This chapter describes how the research for this master’s thesis was conducted and ex-plains why a specific strategy was followed. First the research strategy that was applied in this thesis is presented. Second, the different sources of data are described and the reliability, validity and objectivity are discussed.
To answer the research question and fulfil the purpose of the thesis, the following re-search strategy has been used.
Figure 3.1 shows the research approach of this thesis. It demonstrates which activities required theoretical- and which empirical input. Also, it illustrates the chronology of events during the research process. For instance, parts of the literature study were done simultaneously with executing interviews and observations.
Prior to executing the theoretical and empirical research, the problem was formulated. This included the formulation of the purpose, the background and the relevant research question. A brief introduction about trends in transportation and IT-technology was also given. The problem formulation and the research question are presented in Chapter 1.
The research was conducted on two different levels, a theoretical and an empirical. One part was to study literature that was relevant in order to answer the research question and to deepen the authors’ knowledge in the field. The focus of the literature study was on the topics of transport logistics, technology adoption, ITS and performance meas-urement, which set the frame for the thesis. The second part of the research comprised interviews and observations. In order to identify what is critical when assessing ITS per-formance impacts, interviews with stakeholders that already make use of ITS or poten-tially will do so in the future were conducted. It was important to get an understanding of their operations and their roles in the transport chain. The theoretical framework, be-ing one part of the research, is presented in Chapter 2. The results from the conducted interviews are presented in the empirical research section that can be found in Chapter 4.
With the input from theory and the findings from the empirical research, key activities for assessing ITS performance impacts are proposed. The different phases of perform-ance measurement and the important activities for each phase are described in Chapter 5.
To validate the proposed findings from the first round of empirical research, they were tested on one actual ITS-service, known as ‘Geofencing’, which is to be implemented at a haulier. The validation was conducted in a focus group consisting of the company de-veloping the Geofencing service and the particular haulier. Empirical findings from the focus group study and the analysis of the findings are summarised in Chapter 6.
Chapter 7 presents the results of combining the findings from the first round of empiri-cal research with the findings from the focus group study. Based on the analysis in Chapter 5 and Chapter 6, the performance measurement process is delineated.
The results are followed by a conclusion, reviewing the findings of the presented study.
These concluding words can be found in Chapter 8.
The master’s thesis ends with a discussion, recommendations and further research sug-gestions. Strong and weak points of the thesis are discussed, recommendations about the applicability of the outcomes are made and further research with regards to the pre-sented study is suggested. These final remarks are summarised in Chapter 9.
Quantitative and Qualitative Research
There are two different ways of gathering data. Quantitative methods generally use numbers, are deductive and need an initial hypothesis (Bryman & Bell, 2007). Qualita-tive research does not necessarily need a hypothesis to start with. It focuses on fewer individuals and is based on words and observations. Qualitative research seeks to under-stand social reality rather than focusing on statistical analysis and it aims at providing rich description of people and processes in their natural setting (Bryman & Bell, 2007).
Due to the novelty of ITS and a lack of theoretical knowledge about performance meas-urement with regards to ITS, a smaller number of stakeholders was interviewed in-depth. The aim was to get their perspective of ITS performance impacts and how they can be measured and evaluated. For that reason, it was decided to apply qualitative methods in order to get as detailed insights into the subject area as possible.
A pre-understanding about the subject area was fostered by being exposed to experi-enced co-workers and by having personal communication with several employees at VTEC. However, great amounts of data needed to be gathered from other sources in or-der to be able to conduct the study. The collected data consist of both primary and sec-ondary data. Secondary data are data that were collected and documented previously, for a purpose other than the problem at hand. In contrast, primary data are data that are to be collected for the specific question that is to be analysed (Hox & Boeije, 2005). The source for the primary data is the input from interviews, observations and a focus group. Primary data were collected during the empirical research before proposing the critical measurement activities and also during the focus group validation. The literature study to formulate the theoretical framework collected secondary data from various sources.
The data collection began with the study of relevant literature, which was used to for-mulate the theoretical framework presented in Chapter 2. The data were collected from various sources. A variety of books and articles was used to form the background in transportation and performance measurement, mostly articles were used to summarise the latest developments in ITS. This approach was followed due to the fact that articles are usually more up-to-date than books and in the fast moving field of information tech-nology it is important to have current data. Furthermore, results from recent European Commission studies were used to contribute to the theoretical framework.
