As consumers, we have said goodbye to hailing taxi cabs in the pouring rain. We have stopped stressing about public transit schedules and delays. Some of us have even found alternative solutions to a costly ambulance ride.
Instead, we just get an Uber.
Ride-sharing platforms like Uber and Lyft are one of the biggest ways people participate in what is known as the “sharing economy,” through which individuals share goods, like homes and condos on Airbnb and VRBO, or services, like labor and freelance work on TaskRabbit and Upwork.
For many, participating in the sharing economy as a consumer is freeing. But how have the suppliers—those who own cars or homes—been affected in the last decade?
Jing Gong, assistant professor of Management Information Systems at the Fox School, sought out the answer.
Consumer or consumed?
Using Uber as an example, Gong could see two sides of the same coin. On one hand, the demand side, consumers who use Uber might be more willing to give up their cars in favor of the convenience of temporary ownership, what she called the “cannibalization effect.”
On the supply side, however, Gong could also see that providers may have an incentive as well. Drivers—or those desiring to be drivers—may actually invest in their cars in order to capitalize on the income available in the sharing economy.
To discover the answer, Gong and her co-authors—Brad Greenwood, associate professor of Information and Decision Sciences at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, and Yiping Song, associate professor of Marketing at Fudan University’s School of Management—investigated Uber’s entry into different cities in China. Using a unique dataset of new personal vehicle registrations between 2010 and 2015, Gong and her colleagues analyzed new car purchases compared to Uber’s introduction to the country starting in 2013.
Because Uber came to different Chinese cities at different times, the research team was able to use a statistical technique called difference in differences, which mimics a lab experiment, to compare groups classified as controlled or treated. As the platform rolled out, the team used variables in both geography and time to understand Uber’s effects compared to the control cities.
In the paper, “Uber Might Buy Me a Mercedes Benz: An Empirical Investigation of the Sharing Economy and Durable Goods Purchase,” the researchers found that both riders and drivers have become consumers.
“The consumption of Uber needs to be satisfied by more cars being available,” says Gong. “As more people are giving up on public transportation or car ownership, others are seeing the opportunity of becoming a driver, which in return calls for an increase in car sales and trade-ins.”
Entrepreneurs without red tape
The sharing economy has made way for entrepreneurs, sans the red tape.
Gong’s study found that Uber’s arrival to a city was correlated with an increase in new vehicle ownership—about eight percent on average. The researchers estimated that roughly 16 percent of new owners were purchasing their cars in order to become Uber drivers.
The effects were varied when the researchers analyzed key conditions. First, Uber had a stronger effect on the sale of smaller cars than larger cars, with owners placing a high premium on features like fuel efficiency. Second, women were less affected by Uber’s entry into a marketplace, but still experienced a significant increase in car ownership. Finally, young people were more significantly affected, given their higher likelihood to drive for ride-sharing platforms, change jobs, and have more volatile income.
Now, having a car or a home has allowed owners to see an opportunity for financial gain. For those who are unemployed or underemployed, ride-sharing has given them the tools and flexibility of a consistent income.
Effects from Detroit to D.C.
In this study, the researchers disprove a popular myth that Uber’s arrival has people fleeing car ownership. Knowing that buyers are now looking to purchase goods specifically for participating in the sharing economy, how should manufacturers react?
“In order for drivers to stay current while being cost-efficient, they are paying attention to the type of cars they are buying,” says Gong. “Whether it is for style or fuel economy, manufacturers are willing to market specific vehicles in order to draw in drivers.”
With Uber and other platforms, workers are bypassing the formalities of employment regulations. While lawmakers have highly regulated incumbents in the industries, like taxi companies and professional car services, startups have not had to contend with such high obstacles.
“Policymakers are having to reconsider whether this business model can sustain itself without intervention,” says Gong. She suggests lawmakers be thoughtful about reducing regulations on these established industry players to provide a level playing field.
A New Frontier
It is evident that platforms like Uber have changed the economic game faster than industries can keep up.
“The sharing economy is changing the landscape because it’s consumer to consumer,” says Gong. “The dynamics are different because the drivers are consumers of cars but the riders are also consumers of cars. With the manufacturers in the mix, there are more players.”
This research, the first of its kind to analyze the impact of the ridesharing economy on car owners, can provide insights to industries across the sharing economy. The introduction of Airbnb, for example, could encourage more homeownership for those looking to make money in new hot rental markets. Manufacturers of these goods will need to understand, build for, and market to these new customers.
Powered by new technologies and an entrepreneurial spirit, the sharing economy will continue to grow in both importance and prevalence. Yet, the question remains:
Is a new car—and gig—in your future?
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
Reprinted with permission from the Pennsylvania CPA Journal, a publication of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Blockchain is considered one of the most significant advances in record keeping since double-entry bookkeeping emerged in Italy in the 15th century. There may be differing opinions on the rate of adoption, but the view is widespread that blockchain has the potential to dramatically change the way business will be conducted. It is imperative that accounting educators expose students to this technology. This column offers strategies for introducing blockchain content into the accounting curriculum and helping ensure accounting education remains current for future CPAs.
What Is Blockchain?
A generally accepted definition of blockchain remains elusive, but typical characteristics include the following:
- A distributed database, meaning each party on the blockchain has access to the entire database and can verify all transactions without an intermediary
- Peer-to-peer transmission without the need for a central authority
- Complete transparency for all that are authorized to participate in the blockchain
- Permanent, immutable, and time-stamped transactions
- Computational logic, meaning transactions can be programmed using algorithms and rules that automatically generate transactions 
In simple terms, blockchain can be thought of as a shared database in real time that is continuously reconciled and all transactions are known by all authorized participants.
Often associated with the enabling infrastructure for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, blockchain can be used in a variety of industries, including banking, supply chain management, health care, and government. Blockchain can be used to store transaction data for anything of value, including titles, deeds, images, music, intellectual property, patient records, and even votes. 
Blockchain in the Curriculum
Blockchain concepts could be introduced in a variety of undergraduate and graduate accounting classes, including financial accounting, auditing, tax, and accounting information systems. Perhaps the simplest method for introducing blockchain is to assign an article on blockchain and then discuss as a class. Students in my graduate enterprise systems and information technology controls class had a robust online discussion after reading an assigned article on blockchain.
How blockchain solved the double-spending problem with digital currency would be an appropriate topic for a financial accounting class when covering double-entry accounting. Since blockchain has the ability to provide an immutable audit trail, examining its impact on the audit profession would fit well in an auditing class. In a federal taxation class, exploring the effect blockchain may have on transfer pricing would be relevant.
Or you may consider a research project on blockchain in an accounting information systems course that would allow students to explore an organization’s entire information system.
Demonstrating how blockchain works is another way to expose students to the technology. Anders Brownworth, a cryptocurrency expert and former blockchain lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, created a site (anders.com/blockchain/blockchain.html) to visually demonstrate how blockchain works. Students can see the security features in action and the process of mining (solving math problems using a cryptographic hash function).
Blockchain Training for Faculty
Faculty who gain expertise in blockchain will be able to go beyond “raising awareness” efforts. Sean Stein Smith, an assistant professor at Lehman College in New York, suggests accounting departments ask for faculty volunteers to act as early adopters. Course releases and stipends could serve as an effective incentive. After becoming experts, faculty can integrate blockchain projects and case studies into existing courses, or even develop a stand-alone special topics course.
