Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 25 Number 4 2009 pp. 205-240

Diversification and Firm Performance: Exploring the Moderating Effects of Information Technology Spending

Ravichandran, T, Liu, Yu, Han, Shu, and Hasan, Iftekhar

ABSTRACT: A large body of research has examined the performance effects of diversification. However, these results have been mixed, and scholars have called for examining contingencies under which the effects of different types (related, unrelated, geographic) and levels of diversification on performance vary. This study attempts to fill this gap in the literature by arguing that examining the performance effects of diversification is incomplete without taking into consideration the firm's information technology (IT) spending. We posit that IT, by enabling coordination and control in firms, is likely to moderate the relationship between diversification and performance. Combining arguments from both resource-based view and the organizational controls literature, we theorize about the moderating effects of IT spending under different types and levels of diversification. Using data from large U.S. manufacturing firms, we test our research hypotheses. Our results indicate that while IT spending interacts with related diversification to have a positive effect on firm performance, similar interactions with unrelated diversification do not have any effects on firm performance. Furthermore, the interaction between IT spending and geographic diversification is positively associated with performance only when the level of geographic diversification is low. We interpret and discuss these results and highlight the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

Key words and phrases: business synergy, coordination and control, firm diversification, information technology, business value of information technology