Category Archives: Annual Meeting

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OCIS 2018 Keynote, featuring Sirkka Jarvenpaa (The University of Texas at Austin)

 Generativity in Data Infrastructures:

Exploring Tensions in Linked Health Data in Medical Genetics Initiatives

Sirkka at AoM

Summary by Jean-Charles Pillet and Maheshwar Boodraj,

OCIS Student Representatives-at-Large.

Medicine is at a turning point because of advances in the ways that we can handle large amounts of unstructured and semi-structured data. Hefty investments are being made in strategic initiatives aimed at developing a digital infrastructure for the collection, integration, and distribution of health data. Often coordinated by governments, these strategic initiatives involve a myriad of private actors who collectively contribute to shaping an infrastructure that will pave the way to new medical discoveries over the next 10 to 20 years. In the United States, the “Precision Medicine Initiative” (also known as the “All of Us” Research Program) is collecting genetic data, biological samples, and other information about the health of one million volunteers with the goals of better predicting disease risk, understanding how diseases occur, and improving diagnosis and treatment strategies. Our keynote speaker, Sirkka Jarvenpaa (The University of Texas at Austin), and her colleague M. Lynne Markus (Bentley University) are currently involved in six of these strategic medical genetic initiatives worldwide. During her keynote address, Sirkka highlighted several critical challenges that are currently being faced in this area.

While typical information systems projects focus on a defining and meeting a set of requirements to address a relatively known and bounded problem or set of problems, medical genetic initiatives require planning for problems which are totally unknown today. In this context, the challenge is to establish an open-ended infrastructure that will not hinder future discoveries for unforeseen uses and users but rather facilitate their emergence. Two additional difficulties arise with these large scale initiatives: the heterogeneity of the profiles of prospective users of the data who do not share a mental model, and the ever changing nature of these mental models. For example, disease or genomic categories are prone to change in areas of medical breakthrough. Consequently, discoveries that are made along the way may point to the importance of factors that might have been overlooked at the time when the initial scope of data collection was defined. Therefore, the very foundation upon which these infrastructures are built appear as ever-changing and largely unknown. This highly uncertain and unknown world represents a considerable challenge given what is at stake both financially and for our health.

Diverse membership in these programs is another intriguing aspect that the research has identified. There are many  groups of participants including private actors that make substantial investments in these initiatives, and volunteers who agree to share their personal data often for no benefit of their own. For private actors, success is far from guaranteed and it is uncertain what proportion of the 35,000 genome projects involving data infrastructures will remain 20 years from now. Whlle there is much entrepreneurial energy devoted in these strategic initiatives, their financial sustainability is a very long road indeed.  These programs require long term engagement from actors who do not have a clear idea of the results they will yield, even under conditions of success. The strategic initiatives are also dependent on major culture change particularly in terms of data reuse.  Traditionally scientists have secured cohorts and collected their own data and built their reputations on such data. Researchers who rely on   datasets of others, so called   “data parasites,” have been viewed as free-riders. Yet, these “data parasites” are exactly what is needed to maximize value from the data investments. The error prone nature of the data and challenges in data updating were also mentioned.    Many  tensions surround the data governance of the initiatives.

Societal trends are also critical for success. Such trends will influence the quantity of the data that is being collected: without the consent of participants to voluntarily share sensitive information, such initiatives would remain wishful thinking. Yet major obstacles to participation arise when neither the question of who will be able to access the data nor what it will be used for can be defined. Such uncertainties could deter volunteers from participating in these programs or prompt them to quit after a few years. This poses a considerable challenge given that the success of these initiatives requires the long-term commitment of its participants to be successful.

In closing, Sirkka outlined what she and Lynne have discovered so far. They observed that successful initiatives tend to have high degrees of control over the data they collect, for example, allowing access to the data but denying the ability to download or manipulate it. While this strong sense of control might prove beneficial in the short term, it could impede scientific advances over the long run. Indeed, when designing for generativity, relational aspects where unexpected combinations are made are more important than the sheer amount of data collected. This will be a key challenge in contexts dominated by protective data controls. These large scale data collection initiatives continue to struggle  how to balance the ethical concerns of obtaining broad consent  in an open-ended program but at the same time informing participants about how their personal data is most likely to be used and who is most likely to derive value from it.

