Visualizing Humanitarian Logistics Performance: Design, Application and Evaluation of an IT-supported Balanced Scorecard Approach

Visualizing Humanitarian Logistics Performance: Design, Application and Evaluation of an IT-supported Balanced Scorecard Approach

Adam Widera (University of Münster, Münster, Germany), Carsten Bubbich (reeeliance IM GmbH, Hamburg, Germany) and Bernd Hellingrath (University of Münster, Münster, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/IJISCRAM.2018100102
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Logistics management is crucial for the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian operations. Performance measurement enables practitioners to identify improvement potentials and management capabilities with regards to their logistics management tasks. While many performance measurement approaches for humanitarian logistics exist in the scientific domain, its applicability in the practitioner communities is rather low. Main reasons for this mismatch can be seen in rather few ready-to-use concepts and supporting information systems. In this article, the design, development, and evaluation of an information system for a Balanced Scorecard for humanitarian logistics is presented. The approach is embedded in the design science research framework following the agile programming methodology. The main characteristics of the server client architecture are described and reflected through experiences from formative and summative evaluations. The results stress the importance of the applied design approaches and support the closing of gaps between information systems designers and humanitarian practitioners.
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Several studies have shown that logistics processes are of high importance in order to enable effective and efficient humanitarian operations (see Long & Wood, 1995; van Wassenhove, 2006; Tomasini & van Wassenhove, 2009; Kovács & Spens, 2009; Majewski et al., 2010; Walton et al., 2011). Within the last decade practitioners have increasingly acknowledged the importance of logistics in context of humanitarian operations. This changed perception on the practitioner side came along with a bigger investigation of humanitarian logistics in the scientific world. However, logistics tasks still require more attention by both humanitarian organizations and the researchers (e. g. Hellingrath et al., 2013). At the practitioner side there are several reasons why the potential improvement of logistics is still relatively high. One main challenge can be identified at the higher management of humanitarian organizations to communicate the value and contribution of logistics for operational success to their donors. While operational personnel are faced with logistical challenges on a daily basis, the management is still confronted with the need to focus on fundraising and program planning in order to provide enough financial and in-kind donations for relief operations. While this leads to increased investments during immediate disaster response, long and mid-term logistics related tasks get less financial support which in turn has an impact on operational performance (Blecken, 2010). Hence, improvement potential within the field of humanitarian logistics has not yet been fully exhausted. One area for improvement in humanitarian logistics performance is the application of performance measurement and appropriate monitoring concepts.

The main challenge is to meet the practitioner’s needs and provide appropriate solutions that are grounded in the realities of humanitarian organizations and their practices – in the opposite to established management approaches in the commercial sector. At the moment no adequate IT support is available for the domain of performance measurement in humanitarian logistics, which can be caused by different causes like the difficulty to address the organization-specific setting (e.g. Sangiamkul & van Hillegersberg, 2011 or Widera et al., 2011) or due to the lack of understanding practitioner’s needs at the side of researchers and IT providers (e.g. Mays et al., 2016 or Coletti et al., 2017).

In this paper the design, development and evaluation results of an information system (IS) supporting the application of a Balanced Scorecard (BSC) approach for humanitarian logistics is presented (in the following the IS artefact is called HumLogBSC). The conceptual design, its implementation and evaluation of the Balanced Scorecard itself has been described in Widera and Hellingrath 2011, 2013 and 2016. The results of this action research-based research project are briefly sketched in the first section, but the main focus of this paper lies in the presentation and discussion of the supporting IS architecture. Therefore, the methodology section mainly reflects the background of the IS development of HumLogBSC. The first section ends with the requirements analysis which was conducted as a combination of desk research and qualitative research with logisticians from different humanitarian organizations. The identified requirements have been classified following the Design Science Information Systems Research Framework in order to get an elaborated understanding of the application environment supporting the relevance of the work (Hevner et al., 2004; Hevner, 2007). The core of this paper builds the presentation of the overall HumLogBSC architecture, its implementation and evaluation results. Finally, a short summary will be given, followed by a limitation section and an outlook.

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