How do executives make sense of their complex digital ecosystem of cloud services? How do they gain situational awareness? One method gaining increasing popularity in a large number of organisations is Simon Wardley’s “Wardley Mapping” technique. With Simon, and with Roser Pujadas and Mark Thompson, we have been developing and researching of how and why this technique is used. The following paper, to be presented in June at ECIS Stockholm, outlines the basics of the technique and our early findings.
We discuss the little-explored construct of situational awareness, which will arguably become increasingly important for strategic decision-making in the age of distributed service ecosystems, digital infrastructures, and microservices. Guided by a design science approach, we introduce a mapping artefact with the ability to enhance situational awareness within, and across, horizontal value chains, and evaluate its application in the field amongst both IS practitioners and IS researchers. We make suggestions for further research into both construct and artefact, and provide insights on their use in practice.
Keywords: Situational awareness, Distributed systems, Design Science, Strategy, Digital Ecosystems, Digital Infrastructure, modularity, servitization.
 ECIS, the European Conference on Information Systems, is the meeting platform for European and international researchers in the field of Information Systems. This 27th edition will take place in Sweden. We will present our paper in the “Rethinking IS Strategy and Governance in the Digital Age” research track.
I’m pleased to promote the newly published ISChannel journal. The journal is wholly produced by MSc and PhD students and accepts articles concerned with socio-technical issues of information systems. I am reproducing the editorial written by Sophie Altrock, this year’s associate editor.
Currently in its 13th year of publication, the iSCHANNEL team is proud to contribute yet another series of insightful research of aspiring academics, current students, and those hungry for sharing ideas and findings with the Information Systems community. Out of a wide selection of submissions this year we agreed on a great mixture of quantitative findings and theoretical explorations of topics surrounding challenges and opportunities of our digital age.
With contributions from my fellow Associate Editors, we are happy to present five thought-provoking papers:
AlexandraGenchevastudies friction in the context of Open Banking solutions. Using the case of an Open Banking consent journey, the author explores how users perceive friction and how these perceptions and behaviours are impacted by preferences and expectations about privacy and convenience. The analysis shows that friction is perceived as a more positive encounter by participants that value privacy while it is perceived as a more negative encounter by participants that value convenience.
PaulineA.Chin,Clotilde deMaricourt, Nicolas, A. Feil, TerryL. X. Zhen,andKrittikaRay, a group of undergraduate students, explore the impact of automation in different industries looking at current and future professionals. Using a mixed method approach, the findings reveal that all participants are concerned about the automation of jobs in the near future. Students however were showing a willingness to adapt to those arising challenges by learning how to code in comparison to no willingness on the side of professionals. Findings further indicate that e.g. job security also affects concerns with the automation of jobs.
Juan Felipe Forerooffers an anthropological perspective on understanding the nature of digital innovation. Deploying the concept of migration, including departing, arriving and crossing borders, the author outlines how digital innovation is a product of moves, changes and different modes of travelling. Drawing from a range of anthropological concepts and contributions, the author argues that innovation emerges as a far messier and improvised process than previously thought. To an Information Systems audience, this paper presents a fascinating insight into contributions from digital anthropology and adjacent fields.
KadriannPikkatprovides an interesting analysis of filter bubbles enabled by social media platforms. Through an examination of this phenomenon, where the mechanisms exposing content to a user prioritise ideas that reinforce his or her own beliefs, she raises awareness of the ways users of these platforms may be unwittingly subjected to a narrowing subset of information disguised as personalisation. Kadriann reveals the ways these platforms may simplify and manipulate the complexities of social interaction and raises questions around how this reinforcement may shape users’ identities.
Maria V. Santarelliexamines from a political point of view the way users give consent within social networking sites (SNS) using Facebook as a case study. By showing the analogies between a state and Facebook, she argues that consent given on a SNS resembles John Locke’s tacit consent as derived from “take it all or take nothing” Hobson’s choice. Such “tacit online consent” goes beyond the consent given to governments, calling into question the contemporary legislative means in place.
We have assembled a rich set of contributions this year and we want to thank all our authors and reviewers. Taking part in the journey from the first call for papers to the final printed journal has shown us that research is not just about counting online submissions. iSCHANNEL has brought people together, challenged reviewers to change their perspectives but, most of it all, it has offered yet another breadth of topics on all kinds of technological developments that affect us equally, now and tomorrow.
