Research Highlights
Research Scope & Orientation

- My core research interests lie at the intersection of 
  Information Systems and Knowledge Management. The themes and topics that I am interested in are shown in the figure on the right.

- Most of my empirical research projects are predicated upon an 
  interdisciplinary perspective grounded within the milieu of 
  socio-technical research.

- I am an exponent of mixed methods research design and I strive to
  conduct empirical research investigations using both quantitative 
  and qualitative methods.

- My recent projects have comprised exploratory as well as 
  confirmatory research designs with methodologies including
  grounded theory methodologysocial network analysis, and
  structural equation modeling.
Completed Research Projects

Adoption and Use of Community Municipal Portals 
(Role: Co-Investigator ; Principal-Investigator: Dr. Brian Detlor)

This research project is funded by Infrastructure Canada's Peer-Reviewed Research Studies (PRRS) program. The project calls for an in-depth examination of multiple community-oriented municipals portals as a means of understanding the factors that affect community portal adoption and use in various cities and regions. These sites hold great promise in their ability to supply information, provide access to electronic government services and promote a sense of community, but relatively little research has been conducted in this area. To address this gap, permission has been obtained to study several municipal community portals, specifically those who have implemented portals via the Ontario provincial government’s “Connect Ontario: Partnering for Smart Communities” (COPSC) program. These sites promote improved information access and sharing within their communities, and the delivery of electronic government services at the municipal level. In addition, these sites share many common features in terms of the information, services and applications they provide. As such, these sites serve as excellent samples to examine the factors that influence end-user adoption and use of public information technology infrastructure. Two phases of data collection are planned. The first is a community portal assessment where municipal partners themselves provide background on their portals in terms of their purpose, history, functionality, level of support, governance, general usage, etc., as a means of capturing a profile of each portal under investigation. The second is a Web survey to end users of these municipal community portals that polls perceptions that may affect intentions to use these sites, and gathers self-reports on typical portal usage behaviours. Data analysis will investigate the effect of government portal characteristics on municipal community portal adoption and use, as well as individual perceptions of technology, innovation, trust, and sense of community that mediate these effects. By embarking on a research design that examines portal characteristics, user perceptions and behaviours across multiple portal implementations, the study will offer a comprehensive and holistic assessment of community municipal portal adoption and use.

myhamilton.ca User Uptake and Adoption Study  
(Role: Co-Investigator)

This research project investigates the adoption and use of the www.myhamilton.ca community portal by its users. Specifically, the researchers wish to investigate and develop an understanding of the relationships among: 1) individual user characteristics such as demographics and personality traits; 2) user attitudes toward and perceptions about accomplishing tasks in a community portal environment; and 3) actual usage behaviour. An understanding of these relationships will provide insight on how characteristics of the individual, the task, and utilization behaviours affect performance in a virtual community environment, and also will help to determine the reasons underlying usage patterns. Such an analysis will pinpoint those factors that foster or deter community members to adopt and utilize a community portal such as myhamilton.ca, as well as the reasons why certain community members utilize the portal to conduct certain tasks more avidly than others. Such user factors could be demographic in nature, or be psychologically or sociologically based. Such insights could be used to alter the design of the portal or to change the way the portal is marketed to community members. The McMaster research team is working for the City of Hamilton in collaboration with the Community Portal Advisory Committee (CPAC) to carry out this research project. The main or lead community partner within the myhamilton.ca community portal project is the City of Hamilton. Specifically, the McMaster research team has worked with the City of Hamilton to build-in data collection instruments within the myhamilton portal itself. Data collection includes Web tracking and two online Web surveys.

Managing Knowledge and Information in Times of 
Major Organizational Transition 
(Role: Student Collaborator)

The objective of this SSHRC-funded research project is to increase our understanding of how organizations mobilize and leverage their knowledge and information capabilities during times of significant organizational change. Thus, the study investigates the interactions and dynamics between knowledge and information management practices and major organizational transition. By major transitions, we mean strategic organizational transformations such as mergers and acquisitions, privatization, technology disruption, and changes induced by external environmental forces. By knowledge and information management practices, we include formal elements such as intranets, portals, information systems, archives and records, as well as informal elements such as information sharing behaviors, communities of practice, social networks, and communication roles and patterns.
Doctoral Dissertation Research

Socio-Technical Determinants of Member Participation in Virtual Communities: An Exploratory Mixed Methods Investigation

