Should managers use a process-based framework for assessing IS projects?

5 Feb

These days the standard working business environment is characterised by greater business function integration. As a result it is becoming increasingly important that this increased interaction is reflected in frameworks constructed to support management teams in assessing the benefits and costs of a proposed IS investment. In a 2004 paper by Dutta and Roy the authors argue that a process-modelling approach is ideal for justifying IT projects – particularly in e-business environments [1]. The authors state that:

“Process models take an integrated view of activities and are particularly well suited to capturing interaction among constituent components.”

Essentially – by capturing interactions in a business process where a proposed IS project will be implemented – one can deduce the likely business benefits of the investment. The core of the authors argument is laid out as follows:

  1. A business process is made up of physical and information flows.
  2. If these flows are represented computationally it may be possible to assess the project’s impact on performance.
  3. Focus primarily on information flows – rather than technical details – as technical specifications are often unpredictable in the early stages of a system lifecycle.
  4. The functional specifics of information content are naturally mapped as information flows.

Additionally, a process based approach will capture interactions at different intervals of the value chain – enabling a better assessment of the project’s impact on business performance. Despite the obvious advantages of this approach there are some weaknesses – a fact not lost on the authors themselves. A big weakness is the effort and expertise that is required to build a process model. This makes the approach more suited for IS investments that are large-scale in nature. In fact in many cases it may be appropriate to view the process-based approach as merely a complement to other methods of assessing the various outcomes of an IS investment. Nevertheless – when discussed in conjunction with the OBRiM framework and Cresswell’s take on ROI analysis – a process-oriented framework outlines elements which could prove useful when formulating new frameworks. Watch this space!


[1] Dutta, A., & Roy, R. (2004) “A Process-Oriented Framework for Justifying Information Technology Projects in e-Business Environments”, International Journal of Electronic Commerce, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 49-68.


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