When I came to the LSE a year ago, my background in digital media studies in the field of cultural science provided me with a healthy scepticism about technologies, and the way they affect our daily lives. In the past months, however, I have come to realise the opportunities and the potential of this digital landscape for individuals and businesses if only we aspire this comprehensive view. The papers selected in this volume offer rich insights into the privacy concerns in the open banking sector and perspectives on social media platforms, accompanied by explorations of the automation of jobs and the ever narrowing information flow we are exposed to online. Adding an anthropological perspective to our selection further shows us that these topics of digital innovation should not just be addressed in the field of Information Systems alone, but rather across different areas of research. With this variety of perspectives and the growing body of knowledge that we take part in, I now see that we can continue to evolve and revolutionise our technologies with the potential to bring about more of rewarding disruptions.
In the name of iSCHANNEL, I am happy to have joined the team that has brought about another journal with intriguing findings and captivating thoughts. We now like to invite your reflections and challenge new ideas while reading through our 13th edition.
With many thanks to my fellow Associate Editors and their contributions,
Katharina B. Rohr, Jerome Retzlaff, and Kaitlyn Clark.
Special thanks goes to our Senior Editor Marta Stelmaszak who has invested a considerable amount of time and effort to make this journal possible over the past years and Dr. Will Venters, the Faculty Editor, who has once more supported us with his academic expertise and experience.
It was fantastic to see Ayesha Khanna, my PhD student, successfully defend her PhD today. Her work focuses on the temporal nature of information infrastructures within a SmartCity initiative in Berlin identifying the importance of temporal rhythm.
The research will be of interest to practitioners involved in building smart cities, strategic niches for innovation, and for those involved in large digital infrastructure development work. She faced an excellent viva with Dr Edgar Whitley and Professor Margunn Aanestad examining.
PhD Thesis Abstract
This thesis investigates the importance of temporal rhythms in the study of information infrastructures (IIs), responding to the call to address an II’s “biography” by focusing on its evolution over time. It enriches understanding of how socially constructed rhythms, a temporal structure under-examined in the II literature, influence II cultivation. A strategic niche project to develop an e-mobility II in Berlin is used as the case study and reveals the influence of rhythm in disciplining (constraining) and modeling (motivating) II cultivation. It demonstrates how the intermediary mediates these influences through the interventions of harmonising, riffing and composing. Based on these interventions, the study develops the concept of facilitated II cultivation, which adds to the literature exploring the tension between planned and emergent infrastructure work. In doing so, the study presents a framework for combining short-term implementation concerns (strategic interventions by the intermediary) with long-term path dependency and evolutionary concerns (influences of past and future temporal rhythms) for IIs.
When her minor corrections are complete I will post a link to the final version of the thesis.
This October, 120 MSc Management, Information Systems and Digital Innovation students took part in LSE’s first ever Sprint Week- an intensive exercise in innovation and collaboration that forces teams to go from idea to prototype in just five days. It is designed to accelerate decision processes and produce clear results within a short time-span- a method used by many start-ups and innovation departments. They were supported by faculty and by consultants from Roland Berger who run similar sprint innovations for blue-chip clients, and by the client’s digital innovation expert.
In this article we hear from two students about their Sprint Week experience.
Organisations need to innovate digital products and services faster than ever before. This requires new skills for digital innovation but gaining skills is challenging. Traditional university lectures and classes are excellent at providing the vital theoretical backgrounds; for example in platforms, business strategy, digital infrastructures, systems development approaches, cloud computing and agility, yet they are poorly designed to provide a visceral understanding of how agile teams really innovate. Responding to that challenge is the aim of the Sprint Week.
Will Venters, Assistant Professor of Information Systems
Martin Kasseth, 2017-18 MISDI student from Norway:
Tell us a little about your Sprint Week experience- which company were you working with and what approach did your team take to their problem?
We were working on an exciting project for an internationally recognised financial company (that unfortunately I can’t name here for legal reasons), with some help from consultants from Roland Berger to come up with an innovative idea to help the corporation and their issuers (banks) to engage with younger generations. My group came up with the idea of creating a new, flexible and disposable payment mechanism that we named “VSticky”. The purpose behind the solution was to engage new generation audiences and facilitate small payments at events. Enabled by NFC (contactless) technology, these sticker devices were limited by a geo-fenced and time-limited area, and could be easily deactivated and disposed after use. The sticker is linked to your own digital wallet via a mobile app, where you can set your own spending limits. We envisaged that this solution could be used at events to allow quick and safe payments within geographically-limited areas. Possible use cases included sports games, concerts, schools/universities, street markets, conferences, amusement parks, etc.
What challenges did your team face?
I think the greatest challenge for both me and my team was communication. We were a very international team, with students from Norway, Germany, the U.S., Iran, China and Estonia. While this was one of the most exciting dimensions of the week, it also posed some communication problems. Even something as simple as saying that someone’s suggestion is “okay” might have completely different connotations in different languages and cultures. This resulted in quite a few funny episodes that we also learnt from throughout the week!
How did you do?
