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Furthering the process of academic and practitioner engagement
Furthering the process of academic and practitioner engagement
The industry section of BPMJ is designed to identify and report research approaches and findings which specifically achieve recognition by practitioners in the field. There has been an historical debate about the relevance of the academic contribution to existing and emerging problems in industry, and these issues need to be articulated and addressed more thoroughly. The evidence suggests that there is a significant divide between the two activities and more attention is needed for both "worlds" to inform and serve each other. In particular the essence of any organizational research endeavor relates to the formulation of theoretical frameworks which can provide road maps for industry development. These can only be drawn in turn from the context of the problem which is provided by managers themselves. The notion that academics do not work in the "real world" is thus contested as they have the privilege of determining an holistic picture of these environments away from a narrow consultancy perspective.
In addition, the events of practitioners and academics are all too commonly detached and respectively under-represented by either faction. For example, very few, if any, practitioners, in the information systems (IS) domain attend the main round of academic conferences such as International Conference on IS (ICIS), European Conference on IS (ECIS) and Americas Conference on IS (AMCIS), and very few academics attend, for example, the COMDEX event, a trade show held in Las Vegas annually (November) where leading industrialists (e.g. Bill Gates) present the latest innovations in information technology, etc. There is clearly an observable incongruence between the behaviors and style of academics and people who are involved in industrial practice. There are notable exceptions to this perceived and real divide such as the ISOneWorld conference and convention (www.information-institute.org), also held in Las Vegas (April), with practitioners driving the event (track chairs, etc.) This initiative offers a genuine attempt to involve executives in business processes and is in effect an intellectual COMDEX. This level of engagement, however, is very infrequent and only partially addresses the complex issues for a tighter relationship between research and practice.
An example of a theoretical road map is provided by an earlier useful approach in relation to the relevance of IS research. Here the normative information model-based systems analysis and design framework (NIMSAD) was developed which specifically recognises the tensions between the existence of a range of IS methodologies and the need for industrial problem solving (Jayaratna, 1994). The unique features of NIMSAD consider aspects of the social situation, actions beliefs, values of people in the situations and also the researcher in action. According to the framework, problem solving in practice, consists of four essential elements; namely, the problem situation, the problem solver, the problem solving process, and evaluation. There are, of course, many other more recent examples of mature and accepted theoretical models in this respect, such as soft systems, structuration, actor network and post-modernist theories, etc. However, a critical and selective feature of NIMSAD relates to IS as essentially a practical discipline which requires intervention by the researcher in solving practitioner problems, i.e. action research. If there is no intervention, the research does not change the situation, and thus the researcher does not need to account for and justify actions to the managers in the situation. The justification and accountability is therefore to an academic audience, who set particular criteria to evaluate the credibility of an interpreted account (Kawalek and Hackney, 1997). From this perspective research is the process of investigation where a systematic contribution to knowledge is achieved that routes academic and practical activities.
In essence NIMSAD is extremely useful in identifying the holistic nature of academic research activity which may be translated to an improvement in the industry context. IS academics therefore should be organizational innovators and problem solvers working at the cutting edge of their fields but sympathetic to managerial issues. The nature of the argument is presented in Figure 1 where aspects of industry and knowledge are illustrated which provide the road map for future research efforts.
Figure 1 A road map for knowledge
Academics therefore need to engage in relevant and appropriate scholarship in order to undertake and perform the complex and demanding integration with industry through knowledge acquisition, application, development and transfer. Boyer (1990) presents these challenges, as follows:
scholarship of discovery – the idea of research and its dissemination;
scholarship of integration – which involves making connections across the disciplines and placing the specialities in a larger context;
scholarship of application – which goes beyond the application of research via commercial consultancy and considers the contribution to knowledge; and
scholarship of teaching – which both educates and entices future scholars by communicating significant knowledge.
The industry section of BPMJ will consider these issues and invite quality contributions to help provide a more enlightened debate, through interactive practitioner and academic perspectives, on how to assimilate and progress these processes in an increasingly dynamic-business-environment.
ReferencesBoyer, E. (1990), Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities for the Professorate, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, University of Princeton, Princeton, NJ.Jayaratna, N. (1994), Understanding and Evaluating Methodologies, McGraw Hill, Maidenhead.Kawalek, J.P. and Hackney, R.A. (1997), "Power and conflict in information systems strategy: operationalising Giddens as critical explicator", International Journal of Failure and Lessons Learned in IT Management, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 205-15.
Ray HackneyManchester Metropolitan University, UK