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CIS8500 Applied Research For Information System Professionals, University Of Southern Queensland, Australia

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Research Proposal Report

Report Structure and Presentation

Question 1: Abstract

• What the research is about and aims to achieve?

• How the research intends to achieve its objectives?

Answer: Abstract: The report presents a research proposal on topic ‘A Qualitative Study of Australian Retailers:the Internet of Things for Improving Supply Chain Performance'. The major goal of the report is to identify and explain the impact of the Internet of Things on the performance exhibited by retail companies in Australia on their supply chain performances as well as denote whether this impact is positive or negative. On the basis of the Organisational Capability Theory, extensive data has been collected by semi structured interview method to understand the integration of suppliers, customers and the various activities of retail companies in the context of the Internet of Things. By interviewing the managers of various companies in Australia, valuable information has been gained which would facilitate a better approach to the research. For this purpose, the research question formulated is how does Internet of Things technologies facilitate in driving the supply chain integration procedure with consumers, suppliers as well as the intramuraloperations of the companies.

The research reveals the ability of IoTs in enhancing and improving the supply chain visibility and information sharing that helps in increasing the supply chain integration. IoTs are thus portrayed to have a constructive impact on the flexibility, cost, efficiency and quality of the supply chain and consequently also leads to improvement in the retail company's performance and financial profits.

Question 2: Introduction

• Give some background information (area and research topic) to provide a context for the report

• State the purpose of the report (statement of purpose)

• Clarify key terms and indicate the scope of the report (i.e. what the report will cover)

Answer: Introduction: The retail industry is supposedly the main arena for the emergence of Internet of Things as it is faced with various dynamic issues due to the nature of customer expectations. In this case, IoTs help is providing new and unique solutions for retailers. In the context of the Organizational Capability theory, IoTs are somewhatperceived as an extra factor that can enhance the present configurations of ICT performance. However, research on IoTs is still in process and the present state of IoTs is not so well developed. Although there has been a lot of conceptualization and experimentation regarding the Internet of Things, the use of IoTs is somewhat still in its early stages. In order to advance towards achieving more knowledge, Vass et al. has presented a framework that elaborates the positive impact of IoTs on certain dimensions namely supplier, internal and supplier integration.

The internet of things can be broadly defined as the use of web automation in various electric and electronic devices (Cui, 2016). IoTs are seen to perform as the emerging information service setup which facilitates the exchange of goods within global supply networks. This directly comes in relation with the concept of supply chain integration which refers to the coordination of the business information available with the operations of various supply chain managements (Weingarten, 2016). Moreover, supply chain management refers to the success of the supply chain in managing various customer related demands and activities and the Organisational Capability Theory draws upon a company's abilities to manage various assets of businesses such as human resources, IT systems and so on (Hase, 2000).
Here, the major objective of this research is to understand the use of IoTs in Australian retail companies to enhance supply chain performance. Furthermore, the research also aims to investigate how IoTs affect supplier process integration, customer process integration and internal integration as well. In this report, a detailed view of the literature on IoTs and the like are presented. Then the methodology along with the data collection and data analysis is presented. Finally, after due observation and analysis, a brief discussion on the limitations of the study as well as the ethical issues encountered are also presented.

Question 3: Research Questions

Answer: The research is a qualitative study that employs the Organisational Capability theory to develop an empirical understanding of the effects of Internet of Things abilities on various dimensions of supply chain integration and how they help to improve the supply chain performance as well as the retail company's overall performance. Hence, a systematic general research question is presented below.

To what extent can newly emerging technologies such as that of IoTs help to facilitate external (consumers and suppliers) and internal (cross-functional activities) process integration so as to improve retail companies' performance and deliver improved supply chain performance?

Apart from the above mentioned general research question, the report also aims to gather findings on some other specific research items corresponding to the questions presented below.

• State the differences in perceptions of the inherent worth of the Internet of Things within the retail industry services according to the perspectives of consumers as well as retailers.

• What is the impact of IoTs in the global market today?

• What are certain reality based instances of how Internet of Things can and has improved retail companies' supply chain management?

• What is the impact created by Internet of Things on other industries excluding the retail industry?

• What is the impact created by IoTs on the e-retail industry?

• What are somebehavioral changes and psychological benefits that can be observed in the employees of a company after the implantation of IoTs?

• What is the impact created by Internet of Things on the retail industry in markets of regions except that of Australia?

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Question 4: Research Questions

Answer: The research is a qualitative study that employs the Organisational Capability theory to develop an empirical understanding of the effects of Internet of Things abilities on various dimensions of supply chain integration and how they help to improve the supply chain performance as well as the retail company's overall performance. Hence, a systematic general research question is presented below.

