Guest editorial

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Business Process Management Journal

ISSN: 1463-7154

Article publication date: 13 September 2011



Smolnik, S., Urbach, N. and Fjermestad, J.L. (2011), "Guest editorial", Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 17 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Guest editorial

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Business Process Management Journal, Volume 17, Issue 5

About the Guest EditorsStefan Smolnik is Assistant Professor of Information and Knowledge Management at the Institute of Research on Information Systems (IRIS) at the EBS University of Business and Law in Wiesbaden, Germany. His research interests are focused on the success and performance measurement of information and knowledge management systems as well as on the successful organizational implementation of social media. He has published in international journals and conference proceedings such as Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Business & Information SystemsEngineering, International Journal of Knowledge Management, Business Process Management Journal, Proceedings of the Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, and Proceedings of the Annual International Conference on Information Systems.

Nils Urbach is Research Director and Lecturer at the IRIS at the EBS University of Business and Law in Wiesbaden, Germany. He received his Diploma in Information Systems from the University of Paderborn and doctorate from the European Business School. Complementary to his academic work, he is a Managing Consultant with Horváth & Partners in Stuttgart, Germany. Earlier, he worked as a consultant with Accenture in Frankfurt, Germany. Nils Urbach has been working in the fields of information management and collaborative information systems for several years. In his current research, he focuses on information systems success and performance measurement, as well as on IT governance. His work has been published in several journals and conference proceedings such as Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Business & Information Systems Engineering, Business Process Management Journal, Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application, Proceedings of the Americas Conference on Information Systems, and Proceedings of the European Conference on Information Systems.

Jerry L. Fjermestad is Professor in the School of Management at NJIT. He received his BA in Chemistry from Pacific Lutheran University, an MS in Operations Research from Polytechnic University, an MBA in Operations Management from Iona College, and an MBA and PhD from Rutgers University in Management Information Systems. Jerry L. Fjermestad has taught courses on management information systems, decision support systems, systems analysis and design, electronic commerce, data warehousing, and graduate seminars in information systems. His current research interests are in collaborative technology, decision support systems, data warehousing, electronic commerce, global information systems, customer relationship management, and enterprise information systems. He has co-edited 11 special issues in various information systems (IS) journals. Jerry’s publications include one edited book on CRM and over 100 scholarly papers in a number of journals and proceedings. He serves on the editorial board for several journals including Journal of Information Science and Technology, the International Journal of Electronic Collaboration, and the International Journal of Information Security and Privacy.

Information systems evaluation and benchmarking for business performance improvement

Annual worldwide spending on information technology (IT) has been increasing for many years. By 2010, International Data Cooperation expects the total expenditure on IT to reach $1.48 trillion. Simultaneously, however, a greater number of IS failures are still emerging. A questionnaire-based survey carried out in 2006 in the USA indicated that only 62 percent of software projects were considered successful. The measurement of investments and developed systems’ success as well as the paradox of high investments and low productivity returns (“productivity paradox”) therefore remain a top concern for both practitioners and researchers.

During the last two-and-a-half decades, measuring IS success – the clarification of an important dependent variable in IS research – has been a popular stream of research. A number of models have been proposed in attempts to define IS success and identify the various causes of success or failure, respectively. Complementarily, the benchmarking method allows for an external perspective on the unit of analysis and therefore for an inter-organizational comparison. Thus, organizations are able to assess costs and benefits of IS with respect to a peer group. In addition, benchmarking establishes standards as well as a shared understanding and common procedures.

In contributing to these debates, this special issue aims to publish most recent research results addressing strategies, methodologies, and stories that relate to assessing and benchmarking IS with the objective of improving business processes and overall business performance. In addition, this special issue explores the bodies of performance measurement that define the current state of research in measuring IS success.

