The research proposal you are about to read is constructed in order to describe the research project I will execute. I will execute this research project in order to finalize the educational program ICT in Business at Leiden University. In this proposal I will give the objective and explain the methodology of this research. First, I will start with an introduction of the topic and the theoretical background.
The research will be hosted and supervised by Getronics Consulting and will be executed at the Business Unit Innovative Technology (BUIT). The time span of this research will be 24 weeks.
This research will be focused on the Dutch ICT consultancy industry. This industry suits my interests and the knowledge I gained during the educational program ICT in Business.
Getronics Consulting is an ICT Consultancy firm which operates in various markets like financial, industrial, educational, public and healthcare. Getronics Consulting advises companies on their ICT-strategy and executes ICT reorganizations based on knowledge about current ICT-architectures. They streamline and integrate people, process and technology in order to create a reliable ICT-architecture which is accessible anywhere at any time. Getronics Consulting has already 20 years experience in IT Service Management and has a working force of 1400 experienced professionals.
Getronics Consulting wants to be known as the opinion leader in the area of leading standards and advanced information and communication technologies. Business and ICT-trends are translated into concrete and usable products and services. They state that every business process needs another ICT approach and call themselves “architects of the invisible”.
In their approach in improving ICT-services, they consider all aspects of the organization: people, products, partners and processes. From that perspective, Getronics Consulting offers support in setting up and optimizing ICT organizations. The philosophy is to enable employees to do their work more efficient.
Business Unit Innovative Technology
The Business Unit Innovative Technology (BUIT) is a competence center in the field of Web Content Management and (collaboration) portals. The customer base includes diverse organizations throughout the Netherlands varying from government, energy, media and logistical service providers. The tools used by BUIT are SDL Tridion and Microsoft SharePoint.
The execution of successful ICT projects is based on the collaboration between People, Process and Technology. These technologies used by BUIT support the customer needs in various ways and are part of Enterprise Content Management (ECM).
Enterprise Content Management
The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), also known as the ECM association defines ECM as:
“The strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists” (AIIM, 2008, “What is ECM?”, para.1.).
The solutions offered by BUIT are within the “manage” category. This category has five traditional application areas (Kampffmeyer, 2004):
- Document Management (DM)
- Web Content Management (WCM)
- Record Management (RM)
- Workflow/business process management (BPM)
BUIT has the focus on two application areas: collaboration and WCM. The customer needs are supported with different solutions (Tridion & SharePoint) around the latter mentioned application areas.
Getronics Consulting brought structure into the approach of their projects. They based this approach on the experiences of projects executed in the past. These experiences are bundled into best practices which are based on the eBusiness Development Cycle. The eBusiness Development Cycle consists of six phases. I will elaborate on these phases to give an explanation of the most important activities.
Knowing the mission, vision and goals of the customer is important in order to determine in what direction that organization wants to move. A clear business case is delivered which describes the added-value of the desired solution. Secondly, a conceptual blueprint is created. This blueprint will describe the building blocks of the system in a functional as well as a technical manner. A flexible and modular architecture is the fundamental idea which enables functionalities to be added in the future with minimal adaptations. This blueprint will also function as a starting point of the second phase.
During this phase, several analyses will be done. First, together with the customer, the sources of information which need to be opened up are identified. In other words, what kind of “business content” does the customer have and for what purpose. Secondly, a prioritized list of the desired functionalities is created. This document will describe the need-to-haves and the nice-to-haves. Also, a scan of the infrastructure is performed in order to compare the current infrastructure with the desired infrastructure. This scan will identify possible technical bottlenecks.
After these analyses, the organization itself will be analyzed in order to get a general picture and to see how the new solution would fit in. The main purpose is to define which processes, responsibilities and tasks are related to the helpdesk, technical management and functional- or application management.
Finally, all he information gained from the analyses will be the input of the project plan. This plan will be created based on the project management methodology Price2.
During the design phase, several designs will be expanded in detail. These designs are the basic foundation of what should be built during realization. The designs to be delivered are: infrastructural design, graphical design, functional design and technical design.
Acceptation criteria will be written down by the customer. These criteria will be used at a later stage in order to test if the delivered product matches the customer’s criteria.
Every implementation needs its acceptation. Acceptation within the organization is a crucial factor of the success of an implementation. Therefore, an integration plan is created which describes the tasks, responsibilities and processes in such a way the customer understands how they should deal with them.