The AICPA has an online certificate program titled “Blockchain and Beyond.” It will be available through the PICPA this spring, and provides about 15 hours of content focused on the concepts underlying blockchain technology and crypto-currencies, the risks and challenges of implementing blockchain, and exposure to digital ledgers and smart contracts. The Big 4 firms also offer a variety of online resources.
There are several reputable online resources available too, such as Coursera’s IBM Blockchain Foundation for Developers course, Edureka’s Blockchain Certification Training, and Udemy’s Basics of Blockchain, Ethereum, Bitcoin, and more. Other providers include Lynda.com, Khan Academy, Skillshare, Udacity, and Microsoft Virtual Academy. Several books have also been published on the technology.
Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize business processes and accounting practice. Educators cannot be left behind. Effectively introducing blockchain into the curriculum will ensure that accounting education maintains relevancy and prepares students for the future.
[1 ] Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani, “The Truth about Blockchain,” Harvard Business Review (January-February 2017).
 For an in-depth review of the potential implications of blockchain for CPAs, see “Blockchain and the Future of Accounting” by J.L. “John” Alarcon and Cory Ng in the winter 2018 edition of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal.
 Sean Stein Smith, “Integrating Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence into the Accounting Curriculum,” Journal of Accountancy (Nov. 14, 2017).
Everything around us seems to be getting smarter by the day—like smart refrigerators, driverless cars and robotic assistants. The “Internet of Things” (IoT), which is the internet-enabled network of everyday devices, has become prevalent in our lives, both inside and outside of the workplace. But with the rapid developments in recent technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), will these intelligent systems make human workforce redundant?
In other words: do we run the risk of being replaced by machines?
Paul Pavlou, Milton F. Stauffer Professor at the Fox School, argues that instead of replacing us, AI and humans will work side-by-side to address some of the bigger problems that neither can solve alone. Popularly referred to as “Augmented Intelligence,” this concept focuses on the assistive role of AI to improve human intelligence, rather than computers fully taking over our jobs.
Man vs. Machine
While computers have the ability to collect, aggregate and analyze an enormous amount of data, humans surpass machines when dealing with ambiguity, vagueness and incomplete information. Augmented Intelligence recognizes these complementary strengths and problem-solving capabilities of man and machine. “This collaborative interaction between human beings and computers arises when IoT collects the data and AI tools perform calculations based on criteria determined by humans,” says Pavlou, who is also the co-director of Temple’s university-wide Data Science Institute.
For example, GIANT Food Stores has introduced “Marty,” a robotic assistant, to the 172 stores in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. The robot roams the store, seeking to identify and eliminate spills from foods, products or liquids. Other examples can be found in the retail industry, where location-based technology devices and eye-tracking devices can help optimize the placement of merchandise. Meanwhile, salespeople equipped with mobile devices can leverage personalized information in real-time to sell products customized to individual shoppers.
A More Human IoT
In the future of work, managers can embrace both the fully-automated and Augmented Intelligence solutions. This choice depends on factors such as the nature of the task, expected performance and the costs and risks of autonomous IoT solutions that would operate without any human interventions. For example, automated manufacturing, predictive maintenance and security IoT solutions may—cautiously—be fully automated. But in industries like healthcare, cybersecurity and financial technology, human oversight will still be crucial.
For the time being, appropriate IoT designs should maintain a reasonable level of human control and oversight, says Pavlou. “This will give us adequate time to get comfortable with delegating control to machines.” In the distant future, machines alone might dominate decision-making in most applications. However, Pavlou says, “It will be a fairly long time until this happens. Until then, major intellectual advances will be made by humans and computers working together.”
Etsy—the online treasure chest for all things handmade—cultivates a community for those who have a knack for crafts like candle-making, knitwear, jewelry, or pottery. With over 1.7 million active vendors and close to 28.6 million active consumers, Etsy has established a peer-to-peer business platform that eliminates the middleman of corporate production. Yet this marketplace is more than just an e-commerce site; it is a community of like-minded individuals who appreciate handicrafts.
Within the site, buyers and sellers interact through a variety of IT-enabled features, like following and messaging shops, reviewing and favoriting products, and curating lists of products. Yet as sellers socialize by favoriting and promoting others’ products, are they redirecting potential customers away from their shops?
Professor Sunil Wattal and doctoral student Ermira Zifla of the Management Information Systems Department at the Fox School of Business investigate how social mingling affects e-commerce marketplaces in their paper, “Understanding IT-enabled Social Features in Online Peer-to-Peer Business for Cultural Goods.”
“What really fascinated us about this platform is that you have this community aspect, but you are also introducing this e-commerce agenda,” says Wattal.
“We thought that sellers may have mixed incentives to participate in the online community,” adds Zifla. “On the one hand, participating by following others and posting in forums may increase the visibility of sellers and subsequently increase their sales. On the other hand,” she continues, “following other sellers and sharing their products could negatively impact sales by diverting traffic away from their own page.”
While online communities have often been the subject of research, this is one of the first studies to link social indicators with economic performance. Using a dataset of nearly 2,000 sellers on Etsy, Wattal and Zifla examined their interactions in the online community and found how socializing with others can inherently affect a shop’s sales.
The researchers identified two categories of social e-features that promote new products and validate users:
1. Community participation features—such as following other sellers and joining teams—which facilitates socializing with other members, and
2. Content curation features—such as curating favorite lists, sharing products, and favoriting shops—which serve as tools for validation and tastemaking.
“When you are following other people on Etsy, those people are listed on your page as a form of validation, for what you like to buy as a consumer or what you can provide as a producer,” said Wattal.
The researchers hypothesized that community participation and content curation would increase a seller’s online status by increasing their number of followers, but would decrease a seller’s sales by diverting attention away from their own products.
Using a web crawler to collect public information, the pair obtained a dataset of 1,728 unique glass sculpture sellers—a randomly chosen subcategory of marketplace shops on Etsy—to compile a year’s worth of data, including sellers’ followers, lists, favorited products, and sales.
Analyzing the data proved the researchers’ hypotheses correct: a 10 percent increase in community participation, like following other sellers, and content curation, like favoriting products, resulted in a 3.89 percent decrease in sales. Yet this reduction was outweighed by the effects of cultivating a stronger social following. In other words, the same activities that led to a direct decrease in sales helped sellers attract more followers, and were associated with an indirect increase in sales by 4.64 percent—an overall net gain.
“IT-enabled features have benefits that supersede the negative,” says Wattal, “since exposure is what can ultimately lead you to be on an influential list or you can simply commercialize yourself to the point of high-status.”
Trends can come and go as quickly as a trendsetting blogger changes her mind. Yet in the realm of vintage trinkets and artisanal finds, relationships stay relevant.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
There are two types of neighbors in a social network: the ones you know directly, and the ones your friends know. Research has shown that direct peers have a significant influence on social networks, from joining Facebook to subscribing to Netflix. Yet indirect neighbors—those with whom you have a mutual friend, but do not interact directly—can also affect behaviors.
“People want to know what others think of them,” says Paul A. Pavlou, senior associate dean of research and professor of management information systems at the Fox School, “especially those in similar positions. In order not to lose influence, an individual would eventually make the same judgment and same decision as his peers.”
Pavlou, alongside co-researchers Bin Zhang of the University of Arizona and Ramayya Krishnan of Carnegie Mellon University, studied how direct and indirect peers influence groups by using Caller Ring Back Tones (CRBT) adoption in Asian cellphone markets, in their paper published in Information Systems Research last year. In analyzing 200 million calls from 1.4 million users, the researchers overcame statistical and computational challenges of the immense dataset by using subpopulations of 200 or 500 people, each group its own network of friends.
