In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the number of new technologies, tools, and platforms; for example, social networking, cloud computing, and data analytics. As such, IT projects that were developed for use in traditional client-server environments must now be deployed across these new platforms, be able to leverage big data, and have seamless functionality across different devices. Not only has technical complexity of IT project development grown considerably, changes in what the software should do is also increasing. Consequently, while firms are discovering innovative ways of creating new products and services, keeping pace with the change has implications for the delivery, cost, and quality of IT projects. With spending on IT projects constituting a significant portion of organizational investment—something which is only expected to continue as firms seek to enhance their operational effectiveness—one of the most significant threats to IT project success is technical project risk (i.e., project complexity and changing requirements)—a threat that is all the more salient for projects utilizing the aforementioned new technologies.

With this in mind, a study by Maruping, Venkatesh, Thong, and Zhang has looked to identify how the threat of technical project risk can be mitigated. Specifically, what type of IT project team composition is more likely to execute project risk mitigation processes; and how do project risk mitigation processes affect IT project performance under different levels of technical project risk? To do so, they developed a model of technical risk processes and the IT project team composition necessary to facilitate such processes by integrating the consideration of people, process, and technology, and the relationships between all three. The authors decided on this emphasis because while existing literature has found cultural values to be an important consideration in IT project implementation, studies have only focused on the control of IT projects and overlooked the roles of people and processes—a critical aspect, since IT project development is an inherently collective and collaborative undertaking.

Building on cultural contingency theory (i.e., people’s cultural values are intertwined with, and shape, their actions in the workplace), the existing IT project risk framework, and IT project management literature, the authors were able to explain how the execution of project risk mitigation processes lessens the effects of technical project risk. Their model was tested through a field study of 325 IT project teams over a three-year period at a large corporation in China. The company was chosen for two main reasons. First, China has a rapidly growing economy and is attracting skilled knowledge-intensive labour from around the world. This makes for an increasingly culturally diverse populace. Second, the organization is a foreign-owned subsidiary that hires talent both internationally and from within China. As such, there is a variation in cultural values among the company’s employees.

It was found that team cultural composition has mixed effects on IT project risk mitigation processes, with it having a negative influence on some values (e.g., masculinity), a positive influence on others (e.g., collectivism, power distance, and long-term orientation), and in some cases no influence at all (e.g., uncertainty avoidance). Crucially, risk mitigation processes were all found to positively influence IT project performance, and that this influence is stronger when technical project risk is high, as opposed to when it is low. Unexpectedly, however, the masculinity composition of IT project teams had a negative influence on coordination and monitoring processes; perhaps because it promotes a countervailing force that emphasizes task execution without considering the relationship between tasks. Interestingly, the results also show that uncertainty avoidance composition had no significant effect on any of the project risk mitigation processes. Again, this was counter to expectations because teams with high uncertainty avoidance orientation are generally assumed to be the most likely to engage in project risk mitigation processes.

Ultimately, this study not only contributes to the existing literature by focusing on a previously overlooked aspect of IT project management, it also provides valuable information and suggestions for managers on how best to leverage people, process, and technology in mitigating IT project risks.