Many years ago, I had a chance to work on a tax project with one of the state governments in India. The client's project team showed an immense faith in the power of information technologies (IT) and how it could change things - for instance, the sordid corruption that plagues the Indian bureaucracy. That experience forever changed my perception of IT. I am a believer! Now it is up to people like me to measure what IT does.*
The global tech industry was estimated to be $ 3.2 trillion in 2019. As IT and business analytics become more integral to organizations, their effective management and use of emerges as a critical issue. My long term research agenda is focused on understanding how organizations derive value from these IT resources. I have published 9 journal articles and presented my research over 50 times at top tier conferences and at invited presentations. My research has been nominated for and won best paper awards and has been well cited.
My research interests are motivated by real world problems and questions arising from management of technology practice at firms. Digitization drives unprecedented growth, connection, and productivity gains. Yet, there is only an imperfect understanding of the value of key IT resources – IT labor (human capital) as well as IT capital (process and technology) or how the value of organizational investments towards these key resources is realized. I believe these questions are significant not only to the academia but also to practice.
I think I betray my Carnegie Mellon roots when I say that I am inspired by Herb Simon to "follow the problem," using interdisciplinary theories and techniques. That said, my research currently follows two broad themes that represent a rich and growing field in which new and old economic, behavioral, and organizational theories and frameworks can be tested and perfected:
IT Human Capital
Call it the wisdom of old age, but I wholeheartedly believe that human capital is the biggest asset of the knowledge economy. First, as more complex and strategic IT capabilities are increasingly being sourced across organizational and geographic boundaries, I examine the role of practical intelligence in delivering these capabilities. Second, the rapid pace of technological change necessitates a constant learning curve for IT workers, where not only the task but also the context of IT work is changing in fundamental ways; I am primarily interested in understanding mechanisms such as training and peer effects through which human capital is created and how these mechanisms realize productivity and organizational goals.
As IT changes the nature of work and the composition of the workforce, I bring in fresh perspectives to IT human capital research, such as the future of work, impact of peers on IT careers, and the nuanced discrimination issues in IT labor markets. My current and ongoing focus is on understanding opportunities for women in IT and assessing the future of IT work.
Business and Societal Value of IT and IT Processes
IT is a very, very fickle artifact. As countless firms have experienced, mere acquisition of IT may not lead to the riches that IT promises. No, the way to the manna is a bit more complicated, or so I would like to believe. The second strand of my research examines how firms can fructify returns from technology investments like e-commerce and RFID as well as reconciling the dichotomous goals of client satisfaction versus profitability in strategic IT outsourcing. From a managerial standpoint, my research shows that only by understanding the consequences of this adoption on all stakeholders can a firm realize the full potential of IT investments or IT processes. It also draws attention to the efficacy of formal control mechanisms in managing strategic outsourcing IT contracts from the perspective of vendors.
In addition to my research agenda studying women in IT, my ongoing and future research focus is on understanding the effects of social media on firm and individual outcomes, given the ubiquity and importance of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to individuals and businesses. My current focus is on analyzing the value of crowd funded platforms for entrepreneurship and on societal change enabled by social media platforms.
N. Langer, R.D. Gopal, and R. Bapna. 2020. Onward and Upward? An Empirical Investigation of Gender and Promotions in Information Technology Services. Information Systems Research, 31(2), pp. 383–398. NEW
W.G. Obenauer and N. Langer. 2019. Inclusion is not a Slam Dunk: A Study of Discrimination in Leadership within the Context of Athletics. The Leadership Quarterly, 30(6), 101334. NEW
T. Jain and N. Langer. 2019. Does Whom You Know Matter? Unraveling the Influence of Peers’ Network Attributes on Academic Performance. Economic Inquiry, 57(1), pp. 141–161.
N. Langer and D. Mani. 2018. Impact of Formal Controls on Client Satisfaction and Profitability in Strategic Outsourcing Contracts. Journal of Management Information Systems, 35(4), pp. 998–1030 (Lead article). Winner of the Lally Research Paper Award 2019.
A. Mehra, N. Langer, R. Bapna, R. Gopal. 2014. Estimating Returns to Training and Human Capital Investments for Information Technology Service Firms. MIS Quarterly, 38(3), pp. 757–771.
N. Langer, S.A. Slaughter, and T. Mukhopadhyay. 2014. Project Managers' Practical Intelligence and Project Performance in Software Offshore Outsourcing: A Field Study. Information Systems Research 25(2), pp. 364–384. Runner up for the Best Published Paper Award at Information Systems Research for 2014 at INFORMS 2015.
R. Bapna, N. Langer, A. Mehra, A. Gupta, and R.D. Gopal. 2013. Human Capital Investments and Employee Performance: An Analysis of IT Services Industry. Management Science, 59(3), pp. 641–658.
N. Langer, C. Forman, S. Kekre, and B. Sun. 2012. Ushering Buyers into Electronic Channels. Information Systems Research, 23(4), pp. 1212–1231.
N. Langer, C. Forman, S. Kekre, and A. Scheller-Wolf. 2007. Assessing the Impact of RFID on Return Center Logistics. INFORMS Journal on Applied Analytics, 37(6), pp. 68–82
Peer Reviewed Conference Proceedings
N. Langer, S. Khurana, and E. Vaast. Activating the Sisterhood: A Structural and Temporal Analysis of Sustained Connective Action in #MeTooIndia. Conditional acceptance for Proceedings of the Forty First International Conference on Information Systems. NEW
Y. Wang, N. Langer, and A. Gopal. 2019. Too Risky to Bid? Women in OLMs and STEM Competitive Environments. Proceedings of the Fortieth International Conference on Information Systems, Munich, Germany.
M. Wiesche, D. Joseph, M. Ahuja, M.B. Watson, N. Langer. 2019. The Future of the IT Workforce. Proceedings of the ACM SIGMIS Computers and People Research, Nashville, TN, USA.
N. Langer, D. Mani, and K. Srikanth. 2013. Client Satisfaction Versus Profitability: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Formal Controls in Strategic Outsourcing Contracts. Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth International Conference on Information Systems, Milan, Italy. Nominated for the Best Conference Paper Award. Also appears in Information Systems Outsourcing (2014 edition), published by Springer Berlin Heidelberg, pp. 67-88.
N. Langer, S.A. Slaughter and T. Mukhopadhyay. 2008. Project Managers' Skills and Project Success in IT Outsourcing. Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth International Conference on Information Systems, Paris, France.
More details to be found here.
*In case you have not noticed, I have cleverly included myself in the elite group of IS academia that researches the economics of IT.