In total, eight interviews with different stakeholders in transport operations were con-ducted. By interviewing different actors in the transport chain, the authors wanted to identify the stakeholders’ current use of ITS and performance measurement. The inter-view partners were selected with the aim to cover all the important roles, relevant within the scope of this thesis. With DHL and DB Schenker, two freight forwarders were in-cluded in the research. Volvo Logistics takes the role of a TPL and terminal operator. Likewise, Stena Line can be seen as a terminal operator, but also as an operator of fer-ries. Covering for the function of a haulier, Fraktkedjan Väst was included in the list of interviewees. To get the standpoint of an authority, Trafikverket served as an important source of input. Lastly, it was interesting to get the perspective of an ITS researcher and for that reason an interview with Per-Olof Arnäs fr om Chalmers University was con-ducted. With this selection of interviewees, the important areas of freight forwarders, hauliers, terminal operators, ferry operators, TPL providers, authorities and researchers were covered. The roles of these interviewees in the transport industry with regards to ITS are twofold: freight forwarders, hauliers, terminal operators, ferry operators as well as TPL providers can be seen as users of ITS-services, whereas researchers are rather seen as initiators. Authorities play a hybrid role by initiating and using ITS-services.
Most of the interviews were conducted with only one interview partner at the time; however both DB Schenker and Trafikverket decided to answer the interview questions in a team of two. This was not a problem at all; it rather turned out to be a good way to get even more knowledgeable input.
Table 3.1 shows a summary of the people that were interviewed. In order to give the reader a better understanding of the interviewees’ background, their function in the company is added.
In qualitative research, interviews can either be unstructured or semi-structured. Un-structured interviews make use of a brief set of notes to guide the interview and inter-viewees are allowed to respond and elaborate freely (Bryman & Bell, 2007). This type of interview almost has the character of a conversation. A semi-structured interview makes use of an interview guideline and the researcher has a list of rather specific ques-tions that have to be answered. However, the interviewee still has a lot of freedom in answering the questions. Semi-structured interviews give a great deal of flexibility for the interview process, but by and large the same questions with a similar wording will be used for all interviewees (Bryman & Bell, 2007).
In this thesis, when interviewing the stakeholders engaged in the transport chain, semi-structured interviews were used. This gives the interviewees the chance to give more in-put on topics that are deemed important and they have the possibility to elaborate more when it seems appropriate. Likewise, the authors were able to ask additional questions when necessary. The decision to use semi-structured interviews turned out to be appro-priate due to the newness of the field of ITS. In most of the interviewed companies the use of ITS was in its initial stages which was why the questions were then asked in re-gards to conventional IT systems that are used and have already been implemented. As ITS is a further development of IT and ICT, this was deemed to be reasonable and the best approach to get valuable input to answer the research question.
For 7 of the 8 interviews the same interview guideline was used and only in one case the questions were differing from the template. For the interview with researcher Per-Olof Arnäs, the questions needed to be amended in order to fit the purpose of the interview. Since the position of a researcher differs, due to the fact that this actor will not actually make use of the systems in research, questions needed to be asked from a different per-spective. However, the questions were covering the same main categories to ensure the usability of the result in the later process. The amended interview guideline can be found in Appendix B.
To complement the interviews described in section 3.3.2, observations served as another source of data. The observations primarily aimed at understanding the processes and fa-cilitated to ask the right questions during the interviews. Likewise, they fostered the un-derstanding of the current use of ITS and helped at proposing important activities for a measurement. The observations were done during an early stage of the research at the Stena Line ferry terminal in Gothenburg and encompassed an introduction into the processes at the check-in office as well as a tour along the quayside. The tour given by Paula Wiberg (Team Leader Stena Line Majabbe) facilitated the understanding of the operations connected to the check-in of trucks and the loading of the ferry.
The authors had a number of personal conversations with colleagues at VTEC that served as a valuable source of data for this master’s thesis. M. Gunarsson gave input about problems that need to be considered during a measurement process and D. Zack-risson pointed out factors that can distort the results of a measurement process.
To validate the proposed findings from the literature study and the conducted inter-views, a focus group method was used. Together with the ITS developing company Ve-hCo and one of their customers empirical material was gathered. A focus group is a spe-cific form of group interview that explores one particular topic in detail and aims to fa-cilitate a discussion among the group participants (Bryman & Bell, 2007). The setting of a focus group is relatively unstructured and people that have knowledge about the phe-nomenon that is studied are encouraged to interact (Bryman & Bell, 2007). In a focus group the researcher, which at the same time is the moderator, provides a rather unstruc-tured setup and participants are supposed to uncover the issues of the topic area they are confronted with. In this way a wider variety of views can be observed and it can be seen how participants make sense of the phenomenon of study. This can lead to a more real-istic outcome than ordinary interviews or group interviews (Bryman & Bell, 2007).
