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The 16th Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS 2010)

Blog: Jaywalk

The 16th Americas Conference on Information Systems, AMCIS 2010, took place in Lima, Peru on August 12–15, 2010. This year marked the first time the conference has been held in South-America. The theme of the conference, “Sustainable IT Collaboration Around the Globe”, also expressed the international nature of this year’s forum. In fact, over half of all authors of papers presented at the conference were from outside the Americas region. Over 800 participants of 43 different nationalities were represented.

Pre-Conference

I had arrived at Lima already on Sunday, August 8, to get adjusted to the time difference and also to take a few days off to get a flavor of the country where I have never been before. The peak experience was definitely the Machu Picchu Express – a concise two-day trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu. The scenery in the Andes was spectacular and Machu Picchu exuded sanctity and magic.

Thursday, August 12

The conference was kicked off on Thursday night with a welcome reception. It was advertised as merely serving hors d’oeuvres, but actually a full warm meal was dished out as well as uncounted Pisco Sours, beers and glasses of wine. There were no welcome speeches, but the kick-off event was just about meeting and greeting familiar faces as well as new ones.

Friday, August 13

The welcoming words were said the next morning when Bruno Di Leo, GM of IBM Growth Markets and one of the most successful Peruvian business men in the world, gave his keynote speech entitled “Welcome to the Decade of Smart”.

In his keynote, Di Leo painted a vivid picture of today’s world that is increasingly connected economically, socially and technically. He pointed out that the world becoming smaller, flatter and smarter – more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent – presents an opportunity for those with courage and vision, but it will also distinguish winners from losers.

According to Di Leo, it is time to act for “smarter cities”. By 2050, 70 % of the global population will be living in cities (50 % in 2007, for comparison). This presents a systems of systems challenge, where man-made and natural interact. The cities are “crucibles for the success or failure of our future” and call for “smarter planning”.

This smarter planning calls for leadership, whose essentials, according to Di Leo, are:

I agree with the other points on the list, but I am in somewhat of a disagreement about the fact-driven decision-making. I think the vast complexity of the world today and in the future cannot be tackled with applied semantics and facts-based inferences alone, but it essentially calls for human insight and intuition – dialectical thinking that transcends computer logic.

After the keynote speech, I attended the first session of CIO Symposium, chaired by Jerry Luftman, Stevens Institute of Technology, USA, and Martin Santana, Universidad ESAN, Peru. This session featured three Information Systems Managers representing the local CIO community: Victor Canaval, Refineria la Pampilla; Fernando de los Rios, Cencosud Peru; and Oscar Valentin, Corporación José R. Lindley; as well as three thought leaders from academia, whose themes were as follows:

In her excellent, brief presentation on BI, Becerra-Fernandez displayed four factors that drive BI, four synergistic BI capabilities, four contributions and three benefits of BI to organizational success:

Factors that drive Business Intelligence:

Synergistic BI Capabilities:

Contributions:

Benefits to Success:

In the panel that followed the presentation, the CIOs recounted their experiences in BI and provided some recommendations on how to conduct BI endeavors successfully. Establishing the objectives and sorting out relevant data were seen as important; and so was training the end users. Master Data Management was considered as a key point but also as a challenge. Data quality is of pronounced importance when providing the single version of truth as an informational service. One of the recommendations was to start with very simple models. Large volumes of data were seen to require information lifecycle solutions.

Michael zur Muehlen’s presentation discussed the stat-of-the-art and trends in Business Process Management. He started his presentation by asking “How do you make a cup of coffee?” and answered the question by showing two process models representing the process of making a cup of coffee: a simple one, where you make the coffee yourself, and a more complex one representing a three-party process of obtaining a cup of coffee at Starbucks. The point was that managing the process interface can be more complex than performing the work yourself.

Zur Muehlen suggested three drivers of BPM:

There is no one-size-fits-all BPM, but the right approach to process management is contingent on what the organization’s capabilities are and what the processes supporting those capabilities are. The Process Triage by process performance and importance is helpful in this identification.

