In the following chapter, the definition of case study research is explained based on the theory of different authors. Characteristics of different methodologies are explained, as well as the approaches that a case study research can take. The case of the company under study is then introduced, with a brief history of its conformation. Finally, the chapter integrates the theory of the chosen methodology to the case, by detailing the design of research implemented in this work.
Case study research
Yin (2014) described “A case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon (“the case”) in depth and within its real-world context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context may not be clearly evident”.
According to Yin (2014), there are three main conditions to be considered in order to define which methodology best suits aresearch:
The first one is putting attention to the type of questions that the study is aiming to answer. Case study research should thereafter be used when there is “in-depth descriptions of some social science phenomenon” (Yin, 2014), where the questions are formulated in a way that they try to understand a given scenario. Judging by words that are chosen for the formulation of the research questions, such as why, how and what. With the help of these words, the researcher can identify the purpose of the questions and match it to the inquiry’s needs (Yin, 2014).
The second condition is the control level that the researcher has over behavioural events (Yin, 2014). Within a case study, the potential elements to give meaning to the study may be unknown and hence push the researchers to adapt the course of work in progress. Because of these potential changes or unexpected outcomes, the approach of study must remain flexible and consider the most likely variations along the study giving shape to the overall final view. This said, there is no interest in maintaining control over the findings. In a scenario where variables are clear and easy to quantify, then other types of methods are suggested as a better approach, such as experiments or surveys (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2010).
The third condition is the “degree of focus on contemporary as opposed to entirely historical events” (Yin, 2014). Case studies are based on situations that resemble importance to the present and try to undermine the reasons for which an event or a series of events takes place.
Ghauri, Bonoma & Yin explained “The case study approach is often associated with descriptive or exploratory research, without being restricted to these areas (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2010). They also state that case study research is useful when “concepts and variables under study are difficult to quantify” (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2010) due to their large numbers. However, case studies can also be run as exploratory, descriptive or explanatory:
Exploratory research gives more freedom for the researcher to propose a theory or suggest further research in a particular direction (Yin, 2014). “When the research is badly understood, a (more or less) exploratory research design is adequate” (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2010)
Descriptive research defines the problem and structures the methods with which the researcher will fulfil the information inquiries. “The researcher plans to collect the data by survey using personal interviews. A detailed plan must be made with regard to how many and who to interview” (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2010). Other factors can range around time periods, target markets, etc.
Further, explanatory or causal research seem to favour surveys or archival methods due to their structured nature; explanatory research confronts cause-and-end” problems. “The main tasks in such research are to isolate the cause(s), and tell whether and to what extent the cause(s)’ result(s) in effect(s).” (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2010)
Yin (2014) described four design tests in order to increase the quality of the research:
Construct validity: Firstly, the researcher must ensure that the concepts and objectives of the study are clear. Gathering data from multiple sources increases clarity. Secondly, a specific operational measure must be adopted to match the concepts. Phase when tactic occurs: data collection, composition. Internal validity: “internal validity is mainly a concern for explanatory case studies, when an investigator is trying to explain how and why x led to event y.” (Yin, 2014) In the cases where the causal relationships of factors cannot be explained, then the study has failed. Phase when tactic occurs: data analysis. External Validity: the study’s findings should be generalizable beyond the immediate study. Phase when tactic occurs: research design.
Reliability: “The goal of reliability is to minimize the errors and biases in a study” (Yin, 2014) Principally, this test aims at detailing procedures in a manner that would let other researcher come to the same findings and conclusions. Phase when tactic occurs: data collection.
According to Yin (2014), there are four basic types of research design for case studies: holistic single case studies, embedded single case studies, multiple holistic case studies and embedded multiple case studies. Holistic approaches, for both single and multiple case designs are used when “the global nature of an organization or of a program” is to be examined (Yin, 2014). The downsides of a holistic approach are that “it allows a researcher to avoid examining any specific phenomenon in operational detail” (Yin, 2014), which in turn might lead the study to be conducted improperly.
On the contrary, embedded case studies “may involve units of analysis at more than one level. This occurs when, within a single case, attention is also given to a subunit or subunits” (Yin, 2014). By utilizing such a design, the researchers may study subunits of the organizations separately. The downsides of this occurs “when the case study focuses only on the subunit level and fails to return to the larger unit of analysis” (Yin, 2014).
Rosenfeld Media (RM) is a company based in New York City, USA. The organization is conformed by six people including Louis Rosenfeld, the company’s director. There are three lines in which RM focuses its business activities on: book publishing, conference organization and consultancy. All three lines are focused on user experience expertise.