The designs of the latter phase are approved and BUIT will start with the implementation of the infrastructure and the development of custom components. External functionalities and connections will also be realized.
Finally, all the realized functionalities will be tested according to the acceptation criteria before the actual implementation takes place.
During this phase, existing content will be migrated to the new system according to the migration plan. The users of these “new” functionalities will be trained properly. Also, the implemented system will be tested in order see how it performs and what kind of influence it has on the environment. The users are the last ones testing the system. Again, this is based on the acceptation criteria. During this test, the users will investigate the usability and user interfaces of the system.
Bugs, found during the tests will be fixed and last but not least: the system will go live including the communication to the end-users.
The maintenance phase is the operational situation after implementation of the complete system. The emphasis of this phase lies on proper documentation in order to simplify and support future developments and decisions. If necessary, backup- and monitoring processes can be arranged. In the end, an evaluation of the project and its output will be executed.
The customer requests received by BUIT are especially about online collaboration and the publication of business information (Web Content Management). Today, these processes are supported by internet technologies. The following sections will elaborate on these customer needs.
Web Content Management
Customers have the need to maintain business information in an easy and intuitive way and make it accessible for those who are authorized to see the content. Information should not be scattered around the organization accessible via different platforms, but via one central platform. Organizational members should also be able to add content to this platform.
Adding and maintaining information is one thing, finding the information is another important feature. Organizations have the need to find information via one central search engine which mines different business information sources.
Some information is confidential and should only be accessible via the intranet. Organizations can also have the need to share information with the outside world. Think about jobs, news etc.
Collaboration, essential for improving productivity, becomes more and more important as global market opportunities and competition increase (Soriano, Lizcano, CaÃ±as, Reyes, & Hierro, 2007). Today, there are all kinds of collaboration platforms available. BUIT is specialized in Microsoft SharePoint. Microsoft SharePoint is an enterprise platform which supports organizations with collaboration. SharePoint enables people to access diverse resources of information via one platform regardless the devices they have available (Microsoft, 2009).
Interest in new technologies
BUIT notices the emergence of new technologies and is interested in how these new ‘tools’ are able to support their current and near-future customer needs. With these new technologies I refer to Web 2.0 technologies. BUIT’s assumptions about Web 2.0 are not rare. Some researchers come up with statements which add even more question marks.
According to Tedennick (2006) Web 2.0 technologies have the advantage of adaptability to the business environment and responsiveness to changing business information needs. He argues that Web 2.0 technologies may offer real benefits in business environments where information plays a vital role. Bughin and Manyika (2007) say that Web 2.0 technologies rely on user collaboration.
For BUIT, this raises a couple of questions. What should we do with Web 2.0? Should we embrace Web 2.0, if yes, why? And what are the benefits of Web 2.0 when supporting our customer’s needs?
Nowadays, new technologies emerged under the label “Web 2.0”. Web 2.0 is a label coined by O’Reilly (2005) to describe new patterns which emerged due to the changes occurred by the use of internet. These patterns do not describe the technology but describe the way people share information, contribute to collective knowledge, collaborate and interact with each other. Although this explanation is not about technologies, technologies play a significant role in Web 2.0. As Shah et al. (2005) state in their essay about Web 2.0: “The technologies behind Web 2.0 provide a richer user experience and make use of information in unique ways” (Introduction, para.1).
Like many researchers and organization the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) has also his own opinions about Web 2.0. They state that: “Many organizations see value in using Web 2.0 tools or social software within their organizations for improved collaboration and innovation, and this is then often referred to as Enterprise 2.0” (AIIM, 2008, What is Web 2.0?, para.2). The AIIM (2008) defines Enterprise 2.0 as: “a system of web-based technologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise” (What is Web 2.0?, para.1).
An important link with this study is that Web 2.0 seems to improve collaboration (AIIM, 2008). Organizations, mainly located in the US are planning to maintain and increase investments in technologies which encourages collaboration (Bughin & Manyika, 2007). Unfortunately, the literature gives no evidence about the Dutch interests and investments in Web 2.0.
