Investigating Failures in Large-Scale Public Sector Projects with Sentiment Analysis

I have co-authored a paper with Sandeep Purao and Jonathan Becker, both based at the College of Information Science and Technology at Penn State University, which analyzes the IRS’s Business Systems Modernization Project using sentiment analysis. The paper will appear in a special issue of e-Service Journal.

We describe results from historical analysis of the IRS Business Systems Modernization (BSM) as an example of large-scale, public sector projects. The project has already spanned a decade and consumed more than 3 billion dollars. The paper suggests extracting stakeholder Sentiments and Confidence from documents, with a view to exploring how such measures may offer early indications of project progress and assist managers to prevent undesirable future outcomes. The key contribution of this research is a demonstration of a plausible technique to elicit stakeholder perspectives based on the content in publicly available documents, either complementing any existing methods, or supplanting them in projects where collecting primary data may be infeasible.

A previous version of this paper was presented at the 44th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences in theElectronic Government Track(Development Methods for Electronic Government, Minitrack).

Welcome Letter from the Director – Metropolitan Institute

Just completed finalizing my first letter as the Director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. We will soon be loading this on the Metropolitan Institute's website and sharing it with faculty, staff, and friends of Virginia Tech.

Welcome Letter from the Director


It is a privilege to introduce myself as the new director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. I look forward to growing the Metropolitan Institute in the rich history of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, fueled by the dynamism of the School of Public and International Affairs. As we chart a new course for the Institute, I invite members of the Virginia Tech family (students, professors, and administrators) and past/future partner organizations from the Washington, DC metropolitan region and beyond, to visit our web site, review our upcoming work, and contact us as we explore new collaborations.

For the past decade, my intellectual curiosity has focused on designing more resilient and innovative organizations. Critical to this endeavor is understanding how information is managed within and beyond the organization’s borders. As part of my explorations, I have employed numerous research methodologies from behavioral to computational, and have collaborated with industry and academic partners across a range of disciplines from engineering to public administration and management.

A necessary reality of conducting my research was traveling to various parts of the globe to study organizations, the leaders and managers who were responsible for them, and the employees who supported their mission. Over the course of last five years, I have had the privilege of traveling to over 20 cities, including Mumbai, Madrid, Rome, Ljubljana, Johannesburg, Bangkok, London, and Prague. Observing and experiencing the diversity of metropolitan forms led me to consider the design and consequences of how information traversed urban systems across infrastructures, organizations, and social networks.

Urbanization is a major force of change in our world today and will impact the future of the planet on a number of dimensions from resiliency to sustainability and economic vitality. The need to become more effective and aware of the design and implementation of policies has never been more critical. Central to developing new and more effective models of urban policy are the needs to:

  1. Innovate the policy setting process, making it more dynamic, inclusive, cost effective, and timely.
  2. Leverage information through the deployment of computational systems, simulation platforms, and participatory platforms that allow for crowdsourcing of solutions to local problems
  3. Facilitate multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches to framing, studying, and solving, the most complex urban problems.

I envision the future of the Metropolitan Institute as an open collaborative platform that brings together diverse expertise to solve complex urban issues. The Metropolitan Institute will fold together the best and brightest in the fields of informatics, urban planning, international affairs, engineering, and public policy to forge a new set of solutions for today’s urbanizing world. The Metropolitan Institute is a space that is open for all of you to connect and collaborate.

In the near-term, I plan to meet with stakeholders across Virginia Tech and also community partners, industry, and government to listen to your ideas. I have been humbled by the warm welcomes I have received from the various scholars and leaders at Virginia Tech. An esteemed university like Virginia Tech has many friends in public and private organizations across the 50 states and the world beyond. I look forward to meeting with the many friends of the University and welcoming them to the Institute. I am excited to begin designing a new future for Metropolitan Institute.

I look forward to meeting with you and hearing your ideas.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Kevin C. Desouza
Director, Metropolitan Institute
Virginia Tech

Washington Post: Appointments and Promotions for the Week of Aug. 29

Made the list of important appointments and promotions in the Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland area. See - Link

Source: "Washington area appointments and promotions for the week of Aug. 29," Washington Post, Saturday, August 27, 2011.

