Extending canonical action research model to implement social media in microbusinesses
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Extending canonical action research model to implement social media in microbusinesses



This paper points out the limitation of Canonical Action Research (CAR) during the adoption process of social media by microbusinesses. CAR is found rigid since it does not permit to iterate within ...

This paper points out the limitation of Canonical Action Research (CAR) during the adoption process of social media by microbusinesses. CAR is found rigid since it does not permit to iterate within its stages. A CAR project is used to demonstrate the need for such flexibility. Pragmatism leads to a trial-and-error problem solving approach defying the fixed stages of a cycle. Rigidity issue with CAR is observed in the literature leading to development of Action Design Research (ADR) model. ADR has two problems: (a) consulting orientation with no philosophical standpoint, focused on development of IT artefact; and (b) definition of IT artefact. ADR treats IT artefact as technology as structure restricting its use in other views of technology. This paper proposes a versatile CAR with elements of design research to be used in volatile, diminished theory driven situation wherein the primary focus is theoretical development arising from solving problems of the participants.



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Extending canonical action research model to implement social media in microbusinesses Extending canonical action research model to implement social media in microbusinesses Document Transcript

  • Debashish Mandal - University of Waikato dm110@waikato.ac.nzChief Supervisor: Prof. Robert J McQueenSupervisor: Dr. Stuart Dillion and Dr. Karyn RastrickTitleExtending canonical action research model to implement social media in microbusinessesAbstractThis paper points out the limitation of Canonical Action Research (CAR) during the adoptionprocess of social media by microbusinesses. CAR is found rigid since it does not permit toiterate within its stages. A CAR project is used to demonstrate the need for such flexibility.Pragmatism leads to a trial-and-error problem solving approach defying the fixed stages of acycle. Rigidity issue with CAR is observed in the literature leading to development of ActionDesign Research (ADR) model. ADR has two problems: (a) consulting orientation with nophilosophical standpoint, focused on development of IT artefact; and (b) definition of ITartefact. ADR treats IT artefact as technology as structure restricting its use in other views oftechnology. This paper proposes a versatile CAR with elements of design research to be usedin volatile, diminished theory driven situation wherein the primary focus is theoreticaldevelopment arising from solving problems of the participants.Key wordsAction research, Design Science, microbusiness
  • CAR is used to implement social media in microbusiness using a planned two-cycleintervention. The intervention is designed using existing adoption theory. The purpose of theintervention is twofold (a) to examine the efficacy of the adoption theory and (b) to examinethe utility of CAR in a diminished theory driven situation. This paper recounts the result ofthe second purpose identifying limitation in the CAR. These limitations of CAR have beenhighlighted by others, which is first examined in the literature review. Within the literaturereview alternatives to overcome this limitation is examined and criticised for itsshortcomings. The remainder of the paper is structured by first setting the stage withpropositions and method of conducting an investigation to test the limitation and proposesuitable alternatives to overcome it.Second, in the process of conducting the first cycle of CAR breakdown is observed leading toadoption of a trial-error method, which is reported in the result section. Finally, in thediscussion section an extended CAR is proposed to overcome the inherent difficulties in theclassical CAR. Finally, the implication of this method its validity and reliability is establishedfor researcher intending to use this method. The limitation of the method being based on asingle case study is highlighted and justified. Practitioners can use this method in real-lifesituation and report the results in academic journals leading to enrichment of the informationsystems field.Literature reviewAction research in IS has gained popularity in the last ten years. This is evident fromOrlikowski & Baroudi (1991) who have reported one action research investigation against 63investigations reported by Chiasson, Germonprez, & Mathiassen (2008) and 83 byMathiassen, Chiasson, & Germonprez (2012). Most investigation have been undertaken in the
  • last ten years as pointed out by Williams, Dwivedi, Lal, & Schwarz (2009).This is notsurprising since top IS journals (Information Technology & People Vol.14 Issue 1 2001 andMIS Quarterly Vol. 28 Issue 3 2004) have published special issue on action research. Thefocus of IT&P is on dual masters in action research and the MISQ primarily give importanceto the pragmatic nature of action research. Besides the two special issues InformationSystems Journal and Journal of Association of Information Systems has been publishinginfluential articles related to action research.A review of the research articles indicate that CAR is the most widely used form of actionresearch. Despites its popularity a pragmatic focused MISQ special issue criticise CAR for itsrigidity. Two papers Braa, Monteiro, & Sahay (2004) and Lindgren, Henfridsson, & Schultze(2004) specifically highlight the flexibility issue of CAR in two different context. The formerhighlight spontaneity and simultaneity in large-scale cross-country projects and the laterhighlight difficulty in maintaining the stages of CAR. Davison, Martinsons, & Kock (2004)specifically insist on maintaining a unidirectional flow between the stages of CAR. Theyacknowledge that there might be requirement for moving between the stages but this shouldbe categorically justified. Articles by Braa et al. (2004) and Lindgren et al. (2004) reject thisrequirement stating that spontaneity along with focus on solving problem of the participanttakes precedence rather than maintaining the stages of CAR.Sein, Henfridsson, Purao, Rossi, & Lindgren (2011) considers the problems faced byLindgren et al. (2004) in using the CAR. They propose ADR by bringing elements of designresearch. The ADR is based on Hevner, March, Park, & Ram (2004) design research modeland Davison et al. (2004) CAR. ADR is contextual as it is derived for solving problems byincorporating design principles in CAR. ADR accepts the ensemble view of technology as
