Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 17 Number 2 2000 pp. 3-4

Editorial Introduction

Zwass, Vladimir


THE SPECIAL SECTION THAT OPENS THIS ISSUE IS DEVOTED TO Technology Strategy for Electronic Marketplaces and is guest-edited by Eric K. Clemons and Yu-Ming Wang. The papers highlight the need for subtle strategic direction in the by now well-known tactics of information technology (IT) deployment in electronic markets. Excessive product customization can lead to a profit deficit for all market participants. Unless measures-such as those identified here-are taken, the regulation of insurance markets, undertaken in the face of genetic testing combined with data mining, can lead to market failure. The value of IT investments is subject to erosion after the implementation due to several factors that may prevent the value appropriation by the investing firm; specific collateral investments need to be planned to prevent this erosion. Taken together, the three papers, ably introduced by the Guest Editors, offer both results and methodologies to move our thinking about electronic markets to a higher level.

Strategic alliances have become a common means to combine core competencies of participating firms and to leverage the knowledge they have and create. Customer and supplier firms are a vital source of knowledge as well. In these partnering arrangements and supply networks, organizational learning needs to be augmented by interorganizational learning. Using grounded theory in the context of the disk-drive industry, Judy E. Scott analyzes the role IT can play in facilitating this learning. This work confirms once again that the deployment of advanced technology has to be complemented and leveraged by advanced thinking about and action directed at building several forms of trust. It provides an important link that explains why and shows how to use IT to link organizations at a deeper level.

Related to Scott's approach is the work presented by John Tillquist, who shows in vivid detail the process through which IT-enabled organizational change is being planned, to be cast into new realities. The author analyzes how the three categories of the organizational change rules are interpreted during the change planning, and what these interpretations lead to later on. Tillquist shows how bad things can happen to good plans. The consultants in the cases analyzed here constrain the available options to the detriment of exploiting unique organizational possibilities of the firms. The professional discourse is channeled within a narrow tunnel of a doctrine.

Explanation facility is an important component of knowledge-based systems (KBS), which help in product configuration, diagnosis, training, monitoring, process control, and other tasks. Based on cognitive theories, Ji-Ye Mao and Izak Benbasat design experiments to analyze the use of these explanations. Using process tracing, the authors establish empirically when explanations are requested and to what purpose they are used by novices and by experienced professionals. By providing explanations (in some cases, automatically) when they may be needed, and of the nature appropriate to the task and to the intended user, designers would be able to enhance the usefulness and acceptance of KBS and, ultimately, the level of performance of the overall person-machine system.

Group interaction processes are central to the outcomes achieved from the use of group support systems (GSS). Yet little research centers on the processes, as opposed to the outcomes. Here, Wayne Huang and K.K. Wei study the impacts of GSS and task on the task-directed and social interaction processes during the group's work. By adopting the influence perspective, the authors are able to parse the study of the processes and, going beyond the presented results, offer a rich program for future research.

Steering committees are a widely adopted means for guiding organizational MIS. They are able to bring multiple perspectives to such tasks as long-term planning, resource allocation, and the organization of the MIS function. Indeed, these high-level entities can play many roles in an organization. Jahangir Karimi, Anol Bhattacherjee, Yash P. Gupta, and Toni M. Somers study the relationship between the roles a steering committee plays in a firm and the level of IT management sophistication achieved by it. Beyond this, the study shows which dimensions of this sophistication are related to what roles of the committee. It goes without saying that the results will help in role development for steering committees.