P.S. The Roanoke Times also highlighted my new role with Virginia Tech (Link)

Defining Policy Informatics

I have been busy working on a statement that captures the essence of policy informatics. Here is my first-cut at the definition. I thank all those who have already provided comments on this version, especially Dr. Erik Johnston (Co-Director of the Center for Public Informatics at Arizona State University). Please do send me your comments, both positive and negative, and suggestions for improvement. Thanks.

Policy Informatics

Solving complex public policy problems, dilemmas, and challenges requires deliberate, and sophisticated, information analysis.

Policymakers often are faced with conflicting solutions to complex problems, thus making it necessary for them to test out their assumptions, interventions, and resolutions. Towards this end, it becomes critical for a policymaker to have an information-rich, interactive environment in which complex problems can be modeled, simulated, visualized, and studied.

Relevant information can range from being too abundant to hardly existent. In the former case, we face the challenge of leveraging large quantities of information under severe time and resource constraints. In the latter case, limited or incomplete information has to be used to make decisions on ambiguous solution spaces.

In deliberating, designing, and implementing policies, the policy makers and the public face a number of transactional and collaborative inefficiencies. Some of these inefficiencies arise from the simple reality that information held by both parties is difficult to articulate and even transfer, i.e. information is sticky. This makes it difficult for either party to collaborate as they do not fully empathize with the problems of the other.

In addition, advances in communication and computational technologies enable new pathways to solutions. Rather than trying to solve public problems, governments are able to empower its public to solve their own problems. Crowdsourcing and bottom-up, emergent, problem-solving are desirable as the public have a greater chance of taking charge of their own local problems, voicing their concerns, and arriving at locally relevant solutions. Designing and mobilizing platforms where citizen input is used effectively to solve local problems and collaborative forums improves the results, and therefore the relationships, for both the policy makers and the public.

Policy informatics is the study of how information is leveraged and efforts are coordinated towards solving complex public policy problems. Driven by the need to exploit information to tackle complex policy problems and to ensure efficient and efficient policy setting and implementation platforms, policy informatics seeks to

  • enhance policy analysis and design through visualizing, modeling, and simulating complex policy scenarios,
  • study the role of information systems and information-based governance platforms in policy planning, deliberation, and implementation,
  • advance the management of information systems projects in the public sector,
  • study how information analysis and management influences the design of participatory platforms, and
  • arrive at theoretical and practical frameworks to advance our knowledge of the roles of information analysis in policy setting, the use of computational techniques in policy contexts, and how information-driven policy setting influences the nature of governance and governance platforms.

Policy informatics helps us advance evidence-driven policy design, wherein scientific models and analyses drive decision-making for resolution of complex policy challenges, dilemmas, and problems. Policy informatics is an emerging field of both research and a community of practice focusing on 1) advancing decision-making in the public sector through information-centric analysis of evidence that leverages computational and technological advances, and 2) designing, managing, and evaluating of information systems and infrastructures for policy construction, analysis, and implementation. Policy informatics expands to the multi-disciplinary nature of the public administration discipline by infusing it with the advances of information technology, management of information systems, and computational and informational science perspectives.


How Not to Silence the Resistance – Strategic Direction

My article with Nicholas D. Sweers II, Shh! It’s vive la re´sistance..., which was originally published in the Journal of Business Strategy, is featured in the current issue of Strategic Direction.

8 Ways to Democratize Experimentation: HBR Blog

My third post on the Harvard Business Review site went live today. The post was written in collaboration with H. James Wilson and is titled, 8 Ways to Democratize Experimentation. Building on our previous post on experimentation, in this post, we offer 8 tips for organizations to consider as they try to infuse experimentation as part of every employee's work.