As some of the BPM trends, zur Muehlen mentioned Process Wikis, “Processes for Masses” (crowdsourcing) and Collaboration + BPM. He also recognized the wide paradigm shift towards service economy and discussed its impacts on BPM. As a case in point, he mentioned the “Power for the Hour” concept, wherein aircraft engine power is provided as a service based on the usage by hours.

The CIOs seemed to have less experience in BPM than they had in BI. The value of BPM was seen difficult to show to the business. Apart from the obvious efficiency improvement, BPM was considered potentially helpful in sharing best practices in the form of BP models and thereby helping with the expansion plans. It was also viewed as an opportunity to bridge the wide gap between IT people and end users. Also here, end user training was seen as very important. In general, BPM was conceived as the way forward. One of the CIOs even said: “It is our duty to use these technologies.”

Lastly, Rolf Wigand gave a short presentation on Web 2.0 and also touched upon Web 3.0. As the Web 2.0 “anchor points”, he identified:

Wigand viewed Web 3.0 merely as Web 2.0 combined with sophisticated meaning/semantics that will not result in any huge paradigm shift. In Web 3.0, peers determine “quality” and “acceptability”, enabling super-intelligent content and knowledge management driven by taxonomies.

In conclusion, he recognized four broad trends for the future of social networking, social media and Web 2.0:

  1. The role of e-mail – Who needs email?
  2. Most social media are likely to fail, at least initially
  3. The role and influence of the smart phone
  4. Recognizing social networking and social media as an untapped resource of insight

Of the three technologies discussed in the session, the CIOs seemed to have the least experience in Web 2.0. They did not see ROI in short-term, but recognized the need to invest in the phenomenon in long term. Web 2.0 was primarily seen as a marketing tool, reducing costs and getting closer to the consumer.

Without a break, the session was followed by a sponsor presentation. Lee Kedrie, Chief Brand Officer and Evangelist, HP, gave a half-hour glimpse of HP’s vision for Cloud Computing. His bottom-line was that the time for adopting cloud computing is now. Market trends are mandating the development of a cloud strategy, incorporating the use of private clouds.

Kedrie did not question IT organization’s role as a functional service provider for the business. In contrast, he viewed IT organization’s role becoming more that of a sourcer and integrator of services, where sourcing decisions are based on perceived value/risk. The services may come from cloud service providers, hosted/outsourced service providers or from the internal cloud. And, of course, HP will be the partner of choice in making this cloud strategy real.

The box lunch was served in a tent outside of Swissôtel, one of the three conference venues. In the same space, there was a poster session, featuring about 50 papers. I scanned the posters through very quickly and found a few interesting ones, such as “Mediating effect of innovation on the relationship between environment and performance in services firms”, which is in perfect line with the line of research we are currently conducting. Unfortunately, the original paper was in Spanish. I got the copy of the paper as well as the summary handout in English.

After the lunch, I attended the Business Process Management & Innovation minitrack, chaired by Michael zur Muehlen, Stevens Institute of Technology.

The first paper was presented by Glenn Stewart, Queensland University of Technology. The paper was entitled “Service Identification through Value Chain Analysis and Prioritization”. It described how each element in the value chain can be rendered as a SOA service and linked to the attainment of different organizational strategies. The ranked order of services’ contribution to strategy then facilitates executive decision-making on which SOA services to develop.

The second paper, “An Integrative Framework of the Factors Affecting Process Model Understanding: A Learning Perspective” by Hajo Reijers, Eindhoven University of Technology, Jan Recker, Queensland University of Technology, and Sander van de Wouw, Eindhoven University of Technology put forth an integrative framework to understand the role of the user in the process of understanding process models. Jan Recker presented the rather unexpected results from the empirical survey study testing the theoretical framework – it seemed that the theoretical conjectures were somewhat amiss.