The researchers found that, in the larger group, indirect peer influence has a significant positive effect. In the case of CRBTs, a caller’s knowledge of her acquaintances’ use of ringback tones encourage her to be “on-trend” and thus adopt the same behavior. Yet in a smaller group, a caller has a greater desire for individuality, resulting in a decision not to adopt.
This study sheds more light on the complicated, large-scale networks that exist today. By understanding how peer influence works with both direct and indirect neighbors, businesses can learn the best strategies for things like product diffusion, content creation, and software adoption within social networks. “If businesses want to trigger higher adoption rates, then for smaller groups, they only need to focus on individuals with many direct connections,” says Pavlou. “While in for larger groups, they should not only focus on popular individuals but also those who have many common friends.”
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
To swipe or not to swipe?
Online dating has come a long way since the days of OKCupid in the early aughts. Today, phrases like “Tinder date” have become part of society’s lexicon, and we have stopped buying a stranger a drink in a bar and started double tapping an Instagram photo from home.
What is different today? Instead of logging into a dating site on a computer, romance seekers now have mobile apps at their fingertips.
JaeHwuen Jung, assistant professor of Management Information Systems (MIS) at the Fox School of Business, investigated the changing business behind online dating to learn why companies are spending more money on developing mobile applications instead of web platforms.
With apps like Tinder and Bumble, data scientists have a trove of unbiased data from which they can extract insights. “We are able to trace the actions of both parties,” says Jung. “We are able to see who is meeting who, what type of profiles they have, and [what] sort of messages they are exchanging.” This provides a unique opportunity for researchers to analyze data untainted from other collection processes, like simulated experiments.
Jung says that dating is only one of many examples of how our phones have completely transformed the way in which we behave—and companies have caught on.
In his paper, “Love Unshackled: Identifying the Effect of Mobile App Adoption in Online Dating,” which has been recently accepted for publication at MIS Quarterly, Jung used the online dating world to identify three drivers of why users, and subsequently companies, are moving from web to mobile: ubiquity, impulsiveness, and disinhibition.
- Ubiquity: the capacity of being everywhere, especially at the same time
- Impulsiveness: having the power to be swayed by emotional or involuntary impulses
- Disinhibition: a lack of restraint and disregard to social norms
With the ubiquity of smartphones, users are able to access mobile apps at any given time and location. Features like instant notifications, location sharing, and urgency factors, like Tinder’s daily allowance of five ‘Super Likes,’ have allowed users to stay constantly connected.
“We use our mobiles in the most personal locations, like our beds and bathrooms,” says Jung. For some, their phones may seem surgically attached to their hands.
With phones constantly by their sides, people more readily give in to their impulses, reacting to their moods or thoughts instinctively. Users can respond to such feelings—such as responding to a flirtatious message or liking a post—without a second thought.
“We found that [mobile platforms] change users’ daily lifestyle patterns,” says Jung. “Compared to those who use web platforms, mobile users have the luxury to log on earlier, later, and more frequently.”
When a sense of privacy is assumed, users feel more anonymous on mobile—and are thus less likely to follow social norms. This disinhibition creates higher levels of engagement on mobile devices, Jung found, as users were more likely to engage in actions that they were less likely to do outside of the app.
“We saw that replies and views of [profiles of people with] different races, education levels, and even height, became more apparent through mobile apps,” says Jung. “This has us questioning, can this [disinhibition] change viewpoints in real life?”
Like any business plan, owners try to keep customers coming back for more. These three key features—ubiquity, impulsiveness, and disinhibition—help companies keep users online every time they unlock their phones. With the convenience provided by apps, dating has become more successful for users and has benefited companies as well.
“If people leave happy,” Jung says, “they will bring more new customers [to the app.]”
With the surge of app monetization, developers are able to make 55% of their mobile revenue through video ads, display ads, and native ads, according to Business Insider. Mobile apps have become a win-win situation as more people choose to scroll on the go.
Jung’s paper is the first of its kind to examine the causal impact of companies’ mobile channels in addition to their web presence. What can we say? All’s fair in love, war, and big data.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
For the second time in a row, another successful alumnus of the Fox School, Kevin Hong, PhD ’14, won the prestigious 2018 Early Career Award by the Association for Information Systems. This award recognizes individuals in the early stages of their careers who have already made outstanding research, teaching and service contributions to the field of information systems. Last year Gordon Burtch, PhD ’13, was awarded this honor.
Hong is an associate professor of information systems, director of the IS PhD program, and co-director of the digital society initiative at the W. P. Carey School of Business of Arizona State University. “I feel really honored and lucky to have won this award,” Hong says. “I attribute who I am as a researcher today to my experiences and associations at the Fox School.”
We spoke with Hong to learn more about his journey.
Who were your mentors at the Fox School?
A lot of people at Fox have inspired me and taught me not just be a better researcher, but also a better person. Paul Pavlou was my advisor and mentor through the years. I learned so much from him, including how to write and publish papers.
If Dr. Pavlou is my research mentor, I’d say David Schuff is my teaching mentor. I watch all his videos and learn how to engage students while teaching. I also get ideas and examples to share with the students in the analytics class from him.
How did the Fox PhD program support you in achieving your degree?
The rigorous curriculum and training at Fox have helped me a lot. During the time I was a PhD student, Fox had recruited many world-class faculty members who were also high profile researchers from prestigious universities. They had solid training and the required expertise to teach the students state-of-the-art methodologies which I still use today.
What are some of the current research projects you’re working on?
My primary stream of research has been studying how to design and evaluate the efficiency of digital platforms. I also plan on taking a sabbatical next year to explore new technologies like artificial intelligence, and how humans and AI can collaborate better to develop newer streams of research.
What is your advice to current and prospective Fox PhD students?
What’s most important to be successful is to take initiative. Don’t merely do what the advisors ask you to do. Try to start your research early on. Discuss those ideas with your advisors and lead those projects. The environment created for research at Fox is truly amazing and you should take advantage of it, perform and deliver. For a doctoral student, the culture here teaches you to put research before everything and truly nurtures you to succeed in your academic career.
Read more about the previous Fox alumnus to win this award.
Learn more about Fox School Research.
Do you feel like you’re always thinking in 140 characters?
Microblogging platforms have skyrocketed in popularity in the last decade. As of August 2018, Twitter had over 335 million active monthly users, while Weibo, the Chinese social media giant, had over 431 million users. What makes these platforms so enticing to billions of people?
Xue Bai, associate professor with dual appointments in the Departments of Marketing and Supply Chain Management and Management Information Systems, investigated why these short-form social media platforms can be so addictive, together with researchers from Renmin University and Tsinghua University, in her recently published paper.
Bai and her colleagues analyzed the habits, uses and desires of 520 microblogging users. They found that users often used the platform for three distinction purposes: communication, information gathering and entertainment. Then, the researchers took the study deeper by distinguishing the levels of gratification, or the reasons why users feel satisfied when using the platform. Bai classified gratification into three categories: when people are satisfied due to the content they consume or share, the process of using the platform and the social needs they look to fulfill.
“Before, the commonly accepted understanding was that use leads to addiction,” says Bai. “But it turns out in our study, it is how you use it and how you feel from the use of it that leads to addiction.” For example, Person A might use Twitter more than Person B, but if Person B feels more satisfied when using it due to her particular purpose, she may be more likely to become addicted, regardless of time spent on the platform.
