Information Technology and Performance within the United Nations Development Programme: A Case Study of the Influence of Information Technology on Ineffectiveness in the United Nations Development Programme

Axel Ahlberg & Christopher Palacios Dahl

Student thesis: Master thesis


The United Nations Development Programme is a highly bureaucratic, fragmented, inefficient and ineffective organisation (Mühlen-Schulte, 2010; The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, 2014). Information technology can potentially increase performance and effectiveness for any organisation (Melville, Kraemer, and Gurbaxani, 2004). Yet, many organisations fail to exploit this potential. Why is that?
As most of the existing literature on IT business value has dealt with the for-profit sector, we explored its validity in the non-profit sector. Specifically, we studied the contextual factors that influence the relationship between IT and performance in the United Nation’s Country Office ICT Advisory unit. Our exploratory and insight-based critical realist approach allowed us to revise and adapt Melville et al.’s (2004) IT Business Value model to the unit’s context. We triangulated data through our semi-structured interviews, various secondary data sources, and client satisfaction surveys.
Our evidence demonstrated that the Country Office ICT Advisory unit is performing surprisingly well despite the inefficient, hierarchical, and bureaucratic environment that it operates in. The unit’s extraordinary manner of integrating IT into their daily working routines and the services they provide to the Country Offices has enhanced their performance.
In sum, it is the combination of the variables strategy, culture, motivation, ISO 9001 standard, and IT resources, conditioned by industry and macro characteristics, that maximise the unit’s IT usage and its effect on performance. Our research suggests that our model and the unit’s exceptional use of IT could be applied to the rest of the organisation to address the abovementioned issues of ineffectiveness. We will test the external validity of our model on 16 May 2017 during our presentation of the Executive Summary to the unit’s Director.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Diversity and Change Management, (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Business and Development Studies, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages117
SupervisorsCharles T. Tackney