To what extent can newly emerging technologies such as that of IoTs help to facilitate external (consumers and suppliers) and internal (cross-functional activities) process integration so as to improve retail companies' performance and deliver improved supply chain performance?

Apart from the above mentioned general research question, the report also aims to gather findings on some other specific research items corresponding to the questions presented below.

• State the differences in perceptions of the inherent worth of the Internet of Things within the retail industry services according to the perspectives of consumers as well as retailers.

• What is the impact of IoTs in the global market today?

• What are certain reality based instances of how Internet of Things can and has improved retail companies' supply chain management?

• What is the impact created by Internet of Things on other industries excluding the retail industry?

• What is the impact created by IoTs on the e-retail industry?

• What are somebehavioral changes and psychological benefits that can be observed in the employees of a company after the implantation of IoTs?

• What is the impact created by Internet of Things on the retail industry in markets of regions except that of Australia?

Question 5: Conceptual Framework

Demonstrate conceptual framework of your research and how all the important constructs in your studies are related.

Answer: The conceptual framework in this research has been constructed on the basis of the integration model introduced by Huo (2012). He had empirically researched upon operational as well as financial performances that are impacted by integration mechanism from the point of view of a manufacturing industry. In Huo's model, he had presented three basic dimensions of integration namely supplier, customer and organizational integration within the boundaries of the company. There have been numerous studies conducted on integration which is mainly focused upon the links between integration of supply chains (SCI) and supply chain performance such as that presented byFabbe-Costes and Jahre in 2008 and Kim in 2009. Upon explaining the positive relationship between digitally active supply chain integration and company performance, Rai (2006) had elaboration upon ICT capabilities as well. Other scholars have taken inspiration from Huo and have built upon his framework by depicting ICT as a separate aspect that also seems to have a great impact on Huo's three dimensions of supply chain integration. Although considerable research has been conducted along the same lines, all such studies have used Internet of Things as an active enable of suppliers, customers and internal integration. This research aims to understand the hierarchy of IoT related abilities and how they seem to impact the performance of retail companies. Previous studies the newly emerging IoT technologies have somewhat remained theoretical and detached from practicality but this research aims to fill the gaps by elaborating on the effects of IoT capabilities on the three above mentioned factors as well as the impact of IoTs on supply chain incorporation and subsequent company performance.

Hypothesis: Iots are newly emerging global web based data service architectures that act as an aid in the exchange of goods in the international supply chain networks. Due to the existence of RFID tags, smart devices, mobile phones, actuators, sensors and the like, we have the power of conducting reality based monitoring of nearly every activity ranging from purchase, transport, storage, distribution, manufacturing to final sales and returns in supply chains. Hence, IoTs provide a secure and productive medium to share information regarding goods and services that are involved in a global supply chain. Apart from IoTs use in conventional ICTs to mitigate the knowledge gaps in the prevalent supply chains by ways of acquiring extra information running among supply chain elements, processes people and equipments, IoTs have the ability to help with real time information processing and thus can play acrucial role in intra and inter-organisation integration and communication as well (Chuang and Yang 2014). IoTs may also aid in fleet tracking, observation of storage conditions, observation of shipment procedures, monitoring the state of perishable items, product tracking means, etc which would then integrate suppliers into the customer's communication process as well. Furthermore, IoTs are also helpful in delivery of products, shop guidance, delivery tracking, customer shopping experiences and the like. Thus, it can be hypothesized IoT capabilities have a good impact on suppliers integration, internal integration as well as customer integration. Various studies suggest that integration of partners can help in reducing costs via waste reduction and the proper utilization of assets. This may also act as an aid to supply chains in becoming more adaptable and receptive in order to deal with the possible threats that come with market uncertainties. Digitally active integration of supply chains would ultimately have a good impact on supply chain performance. Thus, IoTs can enhance the way companies coordinate between supply chain processes and analyze acquired information. This further helps to understand prospects of gains within the supply chain through quality, work efficiency, adaptability, reliability, delivery efficiency, and customer experiences. In this way, the three dimensions presented by Huo are shown to impactperformance of supply chain as well. Thus, the hypothesis may be stated as IoT-led supplier integration has a constructive impact on supplier chain performance, IoT-led internal organization has a constructive impact on supply chain performance and IoT- led consumerincorporation also has a constructive impact on supply chain performance.

Question 6: Literature

Identify the body of literature that is relevant to your research. Demonstrate how your proposed research is related to the relevant literature and how the literature will be used in the proposed research to justify and explain the directions of your research.

Answer: Literature

Organisational Capability Theory: According to the theory of Organisational Capability, Internet of Things can be seen as an extra ability that may add some amount of value to the present status of ICT capabilities within any retail company. 

