Expertise Coordination in Information
Systems Development Projects:
Willingness, Ability, and Behavior
Jack Shih-Chieh Hsu, National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Yu Wen Hung, National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Sheng-Pao Shih, Tamkang University, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Hui-Mei Hsu, National Kaohsiung Normal University, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Information systems development (ISD) work is regarded as the crafting of an artifact to support organizational processes and provide information, communication, and processing support for various users across many disciplines. A variety of disciplines and interests is also represented in
the project (Alexander & Robertson, 2004). Stakeholders usually include
users, owners, and developers. Project teams are composed of individuals
from technical, managerial, and operational backgrounds. Each stakeholder
has a distinct set of prior expectations and criteria for the project, and each
views success differently (Cao & Hoffman, 2011; Yu, Flett, & Bowers, 2005). In
addition, because many information systems are large in scale, ISD projects
bring about a high level of interdependence among individual workers (Kraut
& Streeter, 1995). However, team members with different skills and expertise
often have limited experience working together. In ISD projects, dependencies
may exist among tasks, subtasks, and resources (Crowston & Kammerer,
1998). These confounding factors are believed to be major contributors to the
high failure rate of ISD projects (Ibrahim, Ayazi, Nasrmalek, & Nakhat, 2013;
Lee, Park, & Lee, 2015; Narayanaswamy, Grover, & Henry, 2013; Wallace, Keil,
& Rai, 2004a). ISD project teams, in particular, face the challenge of effectively
coordinating the expertise of multiple stakeholders.
Experts agree that for an ISD project to be successful, all of the diverse talents, goals, and interests need to be effectively coordinated (Andres & Zmud,
2002; Banker, Bardhan, & Asdemir, 2006; Hoegl & Gemuenden, 2001; Hsu, Shih,
Chiang, & Liu, 2012; Kraut & Streeter, 1995; Nidumolu, 1995; Reich, Gemino,
& Sauer, 2008). One of the ISD team’s more formative tasks is to coordinate
the skills, talents, and knowledge required to enhance team performance or
team effectiveness (Faraj & Sproull, 2000; Kanawattanachai & Yoo, 2007; Yang,
Freeman, & Lynch, 2008). Given the value that effective coordination is expected
to bring, prior studies have examined how different coordination mechanisms
affect ISD projects (Andres & Zmud, 2002; Kirsch, 2000). Expertise coordination, in particular, is a critical factor in successful ISD projects (Faraj & Sproull,
2000; Okhuysen, 2001; Reich & Benbasat, 1996; Tiwana & McLean, 2005).
However, the findings of empirical studies in the IS literature have been
inconsistent. For example, expertise coordination strongly influences project
performance, team effectiveness, and team efficiency in software development
projects (Faraj & Sproull, 2000; Jiang, Klein, & Chen, 2006). In contrast, the
impacts of task–knowledge coordination on the performance of a virtual team
only occurred at the end of 8-week project (Kanawattanachai & Yoo, 2007).
Project Management Journal, Vol. 47, No. 4, 95–115
© 2016 by the Project Management Institute
Published online at www.pmi.org/PMJ
Information systems development (ISD)
projects are complex, requiring a variety of
expertise. Coordinating such expertise helps
manage complexity, increasing the likelihood of a project’s success. Findings of past
studies have been inconsistent regarding the
benefits of expertise coordination—perhaps,
in part, because three different forms of
coordination have been used: willingness,
ability, and behavior. We find that willingness
and ability are antecedents of coordination
behavior, and that coordination behavior
fully mediates different forms of project success. Thus, successful expertise coordination
requires team members who are both willing and able. The implications and limitations of this study are discussed.
KEYWORDS: coordination; information
systems development (ISD) projects;
project management; expertise;
willingness; ability; organizational
information processing theory