The theory behind the study, called “uses and gratifications,” is a common approach to analyzing mass media. However, by distinguishing between the “uses” and “gratifications,” Bai and her colleagues extended the theory to study the causal relations between use, gratification and addiction, opening up new possibilities for media research.
The researchers hypothesized that users with higher gratification levels have a great possibility of becoming addicted. “This constant feeling [of satisfaction] leads to psychological reinforcement and then eventually to dependence,” says Bai. The researchers then linked gratification to four dimensions of addiction—diminished impulse control, loneliness or depression, social comfort and distraction—to determine the path from use to gratification to addiction tendency.
The study found that the different types of purposes led to varying levels of gratification. “For example, if a user is using the microblogging platform mostly for information, information leads to content gratification and social gratification,” says Bai. Using microblogging for entertainment purposes led to satisfaction with social interactions and their experience of the process. The purpose for social communication, surprisingly, yields the least satisfaction among the three types of use.
“Social gratification, however, was the most impactful to addiction,” says Bai. Users who were satisfied from the social aspects of the platforms were more susceptible to loneliness, diminished impulse control and distraction, and were the most likely to be addicted. “Users who felt satisfied with content were the least likely to become addicted,” said Bai.
With the pervasiveness of microblogging tools, these insights are practically important to both consumers and platform designers. Bai hopes her research will help address the issue of social media addiction by understanding more about how these tendencies are formed. “We hope this will guide platform designers to better construct microblogging platforms to enhance the positive effects and avoid the negative impacts,” says Bai. “The research can inform the design of a platform to satisfy users’ needs at an optimal level, not to the point of being addicted.” For example, companies could use this research to emphasize content gratification, which has the least impact on addiction tendency.
Certainly, microblogging will not be going away, says Bai. “It is changing the way people, especially teenagers, communicate with each other and socially interact with the rest of the world.”
Reprinted with permission from the Pennsylvania CPA Journal, a publication of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
CPAs must be aware of emerging technologies that have the potential to disrupt their profession. Blockchain technology is one of them. Blockchain streamlines trans-action accounting and enables real-time reporting and real-time audit. We are still at the early days of the technology, but considering the potential impact on the profession, CPAs need to understand what this new technology will bring.
Blockchain technology has been in the headlines of several publications and a hot topic at conferences. Many see in it a platform that has the potential to disrupt a vast array of industries. Still, there is tremendous confusion about the technology and how it is supposed to replace existing technologies. Generally, blockchain consists of a distributed ledger system that operates on a consensus basis, empowering peer-to-peer networks with a more secure and efficient way to transact, record, and analyze transactions in real time. This feature focuses on the status of the technology and its potential implications for our profession.
What Is Blockchain?
First known as the distributed ledger system behind the bitcoin digital currency, blockchain technology has evolved rapidly with the proliferation of competing products (Ethereum, Ripple, Digital Asset, among others). It is now considered much more than a digital currency infrastructure. According to technology research firm Gartner, there are more than 70 blockchain platforms on the market and at various stages of maturity.1
Blockchain is a type of highly secure, distributed ledger system accessible via a public or private network, where each server on the network has a copy of the system. Data is replicated among all servers on the network in real time and is encrypted. Each time data is recorded (from an authorized user, device, or machine connected to the system), it is validated by a consensus mechanism, time stamped, and recorded on a block – sort of a file of data, like a ledger page. To ensure that data is not tampered with, each block is “attached” or linked to the previous block by a cryptographic algorithm called a hash. Blockchain draws its name from this concept of chronological series of “hashed” blocks of safeguarded data that form a chain. The system is highly secure. To alter the data, hackers would face a much higher level of complexity due to the consensus and hashing algorithms, but also because a hack would have to attack all the servers at the same time.2
Here are some of the benefits of blockchain:
- Authentication of transactions or exchanges of information
- Peer-to-peer transactions or exchanges of information without an intermediary or clearinghouse
- Automated and highly secure record keeping
- Smart contracts: automated contract execution and processing when conditions are met, based on algorithms
- Real-time audit capabilities
- Registry and tracking of the ownership of assets
Conflicting Views on Blockchain
Blockchain tends to generate two conflicting views: enthusiasm and skepticism. As is often the case, there is likely some truth in both positions. Large-scale adoption of the technology might be a matter of how quickly the concerns raised by skeptics will be addressed by the promoters.
Blockchain enthusiasts believe that the technology will become the infrastructure of choice for managing exchanges of value moving forward, just as the Internet provided the infrastructure for managing exchanges of information.3 They say it will profoundly change the way transactions are processed, recorded, and analyzed. They believe that blockchain technology is moving fast (faster than we might imagine), and the time to learn and experiment with the technology is now.
For the skeptics, the technology seems too good to be true, and that currently it is not trusted by users or regulators. They caution that it is not mature, not scalable enough, and lacks standards. They add that there is significant risk if credentials are compromised or stolen, and there are concerns it might be vulnerable to programming errors or system weaknesses (such as the vulnerabilities behind the scandal of the popular bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, in 2014).4 They argue that there are insufficient controls in place to ensure that the system is functioning as intended.
The technology seems to be advancing quickly to address the concerns, and some new consortia have emerged (including Hyperledger, R3, Hashed Health) to accelerate the definition of industry standards and foster collaboration. New approaches to security and privacy controls for the technology also are starting to emerge.5
How Real Is It?
Business and technology leaders across multiple sectors of the economy are envisioning potential applications of the technology in many areas. Financial services firms have started to deploy the technology, mainly in experimental projects. The small steps are testing the technology in selected areas, such as identity management, cross-border payments, and currency exchange transactions. The number of use cases has increased significantly over the past two years, not only in the financial services sector, but also in utilities, manufacturing, supply chain, health care, telecommunications, and government. Use cases (“proof of concept” projects) range from global trade and payments to secure document and records management (such as voting records, mortgage loan records and documents, medical records, intellectual property, and so on) or digital asset management (including stocks, bonds, derivatives).
In a recent report, Gartner says blockchain is at an early stage of its development, with highly fragmented solutions and a lack of industry consensus on the functional and technical scope of the technology.6 Gartner has identified what it thinks will be characteristic of blockchain platforms:
- A distributed ledger that serves as an authoritative record of significant events (which can include monetary transactions, but not solely limited to that use case)
- A (theoretically) immutable, tamper-proof, uncensorable record
- Cryptographic algorithms and consensus protocols ensuring data consistency
- An ability to record additional state information beyond recording transaction data
- Programmability, from simple scripts to more powerful programs such as “smart contracts” that can generate transactions
- Trust in a third party or centralized entity for certain functions, such as identity management or access control to a closed, private network
Blockchain aims to provide a digital infrastructure that will enable users to create and exchange value (not just money) across global peer-to-peer networks. The full disruptive potential of blockchain will come from its combination with other technologies, such as mobile computing, the Internet of things, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Blockchain will likely be part of the infrastructure that will empower these technologies as they come together in the new digital economy. This means that interoperability and standards will play a critical role for the technology to achieve its potential.
Potential Implications for CPAs
Double-entry accounting has been the basis for financial reporting for businesses throughout the world since the middle ages. However, in order to trust accounting records, costly reconciliations, confirmations, verifications, and audit procedures must be performed by the firm and its counterparties, as well as by auditors. Blockchain facilitates the innovation of a triple-entry accounting system; a system whereby all transactions are cryptographically sealed by a third entry and reside in a shared ledger. The third entry serves as a digitally signed receipt for the parties involved in the transaction, which can be verified without the need for a central certifying authority or a clearinghouse.
