Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Affairs

First Advisor's Name

Sukumar Ganapati

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

N. Emel Ganapati

Second Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Susannah Ali

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

George Marakas

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


education policy, public affairs, public policy, and public administration

Date of Defense



This dissertation analyzes Agile methods and how they are adopted by Information Technology (IT) departments in research universities. Existing literature has focused on Agile adoption in private and public sectors. This study fills a knowledge gap in the research literature on Agile adoption in university contexts. Three research questions guide this study: What are the uses of Agile methods in research universities? What are the specific factors that affect adoption of agile methods in research universities? Why do research universities adopt (or not adopt) Agile methods? By answering these questions, the present study contributes to the growing literature on the opportunities and challenges of adopting Agile methods.

Methodologically, the study is based on a survey of the Chief Information Officers (CIOs) of 418 research universities (response rate of 41.4%) and elite interviews. The survey included questions about Agile adoption in terms of purpose, methods, challenges, and organizational environment. The elite interviews explored the factors affecting Agile adoption and were supplemented with secondary documents about the organizational characteristics of the IT departments.

The survey results show that many IT departments (nearly 60%) in these universities have adopted Agile. Agile is used to accelerate software development, manage projects, and increase productivity. The challenges of adopting Agile include pervasiveness of traditional waterfall methods, funding limitations, lack of skills, inconsistent process and practices, and organizational resistance to change. With respect to organizational factors, the level of research university is a determinant for adopting Agile. R1 Doctoral Universities (i.e., very high research activity) have more adoption of Agile methods compared to R2 Doctoral Universities (i.e., high research activity) or R3 Doctoral/ Professional Universities (i.e., D/PU). CIOs’ experience with Agile is a critical factor for adopting Agile. Elite interviews with the CIOs show the significance of the organizational context to adopt Agile.

IT departments support university research and teaching; hence, these departments have a constant need to address the university departments’ needs. Leadership of these departments influences Agile adoption. Agile fosters frequent and effective communication among the team members. Overall, IT departments adopt Agile to increase their organizational efficiency in delivering their services efficiently within the universities.





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