My Ph.D. research comprised an investigation of socio-technical factors that impact member participation in virtual communities. As part of my research, I explored interactive social spaces that facilitate information exchange and social interaction among participating members. The formal abstract of my doctoral dissertation is provided herewith:

The recent unprecedented growth of virtual communities on the Internet has provided an impetus for researchers and practitioners to investigate factors that facilitate or encumber member participation in these communities. As interactive online spaces, virtual communities have the potential to enable high levels of information sharing, communication and social interactions among their members. Despite the crucial realization that engaging and involving members constitutes a fundamental requirement for successful and thriving virtual communities, research done to date to study the factors affecting member participation behavior is still in its infancy. The goal of this study is to identify and ascertain the sociological and technological factors for enhancing and sustaining member participation in virtual communities. Toward this objective, the study utilizes an exploratory mixed methods research design to collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data from members of various social, professional and commercial virtual communities.

Qualitative data for the empirical investigation was gathered through online focus groups and open-ended questionnaires. Using principles and procedures associated with grounded theory methodology, this study presents an emergent theory characterizing the member engagement process as an underlying phenomenon integrating various socio-technical factors that influence member participation behavior. The subsequent phase of quantitative investigation deliberates the testing of salient theoretical constructs and relational propositions from the emergent theory. Exploratory factor analysis and structural equation modeling techniques were used to estimate a structural model of relationships among socio-technical determinants of member participation in virtual communities. The quantitative results provide a strong substantiation of the qualitative findings through triangulation and elaboration of the constructs and their interrelationships in the emergent theory.

The key findings from this study emphasize the role of factors such as information quality, member responsiveness, member trustworthiness, and perceived enjoyment in determining continued and active participation in virtual communities. The findings also illustrate the salience of perceived satisfaction and sense of virtual community in predicting members’ participation. Based on these findings, this study offers theoretical implications and suggestions for future research, as well as guiding principles and actionable recommendations for virtual community practitioners.
Recent & Selected
Peer-Reviewed Publications

For complete list of publications, please see CV (pdf).

  • Detlor, B., Hupfer, M., Ruhi, U. (2008). Tips for Tracking Web Information Seeking BehaviorHandbook of Web Log Analysis, Jansen, B., Spink, A., Taska, I., IGI Publishing, Hershey, PA, 256-283.

  • Serenko, A., Ruhi, U., Cocosila, M. (2007). Unplanned Effects of Intelligent Agents on Internet Use: A Social Informatics ApproachArtificial Intelligence and Society, 21(1-2): 141-166.

  • Detlor, B., Ruhi, U., Turel, O., Bergeron, P., Choo C.W., Heaton, L, Paquette, S. (2006). The Effect of Knowledge Management Context on Knowledge Management Practices: An Empirical InvestigationElectronic Journal of Knowledge Management, 4(2): 131-142.
Umar Ruhi's Research Portfolio comprising themes from Information Systems and Knowledge Management. Various themes include social media, web 2.0, enterprise 2.0, online communities, communities of practice, enterprise portals etc.
Dr. Umar Ruhi,
Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa,
Demarais 5145, 55 Laurier Ave. East,
Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6N5, Canada
+1 (613) 562-5800 X. 1990
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Current Research Themes
* Collaborators Welcome

Enterprise Social Computing & Knowledge Management 

This research theme entails the interactions and dynamics between knowledge and information management practices and the use of enterprise social computing ICTs. The facets comprising knowledge and information sharing practices include individual and group behaviors related to information sharing, communication roles, and communities of practice. Enterprise social computing ICTs include tools such as blogs, wikis, social networking sites, discussion forums, content feeds, collaborative tagging tools, social bookmarking utilities, and microblogging platforms.

Key Success Factors for Pervasive Business Intelligence  
(research with IBM Cognos Centre for Performance Management)

The research projects in this stream entail an empirical investigation of socio-technical factors that affect the adoption and diffusion of business intelligence (BI) technologies in organizations. Sociological factors include organizational and individual facets such as executive buy-in, management support, individual task-technology fit, and end-user performance impact. Technological factors include user experience design dimensions such as interaction and information design, and business process issues such as workflow integration and enterprise information architecture. As examples, the projects will draw upon use-case scenarios related to the utilization of social media analytics, the implementation of BI mashups, and the design of mobile BI interfaces. The overarching objective of the various research projects in this stream is to offer guiding principles for the effective implementation and widespread adoption of a user-friendly collaborative infrastructure for corporate performance management, and to propose a reference model for aligning business and end-user requirements for BI platforms and applications.