Tredinnick (2006) has the most interesting statements regarding the interests of BUIT. He claims that “The key to Web 2.0 is harnessing the ways in which users use information to add value to information (either through direct or indirect user-participation) in creating the information sources that they use” (p.232). This is in relation with the current customer needs. As you could read in chapter 2, in the most abstract form, customers have the need to publish information and enable the access to multiple sources of information. Another conclusion of Tredinnick (2006) suggests a benefit for the customer needs: “Web 2.0 technologies also allow a far greater degree of collaboration in the creation of content.” (p.233)
Not only Tedinnick talks about Web 2.0 benefits regarding collaboration. Soriano et al. (2007) says that: “Enterprise 2.0 provides enterprises with new models and tools for emergent collaboration and co-creation” (Introduction, para.1).
Clearly, Web 2.0 has a relation to customer needs regarding WCM and collaboration. Unfortunately, we do not know which elements of Web 2.0 offer what kind of benefits. It would be interesting to know which specific Web 2.0 “patterns” can offer benefits in supporting the customer needs described in chapter 2.
Web 2.0 design patterns
O’Reilly described his ideas about Web 2.0 through seven design patterns: 1) the web as a platform; 2) harnessing collective intelligence; 3) data is the next Intel inside; 4) end of the software release cycle; 5) lightweight programming models; 6) software above the level of a single device and, 7) rich user experience.
The web as platform
The internet can be seen as a platform through which the users are connected and collaborating with each other. The platform can be seen as the core which binds the elements of Web 2.0 together. Facebook implemented the pattern: “the web as a platform”. Facebook, an online social network enables people to connect with each other and share and access information. Their mission is to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” (Facebook, 2010). Facebook (2010) also provides the programmatic interfaces that make it easy, quick, and efficient to share and access information.
Harnessing Collective Intelligence
Today, the web connects 1.7 billion users with each other (Internet World Stats, 2010). The web enables these users to add content to the web and collaborate with each other. This means users are collectively participating. They bring structure to information by tagging the information (O’Reilly, 2005). Arguing about topics in their blogs (short for Web Log) and sharing their knowledge trough online encyclopedia like Wikipedia (O’Reilly, 2005).
Data is the next Intel inside
The web is all about finding, sharing and enriching information. Amazon, the online store for books and electronics gets his information about books from ISBN registry provider R.R. Bowker. Amazon and its users enrich this information by adding covers, previews, comments and reviews about the books. The ISBN registry is also available to the competitors of Amazon, but the value added by amazon and their users is hard to copy by competitors. The enriched information is therefore Amazons’ “Intel inside”.
End of the software release cycle
Normally, software is released when totally finished and tested. When this is not the case, it gets labeled as “Beta” which indicates that the software is not totally finished and needs some testing. In the world of Web 2.0, users are the testers and provide the vendor with feedback, or even help improve the software by co-development. This beta version gets updated regularly but never becomes a “final” version. Vendors use real time monitoring to track user behavior in order to make changes in their software (O’Reilly, 2005).
Lightweight programming models
This pattern could also be explained by Web Services and RSS (Really Simple Syndication). Web Services are protocols which make it easier for different systems to communicate with one another automatically in order to pass information or conduct transactions. For example, a retailer and supplier use Web Services to communicate over the internet and update each other’s inventory systems (Bughin & Manyika, How Business Are Using Web 2.0: A McKinsey Global Survey, 2007).These Web Services are lightweight and could be used to pull or push information between systems.
RSS enables users to aggregate information from various sources. Users can subscribe to websites and blogs or other information sources. The content gets separated from its design and can be used anywhere.
Software above the level of a single device
In the Web 1.0 paradigm, the web was only accessible via a single device. Nowadays, the web is accessible via a wide range of devices e.g.: mobile phones, televisions, game consoles, MP3-playes, PDA’s etc. These devices are connected to the platform which enables users to stay in touch virtually anywhere at any time.
Rich user experience
Last but not the least the rich user experience pattern is about the richness of an internet application. These applications are also called: Rich Internet Application (RIA). A RIA is an internet application, viewed via the web browser where the user experiences a richer environment which is comparable to a desktop application.
The objective of this research is to investigate the benefits of Web 2.0 regarding WCM and Collaboration activities. In other words, what is the benefit for an organization to have Web 2.0 support their Web Content Management and collaboration activities? In order to see the benefits I will need to compare the “old” situation with the “new” Web 2.0 situation. With the old situation I refer to how the WCM and Collaboration activities are supported today. The new situation refers to a situation where an organization implemented one or more Web 2.0 design patterns in order to support their activities.