Of the 18 groups, the top six were selected for the last day’s “Dragon’s Den”, where representatives from the financial corporate client, external consultants and industry experts listened to the groups’ presentations and asked questions about the designs. There were many creative and really good ideas presented by all of the groups. In the end, the jury picked a winner, which actually was my team’s solution!
What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
Probably that innovation processes are much more complex and challenging than I imagined beforehand. It is not simply enough to have a good idea – you also need to think thoroughly through the possible usage cases, target groups, the value creation, in addition to the system design itself. Nevertheless, parts of the innovation process can be compromised into a single week and still produce good results. This provided me with a method and toolkit that I am sure I will bring with me into my future career.
Everyone has the opportunity act as the group’s leader for a designated day, providing you with valuable insight into team-work management and challenges, which are crucial for your future career. Moreover, getting the opportunity to work on a real-life case challenge for a global company, with the input from industry experts, is a really inspiring factor. It is probably the best academic learning experience I have had so far during my studies!
We all got together and celebrated with a big party on the Friday – it is important to celebrate after a week with hard work!
Timo Fuhrmann, 2017-18 MISDI student from Germany:
Do you have any advice for future students about Sprint Week?
Before the Sprint Week, I would definitely recommend students read the book, Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days on which the project was based. It gives you a comprehensive overview and explains in detail the tasks that have to be done during the week.
The outcomes were very diverse among the 18 groups that took part in the Sprint as everyone approached the problem in a different way, leading to interesting products. My group worked on a mobile app and a smart card to unify payment and authentication. Other groups focused more on the payment aspect and also trying to approach new markets.
What did you find most challenging about the week?
I believe that the biggest challenge was to bring everyone on the same track during the first two days. There was not always a clear way forward and there were also many discussions on various aspects. We had to make sure that everyone knows our goal, agrees with it and follows it. We needed to achieve a common understanding of our main idea to be able to find a good solution and work on our prototypes. On Tuesday, we managed to overcome this challenge and found our common understanding, enabling us to work more efficiently and to come up with a great solution in the end.
What did you learn from the experience?
For me, the Sprint Week has been the highlight of the MISDI programme so far. It was intense and demanding but a lot of fun to work together with my group on a real-life problem, creating our own solution and presenting it in front of experts and receive feedback. The Sprint Week is a useful and effective concept to think about and test new product ideas. This hands-on experience gave me a good understanding of the concept and I believe that I can use this framework for my future work life.
Organisations need to innovate digital products and services faster than ever before. This requires new skills for digital innovation but gaining skills is challenging. Traditional university lectures and classes are excellent at providing the vital theoretical backgrounds; for example in platforms, business strategy, digital infrastructures, systems development approaches, cloud computing and agility, yet they are poorly designed to provide a visceral understanding of how agile teams really innovate. Addressing this challenge we drew inspiration from Mark Thompson at Judge Business School who has run small sprints within their MBA and we developed a 1-week “Sprint week” bootcamp within our core MSc course.
This week all our 120+ MSc students studying “Management, Information Systems and Digital Innovation” are coming together in teams of 6 to innovate a new product or service for a real global company during a 5 day sprint . They are supported by faculty and by consultants from Roland Berger who run similar sprint innovations for blue-chip clients, and by the client’s digital innovation expert.
Students will use richer (and more complex) modelling methodologies, which makes sure groups appreciate the different cultural, social and organisational perspectives within their design. This ensure they produce designs which are both systemically desirable but also “culturally feasible” wherever they will be applied.
Students will be pushed to not just produce solutions based on user interface or web design. They must develop a coherent digital design using basic UML modelling techniques alongside Wardley mapping techniques, to ensure a realistic strategic design.
Interspersed with the innovation work are a few short lectures – refreshing them on key techniques and introducing challenges their design will face.
On the Friday, the consultants will select the top groups for a Friday afternoon “Dragon’s Den” where experts from the global company, Roland Berger, and from the consulting and software industry, will put those groups through their paces – asking the difficult questions and pointing out the failings in their design. Finally, and most importantly, there is a party on the Friday evening (kindly sponsored by Roland Berger).
As the week counts for 50% of the student’s course mark, their designs will be marked by LSE academics based on LSE assessment criteria – something that is important to ensure this is not a “game” but a deliverable for our students.
Students will benefit from this unique opportunity and will experience some of the frustration, stress and elation of this kind of digital innovation work. Students will also get a chance to show in future job interviews that they know how to work in groups on digital innovation work, for a real client under real pressure.
One group might just come up with the next big thing and then, perhaps, be given a chance to work with the client to develop it further!
Will Venters 2017.
Knapp, J., J. Zeratsky, and B. Kowitz, Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days. 2016: Simon and Schuster.
