Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 40 Number 3 2023 pp. 713-715

Editorial Introduction

Zwass, Vladimir


The Guest Editors of the Special Section that opens this third issue of the anniversary 40th volume of Journal of Management Information Systems (JMIS) frame the contributions the included papers make to our knowledge of information systems (IS) as “Digital Strategies for Business Readiness.” This frame is becoming ever more appropriate with the several decades of the organizational deployment of information technology (IT). Without a strategic approach to this deployment, organizations are simply not ready to compete in the marketplace, or—in the case of administrative entities, which do not face competition—do not provide adequate support for the mission of the entities where they are embedded. Productivity analyses, the absence or presence of IT in the productivity statistics, and the adequacy of these statistics to measure IT productivity are only a part of this far larger picture.

It is crucial to understand that advanced general technologies, such as IT, enable societies and organizations to make choices. The technology is necessary as an enabler of business models, products, and processes. But it is the choices we make in the deployment of the technology for the organizational and societal benefits that lead to the effective strategic positioning of the firms and—we expect—to the wellbeing of societies. The socio-technical core of our discipline that combines the understanding of the age-defining technology with the knowledge of business and administration is uniquely positioned to guide all of us to better choices.

We are speaking about the readiness to do business—or the absence of this readiness. The readiness can wane when swept away by a major new technological wave. IT is not singular: We have witnessed several technological opportunities (or challenges) that have required organizations to revise their strategic and operational course, to mention only integrated mainframe families, personal computing, Internet-Web, smartphone, cloud computing, and now neural network-based artificial intelligence (AI). It is in the assimilation of the generative AI and in its adhesion to the existing IS that the competitive battles of the present decade will be fought. As shown by the Special Section, among many publications in JMIS and in other scholarly journals, our scholarly discipline has laid a firm groundwork for the assessment of the existing organizational IS capabilities that is necessary to move to the next competitive framework.

The Special Section, guest-edited by Robert J. Kauffman and Atanu Lahiri, encompasses the work by the thought leaders of our field on the optimal bundling strategy for digital goods, the impacts of integrating recommendations into the consumer search, the effects of the bot involvement in blockchain-based social media platforms, and the dynamics of strategic investment and pricing in multisided platforms, with the specialized consideration of several industrial segments. The papers demonstrate both the theoretical and methodological diversity of our discipline, and its contribution to the actionable understanding of the current and potential future environments of our economies and organizations. The Guest Editors provide an extensive introduction to the Special Section.

The paper opening the general section of the issue analyzes choices to be made in the deployment of IT in the healthcare setting. Healthcare informatics is now firmly a part of our disciplinary remit. Under competitive pressures, U.S. hospitals increasingly consolidate into networks, that is, consortia within which they can share the patients’ electronic health records (EHR). These software applications serve two functions, which can be adopted separately: the sharing of patient information and the management of clinical orders. Onyi Nwafor, Xiao Ma, Norman A. Johnson, Rahul Singh, and Ravi Aron show that the structural properties of the hospital networks differentially affect knowledge spillovers among the hospitals jointly adopting one or both of the EHR components. Knowledge spillovers are the efficiencies a hospital may garner from the accumulation and sharing of experiential knowledge in the partner hospitals. The economic network effects are realized differently in the differently organized hospital consortia, leading to significantly different cost efficiencies. The authors surface differential knowledge spillovers as the mechanism for these differing efficiencies. Thus, structural choices in the IT architecture of the hospital networks affect the efficiency outcomes of the individual hospitals in a predictable fashion, as established by this research work. The benefits to the patients are clear as well. It is important to test these results in other segments of the economy.

We have entered, with significant trepidation, the age of living with AI as something of a partner, or—at any rate—a very capable tool, in all our life pursuits, certainly including work. Several recent papers published by JMIS investigate the choices that can lead us to good outcomes, or prevent bad outcomes, in this perhaps epochal transformation. Here, Alfred Benedikt Brendel, Fabian Hildebrandt, Alan R. Dennis, and Johannes Riquel empirically study the user reaction to the already commonplace components of this transformation in the form of conversational agents, also known as chatbots. A segment of users displays aggressive behavior toward chatbots (another segment very likely does not give voice, while being unsatisfied with the encounter and perhaps exiting). The authors build their theoretical argument and the empirics around the humanness of the chatbots as perceived by their really human counterparts. The researchers found three pathways that can lead from this perceived chatbot humanness to the human’s aggression. The findings offer choices in the degree of anthropomorphism to be invested in the chatbots. The results will be germane to the future broad front of human-AI interaction.

Microloan platforms have established themselves as a part of peer-to-peer FinTech that activates underutilized financial resources and often steps in to help otherwise underserved population. The loans are uncollateralized and thus risky without information about the borrowers. The platforms can narrow the information asymmetry between the lenders and borrowers by accumulating the information about the potential lenders and their prior borrowing behavior. This leads to the lender herding: you lend to those who were lent previously with salutary repayment results. Paul Benjamin Lowry, Junji Xiao, and Jia Yuan empirically study this lender herding, find it rational as it significantly affects the number of successful loans, and finely analyze the roles that microloan platforms can play in increasing the efficiency of microloan markets. The informational choices made in the platform designs can indeed have macrolevel effects in serving the economy.

A major advance enabled by the Internet is the collaboration on various tasks and of various duration, from permanent to short-term, and on various scales, among the individuals potentially distributed around the world. Open collaboration communities that emerge around such artifacts as Wikipedia or open-source software, are flagship examples of such collaboration. The collaboration may occur with little or no communication among the participants, with the coordination taking place via the shared artifact. The ongoing changes in the digital artifact stimulate and motivate the modifications made by other collaborators, in the process known as stigmergy. Lei (Nico) Zheng, Feng Mai, Bei Yan, and Jeffrey V. Nickerson present here a novel measure of stigmergy and show that a larger degree of stigmergy has positive effects both on the collaborator participation and on the quality of the knowledge artifact they produce. As value co-creation by organizationally unaffiliated and globally distributed users is one of the defining factors of our new working environment, the work is both important in its contribution, and stimulative in opening further research avenues. To think about it, in their own way, our top-tier journals such as JMIS can be thought of as subject stigmergy as well.

The two preceding papers offered the results of research on platform or quasiplatform effects, as does the work of Andrew Harrison, Akmal Mirsadikov, and Truong (Jack) Luu, presented in the next paper. The authors study the operation of sharing economy, whose examples they include in their study are ride sharing and cryptocurrency platforms. Consumers’ trust in the service providers is in such circumstances influenced by the mediating two-sided platforms and not only by the providers themselves. The authors deploy media theories to establish how the trust necessary for success can be established for the providers and the platforms to succeed. Two avenues emerge and the strategic choice aiming at trust has to be made. The absence of trust dooms the enterprise.

Replacing legacy IS is a daunting task, rife with the conflict among the affected organizational units, and requires to be treated systemically, with built-in conflict-resolution procedures. The authors of the concluding paper investigate the effectiveness of various choices made in designing such a legacy-replacement system of actions toward conflict resolution as the replacement tasks are carried out. Jacob Chia-An Tsai, James J. Jiang, Gary Klein, and Shin-Yuan Hung surface the adaptive mechanisms that can move the task conflict toward productive outcomes as the often expensive and potentially destabilizing replacement is planned, carried out, and brought into good use. The authors deploy mixed methods approach to validate their model and results. Based on this work, the choices in the selection of responses to different types of conflicts can be made toward a successful conduct of the legacy replacement.