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    6 Gerald C. Kane 7

    Carroll School of Management 8

    Boston College 9

    140 Commonwealth Ave. 10

    Chestnut Hill, MA 02467 11

    gerald.kane@bc.edu 12


    Stephen P. Borgatti 14

    LINKS Center For Network Analysis of Organizations 15

    Gatton College of Business & Economics 16

    University of Kentucky 17

    550 S. Limestone St., Lexington, KY 40506-0034 18

    sborgatti@uky.edu 19




    23 Abstract: Virtually all of the extensive previous research investigating the effect of IS 24

    proficiency on performance has been conducted at the individual level. Little research has 25

    investigated the relationship between IS proficiency and performance at the group level. In this 26

    paper, we argue that IS proficiency at the group level may be more than the simple sum or 27

    average of the IS proficiency of individual group members. Rather, effective group level IS 28

    proficiency may also be a function of how a groups IS proficiency is distributed across its 29

    members. Relying on concepts associated with social network analysis (SNA), we introduce the 30

    concept of centrality-IS proficiency alignment. We argue that groups will perform better if their 31

    more proficient members are highly central in the groups communication and workflows 32

    network. Data from 468 employees in 32 workgroups show that centrality- IS proficiency 33

    alignment is significantly and positively related to performance across multiple systems 34

    examined individually and with the portfolio of systems examined as a whole. This approach 35

    effectively integrates the structural and resource perspectives of SNA, providing a roadmap so 36

    that others may follow a similar approach to address broader questions of group-level user- 37

    system interactions in the IS literature and more general questions of central resource alignment 38

    in the broader organizational literature. 39



    Keywords: social network analysis, IS proficiency, centrality, multimodal networks, healthcare 42

    delivery, performance, collective use, multilevel analysis 43




    End-user proficiency is a key factor in determining how effectively organizations can 2

    leverage information systems (IS) to influence organizational performance outcomes (Evans and 3

    Simkin 1989; Nelson 1991; Santhanam and Sein 1994; Yi and Davis 2003). Users who are more 4

    proficient with IS will use those systems to work more effectively and efficiently than users who 5

    are less proficient (Marcolin et al. 2000; Yoon et al. 1995). Organizations spend considerable 6

    time and money improving the IS proficiency of end users through training, so IS researchers 7

    have spent much energy and effort discovering more effective training methods (Nelson and 8

    Cheney 1987). Most existing research on IS proficiency has been conducted at the individual 9

    level, addressing how well a given user interacts with IS to conduct individual-level tasks. 10

    Recent work has suggested that IS researchers should move beyond examining the user-system 11

    relationship at the individual level to consider the impact of user-systems interactions at the 12

    group level (Burton-Jones and Gallivan 2007). A deeper understanding of how IS proficiency at 13

    the group level is becoming increasingly important as organizations turn towards formal and 14

    informal groups work together to perform shared tasks. 15

    Precisely how to conceptualize and measure IS proficiency at the group level, however, is 16

    challenging. If group members are relatively homogenous in their IS proficiency, then the 17

    answer is simple the average level of IS proficiency among group members may be a good 18

    measure of the IS proficiency of the group as a whole. If group members have equal proficiency, 19

    their knowledge is interchangeable and the proficiency distribution in the group will be 20

    irrelevant. Nevertheless, such homogeneity in IS proficiency is rare in most organizational 21

    environments. Group members are more likely to have heterogeneous levels of IS proficiency, 22

    both in degree and kind, that stem from differences in individual characteristics or roles. 23

  • Research has shown that group-level ability is often more than the simple sum of the abilities of 1

    each member (Tziner and Eden 1985). 2

    The interactions between group members are important factors in understanding how 3

    group-level performance manifests individual abilities. Thus, it will be important to consider 4

    how IS proficiency is distributed in the group to more fully understand the impact IS proficiency 5

    will have on group-level performance (c.f., Burton-Jones and Gallivan 2007; Kozlowski and 6

    Klein 2000). For instance, certain individuals may occupy more critical positions in the groups 7

    communication and workflows, so their IS proficiency may have greater impact on group 8

    performance. Group members may help each other use a system, so the IS proficiency of those 9

    sought by others for help may also be an important factor in group-level IS proficiency. Certain 10

    group members may also have greater influence than others, and the IS proficiency of these 11

    influential users may affect whether and how others use certain systems. 12

    In short, IS proficiency at the group level may operate quite differently than the simple 13

    sum or average of the individual IS proficiencies. If so, it may be possible to increase the group- 14

    level IS proficiency in ways other than through additional training of indivdual group members. 15

    Conversely, it may also imply that a group does not necessarily exhibit high levels of IS 16

    proficiency at the group-level simply because most of its indivdual members have high levels of 17

    IS proficiency. 18

    We use concepts from social network analysis (SNA) to characterize how IS proficiency 19

    is distributed in a group. SNA is a research paradigm that studies the configuration of nodes and 20

    network ties (Borgatti et al. 2009; Kilduff et al. 2006). Important to SNA is centrality (Freeman 21

    1979), a concept used to measure a nodes importance in, for example, communication or 22

    workflow networks, where centrality indicates the importance of each individual in the overall 23

  • pattern of information flow. We argue that a groups performance is impacted not only by the 1

    average level of IS proficiency but also by the distribution of IS proficiency relative to centrality. 2

    That is, a group enjoys greater benefits if its more proficient members are highly central. As 3

    such, we argue that the alignment between IS proficiency and users centrality in the group is 4

    likely to be positively related to performance at the group level. We introduce a measure called 5

    centrality-proficiency alignment (CP-Alignment) to measure the centrality of the groups most 6

    proficient users. 7

    Using data gathered from a survey of 468 employees in 32 workgroups in the regional 8

    division of a large, national health maintenance organization (HMO), we test whether a groups 9

    CP-Alignment is positively associated with the groups performance in terms of the overall 10

    health of their diabetic patients, identified by organizational leadership as a key performance 11

    metric for healthcare groups. Our hypothesis holds across multiple systems, examined both 12

    individually and in aggregate, even after controlling for the average levels of IS use and IS 13

    proficiency in the group. CP-alignment is also more reliably associated with performance than 14

    these other measures. These results demonstrate that a simple inventory of group capabilities, as 15

    in a count or sum of individual IS proficiency, fails to adequately show the groups function as 16

    an ensemble. Rather, a groups social structure can be used to exploit available resources (in this 17

    case, the IS proficiency of individuals) for the good of the group. This work contributes to the IS 18

    literature by developing a measure to study how IS proficiency and, potentially, other IS 19

    attributes (e.g., IS trust, IS avoidance) are distributed in a group. The work contributes to the 20

    social network literature by effectively melding Burts (1992) structural perspective with Lins 21

    (1982) resource theory, two major streams in the network literature (Borgatti and Foster 2003). 22



    Considerable IS literature research has focused on users' ability to apply technology to 2

    maximize performance on specific job tasks (Chan and Storey 1996; Evans and Simkin 1989; 3

    Kang and Santhanam 2003; Nelson 1991; Santhanam and Sein 1994). IS proficiency represents a 4

    key factor for determining how effectively people leverage IS (Marcolin et al. 2000); it 5

    influences organizational performance outcomes because proficient users maximize IS features 6

    and functions to enhance their work (Jasperson et al. 2005; Marcolin et al. 2000). More efficient 7

    users can use systems to conduct their tasks more effectively (Kang and Santhanam 2003; 8

    Nelson 1991; Santhanam and Sein 1994; Yi and Davis 2003; Yoon et al. 1