Under pressure: Understanding the dynamics of coordination in IT functions under business-as-usual and emergency conditions

Julia Kotlarsky*, Bart van den Hooff, Leonie Geerts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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In an era when technologies have become a backbone of most organizations, IT support functions are under immense pressure not only to ensure provision and reliability of IS and technologies but also to resolve IS incidents of different severity when they disrupt organizations’ “business-as-usual.” This article addresses this challenge by investigating how organizational IT functions coordinate their work under different degrees of uncertainty in order to provide reliable IT services. We conceptualize coordination in IT support functions as a process that unfolds over time through interactions between four underlying coordination practices employed to provide reliable IT services: prioritizing tasks, following procedures, using roles and responsibilities, and utilizing networks. Furthermore, we show how these coordination practices change when IT incidents cause a shift from normal (i.e. “business-as-usual”) to emergency conditions. Our empirical research in two IT functions supporting two types of organizations (traditional and fast-response) demonstrate that IT functions in these two types of organizations respond to emergencies differently. Specifically, in emergencies, an IT function supporting a fast-response organization shifts to emergency coordination practices momentarily, as it abandons “normal” coordination practices to rely on an extensive set of formal practices specifically designed for such situations. In contrast, an IT function supporting a traditional organization is unprepared for emergencies—coordinating under emergency conditions involves improvisation, because coordination practices designed to support business-as-usual are not suitable for dealing with emergency situations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-122
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Information Technology
Issue number2
Early online date29 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • IS incident
  • IT support function
  • coordination
  • emergency
  • fast-response organization
  • military
  • traditional organization


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