Interview with Prof. Eric van Heck

Prof. Eric van HeckRecently, Prof. Eric van Heck took some time out to chat with us. Prof. van Heck is the Professor of IS and Markets at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, where he teaches in the international M.B.A. program, the Global eManagement (GeM) program, and PhD students. Prof. van Heck has published in journals such as the California Management Review, Communications of the ACM, European Management Journal, Harvard Business Review, Information Systems Research, Journal of Information Technology, and WirtschaftsInformatik. He is a member of the editorial board of Electronic Commerce Research, the Journal of Information Technology, and the European Journal of Information Systems, and has written or edited twelve books.

You are amongst the first few people who started working on “Auctions”. Can you share the motivation behind your work on auctions, specifically, “Re-engineering the Dutch Flower Auctions: A Framework for Analyzing Exchange Organizations” (ISR, 1997), “The Cutting Edge in Auctions” (HBR, 2000) and “Making Markets” (HBS Press, 2002)?

The topic of auctions or online auctions was 15 yrs ago a very obscure research object as it was not a very well-known application area. When I was presenting my work at ICIS or other conferences, people were quite puzzled with this topic. My initial work was focused on flower auctions and the role of IT. The interesting aspect of auctions that excited me was as Charles Smith states “The Social Construction of Value”. Auctions and online auctions have three interesting and diverse aspects: human/social aspect; business process aspect and technology aspect. I think these features made it a very interesting topic for me. Auctions gained popularity through development of internet and mainstream examples are E-bay and Google Adword auction, which strengthen auction as a research area.

Which research areas are you working on currently?

Next to the online auctions, currently I am working on three other research topics:

  • Role of Information Architecture in Business Network – focuses on Smart Business Networks (CACM, 2007)
  • IT and Business Process Outsourcing – focuses on how business partners can connect to each other.
  • Role of IT in new world of work – focuses on influence of IT on how work is changing in terms of modularity, team work, globalization etc.

You have supervised lots of doctoral students. What challenges/pleasures have you encountered while working with them?

I play a dual role with regard to doctoral students. First, I have 8 doctoral students that I supervise. Second, I am Director of Doctoral Education in our school; where we have over 100 PhD students. The best thing about working with doctoral students is their curiosity, enthusiasm and intellect. It’s great to work with smart people, sometimes smarter than I am. I challenge them and they challenge me on various topics and developing new theoretical or practical insights is a very rewarding process. Also, I enjoy witnessing the process of doctoral student maturing over their dissertation project years. They come in with a lot of enthusiasm and innocence and majority of them leave as mature researcher with their own research streams, branding in the area etc.

With regard to your years as a doctoral student, what do you remember as your most memorable experience?

I had many wonderful experiences during my doctoral study. But my most memorable experiences were while actively participating in doctoral student community of Dutch universities called E-dispuut. It is a community run by doctoral students working in information systems area to discuss all kinds of issues linked to dissertation such as theoretical or methodological challenges. It was a great way to share experiences and learn about how others were doing, where they were struggling with their research, how were they overcoming these challenges etc. and also about issues such as how to defend your research or present your research. These meetings certainly energized all of us and gave us lots of insights. I have a great memory of that time and I am still supporting E-dispuut which has been actively running for over 18 years now.

We thank Prof. Eric van Heck for talking to us.

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