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«Researchers have endeavored to increase understanding of the relationships between investments in information systems (IS), competitive advantage, ...»

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IT Mediation Intense tie is defined as a relationship between two nodes where managers interpret the use of one or more of the identified technologies, including ERP system, Blackberry email, Blackberry cellular telephone, SMS text messaging, instant messaging, Skype, video conferencing, digital knowledge repository, and China cellular telephone (China Phone) as important media in sustaining the relationship. Informal face-to-face meetings, regularly scheduled face-to-face meetings, ad hoc face-to-face interactions, and landline telephone are classified as as traditional ways to mediate relational ties.

Table 4 provides an interesting overview of IT Mediation Intensity in the Competitive Dynamics Social Network Infrastructure. IT Mediation Intensity is strongest in the Enacting stage. It is during this stage that managers participate in a rational decision-making process, and must choose whether to forge ahead with an action.

It is during this stage that managers must strive to make the optimal decision, based upon information about alternatives and the competitive and economic landscapes. Leidner and Elam (1993) suggest that in a competitive business environment, the decision-making

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and compressed time for decision-making. In the competitive environment of today‘s global businesses, the complexity of firm-level decisions is further compounded by the temporally and spatially disbursed nature of organizational structures. Thus, it is logical that managers rely upon social computing and communications technologies to enable and facilitate the social network ties in the Enacting stage of competitive activity.

It is also interesting to note that IT Mediation Intensity is lowest in the Firm Performance stage. In this stage, competitive actions have already been abandoned or executed, and have thus begun to have some impact upon Firm Performance. While social computing and computing technologies are still very important in the social network infrastructure in the Firm Performance stage, ties between managers are more IT intensive in the Conceiving stage during initial formation of competitive actions, in the Enacting stage in the evaluation of possible actions and eventual choice of a course of action, and in the Executing stage when managers are actively pursuing a course of action. Firm Performance is a critical discussion among managers; thus, face-to-face, the richest form of communication plays a strong role at this stage.

8.3. Digitally-Mediated Aggregate Cognitive Maps The social network analysis has shown strong evidence of the role of social computing and communications technologies in mediating ties between managers in the competitive dynamics process. Immutable strategic plans are becoming less useful in a world of geographically dispersed organizational participants, rapid technological changes, emerging markets, and shifting market boundaries (Gray, 1986). Today's

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competitive dynamic in which a firm operates changes. Furthermore, the enactment of a competitive action that is the end product of a formal and elaborate decision process that takes place within well-defined temporal and spatial boundaries is becoming less useful.

Instead managers need tools that can create quick connections among individual idiosyncratic cognitions, and facilitate the flow of information and knowledge in a realtime and continuing stream. In executing firm-level competitive actions, managers rely upon digitally-enabled mechanisms that enable collective knowledge and information about potential new customers, new markets and new developments in the industry.

Furthermore, digitally-enabled devices are used to inform stakeholders about actions the firm is actively pursuing, or in obtaining information that leads to the abandonment of action.

Given the newly acquired knowledge of the intensity of use of social computing and communications technologies across the competitive dynamics process, of interest at this point in this dissertation was to examine managerial discourse relevant to each stage of the competitive dynamics process to determine if concepts relevant to information systems are centers of conversation. In the final stage of the analysis, Centering Resonance Analysis is used to construct graphical representations of managers‘ aggregate cognitive structures for each stage of the competitive dynamics process. Figures 26 through 29 provide the graphical depictions of each aggregate cognitive schema. In these four figures, the most influential words (concepts) in the managerial aggregate cognitive map are outlined in red, the next most influential are outlined in yellow, and concepts at

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indicate very high associations between words or concepts, while the lighter lines indicate high associations between concepts. While these concepts are significant at descending levels, each concept is identified as significant to show up in the map at all.

8.3.1. Conceiving Stage – Digitally-Mediated Aggregate Cognition. Figure 26 below depicts the Digitally-Mediated Aggregate Cognition at the Conceiving stage of the competitive dynamics process.

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The most influential words in the map outlined in red are information, company, product and customer. Concepts including communication, innovative, industry, and research are found at the second level of influence, outlined in yellow. Numerous words

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channel, email, ERP, Internet, process and capability.

Concepts that managers consider central concepts in their discussions of the Conceiving stage of competitive action can be identified such as information, knowledge at the explicit and tacit levels, flexibility of information, and ways that managers identify drivers of competitive activity. The concept of Information remains very significant.

The importance of information has been noted by various managers and on multiple occasions throughout the interview process.

There are many concepts relating directly to information technology, including email, Internet, system, and ERP. These particular technologies emphasize need for flexibility of the mechanisms that facilitate information and knowledge acquisition and sharing. Just the mere presence of these influential concepts in the managers‘ aggregate cognitive map of concepts relating to conceiving of competitive activity provides a strong indication of the embedded role of information systems in competitive dynamics.

By taking a closer look at the digitally-mediated aggregate map of managerial cognition at the Conceiving level, relationships among these concepts can be examined.