The third paper in the session was entitled “Does Your Business Process Management (Still) Fit the Market? – A Dynamic Capability Perspective”. The authors Björn Niehaves, Ralf Plattfaut (presenter) and Jörg Becker viewed Business Process Management (BPM) as a set of techniques to integrate, build, and reconfigure an organization’s business processes for the purpose achieving a fit with the market environment. They argued for the importance of business process change in the face of dynamic markets and maintained that existing designs of BPM may fall short in these settings (market-BPM-misfit). I agreed so far but was not entirely convinced that their case organization, representing the public sector, was an ideal example of an organization in dynamic markets.

The fourth and last paper in the session was “The Emergence of a Multi-Organizational View on Business Processes – Experiences from a Double-Loop Action Research Approach” by Sandra Haraldson and Mikael Lind of University of Borås. The authors outlined a novel perspective on multi-organizational business processes, drawing from the language/action tradition, emphasizing dyadic business interactions, on one hand and from other traditions, such as supply-chain management, that include several organizational entities, on the other hand. Their new perspective focuses on communicative actions and respective action patterns and includes both transformative and coordinative perspective on business processes. The approach in general sounds good, but I have to say their presentation of the case study went over my head.

After this session, I did some session hopping. The first stop was at the Business Service Management minitrack, where Steven Alter, University of San Francisco, was pondering the question of his paper title: “Does Service-Dominant Logic Provide Insights about Operational IT Service Systems?” Alter questioned about why S-D logic is cited so often in relation to operational service systems, although Service-Dominant logic and IT service systems address ideas at different levels of analysis and for different purposes. However, he acknowledged that synergies between these approaches might yield insights at both levels. I invited him to attend our paper presentation the next day, as we, indeed, attempt to find common ground for the both approaches.

The next stop was at the Organizations, Information Systems, and Competitiveness minitrack, where I attended the presentation on the paper “The Complementary Effect of Manufacturing Process Modularity and IS Flexibility on Agility in Manufacturing” by Shuai-fu Lin (presenter) and Ashley Bush of Florida State University. Their study extended modular systems theory to manufacturing process design and posited that manufacturing process modularity and information systems flexibility have an complementary effect on agility in manufacturing. They suggest that firms should focus their efforts on both IS flexibility and manufacturing process modularity, in addition to modular product design. What the study did not address, however, was the relationship between manufacturing process modularity and IS flexibility: what is the impact of IT on the process and its degree of modularity.

I concluded my first conference day by attending to the presentation by Taline Jadaan on the paper “Integration for innovation: Studying the role of middleware in RFID applications”. The paper examined how different middleware architecture approaches affected the utilization of RFID sensor technology in case study organizations. One of the case organizations was successfully leveraging sensor data for innovation, but another case organization had the middleware hosted by a third party and was unable to exploit too rigidly packed data that did not allow itself to be combined with business application data.

Saturday, August 14

I was occupied with something else in the morning and was not able to attend the sessions until 2 pm. I opted to go to the IT Governance, Alignment and Architectures minitrack.

The first paper presented was “Selecting and Ranking IT Governance Practices for Electric Utilities” by Luiz Mauricio Martins, CISUC – Department of Informatics Engineering University of Coimbra, Antão Moura, Federal University of Campina Grande, Paulo Rupino da Cunha, CISUC, and Antonio Dias Figueiredo, CISUC. The authors had conducted a thorough literature review and then discussing the preliminary findings with top level IT executives from an electric utility in Europe and another in South America. They came up with a list of 83 practices that can be used to address distinct dimensions of IT Governance (leadership, structure, process, social, and relational mechanisms) and with a shorter list of 14 key practices classified into Essential, Important, and Good that are deemed the most relevant for electrical utilities. I found the paper interesting for two reasons: 1) I have a general interest in IT governance, 2) I have consulting experience at an electric utility company.

The second paper was “Predicting Patterns of Information Systems Alignment in Entrepreneurial Organizations” by Chris Street, University of Regina, Brent Gallupe, Queen’s University, and Blaize Reich, Simon Fraser University. Their paper examined the factors that predict the patterns of information systems alignment change in entrepreneurial organizations. Longitudinal qualitative and quantitative data from two retrospective case studies were used to compare the predictive ability of Continuous Change Theory and Punctuated Equilibrium Theory regarding ISA changes over time. This paper was one of the best paper nominees – obviously for its academic rigor rather than practical relevance.

