Extending Media Richness Theory to Inter-Organizational Relationships: The Choice of Communication Mode in Alliances



This paper extends media richness theory into the domain of inter-organizational relationships in order to examine the choice of communication mode in alliances. Media richness theory leads to different predictions than existing theoretical perspectives that are based on efficiency and coordination arguments. Results suggest that shared information systems such as databases and intranets are positively associated with the analyzability of the alliance task and the cultural similarity of the partners. In contrast, the use of integrative media and collaboration mechanisms such as face-to-face meetings does not depend upon task analyzability and cultural similarity. These results provide mixed support for media richness theory. We also found support for efficiency-based arguments: integrative media and information systems are positively associated with the complexity of the alliance task and negatively associated with the division of labor between the partners. We discuss the implications of these findings for the explanatory power of media richness theory and suggest that, with the advent of new technologies such as Extranets and distributed databases, this theory is becoming increasingly important for inter-organizational relationships.
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Prof.dr. J.C.M. van den Ende