Assessing the consequences of federal information technology management policies on federal agency practice

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Information Science and Technology


Charles R. McClure


Information technology, Management, Federal agency

Subject Categories

Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The U.S. government relies heavily on the use of information technology (IT) to improve the performance and productivity of the federal government. Yet, while the federal government obligated more than $145 billion to IT development and operations in the years between 1991 and 1997 (General Accounting Office, 1997a), federal agencies have experienced serious problems fielding IT systems (Cohen 1994). Congress and the Executive Branch continue to issue and refine federal IT management policies. These policies are intended to improve federal IT management and promote more effective IT implementation and use. This research sought to develop a better understanding of how these government-wide IT management policies influence federal agencies' practice.

Following a multi-paradigmatic research framework proposed by Lee (1991), the study employed interpretivist- and positivist-oriented perspectives to develop a descriptive model that identifies significant factors influencing the level of policy compliance observed at the study site. The model posits that the effects of federal IT policies, external IT oversight, internal IT governance, and human and financial resources on the levels of agency policy compliance and IT success are significantly mediated by agency culture and organizational knowledge. The descriptive model reflects the researcher's interpretation of the study participants' common-sense understanding of how federal IT policies work and why they sometimes fail to work.

While the factors identified in the model are not surprising, the manner in which they interacted in the context of the study site provides provocative insights into why federal agencies might fail to achieve desired levels of policy compliance and how focusing on policy compliance might lead to paradoxical consequences. Accordingly, the descriptive model and associated implications provide a preliminary understanding of factors facilitating and inhibiting agency compliance with federal policies, and agency success in planning and implementing successful IT projects. This improved understanding suggests strategies that can be pursued by federal managers, oversight personnel and IT policy analysts to improve federal IT management performance and federal IT management policies.


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