While there is much to be learnt from these six initiatives, which are still at a nascent stage, the many insightful questions posed by the keynote participants show that much is still unknown about generativity in data infrastructures.

2018 OCIS Keynote Featuring Sirkka Jarvenpaa

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Generativity in Data Infrastructures: Exploring Tensions in Linked Health Data in Medical Genetics Initiatives

(joint work with M. Lynne Markus, Bentley University)

Digitization has become nearly synonymous with generativity in the information systems literature and more broadly in organizational research addressing digital infrastructures and platforms. Generativity is associated with growth, and fluid and porous boundaries that engender new unforeseen uses and users. Various material and immaterial properties of digitization have been associated with generativity. Yet, data itself and particularly data use has received limited attention in generativity discussions.  The presentation explores generativity from the data perspective.  Specific examples relate to linked health data infrastructures that are being built in various medical genetic initiatives that combine genetic data with health, real world behavioral and sensor data. We examine a number of tensions in these emerging data infrastructures including value capture from data vs. technology, short-term vs. long-term goals, local vs. national vs. global, public vs. private holders/guardians, and centralized vs. distributed design. The return from massive public and private investments in these initiatives requires a better understanding of these tensions and how they both increase and limit data generativity.


Please join us on Monday August 13th, at 4:45pm, Swissotel Chicago, Zurich D.

OCIS 2018 Doctoral Consortium

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The OCIS division of the Academy of Management is pleased to announce the 2018 Doctoral Consortium (DC), to be held in Chicago, IL on Friday, August 10, 2018. The consortium will provide an opportunity for doctoral students to network, receive feedback on their research and discuss career issues. All interested PhD students working on research in the areas of Organizational Communication, Information Science, or Information Systems are invited to apply.

Faculty advisers include:

– Maria Binz-Scharf, City College of New York, CUNY

– Katherine Chudoba, Utah State University

– Marya Doerfel, Rutgers University

– Ingrid Ericksen, Syracuse University

– Samer Faraj, McGill University

– Stephen Johnson, University of Virginia

– Anu Sivunen, University of Jyväskylä

– Jennifer Gibbs, University of California, Santa Barbara (faculty mentor and DC Chair/organizer)
Travel support is available for some students admitted to the consortium. Acceptance to the consortium will be based on a review of the application materials.

Preference for attendance and funding will be given to students who will have defended their dissertation proposals but not their dissertations by the date of the consortium, to those who have not previously participated in the OCIS consortium, and to those whose institutions or fields would not otherwise be represented.

The application includes:

1) A 5-page, double-spaced, 12-point abstract of the proposed dissertation research

2) A letter of recommendation from dissertation chair/advisor supporting the student’s participation in the Doctoral Consortium.

3) A 1-page informational document with: Name of applicant; PhD program university /school affiliation; Dissertation title; Expected completion date; Educational background; Professional background / prior work experience; Future career aspirations.

The due date for applications and letters of recommendation is May 1, 2018.

Please email all application materials as attachments in a single email to:


For questions, please contact Jennifer Gibbs (, this year’s OCIS Doctoral Consortium chair.

Call for reviewers – – 2018 Annual Meeting

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Call for reviewers: it is extremely important that you register as a reviewer for the OCIS community. Please click here to register. We will ask you to review a maximum of 2-3 papers. Please contact Ola Henfridsson, the OCIS Program Chair, for more information.

OCIS 2017 Keynote, featuring Professor Marshall Van Alstyne (Boston University)

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Platform Firms Always Beat Product Firms

By Yukun Yang (OCIS Student Member), Maheshwar Boodraj (OCIS Student Member), and Abayomi Baiyere (OCIS Student Representative-at-Large) – slides available upon request, email Marco

On Monday, August 7, 2017, Professor Marshall Van Alstyne (Boston University) masterfully delivered the OCIS keynote at the 77th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. His keynote – entitled “Platform Ecosystems: How Networks Invert the Firm” – focused on three key ideas: we will see a rise in large and gigantic firms, platform firms always beat product firms, and network effects invert the firm.