  • structure, which focuses on enmeshing of IT artefact based on conditions of its use. Analternative to this situation would be ensemble view of technology where an IT artefact isembedded in an organisation. The use of the IT artefact is then dependant on a dynamicsituation leading to continuous evolvement of its use.ADR has a consulting feel since its primary focus is on problem solving and developinghighly relevant solution with no philosophical standpoint. CAR with its long diversifiedpedigree in theory building is a powerful and validated method for theoretical development.Identification of dual cycle by McKay & Marshall (2001) and proposition of pluralisticmethod in action research by Chiasson et al. (2008) has further extended theoreticaldevelopment capabilities of action research. Despite the limitations of CAR the literaturedoes not reveal any research based investigation to examine and extend the CAR. ADR is analternative model based on CAR. This paper proposes to address the literature gap byundertaking a research approach to investigate the limitations of CAR.Proposition developmentTo address the literature gap it is proposed to conduct an investigation by introducing an ITartefact (Facebook business page) using CAR to test the viability of CAR in the context ofdiminished theory situation. The IT artefact is different from ADR since it “is that of anevolving system embedded in a complex and dynamic social context” (Orlikowski & Iacono,2001 p. 126). Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) is chosen todrive the adoption of the IT artefact. The choice is based on its capability to explaintechnology adoption with 70% variance leading to wide use (Dwivedi, Rana, Chen, &Williams, 2011).
  • The IT artefact Facebook business page is embedded in a microbusiness using two plannedcycles of CAR undergoing the unidirectional flow of stages. UTAUT mandates thatfacilitating condition will be the primary factor affecting behavioural intention during cycleone. The microbusiness owner will instantly recognise the benefits of the IT artefact andengage in an intensive use of the same.Cycle one will lead to the understanding that usefulness is the primary indicator of adoptionand cycle two can be initiated to embark on advanced use of the IT artefact. The advanceduse would normally comprise of undertaking social climbing, obtaining domain name, andactive marketing of the business page. On completion of cycle two, the researcher caneffectively withdraw from the microbusiness. The reporting style of this paper follows therecommendations by DeLuca, Gallivan, & Kock (2008)MethodA single case CAR with its five stages of diagnosing, planning, action taking, evaluating, andspecifying learning is undertaken over two-cycle basis. Prior to the execution of the firstcycle, a researcher client agreement is executed exemplifying the nature of intervention,duration, and role of the researcher and the participant. Since it was predetermined tointroduce Facebook business page within the microbusiness the diagnosis stage in cycle oneinvolved understanding of the nature of problems and solving privacy concerns of themicrobusiness.The participant a speciality retail food outlet is selected based on two primary criteria. First, ithas to be microbusiness and second the researcher must have a comparative business usingFacebook business page successfully. By successful use, it is implied that the business
  • updates its page on a daily basis and has more than 200 “likes” on its page. Two parallelmicrobusinesses are found meeting the criteria. This criterion is specifically important in thiscontext since it proves that Facebook business page can be used by microbusiness in thatspecific industry category successfully. Though gender is not the matter of comparison it isappropriate to point out that including the participant, all of them are women in the same agegroup.Data collection is in the form of unstructured interview undertaken during execution ofcycles. Simple quantitative measures such as number of likes on the participant businesspage, frequency of posting, time allocated for use of the page will be captured to indicate useof the page. The unstructured interviews will lead to a semi-structured interview focused onunderstanding the researcher’s involvement and the quality of intervention performed. Dataanalysis will be performed using simple quantitative indicators and following the deductivelogic as pointed out by Baskerville (1999)ResultsA complete breakdown as pointed out by Alvesson & Karreman (2007) is observed afterundertaking cycle one. Cycle one is performed with the intended consequences but UTAUTtheory led to poorly planned intervention. The microbusiness owner could not be motivatedto use the Facebook business page despite understanding its usefulness. The interventionbreakdown requires new ideas to keep the owner engaged.A trial and error method is adopted abandoning cycle two, which involves a series of actiontaking and evaluation to estimate “what will work” and “what will not work”. Specifyinglearning is not a separate stage but a parallel on-going effort.
