Thesis defense of Samaneh Bagheri, January 15, 2019

On Tuesday, January 15, 2019, Samaneh Bagheri will defend her PhD thesis “Design of a reference model-based approach to support business-IT alignment improvement in co-creation value networks”. This thesis has been supervised by prof.dr. R.J. Kusters, P.W.P.J. Grefen, and J.J.M. Trienekens. The ceremony will take place in the Senaatszaal of the Auditorium Building at the Eindhoven University of Technology at 13:30 hrs.


Business-IT alignment (BITA) is a complex and multidimensional problem that, over the past three decades, has resided among the top ten IT management concerns of organizations worldwide. To effectively use information technology supporting business strategies and processes, a sufficient degree of BITA is required. However, one of the primary challenges which confront organizations is that BITA is a moving target. Therefore, BITA should be improved continuously over time. However, achieving better BITA is difficult, due to problems such as communication flaws and a lack of shared understanding among business and IT staff among others.

Addressing BITA is even more challenging in a complex situation of a value network, where heterogeneous stakeholders collaborate to realize their shared values by providing customized solution-oriented services (e.g., smart public lighting services). Emerging advanced information and communication technologies enable this form of collaboration. In a value network setting to leverage such technologies effectively, a sufficient degree of BITA is required.

In this dissertation, we have designed and evaluated a reference model-based approach to support BITA improvement process in a value network setting. The research work combines two important research areas: improvement of the alignment of business strategies/processes and information technology on the one hand, and realizing business goals in value networks based on the principle of co-creation on the other hand.

Given that BITA improvement is a continuous process, it can be facilitated by the learning process. We suggest that systematically identifying, classifying, and using relevant external knowledge from literature (in the form of a reference model) can kick-start the organizational learning process.

To investigate this proposal, in this research, a four-step research process has been followed. In steps one to three, we design the reference models for the key capabilities which are strategically crucial for the success of a value network. These reference models are validated in real-life value network settings.

To improve BITA at the operational level, the development of IT-based systems that support business processes should be derived from business requirements. Thus in step four, we focus on a user requirements elicitation process, which is the first process of software requirements engineering projects. We design and evaluate a user requirements elicitation process which is supported by the reference model. The applicability and usefulness of this artifact are evaluated in practice by conducting multiple case studies.

The empirical outcomes highlighted that the proposed reference model-based user requirements elicitation process is applicable in practice. Also, it has a clear structure, creates situational awareness across a value network, enhances idea generation among network actors, allows in-depth insights on user requirements, and facilitates co-development of business processes and their supporting IT-based systems. Therefore, we can conclude the proposed approach by kick-starting the learning process contributes to the BITA improvement process in a complex situation of a value network.