Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 39 Number 3 2022 pp. 603-606

Editorial Introduction

Zwass, Vladimir


Every paper published in the Journal of Management Information Systems is expected to make a significant novel contribution both to the theoretical underpinnings of our multifaceted field and to the practice of designing and evolving a properly situated class of information systems (IS). A wealth of methodologies is recognized and is at the disposal of our authors. Truly fruitful theorizing should both deepen and broaden our understanding of the focal phenomena, generating as much as possible new research avenues, rather than aiming to close the subject. This generativity will lead to the future research, both contextualizing and expanding our understanding. The two papers that open this issue of JMIS worthily illustrate this in the subdomain of IS projects through which the systems are brought to life or, if appropriate, abandoned at an early stage of development.

Our theoretical understanding and practical management of IT projects have been constructed around a near-normal distribution of the cost, time, and effort overruns, grounded in turn in a near-normal distribution of their size and complexity. The first paper of the issue tells us that this ground is shaky. The empirics and the analysis offered by the authors, Bent Flyvbjerg, Alexander Budzier, Jong Seok Lee, Mark Keil, Daniel Lunn, and Dirk W. Bester, make us review our understanding of the risk attaching to the large organizational IT projects. Based on a comprehensive dataset of projects, the authors show that the project cost overruns follow a power-law distribution, with a meaningful right tail of very large overruns. In the recently established terminology [2], we see a number of black swans among the projects, which expose the sponsoring firm to large – and generally unforeseen – costs. If we pursue the analogy and as I observed in my travels, black swans are to be seen all around the world, even though they are rarae aves indeed. Large IT projects are conceptualized by Flyvbjerg and co-authors as complex dynamic systems, with the interdependencies among people, multiple stacks of software and a variety of databases, embedded in networks and hardware, interacting with other ecosystems and often including complex infrastructural components. Consequently, the authors theorize their findings through the length of self-organized criticality of complex systems, with an adverse event affecting one subsystem cascading through others to produce an extreme overrun. The researchers offer a simulation support to their theorizing. The work is theoretically generative, as this diagnosis of project-overrun distribution and the theory of their source will lead to further investigation. In the practice informed by this work, the mitigation efforts should begin at the very start of the extremely complex projects, with the risk analysis, identification and proper handling of the potential sources of the overrun cascade, and insurance when applicable.

The next paper, by Nicholas Berente, Carolina Alves de Lima Salge, Venkata K.P. Mallampalli, and Ken Park, is a complement to its predecessor. Some of the fat-tail megaprojects, as well as others, can be diagnosed as failing at relatively early stages. The escalation of commitment to a failing project has been a subject of IS research – and advice to the practitioners – for a number of years. Here, the authors theorize and present practical advice from an institutional perspective that complements the largely cognitive approaches of the extant research. Deploying the qualitative meta-analysis methodology, Berente and co-authors analyze a number of publicized cases of escalation, to surface several institutional logics that can singularly or jointly legitimize the continuance of projects that should be recognized as doomed and candidates for abandonment. The work is generative in broadening the front of our escalation research and - by making explicit the dysfunctional organizational logics - presents the options for counteraction. The theorizing also deepens our understanding of the array of organizational logics and their effects.

The two subsequent works contribute worthily to our understanding of the use of social media, for the good and the ill. In the first of them, Sabine Matook, Alan R. Dennis, and Yazhu Maggie Wang study the effects of firestorms in which the large numbers of users hurl in a short time a multitude of comments on their target. The authors seek to broaden our understanding of these phenomena in both the support and the condemnation of the respective targets. The researchers combine qualitative and quantitative methods to include in their analysis the longer-term trajectories of firestorms. The interesting results emerge on the borderline of the rival conceptualizations of firestorms as actions deploying social media toward destructive ends and as collective actions, in a bottom-up intense pursuit of objectives with potentially positive societal and political ends,

