Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 25 Number 4 2009 pp. 5-7

Editorial Introduction

Zwass, Vladimir


The present issue closes the anniversary twenty-fifth volume of JMIS by offering to you a set of papers that represent a great variety of subjects and methodologies, reflective of the richness of our discipline.

Open source software (OSS) has been changing the structure of industries. The processes of its development have been in their own right immensely influential in changing the relationships between the producers and consumers across industries in the age of widely accessible means of production and effort aggregation. The more we can learn about these processes that enter various domains of creation, the better we can understand the future of industrial structures, work, and human endeavor. The research on motivations of the participants in OSS projects has focused primarily on the intentions to join the development communities. In the opening paper of this issue, Yulin Fang and Derrick Neufeld investigate the motivations for a continuing participation in the projects. Relying on the theories of situated learning and of identity construction, the authors conduct a qualitative study over rich and multifaceted primary data from a well-known OSS community. Their results are particularly interesting as they show that the sustained participation has a different set of predictors from those that antecede the initial joining of the community.

Tobias Kollmann, Matthias Häsel, and Nicola Breugst investigate the competence of information technology (IT) professionals in a highly interesting setting that has hardly met with the prior attention of researchers. The authors, who combine their academic credentials with an extensive entrepreneurial background, investigate empirically the desirable sets of competencies to be displayed by the members of a venture team entering e‑business. More specifically, they study the perceptions of the e‑business entrepreneurs with respect to this requisite expertise and experience, to arrive at four competence clusters. As is the preceding work, the paper is notable for its theoretical grounding, along with actionable results.

The quality of knowledge contained in its repositories is of obvious concern in organizational knowledge management (KM). Yet knowledge validation processes can become burdensome and discouraging to the potential contributors. How are we to structure the validation processes so as to ensure the inclusion of only high-quality content while encouraging continuing contributions to the repositories? This is the issue addressed by Alexandra Durcikova and Peter Gray, who develop and test empirically a theoretical model of the behavior of repository users, based on signaling and reinforcement theories. The results enable the authors to put forth well-grounded recommendations for knowledge validation processes.

Document corpora are in some cases a part of organizational KM and in others constitute independent repositories. Document management systems generally rely on the classification of their contents into categories, such as folders. As the repositories grow, manual categorization and recategorization become virtually impossible, and automated methods are necessary. However, it is essential for the appropriate user support in accessing the repositories that the original user preferences in categorization be preserved. The document categories originally developed by a user will be the user’s expectations in the future, and drastic departures will cause heightened cognitive load. Here, Chih-Ping Wei, Paul Jen-Hwa Hu, and Yen-Hsien Lee propose and validate two techniques of category evolution for automatically reclustering the documents with the growth of the repository, while taking into account the user’s original categorization. The methods can be applied both on the individual and on a collective level.

Product recommenders have become ubiquitous in e‑commerce and the aspects of their design influence the success of the transactional Web sites. Lingyun Qiu and Izak Benbasat present here their study of the effectiveness of anthropomorphic interfaces in the design of recommendation agents. Theorizing from a social relationship perspective that presumes such a relationship between the customer and the humanoid (well, to a degree) agent, the authors test their model in a laboratory experiment. The researchers find that the use of recommenders with anthropomorphic interfaces has a multifaceted positive effect on the shopping experience. Beyond that, they are able to justify their claim about the applicability of the social relationship theories to the human relationship with anthropomorphic artifacts.

In the next paper of the issue, Xiaotong Li examines the agency problem potentially attendant on the strategic deployment of IT. Specifically, the author studies the incentive for IT managers to enhance their position in the organization by strategic IT investments that are not necessarily value-maximizing for the firm. Formal analysis presented here shows the presence of such incentives for the deployment of technologies that have the potential to increase the decision maker’s leverage through a dispositive or informational advantage. While the work is clearly not normative, it surfaces the necessity for additional organizational measures and governance mechanisms.

An entirely different aspect of IT spending is the subject of the work authored by T. Ravichandran, Yu Liu, Shu Han, and Iftekhar Hasan. The authors study the influence of this investment on the relationship between the firm’s diversification and its performance. In their theorizing, the authors combine the resource-based view with the organizational control perspective to test their hypotheses against the data available for manufacturing firms. The results show that IT spending influences the firm’s performance only in certain categories of diversification—and are obviously of pragmatic significance.

The fact that the Web has changed—and continues to change—the structure of the industries producing digital content is well known. B2C has yielded much ground to C2C, and much of it extralegal. Since the trend can be expected to continue or accelerate, it is important to understand the options available to the firms active in the domain. Here, Yunfang Feng, Zhiling Guo, and Wei-yu Kevin Chiang formally analyze the pricing and service strategies available to a firm that wishes to address its market through both the B2C and C2C channels. The model yields valuable recommendations; further research that would drop some of the present modeling assumptions will certainly follow.

The cognitive shift involved in the adoption of object-oriented development is the subject of the paper authored by H. James Nelson, Deborah J. Armstrong, and Kay M. Nelson. They use the theory of cognitive fit to arrive at a picture of how a new mind-set is gradually constructed in the move toward the new expertise. Indeed, the work transcends its immediate subject and contributes to our understanding of the formation of expertise, and deserves to be replicated in a broader empirical setting.

Vladimir Zwass