The implications of blockchain are potentially transformative, affecting CPAs in accounting, audit, tax, and advisory services. Big Four and large professional services firms already recognize the importance of blockchain. Deloitte, for example, recently announced a blockchain team of 800 professionals in 20 countries to develop applications in banking, cross-border payments, trade, and finance.7 PwC notes that blockchain may “structurally alter shared practices between customers, competitors, and suppliers.”8 For example, blockchain can improve the accuracy and efficiency of the billing and payment process, potentially minimizing disputes that arise from errors or missing invoices. Rather than sending a traditional invoice to a customer, Firm A shares invoices directly with the accounts payable department of Firm B, in real time, on a multiparty digital ledger.9 With the use of smart contract technology, Firm B could automatically pay the invoice after the computer confirms receipt of goods and checks for sufficient funds in the bank account.
Blockchain may extend far beyond accounts receivables and payables. In a recent article,10 Jun Dai and Miklos A. Vasarhelyi discuss how blockchain, coupled with smart-contract technology, could be used to automatically initiate performance-based compensation to managers based on predefined criteria. They also discuss how blockchain could be used to automate revenue recognition based on algorithms and data from shipping activities recorded in the blockchain ledger system.
Blockchain transactions are time-stamped and immutable, so auditors would benefit from traceable trails and the automatic authentication of transactions. Deloitte notes that the standardization created by blockchain could allow auditors to verify vast numbers of transactions underlying the financial statements automatically.11 For example, if complete data on inventory activity is recorded in a blockchain ledger system, auditors could determine the inventory balance remotely and in real time. As a result, the audit would evolve significantly, allowing auditors to spend more time on value-added insights, such as predictive analytics, internal control improvements, and other areas requiring human judgment and complex problem-solving.
Blockchain-based automated audits would also allow financial statement users to access information more quickly, more efficiently, and at the appropriate level of detail. Company management and auditors, for instance, may need full access to the data in the distributed ledger system, while investors may only need access to high-level financial summary information and key financial metrics such as revenue growth, profitability, and earnings per share.
Channing Flynn, a global technology leader at EY, speculates on the disruptive implications for corporate taxpayers, tax authorities, and tax practitioners – assuming the hurdles to widespread adoption are overcome.12 For example, transactions recorded in a real-time blockchain system would facilitate automatic tax reporting, and government tax authorities could streamline or accelerate certain tax computations and payments. As a result, Flynn can see certain tasks of tax advisers shifting from tax compliance administration to tax-knowledgeable blockchain systems expertise.
CPAs practicing in advisory services also would be affected. In the same way that CPAs have been assisting clients with accounting system implementations and system control audits, CPAs are likely to be involved in or solicited for advice on blockchain systems adoption, implementation, and integration. There will be growing demand for cybersecurity and tech-based audit expertise around blockchain, as well as blockchain system implementation. CPAs are well positioned to play a role in these areas.
What You Should Do
CPAs in practice and industry should become knowledgeable about blockchain technology and how it might affect their firm or business, as well as the CPA profession in general. Significant developments are expected in the near feature, and it is critical that CPAs keep up to date and prepare for potential disruptions. This includes incorporating blockchain in your strategic planning process and engaging in conversations with your technology vendors and partners about their own plans regarding the technology. Blockchain is in the early stages of implementation, but some professional services firms are already leading the way in collaborating with the tech industry to realize its benefits. EY, for example, recently announced the launch of EY Ops Chain, a set of applications and services to help firms leverage blockchain technology to enhance operations and drive growth.13 KPMG LLP and Microsoft announced a partnership to create a series of innovation workspaces and other initiatives dedicated to developing use cases and applications of blockchain technology.14
For CPAs looking for opportunities to learn more about blockchain, the PICPA plans to enhance its course offerings. Also, several other organizations offer training programs and online resources, such as O’Reilly Media’s Safari (CPAs who hold a CITP credential and members of the AICPA Information Management and Technology Assurance section have unlimited access to this learning platform), Lynda.com, Edureka, Udemy, or Microsoft Virtual Academy. For example, Edureka offers an online certification training program for a fee. These instructor-led classes provide case studies and access to a platform that uses programming language to setup a private blockchain environment. Microsoft Virtual Academy, on the other hand, provides free online courses on a variety of topics, including distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and decentralized applications.
Blockchain may be in its infancy, but CPAs should become knowledgeable about it and its disruptive potential for the profession. The automation, high degree of security, and instant verification features of blockchain technology are expected to transform the way transactions are executed, recorded, authenticated, disseminated, and analyzed. Should the full potential of blockchain be realized, CPAs will likely need to transition from compliance and verification activities to providing value-added services that require more human judgment, analysis, and critical thinking.
1 Gartner Research Note, “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017: Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers,” March 21, 2017.
2 For more on blockchain and how it works, check out the EY video at www.ey.com/gl/en/services/assurance/ey-reporting-blockchain-and-the-future-of-audit or read “Building Blocks: How Financial Services Can Create Trust in Blockchain,” PwC, May 2017. www.pwc.com/us/en/financial-services/publications/financial-services-blockchain-trust.html
3 Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott, “How Blockchain Will Change Organizations,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2017, Vol. 58., No. 2.
4 Robert McMillan, “The Inside Story of Mt. Gox, Bitcoin’s $460 Million Disaster,” Wired, March 3, 2014; P.H. Schumpeter, “Bitcoin’s Woes – Mt Gone,” The Economist, Feb. 25, 2014.
5 Robert E. Samuel, “A Layered Architectural Approach to Understanding Distributed Cryptographic Ledgers,” Issues in Information Systems, 17.4 (2016); A. Michael Smith, “Creating Assurance in Blockchain,” ISACA Journal, Vol. 2, 2017.
6 Gartner Research Note, “The Evolving Landscape of Blockchain Technology Platforms,” March 2, 2017.
7 “Deloitte Launches Blockchain Lab in New York, Increasing Focus on Key Technology in ‘Make-or-Break’ Year,” Deloitte press release, Jan. 12, 2017. www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/press-releases/deloitte-launches-blockchain-lab-in-new-york.html
8 “PwC, 2016. “What’s Next for Blockchain in 2016?” Fintech Q&A, a publication of PwC’s Financial Services Institute, January 2016. www.pwc.com/us/en/financial-services/publications/viewpoints/assets/pwc-qa-whats-next-for-blockchain.pdf
9 Cesar Bacani, “Blockchain Will Revolutionise the Profession,” Accounting and Business, May 1, 2017. www.accaglobal.com/us/en/member/member/accounting-business/2017/05/in-focus/cb-may17.html
10Jun Dai and Miklos A. Vasarhelyi, “Towards Blockchain-Based Accounting and Assurance,” Journal of Information Systems, 2017 (In Press). https://doi.org/10.2308/isys-51804
11 “Blockchain Technology: A Game-Changer in Accounting?” Deloitte, March 2016. www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/de/Documents/Innovation/Blockchain_A%20game-changer%20in%20accounting.pdf
12 Channing Flynn, “Preparing for Digital Taxation in a Blockchain World,” International Tax, Bloomberg BNA. Nov. 28, 2016. www.bna.com/preparing-digital-taxation-n73014447764
13 “EY Infuses Blockchain into Enterprise and Across Industries with Launch of EY Ops Chain,” EY press release, April 26, 2017. www.ey.com/gl/en/newsroom/news-releases/news-ey-infuses-blockchain-into-enterprises-and-across-industries-with-launch-of-ey-ops-chain
14 “KPMG and Microsoft Announce New ‘Blockchain Nodes,’” KPMG press release, Feb. 15, 2017. https://home.kpmg.com/us/en/home/media/press-releases/2017/02/kpmg-and-microsoft-announce-new-blockchain-nodes.htm
L. “John” Alarcon, CPA, CGMA, CITP, is chief financial officer for LoanLogics Inc. in Feasterville-Trevose and is a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Cory Ng, CPA, DBA, CGMA, is an assistant professor of instruction in accounting at the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia and a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
McIntyre, speaking to more than 1,200 Fox School undergraduate and graduate students earning degrees, as well as an arena packed with friends and families, was discussing how important it is for those who are successful to give back.