  • Out of the various trial and error methods, a report prepared from post of the parallelmicrobusinesses provides a valuable input for the participant. It acts as a guideline for themto use the Facebook business page.DiscussionCAR has been an unchallenged model besides variations such as spirals of action proposedby Kemmis & McTaggart (as cited in Davison et al., 2004, p. 72) or multiple iterationssuggested by Kock, McQueen, & Scott (1997). Recently alternative modes of CAR has beenproposed by Mårtensson & Lee (2004) called as the dialogical action research. This form ofaction research relies on canonical action research for its basic framework but recommendsback and forth interaction between the participant, researcher, and the real world problem to aseries of action and reaction.The breakdown of the planned cycle indicates that CAR is not effective when undertaken in asituation where the researcher has poor theoretical knowledge. The lack of knowledge is dueto incorrect choice of theory to plan the intervention. In this case two contextual factors (a)microbusiness and (b) social media technology play an undermining role for UTAUT. Thistheory has not been tested for both the technology (social media) and category(microbusiness). Nevertheless, it provides a starting point to use CAR as a problem solvingapproach highlighting the problems with CAR in a diminished theory situation.
  • Figure Extended Canonical Action research model 1 Problem Formulation 3 Action Planning Researcher Specifying 4 Client Formalization of Learning Agreement Learning 2 Action taking EvaluatingThe present investigation sheds light on an improvised theory driven poorly plannedintervention situation and illustrates the complete breakdown of CAR. The trial-and-errormethod undertaken replicates the mode of design theory (Hevner et al., 2004). As posited byHevner et al “Because design is inherently an iterative and incremental activity, theevaluation phase provides essential feedback to the construction phase” (p. 85). The CAR ismade iterative by modifying its structure while maintain it rigorous cyclical nature. Theiterative CAR is called the extended CAR, which is presented in the figure above.The stages merge the activities of canonical action research into three blocks. The first isproblem formulation (diagnosing) and action planning second, building, action taking, andevaluating, and third specifying learning. Each block of activity is conducted simultaneouslyand can iterate with the other block. This is a major departure from the classical canonicalaction research model. The trial and error method undertaken during this research mimics the
  • stages. After the breakdown of the planned cycle learning from stage 3 is a continuousactivity which informed the action taking, planning and diagnosis.The dual arrow from stage 1 to stage 2 and stage 2 to stage 3 indicate that specifying learningis an on-going process. This is a major departure from the canonical action research modelwhere learning takes place at the end of a cycle. The role of researcher client agreement hasbeen retained in the synthesised model. The researcher client agreement performs in a similarmanner as pointed out by Davison et al. (2004) taking a central role influencing all the threestages of the model. A fourth stage has been added as formalised learning. This is in line withthe ADR model and targets at generalising the results of a multiple case study. In thismanner, the multiple case studies can be considered as a part of a single large experiment inwhich each mini-case study feeds the formalised learning leading to a generalised learning atthe end of the experiment. Ideally, multiple case studies can be undertaken sequential orparallel depending on the nature of starting theory.Individually Sein et al., (2011) model and Davison et al., (2004) model prescribe a set ofstringent criteria. The criteria of both the models apply to the extended CAR model. Sincethis model is similar to CAR McKay & Marshall (2001) dual cycle principles and Chiasson etal. (2008) pluralist method can be easily used with the extended CAR. The philosophicalstandpoint of the modified model is consistent with the classical CAR as proposed by Susman& Evered (1978). This is a major drawback of the ADR since it does not discuss and neitherprescribes a philosophical standpoint.
