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Strategic Information Systems Planning (SISP) – An IS Strategy for ERP Implementation

The following is based on Dr. Bozarth’s research on “ERP Implementation Efforts at Three Firms: Applying lessons from the SISP and IT-enabled change literature” which is scheduled to appear in the International Journal of Operations and Production Management.

Strategic information systems planning, or SISP, is based on two core arguments. The first is that, at a minimum, a firm’s information systems investments should be aligned with the overall business strategy, and in some cases may even become an emerging source of competitive advantage. While no one disagrees with this, operations management researchers are just starting to study how this alignment takes place and what the measurable benefits are. An issue under examination is how a manufacturer’s business strategy, characterized as either “market focused” or “operations focused,” affects its ability to garner efficiency versus customer service benefits from its ERP investments.

The second core argument behind SISP is that companies can best achieve IS-based alignment or competitive advantage by following a proactive, formal and comprehensive process that includes the development of broad organizational information requirements. This is in contrast to a “reactive” strategy, in which the IS group sits back and responds to other areas of the business only when a need arises. Such a process is especially relevant to ERP investments, given their costs and long-term impact. Seegars, Grover and Teng (1) have identified six dimensions that define an excellent SISP process (notice that many of these would apply to the strategic planning process in other areas as well):

1. Comprehensiveness

Comprehensiveness is “the extent to which an organization attempts to be exhaustive or inclusive in making and integrating strategic decisions”.

2. Formalization

Formalization is “the existence of structures, techniques, written procedures, and policies that guide the planning process”.

3. Focus

Focus is “the balance between creativity and control orientations inherent within the strategic planning system”. An innovative orientation emphasizes innovative solutions to deal with opportunities and threats. An integrative orientation emphasizes control, as implemented through budgets, resource allocation, and asset management.

4. Top-down flow

SISP should be initiated by top managers, with the aid of support staff.

5. Broad participation

Even though the planning flow is top-down, participation must involve multiple functional areas and, as necessary, key stakeholders at lower levels of the organization.

6. High consistency

SISP should be characterized by frequent meetings and reassessments of the overall strategy.

The recommendations found in the SISP literature have been echoed in the operations management literature. It has been suggested that firms should institutionalize a formal top-down planning process for linking information systems strategy to business needs as they move toward evolution in their management orientation, planning, organization, and control aspects of the IT function.


(1) Segars, A.H., Grover, V., and Teng, J.T.C. (1998), “Strategic information systems planning: planning system dimensions, internal coalignment, and implications for planning effectiveness”, Decision Sciences, Vol 29 No 2, pp. 303-345.