Once upon a time: Crafting allegories to analyze and share the cultural complexity of strategic alignment

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7 Scopus citations


Allegories are fictional tales that convey meaning not explicitly set out in their narratives. In writing them, researchers move beyond the "realistic" tale to frame coherent organizational metaphors and symbols and to offer a multi-layered truth that lies "between the lines" in the often subconscious spaces of organizational life. As such, this genre offers an evocative, yet concise alternative to traditional approaches for information systems research. Drawing on a 2-year cultural study of strategic alignment of IT in two insurance organizations as illustrative context, the allegory is introduced and demonstrated in five steps to guide researchers in creating their own allegories. This illustration uses allegory to recast diverse cultural and historical data into short stories that involve magic dragons and wizards, thereby demonstrating the usefulness of the genre for comparative, multi-case designs to translate organizational features to achieve a common representation. In conclusion, the paper offers reflections on how the genre of allegory may contribute to future information systems research, to alternative styles of presentation, and to reflexive practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)298-314
JournalEuropean Journal of Information Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017


  • IT Culture
  • IT alignment
  • allegory
  • magic
  • metaphor and symbols
  • writing qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Information Systems and Management


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