Checkland, P., Systems Thinking, Systems Practice. 1981, Chichester: Wiley. 330.
Checkland, P. and J. Poulter, Learning for Action: A short definitive account of Soft Systems Methodology and its use for Practitioners, Teachers and Students. 2006, Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons.
Checkland, P. and J. Scholes, Soft Systems Methodology in Action. 1990, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
I am to be part of a panel at the Digital Leadership Forum event today discussing AI and the Enterprise. In my opinion, the AI debate has become dominated by the AI technology and the arrival of products sold to Enterprise as “AI solutions” rather than the ecosystems and contexts in which AI algorithms will operate. It is to this that I intend to talk.
It’s ironic though that we should come see AI in this way – as a kind of “black-box” to be purchased and installed. If AI is about “learning” and “intelligence” then surely an enterprises “AI- Baby”, if it is to act sensibly, needs a carefully considered environment which is carefully controlled to help it learn? AI technology is about learning – nurturing even – to ensure the results are relevant. With human babies we spend time choosing the books they will learn from, making the nursery safe and secure, and allowing them to experience the world carefully in a controlled manner. But do enterprises think about investing similar effort in considering the training data for their new AI? And in particular considering the digital ecosystem (Kindergarten) which will provide such data?
Examples of AI Success clearly demonstrate such a kindergarten approach. AlphaGo grew in a world of well understood problems (Go has logical rules) with data unequivocally relevant to that problem. The team used experts in the game to hone its learning, and were on hand to drive its success. Yet many AI solutions seem marketed as “plug-and-play” as though exposing the AI to companies’ messy, often ambiguous, and usually partial data will be fine.
So where should a CxO be spending their time when evaluating enterprise AI? I would argue they should seek to evaluate boththe AI product and their organisation’s “AI kindergarten” in which the “AI product” will grow?
Thinking about this further we might recommend that:
CxOs should make sure that the data feeding AI represents the companies values and needs and is not biased or partial.
Ensure that the AI decisions are taken forward in a controlled way, and that there is human oversight. Ensure the organisation is comfortable with any AI decisions and that even when they are wrong (which AI sometimes will be) they do not harm the company.
Ensure that the data required to train the AI is available. As AI can require a huge amount of data to learn effectively so it may be uneconomic for a single company to seek to acquire that data (see UBERs woes in this).
Consider what would happen if the data-sources for AI degraded or changed (for example a sensor broke, a camera was changed, data-policy evolved or different types of data emerged). Who would be auditing the AI to ensure it continued to operate as required?
Finally, consider that the AI-baby will not live alone – they will be “social”. Partners or competitors might employ similar AI which, within the wider marketplace ecosystem, might affect the world in which the AI operates. (See my previous article on potential AI collusion). Famously the interacting algorithms of high-frequency traders created significant market turbulence dubbed the “flash-crash” with traders’ algorithms failed to understand the wider context of other algorithms interacting. Further, as AI often lacks transparency of its decision making, so this interacting network of AI may act unpredictably and in ways poorly understood.
It was a great pleasure to see Florian Allwein, my PhD student, successfully defend his PhD today. The thesis has significant lessons for practitioners interested in the role of their digital technology in promoting agility within large organisations.
The abstract of Dr Allwein’s thesis:
Organizational agility has received much attention from practitioners and researchers in Information Systems. Existing research, however, has been criticised for a lack of variety. Moreover, as a consequence of digitalization, information systems are turning from traditional, monolithic systems to open systems defined by characteristics like modularity and generativity. The concept of digital infrastructures captures this shift and stresses the evolving, socio-technical nature of such systems. This thesis sees IT in large companies as digital infrastructures and organizational agility as a performance within them. In order to explain how such infrastructures can support performances of agility, a focus on the interactions between IT, information and the user and design communities within them is proposed. A case study was conducted within Telco, a large telecommunications firm in the United Kingdom. It presents three projects employees regarded as agile. Data was collected through interviews, observations of work practices and documents. A critical realist ontology is applied in order to identify generative mechanisms for agility. The mechanism of agilization – making an organization more agile by cultivating digital infrastructures and minding flows of information to attain an appropriate level of agility – is proposed to explain the interactions between digital infrastructures and performances of agility. It is supported by the related mechanisms of informatization and infrastructuralization. Furthermore, the thesis finds that large organizations do not strive for agility unreservedly, instead aiming for bounded agility in well-defined areas that does not put the business at risk. This thesis contributes to the literature by developing the concept of agility as a performance and illustrating how it aligns with digital infrastructures. The proposed mechanisms contribute to an emerging mid-range theory of organizational agility that will also be useful for practitioners. The thesis also contributes clear definitions of the terms “information” and “data” and aligns them to the ontology of critical realism.