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Efficiency Creep and Shadow Innovation: Enacting Ambidextrous IT Governance in the Public Sector

Journal article
Authors Johan Magnusson
Dina Koutsikouri
Tero Päivärinta
Published in European Journal of Information Systems
ISSN 0960-085X
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Language en
Keywords IT Governance, public sector innovation, ambidexterity, public sector, digital government
Subject categories Information Systems, Business Administration


The current push toward increased innovation within the public sector calls for new approaches to IT Governance. However, recent findings highlight the aim to avoid trade-offs between innovation and efficiency through organizational ambidexterity. This paper reports a case study of ambidextrous IT Governance in two large government agencies. According to the findings, ambidextrous IT Governance is enacted through two separate but interrelated mechanisms that emerge simultaneously. In terms of exploitation, the “efficiency creep” mechanism creates a bias for efficiency- rather than innovation-oriented investments. In terms of exploration, the “shadow innovation” mechanism involves unsanctioned innovation activities. These two mechanisms interplay, in the enactment of ambidextrous IT Governance. The contribution of this study lies in theorizing about how ambidextrous IT Governance is enacted in public sector organizations, and how efficiency creep and shadow innovation influence each other. This contribution aids future research and practice on public sector innovation and IT Governance.

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