For example, there is a very strong association (dark connecting line) indicating that these associations occur very frequently between the concepts of information at the first influence level and system at the third influence level, again, a strong indication of the importance and embeddedness of information systems in the aggregate cognitive structure of the managerial team in the context information and the systems used to gather and manage information. There are numerous strong associations between the

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information and knowledge, information and action, information and channel, among others, emphasizing the way in which managers relate disparate issues to the concept of information.

There are also interesting associations among concepts such as Internet and

research, supporting the interpretations of managers in Study I:

We develop ideas for new products through Internet research on novel end-uses for our products or through interactions with our customers. (FCI Manager) Other associations such as manager and communication, research and communication, system and ERP, ERP and knowledge, information and channel among others, give evidence of the importance of the distribution of individual information and knowledge toward a firm-level awareness, recognition of motivations to engage in competitive activity, and firm-level identification of resources to enable capability. In fact, there is an important association between information and capability. There is also evidence of other concepts that were identified and noted in Study I of this dissertation, such as Quality, Innovation, History, Knowledge, Dominance, among others.

8.3.2. Enacting Stage – Digitally-Mediated Aggregate Cognition. Figure 27 below depicts the Digitally-Mediated Managerial Aggregate Cognitive Map at the Enacting stage of the competitive dynamics process.

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The concepts information, decision, people and organization are at the highest level of influence. At this stage, managers are concerned with a decision-making process relevant to competitive activity. Again, information plays a significant role, and people are emphasized here, a reminder that although technologies are embedded within the manner in which the competitive dynamics process is carried out, people make those decisions. The next level of influence holds concepts such as customer, product, technology, time and email, among others. At the third level of influence, there are concepts such as communication, electronic, Blackberry, ERP, meeting, group, message,

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share information in the context of enacting competitive actions by engaging in firm-level decision-making about competitive activity. There is also strong evidence of managers‘ concerns regarding the availability of raw materials (e.g., steel, copper, aluminum) and resources that provide the capability to engage in a chosen competitive action. Once again, there are several important concepts relating directly to information technology, including Blackberry, ERP, email, technology, system. As was the case in the Conceiving stage, there is evidence of the embedded role of information technology in the context of the Enacting stage of competitive activity.

There are important associations between concepts that help to tell the story of managerial interpretations at this stage. For example, information and decision, information and action, action and decision, show the strong emphasis managers place upon information in decision-making in the context of competitive activity. Leidner and Elam (1993) suggested that in a competitive business environment, the decision-making process becomes increasingly critical, with increased need for speed of decision-making and compressed time for decision-making. Additionally, there is evidence of the rationalizing influence of technology as signified by the associations between the concepts objective and reality, technology and objective. There is evidence of the embedded and vital role of technology in decisions that must be made collectively and in a competitive industry and under time pressure in associations including decision and group, competitive and industry, system and access, system and resource, access and technology, access and time

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system and resource, access and technology, and access and time, showing that managers interpret the embedded and vital role of technology in decisions that must be made in a competitive industry and under time pressure, findings substantiated by the literature that emphasizes the context of speed in competitive activity (Chen & Hambrick, 1995;

Eisenhardt, 1989; Ferrier, 2001; Smith & Grimm, 1991). However, extant research has looked primarily at the speed at which the action itself is carried out. FCI‘s managers

recognize the mediating role of information systems in facilitating competitive actions:

We‘re moving [the ERP system] into China. If we can get our system up right, with the speed and efficiency of the information it provides, no one else can compete with us there. (FCI Manager) 8.3.3. Executing Stage – Digitally-Mediated Aggregate Cognition. Figure 28 below depicts the Digitally-Mediated Managerial Aggregate Cognitive Map at the Executing stage of the competitive dynamics process.

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In the Executing stage managers are actively pursuing a course of action chosen in the Enacting stage. In the case of new product development, materials and machines have been or are being purchased, raw materials have been or are being purchased, and/or new personnel have been or are being hired. The firm may be announcing the new product in the marketplace, actively promoting new products to potential customers and/or identifying ways in which new products can be utilized across various markets.

In the aggregate cognitive map at the Executing stage, the concepts product, information, customer and system are found at the highest level of influence in the

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ERP and process. At the third level of influence, there are concepts including communication, Blackberry, email, competitor, and deployment. As was true in the Conceiving and Enacting stages, concepts related to information technology are embedded within discourse relevant to Executing competitive actions. It is interesting to note that information is once again a top concept. Not only are the concepts interesting, but also the relationships among the various concepts. For example, there are very strong associations between the concepts of product and information, ERP and information, communication and information, information and system, and a strong association between customer and information, and Blackberry and information. McGrath et al.

(2004) point out that knowledge is not static. Managers are continually learning and adding to what they know about motivations and capabilities for competitive action, and probable outcomes. Managers will execute competitive actions contingent upon what they expect the market to accept at the time they would be ready to enter the market (Kogut & Kulatilaka, 2004). This is significant at the Executing stage, given that competitive activity must sometimes be abandoned at this stage. Other interesting associations exist between the concepts of product and system, customer and system, and sale and system. Thus, the concepts and patterns in the aggregate cognitive map at the Executing stage emphasize the reliance managers have upon information, and the information systems that act as the platform and conduit for information and knowledge exchange that will result in successful execution of new product development.

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