All papers submitted to the special issue were subjected to a double-blind review process in two rounds of review, with a minimum of three reviewers per paper. Only most relevant papers were selected for publication in the special issue. To avoid any conflict of interest, the review for the paper co-authored by two of the editors of this special issue was conducted outside the special issue review process and the review was handled by the journal editor-in-chief. Earlier versions of some papers in this issue were presented within the minitrack “Information systems success & benchmarking” at AMCIS 2009 and AMCIS 2010.

Synopsis of the contributions

In this section, we provide a synopsis of the contributions included in this special issue.

In the paper “IT support for business processes in SMEs”, Paul Cragg and Annette Mills present a study that focuses on how well IT is supporting business processes in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The study uses a novel approach based on the 12 business processes of the Process Classification Framework. A 24-item diagnostic tool forms part of a questionnaire for structured interviews with managers in 66 SMEs. The firms identify the following two core business processes as strategically most important: deliver products and services, and manage customer service. Although the evidence indicates that the most important business processes are supported at an acceptable level, IT support is found to be low for many business processes. The typical SME have weak IT support for about five out of their 12 major business processes. IT support also varies considerably across the sample, indicating that some firms have much higher IT support for business processes than others. The study indicates that the business process view can provide an effective way of identifying gaps in IT support. Finally, the study creates an instrument that can be used by managers as a diagnostic tool to help SMEs identify areas for business improvement.

In the paper “Emerging evaluation processes in consortium-based outsourced system development”, Antti Nurmi, Petri Hallikainen, and Matti Rossi analyze the evaluation of system development processes in a setting with multiple stakeholders in multiple organizations that develop a shared information system. In large system development efforts, organizational and managerial issues are often more challenging than technical ones. One of the key concerns of managers is the control and evaluation of the overall development effort. The presented case is a consortium of universities that has developed a shared student registrar system over a period of more than ten years. The authors use a social process model to analyze the episodes and encounters in the system development and evaluation processes. They find that in early stages of system development, the evaluation was emergent or even non-existent. As the system was developed further and issues – such as delays and missing features – arose, there was a need for better control of the process. Thus, the evaluation process evolved through a series of critical encounters into a more proactive one.

In the paper “Business process blueprinting – an enhanced view on process performance”, Martin Gersch, Michael Hewing, and Bernd Schöler introduce a method that visualizes and analyzes processes simultaneously from the company’s and customer’s point of view by combining the market-oriented approach and service blueprinting with the syntax of business process modeling. In contemporary times, process-oriented approaches in information management are elementary in meeting business challenges. However, most methods for business process management focus on improved performance from only the company’s perspective. They neglect the growing importance of value co-creation between company and customer that typically results from a service-dominant logic. Modern business process management methods need to focus on the internal performance of processes whilst including the customer’s perspective. Within the presented integrated approach, information management and marketing are linked. A use case illustrates implementation and benefits of this method. Particularly, applying the method to practical process analysis promotes a better understanding of the customer’s process perception. This potentially leads to a more efficient and effective process design.

In the paper “Getting users involved in aligning their needs with business processes models and systems”, Kenia Sousa, Hildeberto Mendonça, Amandine Lievyns, and Jean Vanderdonckt present a case study of the application of a methodology that represents an innovative strategy that integrates researches on interaction design and business process management with practical implications. This methodology is devoted to aligning the needs of enterprise system users with business processes. The approach establishes an unbroken network of links between business processes, task models, and abstract representations of user interfaces. Once the models are linked, it is possible to identify the impact that any change on these models may produce in other models. The main challenge is to organize the linked models according to the organizational context and manage those links with consistency in order to support improving process efficiency and user productivity. This approach has been applied in a large telecommunications organization during four months with its application in two different projects and validated with a cost-benefit analysis. Applying this approach in large organizations has demonstrated that every involved stakeholder is capable of understanding the whole approach in one working day; creating the models and linking them with the corresponding business process models take around three persons/day per core business process, and applying this approach brings up to 60 percent of return on investment related to process improvement and user experience. The main differentials of this methodology include using simple models, considering light actions, preserving the independence of technology, and adopting a human-oriented approach assuring that every managed information impacts people and not only systems, thus enabling fast adaptation to the business dynamism.