The company initially began functioning as a book publisher. Louis Rosenfeld plays a major role in the planning process of launching new titles, which is a triangulated discussion between the board of editors, Louis himself and the book’s author. The book’s main focus is on product management and UX.
A few years later, RM identified the opportunity to enter the consultancy field and formed a roster of around 60 experts, for whom the organization works as an intermediary between them and the companies they offer services too, including Fortune 500 companies. The idea behind this representation scheme is easing off the pain of the on boarding process with clients, who most of the times require to go through the vendor registration process. Additionally, the representation of consultants by RM creates a higher value of trust among experts, due to RM’s recognition in the field of UX.
The third, and last line to be integrated into the business was organizing conferences. The company had already been organizing small events; workshops, master classes and virtual conferences. But it was not until the year of 2015 where RM independently produced the “Enterprise UX” conference that took place in San Antonio, Texas. This conference is also scheduled for June 2016 and RM’s goal is to bring Enterprise UX to Europe in the near future as well.
Event organization is a line that RM wants to expand, mainly because they believe that having an integrated infrastructure that breaks format specific styles of delivering content could be an innovative breakthrough. In other words, having the ability to offer a learning platform that delivers more than one form of education can better approach people with different learning abilities.
Louis Rosenfeld’s initial thought of creating a map was to be able to visually capture the different pieces that somehow participate in the dynamics of the business. The idea was inspired by a map created in 1957 by Walt Disney productions. In this map the different pieces of Disneyland’s products and services are connected to one another through arrows. Along the arrows, a short description expresses how one piece influences the other. (See Figure 15)
Design of the research
The type of research is qualitative and has an exploratory approach.
“Qualitative research begins with assumptions, a worldview, the possible use of theoretical lens, and the study of research problems inquiring into the meaning individuals or groups ascribe to a social or human problem. To study this problem, qualitative researchers use an emerging qualitative approach to inquiry, the collection of data in a natural setting sensitive to the people and places under study, and data analysis that is inductive and establishes patterns or themes.” (Creswell, 2007).
The studies on cross-channel ecosystems still seem to be in a phase of development with regard to their mapping techniques and hence this thesis has adopted an exploratory approach. The authors aimed at collecting data that would allow them to explore visualization options through the use of diagrams. Further recommendations about future research will be addressed in the Conclusion chapter.
Based on the conditions mentioned by Yin (2014) to define a methodology, the authors firstly looked into the question that drove the research. As the ultimate goal was to explain the importance of visualizing touchpoints in a cross-channel ecosystem, the selection of words why and how best fit the questions formulation. In contrast to the questions that aim at quantifying or finding direct causalities. For instance, the goal of this thesis is to find reasons to encourage organizations to use ecosystem maps.
The second condition involves the level of control that the researcher has over behavioural events. In this case, the control level needed was very low. The feedback that authors aimed to get was within the boundaries of two business lines and within the field of UX. However, the diversity of insights from actors was to be encouraged to better foster the final version of the map. The third condition is related to contemporary circumstances; the opposite of performing research that is not contemporary, would be looking into the history of archived data.
From the four case study models that Yin (2014), described the authors decided to implement the embedded single case study version. The company has a presence in three business lines. However, the authors have decided to follow the design where units of analysis are considered under a greater scope of the whole context (see Figure 9) As the consultancy business line of RM weren’t to be included in the mapping, the design best matched a structure that enabled focusing on just two of the business lines of the company.
The study was delimited to retrieving data from actors in the line of book publications and conference organizations as detailed in section 1.4 (Delimitations).
1.3 Research questions
2 Theoretical framework
2.1 Systems thinking
2.2 Design thinking
2.3 Evolution of cross-channel
2.4 Information-based ecosystems
2.5 Mapping ecosystems
3.1 Case study research
3.2 Rosenfeld Media
3.3 Design of the research
3.4 Methods of data collection
3.5 Analytical activities
4 Analysis and mapping
4.1 Recognize the pain or need
4.2 Sketch a rough map of the ecosystem
4.3 Identify actors
4.4 Identify goals (touchpoints)
4.5 Map paths
4.6 Map ecosystem
4.7 Refined map of the ecosystem
5.1 Implementation of the literature and interpretation constraints
5.2 Limitations of the research development
5.3 Insights on touchpoints and their function
5.4 Information channels and touchpoints overlapped.
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Mapping cross-channel ecosystems