• Nigel Patrick Melville, Ph.D.

    Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation

    In the fourth industrial age, how can digital assets enable rapid adoption of new business models? Why do so many strategic business initiatives relying on digital systems fail to achieve their objectives? What's unique about digital transformation? Are special capabilities needed? What are the implications as organizations seek to become more environmentally sustainable?

    I'm one of the most highly cited researchers in the field of digital transformation and business value, and enjoy partnering with organizations to apply what I've learned to help them achieve strategic objectives.
    I'm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I'm a professor at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. I travel widely and recently enjoyed a sabbatical at the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad. Previous career paths include sales engineer, new product engineer, technical editor, research and development, and software entrepreneur.
  • Impacts

    Making a difference

    I was appointed in 2016 by President Mark Schlissel to the search advisory committee for the new position of vice president for information technology and chief information officer for the University of Michigan. According to President Schlissel, the successful candidate would oversee "the creation of an integrated information technology strategy for the entire university, including the health system." Successful search resulted in hiring of Kelli Trosvig, who formerly served as vice president for information technology and CIO at the University of Washington.
    I partnered with a leading French real estate developer to understand digital transformation opportunities.
    At the request of former President Mary Sue Coleman, I led the President's Advisory Group in a strategic discussion of digital transformation at the University of Michigan.
    In Pune, India, I partnered with the Tata Group in an analysis of digital transformation and innovation.
    I partnered with UNICON (The International University Consortium for Executive Education) to examine the strategic nature of social media within organizations.
    I serve on several university committees focused on themes of digital innovation and transformation, for example, the Academic Innovation Faculty Advisory Council (formerly the Digital Innovation Advisory Group).
    My blog examining how digital transformation can enable new forms of environmental sustainability (Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability) has nearly 50,000 views.
    My research papers have been cited more than 4,000 times, and my H-index is 16, which according to this analysis is three times the mean for a sample of business scholars.
    The article entitled "IT and Organizational Performance" appearing in MIS Quarterly in 2004 authored with Vijay Gurbaxani and Ken Kraemer has been listed on Scopus "Top 20 most cited Business, Management, and Accounting articles" from 2004 to 2008; is 19th in citations among all published MIS Quarterly papers (journal was founded in 1977), and 11th since 2000. Within the IS field, it is in the top .16 percentile in terms of citations (see Iivari (2015))

    The article "Information Systems Innovation for Environmental Sustainability" was cited for spanning boundaries of IS and sustainability literatures by the Editor of leading IS journal EJIS: "Seminal papers bridging two research traditions can be found in the literature such as on IS development and new product development (Nambisan, 2003) or IS and sustainable development (Melville, 2010)..."
    Recent public talks and seminars include: April 27, 2017, "Sustainable Enterprise in the Fourth Industrial Age," University of Surrey, Centre for Environment and Sustainability"; May 2017, “Sustainable Enterprise in the Fourth Industrial Age: Implications for Low-Carbon Operations” HEC Montréal - GReSI (Groupe de recherche en systèmes d’information); April 22, 2016, "Information Systems Innovation," Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia; February 25, 2016, Information Systems Innovation, Arizona State University Information Systems Research Workshop; October 9, 2015, Digital Innovation: A Digital Capabilities Perspective," Terry College of Business, University of Georgia; January 6, 2015, "Digital Fitness: Four Principles for Successful Development of Digital Initiatives," 48th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences; October 24, 2014, "Can Information Systems Enhance Carbon Productivity? Empirical Analysis of Global Corporations," Research Seminar, Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal CA; August 9, 2014, "Future of Information Systems and Opportunities for IS Researchers," Doctoral Student Corner, Americas Conference on Information Systems, Savannah, GA; and January 7, 2014, "Crowd-Sourced Peer Feedback for Learning Community Engagement," 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.
  • Research Projects

