Monday, May 17, 2010

Are BPM professionals experts in collaboration?

@ReduxOnline posts a link to a student project How to measure the collaboration of knowledge workers in the enterprise.

1. To understand the factors supporting collaboration between knowledge workers, a questionnaire was sent to BPM professionals. The paper doesn't make clear whether they were being asked about their own personal collaboration, or about their opinions about collaboration in general. In any case, we might imagine that BPM professionals have a particular perspective on collaboration, which might distort the survey.

2. Nearly a quarter of the BPM professionals couldn't make sense of the collaboration model on which the survey was based, and were unable to answer all the questions. Instead of treating this as a sign that there might be a problem with the model, the researchers chose to exclude these from the analysis. They then argue that the remaining responses validate their model.

3. The survey doesn't measure collaboration, it measures opinions about collaboration, from a carefully selected group of knowledge workers. Perhaps not surprisingly, the opinions are pretty consistent with the kind of management literature that these knowledge workers might be expected to have read. Except that the answers about "purpose" were all over the place (which I can well imagine, given the uncertain intentions of the question), so this factor failed a statistical test (Cronbach's Alpha) and could be quietly dropped from the model.

4. The direct relation between collaboration and the performance of an enterprise is not tested, because the questionnaire did not consists of any financial questions. (It would seem that financial information is "sensitive"; collaboration itself presumably isn't.) Let's hope the students manage to extend their research to include questions about the financial situation of an enterprise, allowing them to demonstrate and explain how maturity of collaboration of knowledge workers (as perceived and understood by BPM professionals) might actually help to improve the performance of an enterprise.

5. I generally regard opinion surveys as low-grade research because they usually merely recycle received opinion. While I understand that this may be the easiest and cheapest form of research, especially for students and software industry analysts, I expect to see some acknowledgement of the potential distortion, rather than merely taking the collected opinions at face value.

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