Joining Virginia Tech – Director, Metropolitan Institute; Associate Professor, Center for Public Admin. and Policy, College of Architecture & Urban Studies

After spending over 5 years at the University of Washington, I will soon be making a change. Starting this autumn, I will assume a new role as the Director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. I will also hold an appointment as an associate professor (with tenure) at the Center for Public Administration and Policy within the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. While I am excited to assume my new role and take on different challenges in my academic career, I also recognize that I am leaving an excellent institution. I want to thank all of my colleagues and students at the Information School, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, and the College of Engineering, who have been wonderful collaborators and friends. I also want to acknowledge the generous support that I have received from private and government sponsors for my research institutes.

Over the next few months, I will be making the move from Seattle, WA to Alexandria, VA.

Moldova’s Internet Revolution accepted for Technology Forecasting and Social Change

Volodymyr V. Lysenko, my doctoral student, and I have a paper accepted for publication at Technology Forecasting and Social Change. This paper examines the role that information and communication technologies played in Moldova's Revolution.

Moldova’s Internet Revolution: Analyzing the Role of Technologies in Various Phases of the Confrontation

Abstract: In recent times we have witnessed the fundamental impacts that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have had on the outcomes of contentious political confrontations. In this paper, we analyze the role played by Internet-based and cellular ICTs in Moldova’s Revolution of April 2009. Specifically, we identify what, why, and how technologies were used during various phases of the uprising. Our findings show that: 1) the protesters organized their initial mobilization through social network services (SNS) and short message service (SMS); 2) Twitter was mostly used during later phases of the revolution – the active street protests and the subsequent information war -- for communication about the conflict both locally and globally; and 3) through skillful use of new Internet-based ICTs, it is possible to conduct a successful revolution without noticeable prior offline organization. Theoretical and practical implications for the study of ICTs in contentious political environments are also discussed.

 

Innovation Reflections from Thailand

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Thailand. During my visit, I had an opportunity to give a talk at Bangkok University on Designing the Innovation Process. The talk was sponsored by the Institute for Knowledge and Innovation - South East Asia and Thailand's National Innovation Agency (NIA). During the event, I had a chance to dialogue with over 60 distinguished managers and executives who represented Thailand's leading private and public sector organizations. I had the opportunity to discuss research collaboration with the Thailand Productivity Institute, and Bangkok University, among other organizations. It was a real treat to meet University of Washington alumni in Thailand.

I was impressed by the breadth of knowledge management programs in various Thai organizations. In addition, I learnt how Thai organizations are tailoring standard knowledge management approaches to meet the cultural and economic realities of the country. Thailand is an up and coming Asian economy. While, still highly dependent on tourism, the Thai government, through agencies such as the NIA, are supporting the development of innovative and highly entrepreneurial organizations in areas such as green technologies, and biofuel, among others.

My host, Dr. Vincent M. Ribière, did a marvellous job organizing the event. I look forward to my return trip back to Thailand!

Looking for Clues to Failures in Large-Scale Public Sector Projects

Sandeep Purao and I have a paper accepted at the 44th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences in the Electronic Government Track (Development Methods for Electronic Government, Minitrack). The paper analyzes the IRS’s Business Systems Modernization Project using sentiment analysis.

Abstract
We describe results from historical analysis of a large-scale, public sector effort: the IRS Modernization Project that has already spanned a decade and consumed more than 3 billion dollars. The results focus on analysis of Sentiments and Confidence expressed by different stakeholders, as found in various documents. We explore how such analyses may provide a window on project progress and potential early clues that may contribute to preventing undesirable outcomes in the future.

Reference: Purao, S., and Desouza, K.C. “Looking for Clues to Failures in Large-Scale Public Sector Projects: A Case Study,” In Proceedings of the Forty-Forth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-44), Los Alamos, CA: IEEE Press, Kauai, HI, (January 4-7, 2011).

Role of Internet-based Information Flows and Technologies in Electoral Revolutions

My paper with Volodymyr Lysenko on the role of Internet-based information flows and technologies in electoral revolutions is now available on First Monday.

Internet–based information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the information flows they support have played an important role in the advancement of society. In this paper we investigate the role of Internet–based ICTs in electoral revolutions. Employing a case study approach, we examine the part played by ICTs during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2000–2004). Roles and activities of the dissenters, as well as their associates, the incumbent authorities and their allies are analyzed with regard to Internet–based technologies during the electoral revolution in Ukraine. The case of the Orange Revolution is particularly salient, as even though only one to two percent of the Ukrainian population had access to the Internet, this was sufficient to mobilize the citizens towards an eventually successful revolution. This paper lays the groundwork for further investigations into use of ICTs by political dissenters.