  • Theoretical contributionsThis is the first attempt to augment CAR to increase its flexibility. The extended CAR canaddress the issues pointed out by Braa et al. (2004) and Lindgren et al. (2004) providing theflexibility and spontaneity in face of uncertain environment and designing innovativesolutions.The ADR is contextual since it focuses on the structure of the enmeshed IT artefact such thatit draws its conditions of use from the structure. The extended CAR model is based onenmeshing of an IT artefact within the organisation. With the pay per use model based oncloud computing and software as a service concept on the rise microbusinesses and smallbusinesses will move towards these models. They will be attracted by the low capital andinfrastructure cost along with its pay per use feature.Such IT artefact will need to be enmeshed (introduced) in the organisation leading to a widerapplicability of the extended CAR model. The model will also help in development ofadoption methodology using a trial and error method for a variety of software as service andpay per use services.Implications for researchThe modified CAR provides a realistic model over the classical CAR, which can be used in adiverse, IS related situation. Since the model follows the entire stringent criterion specifiedby the earlier models researcher has to be careful in selecting and justifying deviation fromthe criteria. The broad based criterion provides the researcher with enough flexibility andspread to cover large spectrum of investigation.
  • Researchers now have an alternative to CAR while undertaking action research that enjoysthe philosophical strength and time based validation. Along with the benefits of CAR themodel incorporates flexibility and agility by bringing in elements of design research.Strengths and limitationsThe model provides a powerful medium to perform real life research extending the classicalCAR with elements of design research. The extended model is highly relevant in the presentscenario where smaller businesses are looking to outsource their IT requirements along withIS services. The model has been tested and developed out of a practical trial, which makes itextremely relevant in the context, and system where it has been experimented.Rigour may be compromised since the model has been developed using one case study. Thisis acceptable since the ADR has been proposed and published in MISQ journal based on asingle case study. Moreover, the ADR is developed out of a study, which has already beenpublished as a CAR report. This makes the ADR an untested theoretical model. In contrast,the extended CAR model proposed is an extension of the classical CAR empirically tested.Nevertheless further testing is warranted in similar contextual situations.Implications for practiceThe extended model provides a flexible alternative while undertaking action research in thefield. This is supported by McKay & Marshall (2001) who state that “real life is a much moremessy business” than adhering to the linear sequences of the canonical action research stages(p. 52).
  • Managers are free to concentrate on making the IS project a success rather than trying toadhere to the cycles of CAR. Learning is a continuous parallel feature, which constantly feedsinto stage one and two making the process real life oriented. Decision-making will beundertaken by the implementing team due to this inherent feature. Team members willbenefit from control over the processes leading to a higher possibility of success.ConclusionsThe lack of flexibility, spontaneity, and simultaneity in CAR is experienced in the presentinvestigation leading to an adoption of trial-and-error method. This method is the hallmark ofdesign science, which is an iterative activity. The iterative element is introduced in CAR toincorporate trial-and-error-method, which is necessary in diminished theory drivenintervention. The extended CAR is theoretically (design science) and empirically justified toresolve its inherent non –iterative nature. The extended CAR provides a powerful method tobe adopted by managers and researchers without undermining problem in hand in its effort tomaintain reliability by adhering to the stages of the cycle.ReferencesAlvesson, M., & Karreman, D. (2007). Constructing mystery: Empirical matters in theory development. Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1265–1281. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.waikato.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=heh&AN =26586822&site=ehost-liveBaskerville, R. (1999). Grounded action research: a method for understanding IT in practice. Accounting, Management and Information Technologies, 9(1), 1–23. doi:10.1016/S0959-8022(98)00017-4Braa, J., Monteiro, E., & Sahay, S. (2004). Networks of action: sustainable health information systems across developing countries. Mis Quarterly, 28(3), 337–362. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/25148643Chiasson, M., Germonprez, M., & Mathiassen, L. (2009). Pluralist action research: a review of the information systems literature. Information Systems Journal, 19(1), 31–54. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2575.2008.00297.xDavison, R., Martinsons, M. G., & Kock, N. (2004). Principles of canonical action research. Information Systems Journal, 14(1), 65–86. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2575.2004.00162.x
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