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How should IT be used to govern companies?

How should IT be used to govern organizations?
In addition to his primary occupation as a researcher at the Department of Applied IT, Johan Magnusson frequently serves as an expert on issues of IT, business and digitalization. He is often seen participating as a speaker at conventions; plus, he is a regular columnist. In his research, Johan places considerable emphasis on the dilemmas of IT governance, which several organizations face.

Today’s bureaucratic governance needs to become more flexible and agile A relatively new face at the Faculty, Johan Magnusson, arrived from the School of Business, Economics and Law in the summer of 2015. And he has nothing but positive things to say about both atmosphere at the department, and the overall atmosphere at Lindholmen.

– This is the first place I’ve been when everyone takes such interest in what other people are doing. You get plenty of tips on articles and methods from inspiring and extremely competent colleagues, Johan Magnusson says. He is also very fond of the close relationship and the short distance between the university and industry at Lindholmen.

– Since we sit right next to the industry, it is so easy to run into one other. But, I think we could become even better at exploiting these partnerships.

Problems based on reality

Primarily, Johan is into applied research, assisting firms in solving concrete challenges. His experience from the world of business benefits him in lectures with students, as he makes sure each theoretical assumption is nested in authentic examples. The students appreciate that.

– I don’t think the discrepancy between theory and practice is a good thing. They should be linked together, Johan says.

Back in 2005, while at the School of Business, Economics and Law, Johan co-founded the strategic initiative Centre for Business Solutions together with colleague Urban Ask. The center is still highly active. With the help of major software vendors, ERP and BI solutions give students the opportunity to apply previously acquired theoretical knowledge to authentic situations.

– We are no longer at the stage where it is "enough" with just an education. Today, you have be very much aware of the purpose of your education and which type of position you want to work in.

IT has become a prerequisite for innovation

Johan devotes much of his time to the study of IT governance. In 2010, he completed a doctoral thesis entitled Un-packaging IT Governance. A study of Chief Information Officers in Large, Swedish Organizations. A recurring columnist on the subject, Johan explains that a well-functioning IT organization is a necessary prerequisite for the innovation and development in an organization. How organizations can be governed by the use of IT is an issue which needs to be addressed. IT is not always a top priority today, despite digitalization being critical.

– One problem is the strong bureaucracy that characterizes IT nowadays. Reporting by IT departments is only concerned with efficiency, while innovation and new ways of thinking are considered as risk factors. Consequently, such initiatives almost have to be covert. Digitalization may cause IT departments as well as unreflecting IT governance to function as obstacles to innovation. Companies tend to miss the relationship between their IT management and the structure of their organization. Also, they miss the opportunity to use IT to transform their organization.

– With the new transformative IT, companies are generally involved in smaller projects. This requires alternative forms of IT governance, Johan explains. In other words, today’s bureaucratic governance needs to become more flexible and agile, and balance these capabilities with efficiency.

More than one string to his bow

Johan Magnusson’s projects spans several fields, the most notable being Competing on Visualization. The intention is to support firms in processes of decision-making.

Johan is also one of the initiators behind Alfrek, a platform intended to make research increasingly accessible to practitioners. Johan explains that if research findings are re-packaged – and, thus, become more concrete and accessible, they could attain a higher level of impact.
Furthermore, alongside a team of colleagues from eHealth, a group at the department, Johan is involved in 3R. He describes it as one of Sweden’s largest IT investments. Their goal is to design healthcare solutions for the future. Assistance is coming from, for example, one of the executives at the regional council, currently working as an associate professor at the department. Johan is optimistic: – We have quite a different approach than most other researchers working in the healthcare sector.

Eventful academic career

At first, Johan Magnusson’s intention was to become a consultant and to work with knowledge management. In order to reach that goal, he pursued no less than three undergraduate degrees: in psychology, informatics and business administration. He started his own business and began developing software, but eventually started to feel it was not entirely right for him. Instead, Johan started working part time as a teacher, an occupation he grew fond of. In 2002, he was recruited as adjunct at the School of Business, Economics and Law in Gothenburg.

Eventually, after having completed a licentiate degree in informatics, Johan decided to specialize in accounting. He has, however, continued to work as a consultant, advisor and entrepreneur in addition to his ordinary duties ever since.

– It has been an eventful career, Johan says.

Johan thinks he has benefited from combining researching and teaching.

– Teaching and researching naturally go hand in hand. My students are really smart; they can give me a lot of input which helps me develop my theories.


Text: Erik Pedersen
Photo: private


Johan Magnusson

Johan Magnusson– One problem is the strong bureaucracy that characterizes IT nowadays. Reporting by IT departments is only concerned with efficiency, while innovation and new ways of thinking are considered as risk factors, says Johan Magnusson.

Page Manager: Catharina Jerkbrant|Last update: 2/22/2016

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