Computing Applications

In the Virtual Extension

To ensure the timely publication of articles, Communications created the Virtual Extension (VE) to expand the page limitations of the print edition by bringing readers the same high-quality articles in an online-only format. VE articles undergo the same rigorous review process as those in the print edition and are accepted for publication on merit. The following synopses are from articles now available in their entirety to ACM members via the Digital Library.
  1. Contributed article — DOI: 10.1145/1995376.1995403
    Crossing to the Dark Side: Examining Creators, Outcomes, and Inhibitors of Technostress
  2. Contributed article — DOI: 10.1145/1995376.1995404
    Calculating and Improving ROI in Software and System Programs

Contributed article — DOI: 10.1145/1995376.1995403
Crossing to the Dark Side: Examining Creators, Outcomes, and Inhibitors of Technostress

Monideepa Tarafdar, Qiang Tu, T.S. Ragu-Nathan, and Bhanu S. Ragu-Nathan

Mike, a Fortune 100 senior-management executive, spends a good part of his annual vacation answering office email messages. He has trouble focusing on his family; he forgets things like dinner plans. Joanne, a university secretary, found it difficult to use a new student-management application. Daunted by the sheer multiplicity of its features, exhausted by repeated crashes, and unhappy at the lack of IT support, she took early retirement. Pat, a purchasing manager, is prompt at answering email and voicemail messages, and has received "responsive employee of the month" awards. But, every time she interrupts whatever she is doing to answer messages, it takes her about 15 minutes to refocus her full attention back to that task before another message comes along and the cycle start again. Paul, a manager at a livestock feed company, uses his 45-minute office commute time to email, text, or call-in instructions from his BlackBerry to fulfill last-minute customer orders, so that his commute is not "wasted." He dangerously juggles his phone while driving.

These vignettes illustrate an interesting and increasingly persistent dichotomy in the way that emerging information systems for work and collaboration are affecting professional users. One aspect of this dichotomy is that aided by workflow applications, mobile computing and communication devices, collaborative software, and computer networks, users can quickly and easily access information, work from anywhere, and share information and insights with colleagues in real time. But these same technologies can make them feel compulsive about being connected, forced to respond to work-related information in real time, trapped in almost habitual multitasking and left with little time to spend on sustained thinking and creative analysis. These latter outcomes constitute the phenomenon of "technostress."

Professionals experience technostress when they cannot adapt to or cope with information technologies in a healthy manner. This article reports on a study of IS users in an effort to understand the phenomenon of technostress, explaining why technostress is created; how it varies across individuals; what its adverse consequences are; and how organizations can reduce them.

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Contributed article — DOI: 10.1145/1995376.1995404
Calculating and Improving ROI in Software and System Programs

Murray Cantor

Constrained by a limited budget, most enterprises must apply unprecedented business discipline to the business function of software and system delivery across entire software and system life cycles. For this reason, the CIO, CTO, or VP of software or systems development may be under increased scrutiny from the corporate chief finance office (CFO). When conversing with the CFO, money talks, so only one of two sorts of conversations is possible: software and systems as cost center or software and systems as value-creation center. The second is more involved than the first since cost is easily measured and the value of the software and systems under development is difficult to measure. Also, the second conversation entails treating software and systems programs as investments and calculating the return on investment (ROI) along with the investment risk.

Most common development-program and portfolio-management practices in software and systems organizations do not support the second conversation; benefits and risk are usually based on qualitative scores, determined either through team consensus or weighted sum of scores from a questionnaire, while costs are assigned monetary value. Since quantitative and especially monetary measures are more persuasive than qualitative measures, it is no wonder that software and systems are often managed as a cost center, not as a business function contributing to overall enterprise value.

Creating enterprise value often requires innovation, but innovative programs are inherently risky, financially and technically. Almost by definition, innovative programs begin with incomplete information, resulting in uncertainty in both expected program costs and benefits. Reasoning about, justifying, and making trade-offs among programs with different risks and value requires determining the ROI in the programs. Here, I explore how to compute ROI given the inherent uncertainty of innovative programs.

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