  1. Increase managerial attention.
  2. Train employees on the basics of conducting experiments.
  3. Accept that experimentation is a messy and untidy process.
  4. Deploy organizational resources and assets to give employees the time and space to experiment with their ideas.
  5. Build a process whereby experiments can be conducted in a systematic manner.
  6. Create a platform or bulletin board.
  7. Give intrinsically motivated experimenters the same care provided to "sanctioned," large-scale experiments.
  8. Start a working papers and presentation series for both researchers and practitioners.


We would love to hear your comments on the ideas presented.

Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework

Yuan Lin, my doctoral student, and I have a paper accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in San Antonio, Texas (August 12-16, 2011).

Individuals’ Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework

The boom of the network concept in organizational research has resulted in a growing interest in the interplay between organizational members’ knowledge transfer and their social network structure. This paper treats such interplay as a co-evolution process and lay out a theoretical framework, CO-evolution of Individuals and Networks (COIN), to facilitate its modeling. Using a simplified example, we identify the components of a co-evolution model that should be constructed based on substantive theories: cross-level causal mechanisms, network structural factors, individual heterogeneity and autonomy, the relationships among model assumption, inputs and outputs. COIN synthesizes theoretical or empirical evidence that can help construct these components from multiple disciplines (e.g., organizational research, statistics, physics, economics, and sociology). It decomposes the co-evolution process into key constructs and mechanisms and organizes existing theories around them. It also exposes gaps in related work which once filled can facilitate studies on network-behavior co-evolutio

Lin, Y.A., and Desouza, K.C. “Individuals’ Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework,” In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, San Antonio, TX (August 12-16, 2011).

Innovation Audit and Visit @ Delta Faucet Company

Next week, I will visit with executives, project managers, platform leaders, and employees at the Delta Faucet Company (Indianapolis, Indiana). I will be conducting an innovation audit, learning about innovation strategies employed by Delta Faucet, and making strategic recommendations on how to bolster the innovation quotient of the organization. Having just completed a book titled Intrapreneurship: Leveraging Ideas within the Organization, I am looking forward to using the models described in the book to study how ideas are generated, mobilized, advocated and screened for, experimented with, commercialized, diffused and implemented by the Delta Faucet Company.

Securing Intellectual Assets: Integrating the Knowledge and Innovation Dimensions

At long last, I have received information that my paper on Securing Intellectual Assets: Integrating the Knowledge and Innovation Dimensions will appear in International Journal of Technology Management (Vol. 54, No. 2/3, 2011).

Abstract: The concept of intellectual asset security has received widespread attention in recent times. Much of this attention can be attributed to the fact that knowledge assets can be used to secure competitive advantages for organisations. Moreover, one might assert that in today’s knowledge-based economies and markets, it is these assets that truly differentiate organisations and are the only true source of sustainable competitive advantages. In order to have a robust program for managing intellectual assets, an organisation must account for its knowledge management and innovation processes. In this paper, drawing on 1) a semiotic-based model for knowledge management (Desouza, 2006), and 2) an organisational process of innovation (Desouza et al., 2006), the author describes an integrated process framework for the management of intellectual assets. The framework is then used to describe salient security management challenges faced when managing intellectual assets. Executives involved in security management programs in 23 organisations were interviewed to elicit key security management challenges faced by organisations when addressing intellectual assets. The concept of intellectual asset security has received widespread attention in recent times. Much of this attention can be attributed to the fact that knowledge assets can be used to secure competitive advantages for organisations. Moreover, one might assert that in today’s knowledge-based economies and markets, it is these assets that truly differentiate organisations and are the only true source of sustainable competitive advantages. In order to have a robust program for managing intellectual assets, an organisation mustaccount for its knowledge management and innovation processes. In this paper,drawing on1 a semiotic-based model for knowledge management (Desouza, 2006)2 an organisational process of innovation (Desouza et al., 2006), the author describes an integrated process framework for the management ofintellectual assets. The framework is then used to describe salient security management challenges faced when managing intellectual assets. Executivesinvolved in security management programs in 23 organisations were interviewed to elicit key security management challenges faced byorganisations when addressing intellectual assets.