Operationalization of Variables

09/07/2009 17:50


    Operationalization of variables in a research design is as suggested moving from the conceptual framework to articulation of the dependent and independent variables to the construction of the research instrument. From this perspective, one can see that Sabherwal and Chan(2001, p. 1 – 8) used concepts like “the impact of information systems and technology on business performance,” the “necessity and benefits of aligning IS with the rest of the business,” “alignment is examined between a company’s actual IS strategy and the theory-based IS strategy corresponding to the business strategy it pursues” to provide the conceptual foundation for their study. The third section, The Research Model and Constructs, they state that “the emphasis is on strategy content, not process, on realized rather than intended strategies, and on IS strategy rather than IT and IM strategies.” At this juncture a decide move is made to identify the “theoretical profiles of business strategy variables for each configuration, i.e., business strategy types defenders, analyzers, and prospectors. They add the theoretical plank that “there are also reasons to believe that different IS strategies would be appropriate for the there business strategies.” They cited the literature to underscore the following ideas: each business strategy can be associated with “different kinds of information systems,” that they “influence the attributes of formal control systems,” that they “differ in management sophistication,” and that they “differ in the level of IT investment.  The actual specification of the relevant concepts went this way, there were six business strategy attributes ascribed to the three ideal types. Then Four IS strategy attributes are ascribed to the three ideal types, meaning that the some confusion could result, if one first envisions the three variables subscripted by the six business strategy attributes, then subscripted by the four IS strategy attributes. (Sabherwal and Chan, 2001, p. 4) The argument is that a derivative set dependent variables is to be composed of, the alignment between IS for efficiency, IS for flexibility, IS for comprehensiveness, and the business strategies of the three ideal types((Sabherwal and Chan, 2001, p. 5) There is also a performance and perceived performance that are argued to be dependent on the same set of variables, performance is equated to “competitive advantage.” ((Sabherwal and Chan, 2001, p. 5) There is precious little to inform the reader about the relationship between the independent variables and the actual constructs, items and the survey instrument., although the statistical techniques and their relationship to validity and reliability is emphasized. This ambiguity between measured performance and measured perceived performance is indicated again in the section entitled Measures, in that, measures such as return on investment, net profits, market share gains, and revenue growth are grouped with relatively less quantitative measures such as reputation among major customer segments, product quality. These were all argued to provide a “perceptual measure of business performance.”

The work of Hirscheim, Rudy, Sabberwal, and Rajiv(2001, p. 13) appears to be difficulty because it present a technical discussion without the per usual section of the traditional research report. It is based on three case studies that the reader cannot determine to be valid from the point of view of being actual data, meaning it appears to be an interpretive study, which derived it factors from some method of extraction and abstraction, which does not provision the reader to make assessments based on statistical definitions of validity or reliability, i.e, empirical validity and reliability. What one has to deal with is akin to what Miles and Huberman(1994, p. 173 – 174) allude to as a “case-oriented approach” where one “considers the case as a whole entity, looking at configurations, associations, causes, and effects within the case,” without a large number of cases to abstract from. Although the work of Hirscheim, et al.,(2001, p. 1-13) appears extremely well written and authoritative, it lacks the scientific rigour normally associated with such studies. They provision the argument that strategic alignment and organizational performance dependent variables, that business strategy and information systems strategy are an independent variables, with the latter being a composite of IS role, IS sourcing and IS structure, while each of these are subscripted three ways. They argue form an ideal type-paradigm (Hirscheim, et al.,(2001, p. 5) and relegate their argument to conjecture by not offering a sufficient number of cases to substantiate their assertions, falling far short in their effort to operationalize the variables. No mention is made of an instrument and their reliance of the work of others in the field doesn’t appear to be exhaustive

Miles, M. B., and Huberman, A. M., Qualitative data analysis, 2nd Ed., Sage Publications, 1994

 Sabberwal, R., & Chan, Y., Alignment between business and IS strategies: a study of prospectors, analyzers, and defenders, Information systems research, vol. 12, issue 1, 2001


Hirscheim, Rudy, Sabberwal, and Rajiv, Detours in the path toward strategic information system alignment, California management review, 2001, vol. 44, issue 1