This was one of the many lessons offered to the Class of 2018 by McIntyre, the chairman of the Mid-Atlantic region for international insurance brokerage and risk management firm Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., and a member of Temple’s Board of Trustees.
He also discussed the importance of finding the right work-life balance, and spending time with family while simultaneously achieving professional goals. The Temple alumnus referred to his own family as an “Owl Family”—his wife and one of his daughters also graduated from Temple.
McIntyre talked about the importance of taking risks. “When you take risks, you reach your full potential,” he said, nodding to the innovative spirit of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. And he emphasized that taking risks makes you a better, stronger leader.
The student speaker was Kasey Brown, BBA ’18, a Management Information Systems major and member of the Association for Information Systems, a student professional organization.
“Like many of you,” said Brown about her time at the Fox School, “I discovered I had a deep desire to use the power of business to serve the poor. Here at Fox, I found my own definition of greatness right there, at the intersection of business and service. Right in the sweet spot between skill and kindness, hard work and charity.”
Brown’s next move will be to Wisconsin, where she will work as a Catholic missionary.
“Though your journey toward greatness may be confusing and challenging and hard to explain, one thing I know for sure is that, thanks to the Fox School of Business, you have everything you need to reach it,” Brown said. “You are an exceptional group of people, with endless talent, and an unquenchable thirst for helping others—and you’ve already changed the world.”
The Fox School of Business‘ Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD) has a commencement tradition. Toward the end of every semester, graduating students, when they secure a post-graduation job, ring a bell and publicly announce who their soon-to-be employer is and what their new position will be.
It’s a great way to declare, “I did it! And this is what I’m doing next!”
Temple University’s commencement, which will include hundreds of undergraduate students receiving BBA’s from the Fox School, is this week. So we asked several members of the Class of 2018 to share with us their new jobs and some inspiring stories about their time at Fox and Temple.
Kasey Brown, BBA ’18
Major: Management Information Systems
SPO: Association for Information Systems
New Job: Summer staff missionary, Catholic Youth Expeditions
New Uplifting Experiences: “First and foremost, I’m excited to grow in my Catholic faith. Temple gave me a beautiful opportunity to discover this faith, and I feel so blessed to work for an organization that allows me to grow and discover even more. Secondly, I have always had a special place in my heart for high school students and young adults. I remember what a difficult time of life it can be, and I look forward to being with them and help them in any way I can. In addition, working with Catholic Youth Expeditions means getting to learn more about how to serve the poor and how to love others—and there’s nothing more important to me.”
Helping Others: “Temple and Fox gave me the opportunity to hone my skills—not only in business, but also in communication, time management, leadership, crisis management, critical thinking, and teamwork. More importantly, Temple and Fox helped me discover the reason why I wanted to do business: to serve others. I know that in whatever job I do, it’ll never be just a job. It will be an opportunity to use my skills to help others and give back all I’ve been given here.”
William Clark, BBA ’18
New Job: Financial analyst, Revint Solutions
Perfect Launching Pad: “As I progressed through my lower-level BBA core classes, I realized I had a passion for analyzing underlying financial data. I have been a math and science guy as early as the second grade, so pursuing a career centered around financial analysis seemed like a natural fit. A financial analyst position is the perfect launching pad for a long, successful career in corporate finance.”
Love at First Sight: “I fell in love with Fox from the moment I attended my first course. I had the privilege of being taught by some of the best professors in academia, within a modern building full of the latest finance-based technology. The Capital Markets Room was one of my favorite places at Fox, as I was able to hone my skills in Bloomberg, FactSet, and VBA programming, among other things. I was able to attain valuable knowledge that allowed me to separate myself from the crowd.”
Alexa Ann Gerenza, BBA ’18
SPO: American Marketing Association
New Job: Group ticket sales associate and service coordinator, New York Yankees
A Lifelong Fan’s Dream Job: “I’ve been a Yankees fan my entire life and to now have a job that always seemed so unrealistic it’s still hard to believe. Moving to NYC and having my office at the stadium and my work schedule based around game days, is less typical, yet so very exciting. This is an entirely new lifestyle than one I expected to have post-grad, but I’m beyond excited for the journey ahead.”
Finding Confidence (and Forever Friends!): “The American Marketing Association has given me my forever friends and motivated me to work harder in everything I do. It has given me more opportunities than I ever imagined, including two trips to the AMA International Collegiate Conference in New Orleans, leading Temple’s chapter as vice president to success as a top five chapter, touring the Facebook office in NYC, and competing in an eBay sponsored case competition. Without the lessons learned and the experiences gained, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to send the initial LinkedIn connection to the Yankees and jump on the first phone call, which ultimately led to the position.”
Kyshon Johnson, BBA ’18
Major: International Business
New Job: Business Leadership program/Global sales associate, LinkedIn
Linking Up with LinkedIn: “LinkedIn is my dream company. I was able to tour the San Francisco office in 2016 and made a promise to myself I’d work there. I felt the company and culture aligned perfectly with my passions and life purpose. Initially, I applied for a summer internship and was rejected. I used that experience as motivation and an opportunity to improve my professionalism. I interned at Comcast and gained industry experience before applying for my full-time role. I am confident LinkedIn and the Business Leadership program will groom and mold me into a successful business woman.”
The Fox School Network: “I am thankful for the resources and support that Fox and Temple have provided during my undergraduate experience. Fox has a strong alumni network filled with professionals throughout the world. I utilized the alumni network to connect with Owls within the technology industry. I was able to meet with individuals that work at Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. They were all enthusiastic to assist me in landing a role at their companies. This professional foundation allowed me to explore career options and connect with amazing individuals.”
Katherine Taraschi, BBA ’18
New Job: Owner, O bag (King of Prussia Mall)
An Italian Vacation Inspires a Career: “O bag is an Italian company that creates interchangeable bags and accessories that customers can build in the store. It’s a store my friends and I were completely obsessed with when we visited Italy last spring. We visited six different locations all over Italy and one in Budapest. O bag King of Prussia will be located on the first floor of the Plaza between Lord and Taylor and Nordstrom.”
Benefits of a Real-World Curriculum: “I love that the professors at Fox all have real-world experience. Hearing different situations that they’ve encountered embedded in course topics gave a different perspective to the lessons—and definitely helped prepare me for my new position as a business owner.”
Lindsey Thompson, BBA ’18
Major: Human Resource Management
SPO: Net Impact; Society for Human Resource Management
New Job: Compensation analyst, Day & Zimmermann
A Passion for Philly… and Data: “I’m so excited to continue to live in my favorite city (Philadelphia), work with coworkers I have formed connections with during my internship at Day & Zimmermann, and to dive into the details of data in a field I’m passionate about.”
