BUSINESS GLOBALIZATION IS A PHENOMENON BOTH WIDELY observed and widely analyzed, widely decried and widely praised to boot. Information technology and systems are a vehicle of globalization, which in turn shapes the MIS of a company that plies the global (or, at any rate, international) waters. International information systems have not escaped the attention of our researchers, and a number of excellent analytical pieces have been published over time. Yet, broadly encompassing and empirically based models are still missing. In the first paper of this issue, William R. King and Vikram Sethi attempt to fill this gap by addressing information systems of multinational corporations (the authors choose to call the information systems of all companies that cross national boundaries transnational, thus departing from the Bartlett and Ghoshal  use of the term). The authors offer a new classification of multinational corporations, a taxonomy that is based on five essential dimensions and that lends itself to the capture of the role of information systems. Based on the existing theory, King and Sethi in turn develop a set of hypotheses regarding four types of multinationals that they identify and test on larger multinationals. Although the test may be classified as exploratory, the results clearly point to the validity of the MNC classification offered here and invite further pursuit of this broadly conceived work.
The organizational level of information systems analysis is maintained in the next paper, by Jae-Nam Lee and Young-Gul Kim, who discuss and empirically evaluate IS outsourcing. These authors argue that the quality of the partnership between a firm and the service provider is a key predictor of outsourcing success. They go on to develop and validate a model that relates the success of outsourcing to the factors that determine partnership quality. It should not, of course, escape our attention that some of the relationships between the parties to an outsourcing contract are of such low quality, with opportunism substituting for shared goals, that these relationships hardly qualify as partnership and bode no success to outsourcing. The present work should have both theoretical and practical resonance in seeking true outsourcing partnerships of quality.
Some 20 percent of MIS projects that are undertaken are eventually canceled, and 50 percent of those carried to completion result in systems that fail in one of many possible ways . In the course of many of these projects, resources were continually allocated, even though the project was being seen as not leading to success--the phenomenon known as the escalation of commitment to a failing course of action. Mark Keil and Daniel Robey are looking here at the optimistic side of the issue: They seek the factors that can lead to the deescalation of such a commitment. Based on the literature, Keil and Robey identify a set of factors and, through field interviews, develop a model of project deescalation. The nodal points here are the willingness of organizational actors to bear bad tidings to the senior managers willing to act on them.
Three subsequent papers in the issue deal with various aspects of computer-supported group work. In the first of these, Shaila M. Miranda and Robert P. Bostrom evaluate the facilitation of task-based meetings. They compare the effects of the process and content facilitation in both traditional environments and in those relying on group support systems (GSS). The authors determine empirically that process facilitation positively affects the meeting process (while content facilitation affects it negatively), which in turn leads to greater participant satisfaction. One of the implications of this work is the need to train the facilitators carefully, as the distinction between the two types of facilitation is often subtle.
Alan R. Dennis, Glenda S. Hayes, and Robert M. Daniels, Jr., investigate the use of GSS for business-process modeling to be carried out during systems analysis. In a work of clear practical importance, the authors perform and analyze a series of field studies of groups using a well-known structured analysis technique. The results indicate a highly impressive reduction of time needed for modeling with using the GSS as compared with the the widely used Joint Application Design (JAD) technique--while the models produced are of comparable quality.
Yet another aspect of GSS use--support of creativity--is explored by John W. Satzinger, Monica J. Garfield, and Murli Nagasundaram. They conducted an experiment to investigate the influence of the group memory contained in the GSS on the type of ideas generated by a brainstorming group. It turns out, indeed, that the degree to which the ideas generated will be a radical departure from the prior thinking can be influenced by the type of ideas stored in the group memory and displayed during the idea-generation session. A word to the manager: Seed the group memory with "small" ideas and the group will generate ideas for incremental improvement. Only remember that a "seeded" group memory is not a true component of an organizational memory information system.
As organizational information systems are becoming ever more embedded in the outside world and as they permeate the functioning of the firms ever more intensively, the investigation of what the organizations actually do about IS security gains weight. Moshe Zviran and William J. Haga offer an empirical study of password usage, based on a framework they have developed. Depending on your predisposition, you will find the results reported here disturbing or expected. In either case, the situation calls for far greater attention by IS managers to this first line of IS defense.
An encompassing model of IS adoption in small businesses is offered by James Y.L. Thong. The model is generally very well supported by the empirical results obtained by the author. More so than in a large firm, adoption here depends on the person at the very top. Limited resources also call for a far closer look at the benefits, and at the existing systems and practices into which the innovation will need to be integrated. Beyond that, several factors will lead to the success of the adopted system. This thorough work, well grounded in the innovation literature, is an important step forward in the small-business research stream.
CASE tools enjoy an excellent reputation, with the notable exception of that for actually being used. Yet the idea of IS developers actually using advanced computer assistance in engineering software is manifestly a good one (although this is less manifest than the need for a shoemaker's children to be shod, to which it is at times compared). It behooves us, then, to see which attributes of CASE tools are valued by those developers who actually use them--and then build on that. Gerald Post, Albert Kagan, and Robert T. Keim report on the empirical work they performed and then use an interesting statistical technique to discover these attributes. Results indicate that the developers look for the features directly supporting the hard core of the work--analysis and prototyping. Of interest to managers, as well as to tool developers and marketers, is the fact that the organizations of differing size differ with respect to their use of the front-end versus back-end CASE tools.
1. Bartlett, C.A., and Ghoshal, S. Managing Across Borders: The Transnational Solution. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1989.
2. Harris, K. Worst practices. Executive Edge (December 1998), 20-26.
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