Measuring the difference between the two situations requires a measurement instrument. Having the validation in mind, this should be the same instrument for both the situations in order to make a valid comparison. Therefore, I will use the conceptual framework described in chapter 5.
The first step of this research is to find out which processes are demanding what kind of information properties and with what degree (e.g. high accuracy of information). The second step is to look at new technologies referred to as Web 2.0 and investigate how they support WCM and Collaboration. The focus is on the level of information properties. So, how do Web 2.0 design patterns perform regarding the demanded information properties. It could be that a design pattern causes information to be better accessible.
This research will be relevant because ICT Consultancy companies like Getronics Consulting gain insight in the benefits Web 2.0 might offer when supporting their customer’s processes related to Web Content Management and Collaboration.
Due to the abstract approach of this research, near-future processes which require certain information properties could be matched with Web 2.0 design patterns.
Nowadays, Web 2.0 is a hot research topic. Researchers are trying to find out how businesses are using Web 2.0 (Bughin & Manyika, How Business Are Using Web 2.0: A McKinsey Global Survey, 2007); what impact Web 2.0 has on enterprise applications (Adobe, 2007) and Web 2.0 & Business – A pointer to the intranets of the future? (Tredinnick, 2006). The survey done by Bughin and Manyika tells us that the corporate world has a clear interest in Web 2.0 technologies. Respondents of their survey say they are using Web 2.0 technologies to: communicate with customers and business partners; help manage knowledge internally; share and gather ideas and for automation and collaboration.
(Tredinnick, 2006) explored the application of Web 2.0 technologies to business intranets, and their potential use in managing and developing business information and knowledge assets.
The latter mentioned authors lack to describe information properties required by the processes of the organizations and how Web 2.0 affected these properties. New knowledge could be created by finding out which and how Web 2.0 patterns affect the information properties. Another issue from the latter mentioned papers is that they mainly surveyed the US and only some European countries like: Germany, France and the U.K. Since this research will be executed inside the Netherlands based on organizational needs from Dutch companies, new knowledge could be created.
Organizations have all kind of processes which need to be supported. Today, many of those processes are supported with IT solutions. Davenport (1993) defines a business process as: “A structured, measured set of activities designed to produce a specific output for a particular customer or market” (p. 5). In short, the core of a process could be explained as:
Figure 1: Core principle of a process.
Depending on what kind of activity needs to be supported, emphasis is placed on different requirements of information (Davis, 1982). One business process could require high accuracy of information while another process would require less accurate but timelier information. When these requirements or “properties” of information are known, a suitable solution for supporting the business process could be selected. But how do we analyze which information requirements are demanded?
Wang and Strong (1996) conducted research in order to develop a hierarchical framework for organizing data quality dimensions. This framework contains several information requirements grouped into four categories. Wang and Strong (1996) conclude that “the framework could be useful as a checklist during data requirement analysis” (p. 23). This particular statement is interesting since one objective of this research is to analyze which requirements of information are demanded by WCM and Collaboration activities.
As you may have noticed, the words “data” and “information” are used interchangeably. The word data is a Latin noun, datum, meaning something that is given (Bovee et al., 2002). For information the definition that “information is, or contains, input or pieces of information (data) organized to some purpose” will be used (Davenport & Prusak, Stonie, as cited in Bovee et al., 2002 ,p4). Therefore, data and information will be treated synonymously throughout this proposal.
The perspective from which the requirements of information will be measured is an organizational perspective. Other researchers (Bovee et al, 2002 and Katerattanakul & Siau, 1999) used this model to measure the quality of information based on a user perspective. Within the context of this research, the organization can also be seen as the user who requires information to be: e.g. accurate or timely. Again, this framework proves to be a relevant tool required by this research.
The framework contains 15 requirements grouped into 4 categories. Wang and Strong (1996) stated that “this framework provides a basis for deciding which aspects of data quality to use in any research study” (p. 22). Regarding this statement, I will have to determine the relevance of each information requirement.
For the case studies (proposed in chapter 7) the data quality metrics: accuracy, relevancy, timeliness, interpretability and accessibility will be used. The latter metrics are the most commonly used metrics according to the reviewed literature (Bovee et al., 2002 and Kahn et al., 2002 and Lee et al., 2001 and Griffiths, 2005).
Figure 2: A conceptual framework of data quality (Wang & Strong, 1996)
Main research question
“What is the benefit for an organization to have Web 2.0 support their WCM and Collaboration activities?”