Lysenko, V.V. and Desouza, K.C. “Role of Internet-based Information Flows and Technologies in Electoral Revolutions: The Case of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution,” First Monday, 15 (9), 2010, Available Online at: [LINK]

Large IT Projects as Interventions in Digital Ecosystems

Sandeep Purao (IST, Penn State University) and I have a paper accepted for presentation at the International ACM Conference on Management of Emergent Digital EcoSystems (MEDES’10) (BangkokThailand).

Abstract: Large IT projects, such as the US Government’s Internal Revenue Service Business Modernization Effort, can take a decade or more and consume billions of dollars. Traditional approaches to the study of such projects emphasize concerns such as requirements monitoring, progress tracking and risk mitigation. We propose an alternative approach guided by a digital ecosystems view instead of a hierarchical, decision-oriented view. We argue that this perspective is more suited to understand how such projects evolve and cause changes in the underlying digital ecosystem characterized by not only the IT infrastructure but also the transactional relationships among stakeholders. We illustrate our arguments by drawing on an archaeological case study of the IRS effort, and discuss implications of the digital ecosystem perspective for the study of large IT projects.

Reference: Purao, S., and Desouza, K.C. “Large IT Projects as Interventions in Digital Ecosystems,” In Proceedings of the International ACM Conference on Management of Emergent Digital EcoSystems (MEDES'10), Bangkok, Thailand (October 26-29. 2010).

Role of Internet-based Information Flows and Technologies in Electoral Revolutions: Ukraine’s Orange Revolution

Volodymyr V. Lysenko and I have co-authored a paper that examines the role played by Internet-based information flows and technologies in electoral revolutions. Recent events have drawn attention to the use of Internet-based information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the political process. For instance, ICTs played an important role during attempts at electoral revolutions in Moldova in April 2009 and Iran in June 2009. Employing a case study approach, we examine the part played by ICTs during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2000-2004). Roles and activities of the dissenters, as well as their associates, the incumbent authorities and their allies are analyzed with regard to Internet-based technologies during the electoral revolution in Ukraine. The case of the Orange Revolution is particularly salient, as even though only 1-2 percent of the Ukrainian population had access to the Internet, this was sufficient to mobilize the citizens towards an eventually successful revolution. This paper lays the groundwork for further investigations into use of ICTs by political dissenters. The paper will appear in a forthcoming issue of First Monday.

Commencement and Convocation Speeches

My last posting on inspiration generated more interest than expected. By a significant margin that blog post was accessed more times than any other for the last year. In addition, several colleagues shared the link on their Facebook pages, posted public comments and also sent me private notes. Of all the notes received, I was most humbled by the notes from my current and former students. After all, it is because of the opportunity to work with these kind souls and creative minds that I decided to join academia, and the University of Washington. I cherish and value my time with students. Several of my students asked me, albeit in different ways, what might I advice them as they graduate?

What better issue to think about on my flight back from England to the USA. As I reflect on various speeches that I have heard at graduation ceremonies, the best ones, not surprisingly the ones I remember,  met the 4S criteria – sticky, simple, short, and sweet. Sticky is because they contained a powerful story that stays with you. Most of the time the story is one of a personal struggle, either experienced or witnessed by the individual; Simple in that the speech did not try to convey too many ideas or lessons, but focused on delivering one significant message; Short speeches are better than long ones (remember, most of the time you are standing in between the students and their celebrations with family and friends); and finally, speeches that are sweet and not sour have a greater chance of being well-received by audience (I once heard a speech where all the speaker did was to complain about how the students, like myself, were the ‘lost generation’ and did not care about anything else but themselves. While the message had truth in it, the method of delivery did not go over well, and students even booed the speaker, and applauded multiple times in the hopes that he would end his speech!)

Given my criteria, here is what I would say to my graduating students:

Each of you is talented, special, valuable, and have a vital role to play in the advancement of our society. Today, is your day, your day to celebrate your accomplishments. Do nothing else but celebrate, and if possible, celebrate with the people who helped you reach this day, whether it is your parents, siblings, relatives, friends, and the faculty and staff at the Information School of the University of Washington. I take pride in all your achievements and am expecting nothing but the best from each of you as you pursue your professional and personal achievements.

