To Standardize Enterprise Data or Not? An Economic Analysis of Flexibility versus Control
CISL Working Paper No. 2005-10
36 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2005 Last revised: 3 May 2013
Date Written: August 23, 2012
This paper addresses the tension between benefits of centralized data control against the benefits of decentralized control at the level of the business unit. Centralized data control provides the benefit of uniform standards whereas business unit data control grants flexibility to react to rapidly changing environments. Many data standardization efforts fail because they do not fully take into account the value of flexibility and ownership incentives. We use a real options based framework and the theory of incomplete contracts to derive propositions about the optimal level of data standardization across the enterprise. Applications of the propositions are illustrated with case vignettes. The paper makes two main contributions. First, the approach defines formally how incentive structures influence ownership of the option value or value of flexibility, which is an intangible information asset. Second the derived propositions would help senior management to more precisely consider aligning incentives in data standardization exercises.
Keywords: economics of IS, outsourcing, enterprise systems, real options, incomplete contracts, standardization, information asset, flexibility and information systems decentralization
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