All related studies must treat IoT capabilities as an extension of ICT abilities that can help in advancing intra- as well as inter-company communication and knowledge acquisition in more defined and mechanized manners. (Borgia, 2014). The relationships between companies and the processes of information sharing within the company are both involved in process integration capabilities. Organizational capability Theory can thus be conceptualized as a way to underpin this study which says that a company must first develop its own resources and powers for enhance its performances. Integration, at this stage, is a superior capability that is considered to be more high order and thus can impact the company's performance greatly. Furthermore, the theory also suggests that internal integration can be responsible for impacting external integration. In such a case, internal integration becomes the base which facilitates the development of external integration process (Huo, 2012).

Supply Chain Integration: Supply chain integration can be understood as a collective approach on organizational management, the aim of which is to achieve efficient circulation of items, data and funds that provide a huge amount of value to customers at the minimum costs and maximum speed. Supply chain integration has been perceived as the technological link between business operations within a company as well as those occurring between two or more companies that involve upstream suppliers and downstream customers (Näslund&Hulthen, 2012). The present entrepreneurial atmosphere is very competitive and serious wherein supply chains are the ones that compete instead of the retail companies. Here, improved supply chain performance helps to advance this sustain and stabilized competitive advantage. While understanding the dynamics of supply chain handling, the integration of supply chains provides a system for enhancing a company's supply chain performance (Ataseven& Nair, 2017)

IoTs in Integration: Atzori (2010) in various studies has explained how Internet of Things can be converged with three main elements namely web-oriented, semantic-oriented and materials-oriented. Therefore, IoT architecture consists of aspects that acquire data, communicates with the reality, actuates web platforms, hosts and processes data as well as facilitates the synthesis of fresh information. Although present IoT applications are not well developed and are said to be in their infancy stage, the intelligence behind IoT and its potential capabilities have made IoTs popular and with the ongoing improvements in the field of IoTs, its adoption and use in supply chain activities is subsequently growing and increasing in spite of challenges. IoTs have been proved to have the ability to analyze supply chain processes and improve accuracy, productivity, visibility and collective decisions. Various scholars acknowledge supply chains to be a major domain for IoT applications. Hence, IoTs is regarded as one of the most essential technologies of industries and the integration of IoTs within industries can help companies to capture valuable information and utilize them within appropriate contexts effectively. Present supply chain uses of IoTs usually take different forms such as RFID which needs a systematic and standardized approach which should be investment and profit-oriented in order to make use of popular smart devices and technologies which come with built in IoTs. Perhaps this is why IoTs should not be regarded as an isolated technology which stands restricted to large and considerable business ventures but rather as a generally active and available capability. However, IoTs are presently in a fragmented state and lack the capacity to understand its possible potentials due to problems relating to standardization, privacy, safety and security and so on. Hence, there is a need for further research and investigations about the impact of IoTs on supply chain integration process. Literature on the application and possibilities of development in IoTs is currently limited and only presents a theoretical analysis. However, scholars have shown considerable interest upon the topic and their focus has mostly been on conceptual definitions, technological characteristics, construction of models, etc. All previous works have primarily been restricted to only a technological perspective and have not been explained so well within the framework of business management and operations. Hence, previous studies mostly portray technological perspectives only and hardly any attention has been given to the study of the links between Internet of Things adoption in retail companies for the purpose of enhancing supply chain and organizational performance in retail companies.

Overall, academic literature at present does not have a large amount of data based on the relationships between the capabilities of Internet of Things and the supply chain process integrations in the context of retail companies and their supply chains. Hence, this research aimed to fulfill the gaps in erstwhile publications by carrying out empirical analysis of how IoTs can serve to bring improvements in supply chain integration capacities in order to create an impact on the retail company industry in Australia.

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Question 7: Methodology

• What research methodology is proposed? Qualitative, Quantitative, Mixed?

• What is the sampling strategy, the sample size and rationale of sample selection?

• What data collection instruments (survey, interview questionnaire, protocols) are used or generated?

• How the research data is collected and what are the procedures followed for quality data collection?

• How the data will be analysed (statistical analysis, thematic coding)?

Answer: This research is qualitative in nature owing to the exploratory nature of the research question presented at the beginning of the study. Hence, a qualitative enquiry had been conducted to facilitate the process of data collection from companies that acted as representatives of the retail industry in Australia. Retail companies were chosen in a random manner from the Yellow Pages of Australian business and entrepreneurial inventory of data from six different states of Australia.

Data collection was advanced by conducting one-on-one semi structured interviews with retail company heads. Selection of companies was done after due consideration of the retail sector, firm size, number of employees, retail form and the level of IoTs in the company's supply chain operations. The findings of this report had been taken out using the interpretivism research philosophy. The sample size which is used to collect the data for this research study is twelve. This includes managers of various different Australian companies who come from different retail business models, firm sizes, departments and many other different aspects like these.