Social media actions have also, and obviously, economic implications. As this media carry massive reaction to financial news, they also carry the potential to reflexively influence their object and the news. Jing Peng, Juheng Zhang, and Ram Gopal investigate causal relationships among social media, traditional media, and the stock-market performance of the concerned firms. They use the tweets by the firms and by the investors on Twitter as the data. In particular, the authors investigate the role of the uncertainty in the news’ sentiment. They find significant differences in the responses on social media to positive versus negative utterances. The responses are also found to depend on the firm’s size, with transparency of financial reporting thought to be the cause of the enhanced attention to the news regarding smaller firms. Thus, smaller firms with low visibility on traditional media may benefit more from social media attention. The findings imply that smaller firms should be more proactive in using social media to improve their information environment. We gain here a deeper understanding of the interactions among the firms, investors, and the stock market in their reaction to financial news. The firms and investors can use these results in their use of social media to manage the informed performance of their marked posture.

Recommenders are a ubiquitous online tool serving to connect the potential buyers with the products they are seeking or may realize they are in need of. There are two major categories of recommenders: the interactive ones let the consumers guide the recommendation seeking, while the non-interactive recommenders rely on the massive data collected about consumer preferences in making the recommendation. Which type appears to the consumers to serve them better? This is the essential research question posed in the next paper by Sepideh Ebrahimi, Maryam Ghasemaghaei, and Izak Benbasat. The authors deploy a sophisticated meta-analysis technique to answer the question with respect to the trust and perceived recommendation quality. The work surfaces significant advantages of the interactive recommenders, which challenges the prevalent more recent use of the non-interactive ones.

One of the newer missions of our IS field is to generate knowledge in the subfield of InfoHealth, a field that calls on our endowment in the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). We know much about the resistance to new technologies. Here, Eun Hee Park, Karl Werder, Lan Cao, and Balasubramaniam Ramesh apply this knowledge to the adoption of AI monitoring of patients. The decisions to use AI monitoring are frequently made by family members on behalf on the patents; this is particularly so in the more difficult medical cases. The authors seek to answer the question: Why is AI monitoring often rejected by family members in behalf of the patients? Complementing their scenario-based empirics, the authors theorize the emotion-laden decision-making involved. Notably, they surface the role of the perceived controllability of the monitoring devices in affecting positively an AI monitoring adoption – an important advice to the device designers.

Gamification has been used in ever broader non-game contexts to raise the interest in the targeted venture, with leaderboards, for example, acting as a source of non-monetary reward. In the organizational practice such means are especially popular in encouraging the positive extra-role activities of the employees. Here, Matthew L. Jensen, Ryan T. Wright, Alexandra Durcikova, and Shamya Karumbaiah explore the effectiveness of gamification in encouraging the reporting of phishing incidents, as a part of the IS security programs of organizations. The empirics show the benefits of gamification in motivating the extra-role security behavior such as reporting suspected phishing messages. Indeed, the motivation to report suspected fishing has been found to be dramatically affected by the recommended here gamification elements. The work is a basis for further research in applying gamification more broadly in security contexts and in non-financial motivation.

The issue is culminating in a Special Section on Reevaluating the Markets for Information, guest-edited by Robert J. Kauffman and Thomas A. Weber, who also introduce the contents to you in depth. The three papers included in the Special Section demonstrate the immediate as well as the higher-order societal and economic effects of the structures and products of IS. The peer-to-peer housing rentals are shown to have deep effects on the affected localities, with regulatory implications to follow. The next paper, analyzing econometrically the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) applications on a large sample of firms in a variety of sectors, surfaces – among other results - deskilling and its effects on the labor structure. This complements the outcomes previously reported by Brynjolfsson and co-authors in a preceding issue of JMIS regarding the devaluation of worker persistence by the use of AI [1]. The bundling of information goods has been long recognized as highly effective under their near-zero marginal costs, yet it is shown by the third work in the Special Section that the rampant piracy of the intangible goods severely abridges the economic appeal of such bundling.

In the transcendental realm, we mourn the passing of the principal founder of our field, Gordon B. Davis. He has done more than any of us to establish the original perimeters of our place in the scholarly community, published the early papers that exemplified what we can contribute to knowledge, co-authored the foundational textbook, and worked tirelessly to found the institutions that sustain us. He was also a JMIS author. We are in lasting debt to Gordon B. Davis.