Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 35 Number 3 2018 pp. 719-739

Special Section: The Transformative Value of Cloud Computing: A Decoupling, Platformization, and Recombination Theoretical Framework

Benlian, Alexander, Kettinger, William J, Sunyaev, Ali, and Winkler, Till J

ALEXANDER BENLIAN ([email protected]; corresponding author) is a Professor of Management Information Systems (MIS) at Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, where he serves as Dean of the Department of Business, Economics, and Law. His former academic position was Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, where he received a Ph.D. He has also served as a senior consultant with McKinsey & Company. Dr. Benlian’s research interests include the transformative value of cloud computing, online platforms, digital transformation, and digital business models, with over 150 academic publications in these areas. His work has appeared in Journal of Management Information Systems, Journal of the AIS, Journal of Strategic Information Systems, MIS Quarterly Executive, and others. He is Associate Editor of the European Journal of Information Systems and International Journal of Electronic Commerce and serves the Editorial Review Board of the Journal of Service Research.

WILLIAM J. KETTINGER ([email protected]) is the William S. Lee Distinguished Professor of Information Systems at Clemson University. He previously served at the FedEx Chair of Excellence in MIS at the University of Memphis. Bill has published extensively including 4 books, over 80 refereed journal articles in such journals as MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, JMIS, JAIS, EJIS, ISJ, Decision Sciences, and Sloan Management Review. He currently serves as a Senior Editor of MISQ Executive, Senior Editor Emeritus at MISQ and serves, or has served, as an Associate Editor of MISQ, ISR and JAIS and has three times served as a special editor for JMIS. His research interests include: strategic information management; platforms and digital business strategy; IS management & service quality; IT and the supply chain; and process management.

ALI SUNYAEV ([email protected]) is Professor for Applied Computer Science at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany. Previously, he was Professor at the University of Kassel and the University of Cologne. Dr. Sunyaev received his Ph.D. in Information Systems from the Technische Universität München. His research interests focus on reliable, secure, and purposeful software and information systems within the scope of critical infrastructures, innovative health IT applications, cloud computing services, and information security solutions. His research appeared in journals including Journal of Information Technology, Journal of the AIS, IEEE Transactions on Cloud Computing, Communications of the ACM, and others. His research work has been featured in a variety of media outlets.

TILL J. WINKLER ([email protected]) is an Associate Professor of Information Technology (IT) Management and Digitalization in the Department of Digitalization at the Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. Prior to obtaining a Ph.D. in Information Systems from Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, he worked as a management consultant at Capgemini’s Chief Information Officer Advisory Services. His research on IT governance, cloud computing, and digital health has been presented at major Information Systems conferences and appeared in journals including Journal of Management Information Systems, MIS Quarterly Executive, Health Policy and Technology, and others. He serves on the editorial boards of several journals.


Cloud computing is an evolution of computer technology and a dominant business model for delivering information technology (IT) infrastructure, components, and applications. With cloud computing, a product-centric model for IT provisioning is transformed into a global, distributed, service-centric model, leading to a disruptive shift from IT-as-a-product to IT-as-a-service [4, 24]. Cloud computing enables individuals and organizations to access IT resources on-demand, from any platform or device at any time as a measured service [32]. Cloud providers offer an ever-increasing number and variety of services that are built on a shared pool of computing resources and able to elastically scale to growing computing demands. Market researchers predict the public cloud market to hit US$ 236 billion by 2020, a growth of 23 percent from 2014 [16]. Defying initial concerns, the move toward cloud computing proceeds with unrelenting force, changing the way we collaborate, co-create, and do business.

We rely on cloud services in our daily lives, for example, for messaging (e.g., WhatsApp), collaborating in teams (e.g., Asana), managing businesses (e.g., SAP ByDesign), and playing games online (e.g., GamingAnywhere). Cloud computing also provides the infrastructure that has powered other key digital trends including mobile computing, the internet of things, big data, and artificial intelligence, thereby accelerating industry dynamics, disrupting existing business models, and fueling the digital transformation [7, 22]. Today, cloud computing has become a critical IT infrastructure for almost all aspects of our everyday lives, and it will continue to transform the world we live in on multiple levels and in various ways.

While the interest in cloud computing has continued undiminished, the focus of research has been primarily on adoption, operational issues, and cloud computing impacts on IT value. Researchers have intensively studied individuals’ and organizations’ cloud service adoption [3, 5, 8, 20, 27, 34, 37] and usage intention [6] as well as the suitability of incentives in cloud service contracts [41]. Other research has analyzed the role of cloud computing as an enabler for organizations to become more agile and adapt to changes [2] and how to organize IT functions when using cloud services [10, 47]. Related streams of research have analyzed cloud business models [18, 26, 35] and cloud service supply chains [13], as well as pricing and licensing models for cloud service offerings [9, 30]. Technologically focused literature addresses the issues of cloud service security by evaluating the security environment and proposing technical safeguards [1, 11].

Despite these important advances, prior research has dedicated far less attention to the transformative and value-creating capacity of cloud computing. We understand the transformative value of a technology as the realized or unrealized potential that widespread diffusion of this technology leads to fundamental and large-scale innovations that benefit individuals, organizations, markets, and societies. Transformative value sets itself apart from traditional dimensions of IT value that largely focuses on the economic value of IT within or between specific firms or organizations. Due to its inherent capabilities (e.g., on-demand self-service, resource pooling, elasticity, and extensibility), cloud computing exhibits transformative mechanisms that enable truly innovative services and business models, ultimately creating a wealth of possibilities for individuals, teams, organizations, and societies.

To guide future research in cloud computing, this Special Section Introduction presents a framework for research, the Transformative Impact of Cloud Computing (TICC) framework. The TICC framework delineates IT value from transformative value and describes three key mechanisms through which cloud computing capabilities, individually and in combination, generate transformative impacts (hereafter referred to as transformative mechanisms): (1) decoupling, (2) platformization, and (3) recombination of services. We first evaluate how the transformative mechanisms arise from each of the technical layers of cloud computing (i.e., infrastructure resources, components, and applications). Then, we analyze and extrapolate how each of the transformative mechanisms leads to impacts on individuals, organizations, and societies/economies (i.e., hereafter also referred to as the real-world layers). We close by presenting an agenda for future research and mapping the three papers included in this Special Section to the Transformative Impact of Cloud Computing (TICC) framework.


The first and third author gratefully acknowledge financial support for this work by the German Research Foundation (DFG) (Grant/Award Number: BE 4308/3-1, BE 4308/4-1, SU 717/10-1) and the Dr. Werner Jackstädt‐Stiftung (Grant/Award Number: 010103/56300720).


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