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How Do Organization Actualize Big Data Analytics Affordances

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How do organization actualize Big data analytics affordances
A qualitative case study (theory building)

Research Proposal Master Thesis

MSc BA Change Management

Faculty of Economics and Business

University of Groningen

Name:                                Daniel Koning

Student number:                S3522636

Email:                                 d.r.koning@student.rug.nl

Assessor:                        dr. H.C. Bruns

Supervisor Thesis:                dr. I. Maris-de Bresser

Word count:                        CONCEPT

Date:                                CONCEPT

Version:                        CONCEPT

Proposal type:                        Theory building


Introduction

Digital technologies continue to develop and change product’s value propositions; playing an ever more important role in everyday life. In response, many organizations are embarking on digital transformations and implement advanced information technologies (IT) (Yoo et al., 2012). To facilitate synergies from advanced digital technologies organization often need to develop analytic capabilities that are capable of handling data in high volume, velocities, veracity, and varieties (McAfee & Brynjolfsson, 2012; Davenport, Barth, & Bean, 2012; Visani, 2017). Big data has transformed the value proposition of products and services as it allows insight generated from causal and predictive models enabling data-driven decision making in various business processes (Henke, Bughin, Chui, Manyika, Saleh, Wiseman, & Sethupathy, 2016; Davenport & Kudyba, 2016). However, big data only affords valuable insights when appropriate data analytical capabilities are actualized (Zhang, Yang, & Appelbaum, 2015) which highly depend on the socio-technical context and organizational goals (Troilo, Luca, & Guenzi, 2017). To develop the essential big data analytical (BDA) capabilities requires more than enormous amounts of data. Simply implementing IT, such as BDA, is not enough to derive business value from it. Instead, the compatibility and integration effort enables synergies between IT and organizational resources (Nevo & Wade, 2010; Dong & Yang, 2018). As for how IT is accepted and used by actors and with what (un)intended consequences depends on the IT features and the actor's interpretations of those features (Majchrzak, Markus,  & Wareham, 2016). Researchers studying the mechanism underlying IT adoption and the organizational change consequences have predominantly used the concept of affordance (Markus & Silver, 2008; Leonardi, 2013; Seidel & Berente, 2013; Zammuto et al., 2007). The concept of affordances is a useful lens to study IT in organizations, as it shifts the focus from the characteristics of the technology itself to what an organization can actually do with it (Kane, 2017).

The concept of affordances was first presented by Gibson (1979; 1986), an ecological psychologist, who used it to explain how animals perceive an object. According to Gibson, animals perceive an object in terms of action potentials that it affords instead of its physical properties. Markus and Silver (2008) further describe affordances in IS research as “the possibility for goal-oriented actions afforded to specific user groups by technical objects” (p. 622). Affordances do not guarantee results, as they refer to action potentials rather than actual actions or certain outcomes. To turn potentials into definitive results, actors need to take goal-oriented actions to use the technology to achieve an outcome; a process described as “affordance actualization” (Burton-Jones & Volkoff, 2017; Strong, Johnson, Tulu, Trudel, Volkoff, Pelletier, & Garber,  2014) ). Thus, effective implementation of BDA can be seen as a process in which its affordances are actualized (Dremel, Herterich, Wulf, Waizmann, & Brenner, 2017). Successfully implementing BDA and actualizing BDA affordances requires some overhauling organizational changes, as Dremel et al. (2017) indicates, there is a necessity to re-think how an organization and its business processes are structured to leverage the new decision-making mechanisms BDA offers. The area of academic literature that explains how organizational actions lead to the realization of BDA value after implementing BDA is limited and lacks empirical evidence and theoretical foundations (Günther, Rezazade Mehrizi, Huysman, & Feldberg, 2017). Strong et al. (2014) mentions the lack of theory for explaining the process of actualizing an affordance potential and affordances in an organizational context. To contribute to the knowledge of BDA affordances actualization I formulated two research questions: (1) What are the affordances of BDA in an organization? (2) How do organizational actors actualize these affordances? To answer these two research question, I use the affordance actualization theory of Strong et al. (2014) with a qualitative research design. The research will be conducted at a large Dutch webshop that specializes in consumer electronics and household applications and implemented BDA effectively to derive value from it.

BDA as a digital artifact is a software-based IT and can be described concerning its materiality, although software is somewhat intangible (Leonardi, 2007). IT is designed and implemented to accomplish specific goals and performances, which can only be achieved through effective use (Burton-Jones & Grange, 2013). Although IT is inherent in organizational life (Leonardi, 2011), IT affordances is somewhat under-researched in the academic management literature (Orlikowski, 2010). An explanation could be that social, political, economic researchers prioritize actors and social structures resulting in technological artifacts and materiality to disappear into the background (Orlikowski, 2010). Answering the research question contributes to the body of knowledge that assists organizational practitioners in their digital transformation journey and implementation of IT. As a concise theory that explains the actualization process of BDA affordances provides guidance in designing effective change strategies and interventions to leverage the potential value of BDA. Through a qualitative research design, this study contributes to an explanatory theory by clarifying BDA value realization by providing empirical evidence. With the use of the concept of affordances, this study also responds to the call for more explanatory research on IT affordances, and IT adoption in general (Bernhard, Recker, & Burton‐Jones 2013, Burton-Jones & Straub, 2006; Orlikowski & Iacono 2001). This proposal continues by examining the body of academic knowledge concerning BDA and the concept of affordances. In the methodology, I overview the research setting and explain the methods to gather and analyze the data to answer the research question.

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