Leadership Styles and Governance Structures of IT Co-operations in the Context of Public-Private Partnerships

Inter-organizational co-operations between public and private organizations (public-private partnerships, PPP) gain increasingly more importance for the modernization, standardization, and improvement of IT infrastructure and systems of public sector organizations. IT-PPPs are driven by the need to apply alternative investment instruments as well as sourcing and sharing expert knowledge and risk between public and private partners in IT projects. Since most processes and citizen-oriented services cannot be outsourced, IT-PPPs are a viable co-operation option to generate and benefit from synergy effects while improving the quality of service simultaneously.

Goal of the Research Project

A critical success factor of IT co-operations in a public-private environment is the ability to bridge institutional differences between public and private parties. Hence, it is important to establish a joint understanding of the partnership as precondition for building and maintaining mutual trust. This reduces the likelihood of severe co-operation problems or even contract terminations when critical incidents occur or expectations were not met adequately during the lifespan of such a joint collaboration. In literature, this trust-based relation is also known as psychological contract, where different institutional logics are aligned and implicitly or explicitly agreed upon mutually. The psychological contract refers to the fulfillment of individual beliefs and expectations about workload sharing, duties, and obligations within a relationship, based on promises of reciprocal exchange and mutual trust. Since not every detail can be codified in a formal, written contract, the informal, not codified psychological contract is the necessary complement of a successful IT-PPP.

In particular, it is necessary to recognize different interests, motivations and cultural backgrounds to actively address them in order to prevent PPPs from declining trust and relationship deterioration. Upcoming difficulties within public-private IT co-operations are often not caused by technological and organizational factors, but by issues which occur at the interface between public and private organizational logics. Therefore, a specialized and context-aware relationship management is especially needed in such forms of collaboration. For example, apart from the business case, such projects are also influenced by administrative and political cases. Meeting all three dimensions and indicators that qualify projects being a success is much more difficult compared to projects solely conducted by private business partners.

Therefore, this research project concentrates on exploring successful governance structures for establishing a PPP, analyzes successful leadership styles in IT cooperations in the context of PPPs, and identifies leadership capabilities for spanning the boundaries between economic and political interests. The main goals are:

  • Evaluation of successful governance structures for establishing PPPs
  • Analysis of leadership styles in IT cooperations between public and private parties
  • Identification of determining boundary spanning and management capabilities for successful IT project management in PPPs.

Building on research results from our TollCollect investigation, this further research project explores leadership styles and governance structures in the context of IT-PPP co-operations. Therefore, a qualitative, interview-based case study is conducted to explore these specific aspects within an in-depth analysis.

Available Publications

Beck, R., Marschollek, O. and Gregory, R. (2009) The Role of Boundary Spanning in Public-Private IT Megaprojects, in: Proceedings of the 4th International Research Workshop on IT Project Management (IRWITPM 2009), BEST PAPER AWARD, Phoenix, USA

Beck, R., Marschollek, O. and Gregory, R. (2010) Establishing Preconditions for Spanning the Boundaries in Public Private IT Megaprojects, in: International Journal of Information Technology Project Management, 1(4), pp. 20-37

Marschollek, O. (2011) "Nobody wins, but nobody loses either" - Understanding different institutional logics in IT public-private partnerships, in: Proceedings of the 19th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS 2011), Helsinki, Finland

Marschollek, O., Beck, R. and Gregory, R. (2010) Psychological Contract Violation in IT Megaprojects in the Context of Public Private Partnerships - The German TollCollect Case, in: Proceedings of the 18th European Conference on Information System (ECIS 2010), Pretoria, South Africa

Project Participants

Programme Head Prof. Dr. Wolfgang König
Research Advisor: Prof. Dr. Roman Beck
Project Lead: Oliver Marschollek

Important Links

Interdisziplinäre Studien zu Politik, Recht, Administration und Technologie (ISPRAT) e. V.
Behörden Spiegel Online
ÖPP Deutschland AG


The researchers thankfully appreciate the vital participation of the practitioners in this case study. This work is developed as part of a research project at Goethe University Frankfurt. We are indebted to and gratefully acknowledge the financial support of ISPRAT e.V. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this case study are those of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect the views of ISPRAT e.V. or its supporting partners.