This research is qualitative in nature owing to the exploratory nature of the research question presented at the beginning of the study. Hence, a qualitative enquiry had been conducted to facilitate the process of data collection from companies that acted as representatives of the retail industry in Australia. Retail companies were chosen in a random manner from the Yellow Pages of Australian business and entrepreneurial inventory of data from six different states of Australia.

Random sampling is one of the easiest ways to gather data from all of the population. Under this method, each of the subsection gets equal chance to be chosen as a portion of sampling. It is a method of choosing a sample of observation for larger number of people.

Random sampling has been chosen for this research because it removes biasness, provides opportunity to all participants to participate in research without pre juiced. This is good to use random sampling as it is representative of larger population. This method is one of the best way to getting sample from people of interest.

A semi structured interview is a qualitative information gathering tactic in which informants are asked a number of open ended questions which are not predetermined. The questions are developed during conversation.

Semi structured method has been selected for this research as most of the researchers like to use this method. This structure allows informants to give their opinion on their own term freely. The interviewer can find the information in depth in advance by asking predetermined questions. This method can provide consistent equivalent qualitative data. Data collection was advanced by conducting one-on-one semi structured interviews with retail company heads. Selection of companies was done after due consideration of the retail sector, firm size, number of employees, retail form and the level of IoTs in the company's supply chain operations. Thematic analysis is qualitative data analysis method which is widely used. This method focuses on finding decorated meaning in a database. The purpose of this method is to get insight and facts about gathered data. Thematic coding has been selected for this research because it emphasizes on examine the theme present in data. This analysis can be used with any of the theory which researchers use. This method assists researchers to gather deep knowledge for the states or situations they are researching for.

Question 8: Significance

Answer: The topic of Internet of Things is of great significance in the modern era. The empirical findings in this particular research have proved that IoT enabled integration can indeed improve the overall performance of supply chains as well as the retail company. Based upon the Organisational Capability Theory, this research has suggested that those retail companies that can make use of digitally enabled IoTs and can utilize it for supply chain performance can generate huge revenues and sustained success. In this research, IoTs have been deemed as a fast emerging ubiquitous technology which uses aspects of applied science and telecommunications to acquire and share information over the web such as actuators, smart devices, mobile phones, sensors and so on. This study is particularly relevant because it integrates the incoming technology of IoTs as an organizational capability. This perspective has not received much attention in the past. Transcending the borders of theoretical knowledge provided in literature, this study has gone above and beyond to put the study of IoTs in an empirical context to show how they can bring about improvements in real time performance. The findings in this study may bring about greater investments in IoT technology and can increase the relevance of IoTs in business operations so as to combine IoT adoption with supply chain integration strategies.

Question 9: Limitations and Delimitations

Answer: Certain limitations of this research are listed below.

• The first limitation that has been found in this research study is that only qualitative data has been used and this increases the chances of bias in the finding of the research study due to possible prejudice or incorrect assumption of the managers.

• The sample size of the managers interviewed in this research study is too small and this forms another limitation of the study as the small sample size creates another bias in the research study.

• The fourth limitation of this research study is that there is only one manager from E-retail had been included in the data collection process of this study which decreases the value of the research. The reason it is creating a limitation for this article is that IoT has contributed majorly to the development of the E-retail business model and representation of the E-retail business model by only one manager among the total twelve managers interviewed in this research study is making the possibility of use of the Internet of things being understated significantly.

• Interpretivism includes the risk in the research that finding of the study has been negatively affected by the inaccurate interpretation of the researcher to collect the findings of the study.

Certain delimitations of the study include that only the positive impacts of the Internet of Things had been researched upon in this article whereas there are some critical drawbacks of inefficient implementation of IoT which have been overlooked like the increase in the possibility of the cyber-attack in the business system and the like. Apart from this, due to the constraint of time and space, appropriate elaboration upon the Organisational Capability Theory has not been possible which forms another essential delimitation of the study.

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Question 10: Ethical Issues

Answer: The authenticity of every research work depends upon how well the researcher and the respondents abide by the standards of ethical issues. Certain important ethical issues raised in this study include confidentiality of data that has been collected from various retail company heads in Australia, maintenance of privacy, preservation of personal identity, the need to maintain anonymity of retailers within the study and so on. Apart from this, it was imperative to reassure the respondents that the purpose of data collection is purely for academic reasons and the information collected from them shall not be misused in any way. Hence, the research results shall remain confidential and private. Disclosure of identity of the various respondents involved in the study would be a violation of the ethical standards practiced and professed in general research work. However, extensive care had been taken to ensure that the research is carried out while keeping in mind all of the essential ethical issues which must be followed.

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