In support of these ideas, Professor Van Alstyne illustrated that Walt Disney (which has 195,000 employees) has a market capitalization of $178 billion, while Facebook (which has only 20,000 employees) has a market capitalization of $489 billion – more than double. Also, Uber (founded in 2009) has a market capitalization of $62 billion, while BMW (founded over 100 years ago) has a market capitalization of $60 billion. In essence, platform firms are generating far more value with much fewer employees in significantly less time than product firms.

Professor Van Alstyne went on to argue that the product business model is broken. He shared the well-known example of Apple and Microsoft. Specifically, while Apple had the better product, Microsoft had the better ecosystem, and consequently, Microsoft enjoyed tremendous success in the 1980s and 1990s by garnering the ideas and contributions of third-parties. Professor Van Alstyne further argued that you do not have to be a high-tech firm to develop a platform. For example, McCormick (a spice firm) created a platform around spice by using their research lab to identify consumers’ flavor profiles and then provided recipes that matched these flavor profiles. Consumers then modified these recipes and uploaded them, which created more value for other consumers. McCormick then sold this data to consumer packaging firms and other firms that created ecosystems where users can create more value for other users.

When talking about the power of platforms, Professor Van Alstyne emphasized the importance of network effects – the idea that platforms become more valuable as more people use them. This increased usage creates the opportunity for firms to monetize the transactions that flow through their platforms. Further, because network effects cannot be scaled as easily inside the firm as they can outside the firm, firms must shift their focus from inside the firm to outside the firm. Firms can accomplish this transition by focusing exclusively on building platforms (such as Airbnb and Uber) or by building platforms on top of products (such as Apple and Samsung). This new focus changes the role of firms from creating products internally to selecting and curating products from external sources.

Professor Van Alstyne provided detailed examples of how platform business models change nearly everything we have learned in business school. In marketing, businesses have shifted from outbound messaging to inbound messaging. For example, Warby Parker ships five pairs of glasses chosen for its customers and encourages them to take and post pictures online to get votes from their friends, which creates viral marketing exposure. In human resources, the emphasis has shifted from employees to contractors, from internal experts to external crowds, and from subordinate dictation to community persuasion. For example, TripAdvisor provides advice from travelers which replaces travel agents. In operations and logistics, value creation has shifted from internal to external servicing. For example, Apple augments its traditional value network with platform value networks to remain innovative, while Airbnb exclusively uses platform value networks to become the world’s largest hotelier. In finance, community corporate valuation models that underestimate market expansion due to network effects fail to invest. For example, Instagram was sold for $1 billion, not because of the contributions from its 13 employees, but from the 30 million users it owned.

In R&D and innovation, platforms open themselves to third-party contributions. For example, while Myspace tried to create every feature on its own, Facebook focused on creating a robust platform that allowed outside developers to build new applications. In information technology, support has shifted from inside the firm to outside the firm. For example, Jeff Bezos (Amazon’s CEO) mandated that all teams expose their data and communicate through interfaces and that all interfaces designed in-house must be externalizable. In strategy, the goal of the firm has shifted from control, entry barriers, and differentiation to more valuable market strategies. For example, Salesforce knew that it was hard to compete with Oracle and SAP, so it used customer innovations to create AppExchange –the world’s leading business app marketplace.

What does the future hold? According to Professor Van Alstyne, we can expect to see more and more things becoming platforms. For example, cars as platforms, blockchain and finance as platforms, cities as platforms, internet of things as platforms, energy/smart grids as platforms, architecture and building information modeling as platforms, education as platforms, and healthcare as platforms. In closing, Professor Van Alstyne re-emphasized that we will see a rise in large and gigantic firms driven by demand-side economies of scale, that platform firms will always beat product firms because they create value proportional to their use, and network effects invert the firm allowing them to scale from outside the firm.


This summary (and the presentation) draw on the following work:


Parker, G., Van Alstyne, M. W., & Jiang, X. (2016). “Platform ecosystems: How developers invert the firm.” MIS Quarterly 41 (1), 255-266

Van Alstyne, M. W., Parker, G. G., & Choudary, S. P. (2016). “Pipelines, platforms, and the new rules of strategy.” Harvard Business Review94(4), 54-62.