    How I know what I know

    "Fourth Industrial Age Organizing"
    This is a research program focusing on the business transformations (work practices, routines, culture, mindshifts, leadership, etc.) accompanying emerging technology architectures loosely based on APIs, microservices architecture, and AI-driven operations. Two working papers are under review, and a third is in early stages.
    "A Design Thinking Framework for Digital Service Innovation: Insights from Design Teams"
    This paper introduces a design thinking framework for digital service innovation by building on the rich service design and design thinking literatures. Insights from design teams in various digital contexts provide detailed descriptions of the advantages and challenges of empathic approaches as well as illustrations of how cognitive biases can be mitigated via empathic approaches
    "Information Systems Innovation: A Digital Capabilities Perspective"
    A work in progress with R. Kohli. This paper examines the types of capabilities needed by organizations as they undertake digital transformation.
    Co-authored with Rob Fichman, this published paper received the Best Publication of the Year Award from the Association for Information Systems in December 2015. The paper argues that to achieve returns on innovation with IT, firms need to align their IT innovation posture with their stock of resources conducive to effective deployment of IT.
    A published working paper that is currently being extended. The focus here is on identifying and describing the leadership capabilities required for digital transformation, which in this paper, I called "digital fitness."
    An application of digital fitness concepts to higher education, in particular, online learning and MOOCs. The article is intended to inform an audience of senior executives grappling with digital transformation in a specific sector.
    "Energy and Carbon Management Systems: Organizational Implementation and Application" Published article with R. Whisnant in Journal of Industrial Ecology. Examines the implications of digital transformation for corporate environmental sustainability.
    A chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Business and the Natural Environment, edited by P. Bansal and A. Hoffman and published by Oxford University Press. Given my research focus on digital transformation and environmental sustainability, my business school colleague Andy Hoffman (director of the Erb Institute) invited me to write this chapter.
    (Full cv available here).
  • Information Systems - Scholarly Community

    Valuable and unique insights for the digitally-infused fourth industrial age

    Research on digital information systems explores unique, complex, and important phenomena arising when digital technologies are introduced into real-world settings. In the fourth industrial age, boundaries between physical, digital, and biological systems are vanishing, so it stands to reason that research insights pertaining to digital information systems are crucial to organizational survival and prosperity in the 21st century. Here are a few examples:

    • Brian Pentland’s research on organizational routines and information systems illustrates the folly of designing technologies when what is desired is new ways of working (Pentland and Feldman 2008).
    • Wanda Orlikowski’s examination of a large-scale information system implementation suggests a new theory of situated, improvisational change that emerges over time, in contrast to rapid and radical change. (Orlikowski 1996)
    • Mark Keil has illustrated the unique factors that promote escalation of digital initiatives (throwing good money after bad) (Keil 1995). 
    • Arun Sundararajan has applied his modeling insights on network effects and peer-to-peer markets to shape the sharing economy. 


    These are just a few examples of theory development, testing, and real-world application and impact occurring within the digital information systems research community that have immense impact on organizations and the economy.


    IS scholarly journals are ranked in the top-10 of all business and management journals according to the SCImago Journal Rank indicator (MIS Quarterly) and Thompson Reuters InCites Journal Citation Reports (MIS Quarterly). Annual conferences include the International Conference on Information Systems, Americas Conference on Information Systems, Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences as well as the INFORMS Conference on Information Systems and Technology and the AOM Organizational Communication and Information System annual meeting, among others.



    Keil, M. 1995. "Pulling the Plug: Software Project Management and the Problem of Project Escalation," MIS Quarterly (19:4), pp. 421-447.

    Orlikowski, W.J. 1996. "Improvising Organizational Transformation Over Time: A Situated Change Perspective," Information Systems Research (7:1), pp. 63-92.

    Pentland, B.T., and Feldman, M.S. 2008. "Designing Routines: On the Folly of Designing Artifacts While Hoping for Patterns of Action," Information and Organization (18:4), pp. 235-250.


  • Digital Transformation in the News

    The good, the bad, the ugly

    As the API economy emerges in the fourth industrial age, many questions emerge. One perspective is that IT departments ought to look more like SaaS platforms, as recently described by MuleSoft founder Ross Mason: "Every organisation is very used to executing projects on this treadmill, the business needs something, they put a project in the pipeline, it gets triaged, it might take a year. I met with one of the big banks today and it takes two and a half years before one of their projects gets approved. That isn't working, that's breaking down, that's the IT delivery gap problem."


    Accenture CEO at WEF: "Digital disruption is at the heart of all the conversations I have with CEOs today. And this is not surprising, as it presents the most significant threats and opportunities any of us have faced in business." Nanterme goes on to say: "success requires CEOs to develop the right leadership capabilities, workforce skills and corporate cultures to support digital transformation." These are precisely the dimensions I teach in my courses at Ross and in executive education, examine in my research, and leverage in business projects.
    McKinsey acquires Lunar, signaling increased focus on both digital transformation and online user experience and bolstering McKinsey Digital.
    Charity sector ramping up digital transformation efforts.
    IMD & Cisco's take on digital business transformation, asking "why" and "how".
    Digital transformation is about the front office and the back office, according to the WSJ.
    GE's approach to digital transformation is centered on the Internet of Things.
    American Express hiring MBAs to accelerate digital transformation.
  • How to find me

    Happy to connect