters

  • Goal is

    • To achieve efficiency

    • To avoid duplication of development effort

Independent it operations

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

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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