The next two papers represented action research. “IT Governance Implementation – Case of a Brazilian Bank” by Vilmar Grüttner, Fernando Pinheiro, and Anderson Itaborahy, recounted the authors’ experience in implementing IT governance in a major Brazilian bank, and “IT Governance and Organizational Transformation: Findings From an Action Research Study” by Boris Otto investigated the impact of organizational transformation on the establishment of specific IT Governance models, using “Cerveza & Refrescos”, a Latin American producer and distributor of beverages, as a case company.

Next, in the late afternoon session, it was my turn to be the first presenter in the Service Science, Management and Engineering (SSME) minitrack. The paper I had co-authored with my colleagues Kari Hiekkanen and Mikko Heiskala, Aalto University, was entitled “Map to Service-Oriented Business and IT: A Stratified Approach”. Our paper aimed at integrating the externally manifesting Service-Dominant logic (S-D Logic) of marketing research with the internal perspective of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) through the artifact called the Map to Service-Oriented Business and IT. The map is divided to four viewpoints along two dimensions: business/IT and internal/external, and the concentric layers reflect the work levels as specified in Jaques’ Requisite Organization.

After my presentation, I stayed in the session for the next two presentations: “Networked Mechanism Design – Incentive Engineering in Service Value Networks as Exemplified by the Co-Opetition Mechanism” by Tobias Conte, Benjamin Blau, and Rico Knapper; and “Semantics Take the SOA Registry to the Next Level: an Empirical Study in a Telecom Company” by Catarina Ferreira da Silva, University of Coimbra (presenter) and her colleagues. Both presentations were rather technical and could not keep my attention. I was wondering what the latter presentation was even doing in this minitrack.

In the evening, there was a social event at the tent outside. Lots of good food, wine and other drinks, Peruvian dance performances, dancing, and socializing. A great party!

Sunday, August 15

On Sunday, the program ended already at noon, but I got up early enough to attend both a tutorial session in the early morning and a full paper session thereafter.

The tutorial session was entitled “Work System Concepts as the Core for Teaching Information Systems and Operations Management” and given by professor Steven Alter, University of San Francisco. Alter argued for the primacy of sociotechnical work systems over IT systems and called for more holistic approaches to systems development than that of merely deploying IT. He introduced us to his work system snapshot approach to work system specification, which I think will be useful when making paired comparisons of as-is and to-be systems, as well as to his more recent work, where he suggests a more detailed level meta-model for work systems. I think this meta-model may be of potential value as a check list of areas that call for attention when specifying the work system (as-is or to-be) in more detail.

Of the late morning paper session, I chose the Information Systems Strategy and Implementation minitrack. The following papers were featured:

“Re-conceptualizing IS Strategic Alignment: the Translated Strategic Alignment Model (TSAM)” by Isabelle Walsh, Strasbourg University, Alexander Renaud, Université Paris-Dauphine, and Michel Kalika, Strasbourg University.

“Corporatizing Open Source Software Innovation in the Plone Community” by George Kuk, Nottingham University Business School, and Guido Stevens, Cosent.

“Cultural Differences in Implementing Business Process Management Systems” by Pascal Ravesteyn, University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Utrecht University, and Ronald Batenburg, Utrecht University.

“IT Strategy Implementation Framework – Bridging Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance” by Jens Bartenschlager and Matthias Goeken, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

Again, I was somewhat questioning the fit of some of the papers with the track they were presented in. The last paper by Bartenschlager and Goeken was probably best aligned with the theme. It was interesting to see that they were extensively referencing to one of our earlier papers and had largely built their model on the foundation laid down therein. Unfortunately, neither of the authors was present (their paper was presented by someone else whose name I did not pick up). It would have been interesting to compare notes with them.

All in all, the AMCIS conference was well-organized and had a congenial atmosphere. It was such a good experience that I determined to be more diligent in the future to make it to as many other conferences like this as possible.

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