Aligning through complexity: A co-evolutionary information systems alignment approach to address complex environments in the pursuit of business-IT alignment

P. Walraven

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisThesis 1: fully internal


The promise of digital possibilities for organizations is a much researched topic. However, many organizations struggle to strategically leverage the potential of information systems and to strive for better alignment between business and IT. In complex organizations characterized by quickly changing environments and many different stakeholders, this is especially complex because of technological, societal and legislative changes and multiple, ambiguous and sometimes conflicting stakeholder goals. The complex adaptive systems-based concept of co-evolutionary information systems alignment (COISA) emerged in the literature as a potential approach to dealing with this complexity. However, most works on this topic remain conceptual, and empirical evidence on its value is scarce.

This dissertation aims to investigate the potential of COISA in addressing complexity in the pursuit of business-IT alignment. It does so in three steps:

Firstly, it identifies the key components of COISA, which consist of five continuously exercised alignment processes (strategy formulation, strategy implementation, enterprise architecture management, IT implementation and IT usage), enabled by four alignment facilitators (interconnections, stakeholder involvement, alignment motivation and alignment decisions).

The second part of this dissertation answers the question how COISA can be assessed an shaped in practice as an organizational capability, both at a specific point in time and over periods of time. This results in a survey instrument aiming to assess COISA cross-sectionally, and gives some key insights in the drivers of the forward evolution of the COISA capability over time. Especially the role of stakeholder initiative was found to be very important in the latter.

The third and final part of this dissertation aims to assess the value of COISA for organizations facing complex environments. This is done through the assessment of the correlation between an organization’s COISA capability, and their dynamic capabilities and organizational performance. Dynamic capabilities give insight in an organization’s ability to effectively sense opportunities and threats, to mobilize resources to address these, and to transform the organization accordingly. The results show that both in the healthcare sector and in the broader public sector, a significant positive correlation is found between COISA and dynamic capabilities, and through that value path, organizational performance.

Furthermore, we find that alignment facilitators are not only beneficial to the efficacy of the COISA capability, but in fact necessary: without them, the COISA capability is not effective in addressing complex environments.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Helms, Remko, Supervisor
  • Caniëls, M.C.J., Supervisor
  • Versendaal, Co-supervisor
  • van de Wetering, Rogier, Co-supervisor
Award date17 Mar 2023
Print ISBNs978-94-6473-030-2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Aligning through complexity: A co-evolutionary information systems alignment approach to address complex environments in the pursuit of business-IT alignment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this