Involvement Pays Off: “The professors in Fox’s HR department, as well as other schools throughout the university, are some of the kindest and most knowledgeable people I’ve met. I can’t thank them enough for passing on their extensive industry knowledge, their warm and understanding natures, for making me think, and for serving as mentors. My leadership position with Net Impact and my role as a Teaching Assistant taught me the value of detail orientation, time management, effective communication, and remaining open-minded. I would suggest to any undergrad to get involved outside of class, because it has really added to my experience here at Temple!”
Ian Usher, BBA ’18
Major: Management Information System
SPO: Association for Information Systems
New Job: Media-Tech associate, NBC Universal
Becoming a Tech Leader: “I’m incredibly excited to start working for NBC Universal. While working for NBCU last summer, I discovered the company has a wonderful culture where I feel engaged and valued, even as a young employee. During that time, I became good friends with other interns, and it will be wonderful to continue to grow those relationships. The Media-Tech Associate program is a very demanding program, but it’s designed to give us the skills necessary to become future technology leaders.”
A Professional Journey Began at Fox: “Throughout my career at Fox, I was pushed to think logically, clearly, and critically to solve many real business problems. I was fortunate to work on projects with real companies, from startups like PoundCake to major organizations like CHOP. Completing these projects and learning how to interact with professionals helped me excel during my internship and prepared me for the workplace more effectively than if my classes were purely lecture-based. I was a poor writer before coming to Temple, and Fox classes like Business Communications have helped me improve my writing skills dramatically. That’s been critical thus far in my professional journey.”
Learn more about the Center for Student Professional Development.
Last month, a team of four Fox School juniors took a road trip to the University of Missouri-St. Louis to compete in the 2018 International Business Case Competition. They placed second and returned to Temple with a cash prize of $500.
The Fox School team—consisting of students Tyler Ascione, Sonali Patel, Nathan Pham, and Tarun Sangari—was one of the 12 teams to participate in the live competition sponsored by Nidec Motor Corporation and judged by business leaders from the St. Louis area. The challenge focused on developing strategies for the Japanese company to position, sell, and introduce its new FORECYTE sensors used for monitoring the vibrations and temperature of motors. The team was given the case Friday evening, and had to develop strategies and provide two rounds of presentations to the judges the next day. It was a hectic 24 hours.
“We had to figure out how to consolidate our ideas and put together a cohesive PowerPoint deck within the 24-hour time limit,” the team said. “In the first four hours, we individually researched and tried to get a holistic understanding of Nidec’s business model and the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ industry. The next six hours, we wrote our ideas on a blackboard and deliberated our strategy. After dinner, we were all extremely fatigued, and did not have a single slide ready. However, at around midnight, we found a second wind. We began motivating each other, and our energy showed through the slides.”
The team ultimately developed a prize-winning recommendation for Nidec.
“Our solution was multi-faceted,” the team said. “First, we recommended they license out its new sensor technology to MROs (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). Then, for the next five years, we recommended they collect and analyze the data aggregated from those MROs and OEMs. Once the firm had a sufficient level of data, we suggested opening up a new line of revenue: providing insights to OEM and MRO clients. These insights would give the firms a better way to manage their human capital and assess business needs. To maintain security, we considered a distributed ledger technology, providing a way to record digital interactions that are highly resistant to outages.”
4 Most Valuable Lessons Learned
1. “The greatest lesson I learned was to accurately assess and portray different qualitative options with a quantitative model. I had struggled with recommending businesses to pursue different strategies, but I have since gained the tools to quantify the strength of one strategy over another.” – Tyler Ascione, Finance and Management Information Systems double major
2. “Participating in my first case, the greatest lesson I learned is how important it is to decide on a strategy that everyone agrees on and be able to present. It is important to ensure the strategy is a success by conducting a lot of research and having data. It took us a lot of effort to put together the case. However, at the end of the day we all worked as a team and had fun!” – Sonali Patel, Finance major
3. “My lesson was the power of teamwork and team chemistry. We were given a tough case with limited data about a new product from the company. It took us 10 hours to come up with an outline and a general strategy. By then, we were all very tired. But once we came together, each of us tried to motivate each other by talking and even joking around. It seemed trivial but some late-night laughs helped a lot in keeping us up and finishing the presentation. Because we liked each other and understood unique strengths of each team member, we were able to overcome difficult challenges and have a lot of fun along the way.” – Nathan Pham, Management Information Systems major, Finance minor
4. “The greatest lesson I learned from the case was how important it is to tell a story with your numbers. While having a ton of great data is very helpful to support your argument, having the ability to analyze that data and present it in an interesting manner is far more important than anything else.” – Tarun Sangari, Finance and Accounting double major
Learn more about the Fox School’s undergraduate programs.
The Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management faculty continue to be active, innovative, and impactful in the research community.
Anthony Di Benedetto published papers in Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Global Scholars of Marketing Science, and European Journal of Innovation Management.
Angelika Dimoka published a paper in Journal of Business Research. Dimoka is the director of the Neural Decision Making Center. She also has grants from Office of Inspector General—USPS and National Science Foundation—Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences.
Nathan Fong published papers in Marketing Science, Journal of Interactive Marketing, and Management Science.
Subohda Kumar published papers in Production and Operations Management, Information Systems Research, and Information Systems and Operational Research. Kumar received a Best Paper Nomination at the INFORMS Conference on Information Systems and Technology, and another for INFORMS eBusiness Best Paper Award.
Xueming Luo published papers in Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Journal of Consumer Psychology, and Personality and Individual Differences. Luo is the director of the Global Center for Big Data and Mobile Analytics and is serving as the Conference Chair of the 40th Annual INFORMS ISMS Marketing Science Conference. The American Marketing Association ranked Luo as 15th among all authors in the world for the 2008-2017 period in the top two premier American Marketing Association Journals and 21st among all authors in the world for the top four premier marketing discipline journals.
Maureen Morrin published a paper in Journal of Retailing and is publishing a book chapter in Brand Touch Points. She is the Director of the Consumer Sensory Innovation Lab. Morrin received a grant from the Center for Sensory Sciences and Innovation at Rutgers University. Morrin was selected as a Doctoral Consortium Faculty Research Fellow for the Association of Consumer Research conference and received an Outstanding Reviewer Award from the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.
Susan Mudambi published a book chapter in B-to-B Marketnfuhrang: Grundlagen, Konzepte und Best Practices [B-to-B Brand Management: Fundamentals, Concepts, and Best Practices].
Crystal Reeck published a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and has a book chapter accepted in Handbook of Process Tracing Methods in Decision Making. Reeck has grants from Temple Brain Research Initiative, Scientific Research Network on Decision Neuroscience and Aging, National Science Foundation—Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, and Environmental Defense Fund.
Ed Rosenthal published a paper in Omega (United Kingdom).
Joydeep Srivastava published a paper in Journal of Experimental Psychology.
Vinod Venkatraman published papers in Developmental Review and Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. Venkatraman also has a book chapter accepted in Handbook of Process Tracing Methods in Decision Making. He has grants from Office of Inspector General—USPS, Temple University Office of the Vice President for Research, and Temple Center for International Business Education and Research.
Howard Weiss published a paper in Omega (United Kingdom).
Learn more about the Fox School’s Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management.
Angelika Dimoka’s job is to get inside your head.
As the director of the Center for Neural Decision Making at the Fox School of Business, Dimoka finds how you make the choices you do—and she does not need to ask you.