In the paper “Automatic identification of structural process weaknesses in flow chart diagrams”, Axel Winkelmann and Burkhard Weiß argue for element and pattern based process analyses in order to identify process weaknesses such as organizational process fragmentations, media breaks, or other process inefficiencies based on the flow chart notation language. Business process reengineering (BPR) is a research topic for at least the last 20 years. As banks have realized the need to look on their business in a process-oriented way, they have been engaged in numerous BPR projects to make their organizations more efficient. However, the success of BPR projects in banks vary significantly and it remains a challenge to systematically discover weaknesses in business process landscapes. The presented approach for automatic structural process weakness identification also allows for a benchmarking of different process path alternatives in the same process or among different processes. In this article, it is applied and evaluated in the finance sector but can also be used in other domains. It contributes to the more efficient and more effective identification of possible weaknesses in process models than with today’s manual analysis of process models.

In the paper “A framework for identifying and understanding enterprise systems benefits”, Petra Schubert and Susan P. Williams look into identifying the benefits arising from implementations of enterprise systems and realizing business value since this remains a significant challenge for both research and industry. This paper consolidates previous work. It presents a framework for investigating enterprise systems benefits and business change, which addresses the identified limitations of previous research and provides a more detailed analysis of benefits and their contextual variation. Drawing on data gathered from 31 real-world organizations of differing size, maturity, and industry sector, the study adopts an iterative content analysis to empirically derive a comprehensive benefits framework. The content analysis provides a detailed classification of expectations and benefits, which is described in a four level framework. The four levels are further subdivided into aspects and criteria plus an attributed appraisal value. The resulting scheme for the “3-level benefit codes” provides a greater level of detail about the nature of expected and realized benefits.

In the paper “Determining the improvement potentials of employee portals using a performance-based analysis”, Nils Urbach, Stefan Smolnik, and Gerold Riempp particularly inform practitioners about the levers for improving their employee portals. The authors introduce a theoretical model that is based on the DeLone and McLean IS success model, which considers the specific requirements of employee portals. They test the associations between the model’s success dimensions by using more than 4,400 employees’ responses, which were collected in 12 companies across different industries. The authors then apply structural equation modeling to carry out the causal analysis. In addition, within a performance-based analysis, they further investigate the success dimensions’ improvement potentials. The results of our causal analysis indicate that besides the factors contributing to the success of IS in general, other success dimensions – like the quality of the collaboration and process support – have to be considered when aiming for a successful employee portal. The performance-based analysis emphasizes the significance of collaboration quality to improve an employee portal and identifies the respective fields of action.

In the paper “A framework for the impact of it on organizational performance”, Tim Jacks, Prashant Palvia, Richard Schilhavy, and Lei Wang investigate the multitude of organizational-level studies of the impact of IT through a meta-analysis of IS literature from 2001 to 2009. Despite the constant stream of research investigating IT business value, IT capabilities, and competitive advantage, researchers are calling for a more coherent understanding of the firm-level impacts of IT, and how these firm-level impacts can be measured. The paper’s findings are synthesized into an overarching framework of the impact of IT at the organizational level. The framework categorizes measures of the impact of IT into productivity, profitability, and intangible benefits, while the antecedents of IT impact are categorized into IT resources, IT capabilities, IT/business alignment, and external factors.


For the success and appearance of this special issue, the Guest Editors would like to thank the management of the journal, and the executive and production team working behind the scenes. They would like to thank the reviewers who dedicated their time and efforts to help in the selection of relevant papers and their needed improvements for publication. Their deepest appreciations go to the authors for their excellent contribution and diligent work as their papers made rounds of reviews and revisions.

Stefan Smolnik, Nils Urbach, Jerry L. FjermestadGuest Editors

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