Some sub questions are posed in order to answer the main research question. These sub questions will gain more insight about the separate components of the main research question.
- Which properties of information are important regarding the processes which are currently supported by WCM and Collaboration?
- Which properties of information are offered by each Web 2.0 design pattern?
- How do the information properties offered by Web 2.0 patterns match with the information properties demanded by WCM and Collaboration activities?
Obviously, the main research question as well as the sub-questions cannot be answered without justified sources of evidence. You can imagine that a certain “starting point” is needed. Therefore, the methodology for this research will be an explanatory multiple-case study within Getronics Consulting and KPN. Herriott & Firestone (as cited by Yin, 2003, p.46) say that “the evidence from multiple cases is often considered more compelling, and the overall study is therefore regarded as being more robust”.
According to Yin (2003) a case study is best used when asking questions such as “how” and “why”. Since the sub-questions one and two are not “how” or “why” questions, these questions are operationalized. The data collection methods will be face-to-face interviews, documentation and archival records (system data).
As stated in the introduction, two case studies will be conducted within two different companies. First the Knowledge Sharing & Expertise Building project within Getronics Consulting will be studied. Secondly, the social media platform KPN1 Connect within KPN will be studied.
Knowledge Sharing & Expertise Building (KSEB)
Getronics Consulting recently initiated the KSEB project. Getronics Consulting has the need to capture and preserve knowledge gained by its employees. When an employee is working on a project and wants to know more about a particular subject, he should be able to find the right colleague(s) with the right expertise for addressing this particular subject.
The KSEB platform will consist of different portals: Personal; Communities; and Knowledge Base. The personal portal will contain a public profile and a blog with posts. The communities portal will contain a community wiki and a community team site. News, a forum and shared documents will be present on the team site. The last portal, the knowledge base will contain a category site with documents.
The project KPN1 Connect is initiated because of a specific need. KPN had the need to foster communication between all employees across the entire organization. They wanted communication to happen in an organic manner rather than a horizontal/vertical manner which is based on the employee’s hierarchical status.
Therefore, a “social media” platform was launched earlier this year. This platform is an extension to their original intranet and enables employees to communicate with one another via weblogs (blogs) and short (micro blog) messages. Employees have their own profile which contains: name; function; professional expertise; professional interests; hobbies; and product expertise. In short, they can post blogs; short messages; photos; videos and reactions based on content posted by others. The platform also recommends other employees based on the content of the employee’s profile. And, last but not least, a sophisticated search function enables employee to find other employees and content posted by others.
Case studies propositions
The propositions of a case study are important in order to direct the attention into the right direction within the scope of the study (Yin, 2003). For both the case studies the same propositions are posed. The propositions are:
- Getronics Consulting is using “Knowledge Sharing & Expertise Building” in order to support WCM and Collaboration activities.
- KPN is using “KPN1 Connect” in order to support Collaboration activities.
- Getronics Consulting implemented at least one Web 2.0 design pattern into “Knowledge Sharing & Expertise Building”.
- KPN implemented at least one Web 2.0 design pattern into “KPN1 Connect”.
- Web 2.0 design patterns have an effect on the properties of information.
With the case studies I hope to answer the sub-questions stated in chapter 6. The following table presents how the sub-questions will be operationalized in a larger set of questions, and how they will be answered by each method.
Question q1 will be answered with three operational questions. By answering the first, evidence should point out which processes the company wants to support and why with the use of this particular system. The second question is about the analysis of the content. The analysis should indicate what kind of information is stored and processed by the system, and how this information is tagged and related with each other. The purpose of the third question is to investigate what kinds of properties of information are demanded by the organization. This is regarding the processes and the kind of content stored and processed by the system.
Question q2 will be answered with two operational questions. The first question will explore what kind of Web 2.0 design patterns are implemented and with what intentions. The second question will measure how the implemented Web 2.0 design patterns score according to the properties of information.
Analyzing the results
During the case studies, the data quality will be measured twice. First according to what the organization is demanding. For example: organization x has the activity of publishing content and ranks the accuracy of the information most important. Secondly the data quality is measured according to what the Web 2.0 design pattern can offer. For example: design pattern “rich user experience” causes information to be better interpretable.
By analyzing both results the last sub-question will be answered:
(q3) How do the information properties offered by Web 2.0 patterns match with the information properties demanded by WCM and Collaboration activities?
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