Instead, she looks to the human body for answers.
A trained biomedical engineer and neuroscientist, Dimoka came to the Fox School in 2008 to study how people make decisions. From air traffic controllers to victims of traumatic brain injuries to average consumers, Dimoka and her colleagues investigate—and predict—our everyday choices.
Getting inside your head
In 2008, Dimoka established the Center for Neural Decision Making, the first neuroscience center located within a business school, and currently the largest such center in the country.
“[The Center’s goal] is to provide a more objective understanding of the driving forces of a subject’s decision making,” says Dimoka, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Marketing. In the past, researchers have had to rely on self-reported data, asking consumers why they choose this product or made that decision. This, however, left room for error, as perhaps the consumer could not—or would not—divulge the true reason for their decision.
Today, with state-of-the-art tools like eye tracking machines, heart rate monitors, and MRI scanners, the Center’s research eliminates the subjective bias of decision-making research. “We don’t have to ask the subject anymore,” says Dimoka. “We can observe their physiological state.”
Dimoka and her colleagues, Vinod Venkatraman and Crystal Reeck, assistant professors of marketing, use these tools to study the body’s responses in experiments like the ability to recall print ads versus digital ads.
“With eye trackers, we can observe where the subject is looking at any given point,” says Dimoka, allowing the researcher to understand exactly what information the subject is taking in at what time. Heart rate monitors, skin conductors, and breathing monitors analyze the person’s emotional state—whether you sweat more, breath heavier, or have a faster heartbeat when making a decision.
What the brain reveals
The Center also has a new functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, brought to campus this fall in partnership with the College of Liberal Art’s Department of Psychology and with support from the National Science Foundation. “The fMRI scanners show us the brain’s functionality,” Dimoka says. “We can put people in the scanner and observe how their brains function when they make decisions.”
The areas of the brain that activate during different activities can reveal how consumers take in information and make decisions. Consider what happens when a person looks at a physical advertisement versus a digital advertisement. In a series of experiments funded by the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Postal Service, Dimoka and her colleagues studied subjects’ brains as they reviewed ads in both print and online formats.
“The area of the brain associated with memory, the hippocampus, showed higher levels of activation for ads that subjects had seen before in a physical format,” says Dimoka, “as opposed to digital ads.” By using the brain scanning tools, the researchers found that print is still sticky, even in today’s digital age.
The third phase of the experiments are currently underway. Dimoka says this new round will further investigate generational differences and brand awareness.
Are there any differences between the purchasing decisions of Millennials and Baby Boomers when looking at online versus print ads? “We did find some preliminary results [from earlier experiments] that were quite interesting,” Dimoka says, “and the opposite of what you would expect.” The full results will be published later this summer.
The Center investigates all kinds of decision making—including consumer, financial, and privacy decisions—that can have real impact on average people and companies. The impact of their work extends from marketing to fields like management information systems and finance.
For example, Crystal Reeck, assistant professor of marketing, found that how you review your choices during the decision making process can impact your ability to be patient. She is currently working on a study that involves how people disclose private information.
Companies are also affected by the Center’s work. “By looking at the brain of how 30 subjects were responding,” says Dimoka, “we can predict how millions of consumers in the United States would decide.”
“That’s the magic, the power of these tools.”
Learn more about Fox School Research.
The Fox School of Business is making history—and driving real impact.
On Monday, March 12, the Fox School hosted a first-of-its-kind forum that brought together editors-in-chief of leading academic business journals across multiple disciplines. The 2018 Editors’ Summit united academia and industry, researchers and executives, students and educators, for a day of dialogue on a way forward to generate transformative impact of business school research.
With leadership from Charles Dhanaraj, director of the Fox School’s new Translational Research Center, over 150 people discussed the opportunities for creating impactful research and barriers standing in the way.
Fox School faculty and doctoral students were joined by editors from prestigious business journals from many disciplines, including management, marketing, accounting, finance, operations, management information systems, and international business; colleagues from Villanova University, the Wharton School, and Northwestern University, among others; and executives from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, LyondellBasell, and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
Here are five key takeaways from the event:
1. Define impact
What do we mean by “impact” and how do we measure it? “It has to meet the qualifications of rigor, relevance, insights, and action,” said V. Kumar, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Marketing and Regents Professor at J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.
While a definition of impact may remain elusive, participants identified its signs: from small shifts in how companies work and academia teaches, to societal, economic, and public policy changes.
Anne Tsui, president of the Responsible Research Leadership Forum, noted that this discussion about impact was a large step. “In the last 20 or 30 years, rigor began to dominate research and relevance began to decline,” she said. “Today, we’re here to discuss this gap.”
2. Ask the right questions
“Just because something hasn’t been studied doesn’t mean that it should,” said Tyson Browning, co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Operations Management and professor at Texas Christian University. In order to study issues that affect business, researchers need to know the right questions to ask.
Researchers can develop relationships with businesses, through programs like Fox Management Consulting, or invest in listening platforms to identify what problems businesses face.
Bhavesh Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell, put it another way: “Think about what value your work will create from the beginning. If you do it early, it will guide the work you do.”
3. Know your audience
“In reflecting about practical impact,” said Arun Rai, editor of MIS Quarterly and professor at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University, “we need to think about partnerships with complementary channels to reach audiences that we do not have core competencies to reach.”
Executives are not reading academic journals, nor should we ever expect them to. If academics want their research to have impact on the real world, they should think beyond publications and about distribution.
“In the Twitter and soundbite era, no one wants to read a 40-page paper,” said Dr. Scott Bauguess of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “They want the major takeaway.” His suggestion? Write white papers and stylized facts.
Practitioner journals, trade magazines, and popular media like newspapers and TV can also be relevant channels to getting research insights into industry. Mary Barth, senior editor of The Accounting Review and professor at Stanford University, also recommended translating research into thought pieces that are understandable to non-academics. To do that, however, researchers need a new set of skills—like marketing or social media strategies—that require training or support from the school.
4. Adjust the infrastructure
A recurring theme throughout the day was incentives. How can business schools incentivize faculty to produce research that has impact, not just publications? How can editors affect trends in what is published to promote relevance?
Participants brainstormed solutions for both. While structural changes take time, discussions centered on adjusting tenure requirements and timelines, defining impact, creating industry partnerships, hosting workshops with executives, providing funding incentives for research with practitioners and non-tenure-track faculty, and publishing special issues in journals that focus on bundled topics.
Alain Verbeke, editor-in-chief of the Journal of International Business Studies and professor at University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, put it bluntly: “If you really want change, you can’t do it with the existing structure and processes.”
5. Teach the future
Students cannot be neglected in the conversation about impact. “One way we take our research articles and ideas and make them relevant to practice is by teaching them in our classes,” said Jay Barney, editor-in-chief of the Academy of Management Review and professor at the Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.
Constance Helfat, co-editor of the Strategic Management Journal and professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, agreed. “Every single thing I teach is based in academic research. And it works.”
The Fox School is already addressing the way forward. M. Moshe Porat, dean of the Fox School, affirmed his commitment to research and doctoral education throughout the day.
With support from the dean, the Translational Research Center has big plans for the future of research at the Fox School. The center plans to develop a white paper of the findings from the event and is hosting a case-writing consortium for faculty interested in writing and submitting a teaching case through the summer.
“The shift toward impact is a significant one, but it will take time,” said Dhanaraj,. “We will need everyone to make this big move.”
Learn more about Fox School Research.