The one message that I want you to consider today is that as you leave this University, you do not have to leave behind the bonds with your faculty.  Academia thrives on the bond between students and their professors, even after a course of study is completed. Let me share with you my own experience. Recently, I celebrated one of the most important days of my life, my wedding! Now, why talk about the wedding? One of the most important tasks when you get married is to choose the significant individuals who you want to standup with you. In thinking of my best men, the choice was easy and not surprising, all of them came from academia – my best man, was my first doctoral student, my two groomsmen, where former professors who are now best friends of mine. For brevity, let me share a bit on how Dr. George D. Kraft, a former professor of mine, has forever influenced my life. I met Dr. Kraft in 2000 while completing my MBA at the Illinois Institute of Technology. I enrolled in his, Knowledge Management and Decision Support Systems class and we got into a heated argument a few weeks into the course. To be honest, I do not remember the substance of the argument, but I do remember making a statement like - “you are wrong, data warehouses do not work out you are describing or as noted in the book…I am working on two data warehousing efforts and know better…” He smiled, gave the class a break, and then asked me to join him for a coffee at the lounge. Needless to say, I soon realized that I was in a lot of trouble. But, he kindly and graciously, encouraged me to write-up my idea. I looked shocked and puzzled (and of course, was thinking about what was his ulterior motive). His next set of words were some of the most powerful that I have heard, “a lot of people have ideas and want to change the world, there are only a few, very few, who take the time and energy to see your ideas from concept to implementation.” I remember not sleeping for more than a few hours the next week, and working on the paper. I have never worked on a paper harder in my life; little did I know that this paper would eventually lead me to doing my doctoral studies, my first book, my first research fellowship, and the eventual move into academia. Over the past 10 years, I have had numerous such episodes where the generosity and kindness of this individual, who I originally thought would only be a professor, has had a profound influence on my life. What is surprising is that while no individual would come close to the impact Dr. Kraft has made on my life, there are several other professors who have helped me achieve professional and personal achievements.

My advice to you is quite simple, if you need help, all you need to do is contact your professors. Our doors are open for you.

The world needs you to exploit your talents towards positive change. To this end, you should never fear doing the right thing and making difficult calls. We, in academia, look at you as the future change agents and game changers. We are here to support you. Let me share with you another small story. When I was teaching in South Africa, I had a chance to meet a young lad. This 19-yr old always had a smile on his face, was one of the most pleasant people to deal with, and never complained. During one of our conversations, I asked him – “what makes you so happy?” He said, the people I serve make me happy. I was taken aback a bit, and asked for details. He went on to explain about how he spent about 25 hrs a week working with people who either 1) did not have anyone, mostly orphans, or 2) were HIV-positive. This youngster had created a complete volunteer organization to address the needs of these communities. He recruited his buddies from college, worked with local high-schools, and even got business establishments to donate food and other supplies. As he described his project, he did not do so in a tired way, but did so with hope and optimism. I have to say that this was one of those moments where no matter how much one has achieved in life, you are quickly struck by how much more is possible.  I think about this young lad regularly, and when I think about how difficult things get, I am reminded that he the word ‘difficult’ does not exist in his vocabulary.

We need people like this youngster. We need people like each of you. You are fearless and we have great hopes for the world. You need to view setbacks as opportunities for change, not as reasons for quitting. Simply think about how many times this young lad could have had a reason to quit. He did not, and today, his program helps about 350 people per year! He has made a difference to the betterment of this world, and we need to build on his energy and others like him.

I thank each of you for giving me the opportunity to get to know you as individuals. At times we have butted heads and even disagreed, at times we could have been more patient with each other, and maybe there are situations we wish we could take back in hindsight. For anytime that I have made your life difficult or unpleasant, you have my sincere apology and promise that I will work harder in the future. As you embark on the next steps on your career, remember that my doors are always open to each of you. You are welcome to stop by all my offices (yes, even my Irish Office), should you need help or just need to someone to talk with. I hope you will keep me abreast of the developments in your life.

In closing, thank you for everything and best wishes for all your future endeavors!

Today is your day, take time to enjoy it and celebrate your achievements!

Cheers, Cheers, Cheers!!!

(FYI: The Information School will hold their convocation on June 10, and the University of Washington will celebrate commencement exercises on June 12)

Information Systems ‘Backsourcing’: Knowledge Re-integration Challenges

Akshay Bhagwatwar (University of Washington), Ray Hackney (Brunel University), and I have authored a paper that examines the knowledge integration challenges faced by organizations as they try to recover from backsourcing endeavors. The paper will appear in a future issue of Information Systems Management.

Abstract
Backsourcing is motivated by opportunities arising from changes in the business situation, redefinition of the character of outsourced service declining in quality or due to the discovery of flaws in the contract. The situation of backsourcing clearly has major implications for an organization in terms of monetary investments, IS infrastructure and changes in employee requirements during and after the process. The research in this paper consequently acknowledges a serious challenge involving the management of systems within organizations following backsourcing events. This paper considers a detailed analysis of two case studies of backsourcing: JP Morgan Chase (USA) and Sainsbury (UK). A major contribution of the paper is to identify important strategies to be followed in backsourcing projects to ensure efficient knowledge re-integration. In this respect, it is believed the paper is unique in identifying emergent suggestions for strategic backsourcing decision making through a series of insightful observations.

Bhagwatwar, A., Hackney, R., and Desouza, K.C. “Considerations for Information Systems ‘Backsourcing’: A Framework for Knowledge Re-integration,” Information Systems Management, Forthcoming.