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Researcher of the Month; Elizabeth W. – Business Process Analysts; Enterprise Systems Environments

Elizabeth Wamicha’s love for technology and business, has drawn her to research on an area that is set to change the world of Enterprise systems.

Elizabeth, who has been lecturing at the Faculty of Information Technology for last 8 years, is a wife and a mother of a 4 year old boy.

What is your education background?

I undertook my undergraduate degree at Strathmore University, several years ago, we were actually the pioneer group for the Bachelor of Business Information Technology (BBIT) degree. I have seen the course evolve over the years to accommodate the rapidly changing technology world. I also studied my Masters of Science in Information Technology (MSc. IT) at Strathmore, I focused on Software Engineering and Information Security.

What is your PhD Journey?

In 2015, I applied to the Information Systems department at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, and in October of the same year I received an acceptance letter from them. I was really delighted to have this opportunity.

My research morphed seriously between my concept paper and what I am currently working on. The former focused on information security while the latter focuses on business process analysis and business process management within enterprise systems environments, an area that I am now very passionate about.

My research focuses on describing and explaining ideal characteristics of interventions organizations with large complex systems, such as enterprise systems, can use to build competencies in their business process analysts. I am using the Activity theory as the methodological lens. From the outcomes of this research, I hope to help organizations reduce the expensive and long learning curve that business process analysts face when they first take on their role. This is a major area of concern especially in large organizations in Kenya, and Africa in general.

My supervisor Prof. Lisa Seymour and I wrote our most recent paper Towards a Framework for Business Process Management and Enterprise Systems Competency Building in Higher Education Institutions, which can be found in the Association for Information Systems Electronic library – AISeL. The article currently has over 60 downloads.

What inspired the Choice of your research topic?

It never occurred to me that I would revisit the same area of study that I did during my masters, which was curriculum development oriented. After going to UCT, where we had an opportunity to interact with the supervisors and find out their research interests, I again got interested in the field of curriculum development. Most fundamentally, what inspired me to carry out my research in this area was my supervisor and the research she has already carried out in this area. I can honestly say I have learnt and continue to learn a lot from her

Who are the beneficiaries in your research?

The initial lot that will benefit most are the students, because they will get to learn more about complex systems and the importance of business process management in such environments. This will go a long way in benefiting industries with these complex systems. The fresh batch of technocrats to these industries would have learnt and latched the proper skills required to carry out this critical role.

How far are you in your research work?

That is a tricky one, the PhD is anything but predictable and often progresses in a non-linear way. But I am currently doing my data analysis, thankfully my supervisor is happy with my work so far and this has definitely given me more confidence to keep going. Just to mention, I did mainly semi-structured interviews which is more of a qualitative approach to data collection and the tool that am using to analyze, Nvivo, is a really powerful tool that I feel any research student using a qualitative approach should use. As I do my data analysis am also working on the outline of my Thesis write-up and possibly two Journal papers.

What motivates you to carry on through this research?

I have always loved finding out the reason for things and naturally I do enjoy research.

My family is also another motivating factor, in a way I am doing it for them since it will definitely help me in progressing my career.

The return on investment is also motivating. My motivation comes from the visibility and recognition Strathmore University will be accorded, since the research I am doing is new and there is very little knowledge in this area especially in Kenya.

Finally, the scope of study in itself is also very critical since so many organizations are investing in enterprise systems but they don’t have the skills required to manage them.

How do you balance researching, working and managing your family?

These last 25 months, since the journey began, have been quite hectic with the PhD and teaching. I am fortunate to have a family that is extremely supportive of my studies.

I have learnt to prioritize what I need to do by striving to always put God first, then my family, and then my work through putting strict deadlines for myself to accomplish results. That said, my social life is non-existent at the moment. Though I believe the work I put in now will pay off in future.

What are your future plans?

Well…to finish up this PhD, for one.

Also, I enjoy academia including the teaching and research that comes with it. My research area is largely untapped especially in Africa and I would definitely want to continue my study in this area and possibly get into a programme to refine my research skills and write academic papers targeting top journals. I am currently receiving support from FIT for the PhD studies, as I look for additional support or any possibilities for collaboration to further my research.

What would you advise other PhD students or PhD potentials?

Firstly, if you are determined to do a PhD take the leap of faith and start the journey. I think the hardest step is starting. Also nurture an environment where you can share information and discuss issues with each other as PhD students, it is very important.

Take ownership of your research work from the onset; always listen to your supervisor (even if you disagree with them), God put them there for a reason, so listen to them.

Finally, I think the PhD not only grows you from an academic point of view but also grows you as a person and you get to appreciate the little details of life that often go unnoticed.

What do you do when not researching and teaching?

I spend most of my extra time with my family. I try to be around them and to carry out my other roles as best as I can.