The focus group conducted with VehCo and their customer was moderated by the two authors and a lot of freedom to elaborate on the topic of interest was given to the par-ticipants. The answers were documented in different ways. For some tasks the partici-pants were asked to write ideas on post-it notes, other answers were captured on previ-ously custom-made templates.
Reliability, Validity and Objectivity
Every type of research has to be critically evaluated. Patton (2001) states that reliability and validity are important parts of every qualitative research. Thus, the following sec-tions will analyse the master’s thesis reliability, validity and objectivity.
Reliability describes if a study conducted under the same circumstances would give the same results. According to Yin (2008), the goal of reliability is to minimise errors and keep the study unbiased. Even though the term reliability is commonly used to test or evaluate quantitative research, it is most often likewise used for qualitative methods (Golafshani, 2003). Some authors are more specific about the term reliability and use ‘dependability’ as the corresponding term for quali tative research (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). When referring to the reliability of an interview study, it refers to the degree of consistence of the executed interviews (Kvale, 1996). In this master’s thesis semi-structured interviews were used for the empirical research and, with one exception, the same interview guidelines that can be found in Appendix A, were used for all of the interviews. All interviews were prepared, recorded and transcribed and after the transcrip-tion a copy was sent to the interviewees to confirm the content. Some of the interview-ees’ statements were amended and the revised transcript was used for the research. Fur-thermore, the results of the interviews were discussed among the two authors to ensure that both authors interpreted the answers in the same way. This procedure was followed in order to ensure a high reliability of the collected data.
According to Bryman and Bell (2007), there are two types of validity in qualitative re-search: internal validity and external validity. Internal validity refers to the match be-tween the researchers’ observations and the theoretical ideas they propose. The external validity describes how findings can be generalised for other cases (Bryman & Bell, 2007).
In this research, the interviews have been well prepared, and the interviewees have been informed about the purpose of the thesis before the interview was started. It was made clear what the focus of the research was, in order to enable the interviewees to suggest other interview partners in case they were not able to answer the questions. Following this approach increased the validity, since only actors that are knowledgeable in the top-ics that were of pivotal importance for this paper were interviewed.
Even though the measurement process was proposed based on the input of a number of different interviewees, with different roles in the transport chain, and a variety of litera-ture sources, the external validity was only validated on one specific service. This vali-dation was conducted as a focus group in cooperation with an ITS developing company and one of their customers. However, the study has shown that a lot of companies in transportation act alike, have a similar work culture and corresponding processes.
This master’s thesis was initiated by Volvo Technology and supervised by Jönköping International Business School. There is a risk that the initiator of the thesis might want to influence the direction of the research, to fulfil its demands. Paulsson (1999) points out that it is important to take advice from the initiator, but that all research decisions have to be taken by the researchers themselves. In this master’s thesis, the initiator gave important advice and input, but also gave the authors the ability to guide the thesis and decide how to conduct the research. The outcome of this thesis can not only be used by VTEC, but also by other companies that develop ITS-services.
Table of Contents
1.2 Problem Area
1.4 Research Question
1.5 Scope and Limitations
1.6 Volvo Technology
1.7 SITS Project
2 Theoretical Framework
2.2 Adoption of Innovative Technology .
2.3 Intelligent Transport Systems
2.4 Performance Measurement .
3 Research Method
3.1 Research Strategy
3.2 Quantitative and Qualitative Research
3.3 Data Collection
3.4 Reliability, Validity and Objectivity
4 Empirical Research
4.1 Intelligent Transport Systems
4.2 Performance Measurement
5.1 Design of the Measurement
5.2 Implementation of the Measurement
5.3 Use of the Measures
5.4 Summary of the Measurement Process
6.1 Introduction to the Focus Group Validation
6.2 Empirical Results from the Validation
6.3 Analysis of Focus Group Study
7.1 The Performance Measurement Process
9 Discussion, Recommendations and FurtherResearch
9.1 Discussion .
9.3 Further Research
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Performance Impacts through Intelligent Transport Systems An Assessment of how to Measure and Evaluat