«Researchers have endeavored to increase understanding of the relationships between investments in information systems (IS), competitive advantage, ...»
The findings from Study I examination led to a second research question in Study II: How do managers in a dominant firm utilize intrafirm social computing networks and communications technologies in conceiving, enacting and executing competitive actions and responses to improve relative firm performance? The second research question was addressed by building upon the findings in Study I, and by utilizing a synthesis of social network and centering resonance methodological approaches. By utilizing this approach, it was possible to overcome the limitations inherent in research designs that rely upon summary measures such as random sampling across multiple organizations where organizational context, the behavior of individual actors, and the influence actors have upon one another are largely ignored (Alavi & Kane, 2005; Hassan, 2009).
The findings of this dissertation suggest that information systems impact firm performance through a competitive dynamics process, best understood through the progression of four stages labeled as follows: conceiving (IT-enhanced organizational information processing capability and competitive action), enacting (information-driven competitive action decision), executing (execution/abandonment), and firm performance.
The first study in this dissertation contributes to understanding how information systems facilitate a process of information and knowledge dissemination and sharing among managerial decision-makers, how information systems enable a collective and rational competitive action/response decision-making process, how information systems support the firm in competitive actions enactment, including announcing a new product in the marketplace, actively promoting new products to potential customers and identifying ways in which new products can be utilized across various markets, and thus, how firm performance is impacted by information systems. When managers view information systems as a mechanism for providing competitive opportunities rather than simply viewing information systems in a background role, competitive advantages will evolve.
As managers become cognizant of information systems at the competitive dynamics level, each stage of the competitive dynamics process can become more efficient and effective, in essence, a stable platform for effective choices of competitive action that will positively impact firm performance.
In the second study, findings indicate that at each stage of the competitive dynamics process informal social networks derived from the firm‘s managerial team
the collaboration and communication requirements in a given stage and for a given competitive action. At each stage and within each managerial social network, a combination of traditional and social computing and technologically advanced communications media are employed to support the social network infrastructure, or the ties between the social network participants, at that stage. As IT Mediation Intensity increases in a given social network infrastructure, or the number of ties supported by technology increases, the social network as a whole at that stage becomes more efficient and effective, where social network participants benefit from the role of IT in facilitating the formation of collective knowledge and information. However, managers in controlling network positions may largely control the types of media that support the social network structure.
A digitally-mediated aggregate cognition indicates that managers do interpret the role of information systems as embedded within the competitive dynamics process. The presence of information systems facilitates the activity inherent at each stage of the competitive dynamics process, including: real-time flow of information and knowledge at the Conceiving stage that enhances awareness of the internal and external environment, increasing a cohesive understanding of the motivation to act and the firm‘s capability to act; extending the traditional limits upon competitive decision-making in the Enacting stage by serving as a resource in a more rational, collective and interactive decisionmaking process; providing the platform at the Executing stage for information and knowledge of where, when and how actions or responses will best play out toward
the impact of competitive actions either executed or abandoned on financial and/or market Firm Performance.
While the role of information systems in the context of competitive dynamics is significant, findings indicate that technology cannot be used to overcome certain human factors. It should be remembered that people ultimately decide how competitive activity will be carried out in an organization. For example, in the focal firm of this dissertation, FCI, all competitive decisions at the Enacting stage of the competitive dynamics process are moderated by the firm‘s growth strategy, its dominant position and reputation in the industry, managerial style, commitment to quality, and an organizational culture that has undergone major shifts due to turbulent economic conditions and multiple changes in ownership over a relatively short period of time. These moderating factors will certainly influence decision outcomes for the firm. Additionally, those individuals in advantageous positions in informal social networks at each stage of the competitive dynamics process will exert a good deal of influence on where and when certain information and knowledge reaches others, regardless of the social network infrastructure media employed. Furthermore, these individuals may largely dictate the media by which such information and knowledge will be conveyed. Individuals in less powerful network positions who resist the use of certain media or are devoted more closely to the use of a particular media may be left out of the loop. The result of these moderating factors will affect the overall competitive dynamics process, as the four stages are interdependent.
However, greater mediation of IT can create a more objective process, as it becomes
and to pool and share individual unique knowledge and expertise across the managerial team.
9.2. Contributions The ensuing sections describe the specific contributions of this dissertation.
9.2.1. Study I Contributions. The research in Study I makes the following specific and unique contributions. First, this is the first study to use the grounded theory method, a qualitative research methodology, an approach underutilized in both IS and competitive dynamics research, to investigate the role of information systems in conceiving, enacting, executing competitive actions to improve relative firm performance. This research, being the first qualitative grounded theory-based study in Competitive Dynamics, also demonstrates the value of using alternate research mechanisms to unearth complex organizational phenomena embedded within the process of conceiving, enacting and executing competitive actions. Thus, this study lays the foundation for much richer and in-depth future research that will add to and enrich the Competitive Dynamics research domain. Second, this study is unique in its integration of two research streams – information system and competitive dynamics. Third, this research provides an in-depth and within-firm view of the role of IS in the process of conceiving- enacting- executing competitive actions to improve relative firm performance. The studies conducted in this dissertation were able to examine the actual competitive dynamics process in a firm rather than simply the factors leading to and/or resulting from the process (Sabherwal & Robey, 1993). This within-firm view of how
organization-wide information systems to support information processing, knowledge sharing, distributed cognition and the assessment of firm performance in relation to rivals in the industry is unique to both IS and Competitive Dynamics literature. Fourth, this study provides a foundation for future research to further flesh out the linkage between investments in information systems, competitive actions or responses and firm performance. Fifth, contrary to many existing studies, this research found that managers follow a highly rational decision making process that is somewhat moderated by such factors as organizational culture, strategy, and decision making style. This finding suggests that one of the effects of using the organization-wide information and communications systems that are quite prevalent in most modern enterprises is that managers combine intuition with a more rational decision making approach afforded through information systems. These findings lay the foundation for further research into this possible change in the decision making process and if so, how and to what extent information systems are contributing to this new phenomena in the context of competitive dynamics.
9.2.2. Study II Contributions. The research in Study II makes the following unique and important contributions. First, building upon the findings in Study I, Figure 30 below depicts the way in which firms‘ competitive activity can be conceptualized through informal managerial social networks configured at each stage of the competitive dynamics process: conceiving, enacting, executing, and firm performance.
social network configurations that are largely facilitated and supported by information technology. Third, the competitive action in question drives the configuration of each social network, as the unique expertise, knowledge and informational needs will be different given disparate competitive actions. Fourth, an IT Mediation Intensity ratio provides evidence of the prevalence of IT in the social network infrastructure, a platform for real-time connections among managers with varying knowledge, information and expertise. Fifth, IT mediation aides in the fluid and timely reconfiguration of social networks that formulate the aggregate cognitive map needed at a given stage of the competitive dynamics process. Sixth, the aggregate cognitive map at each stage of the competitive dynamics process shows concepts that managers interpret as central to that stage.
stages. Recall that concepts related to IT show up prominently in each digitally-mediated aggregate cognitive map; thus, it can be concluded that IT is integral throughout the competitive dynamics process. Finally, the research methodology employed provides a unique contribution in its own right. In Study I, grounded theory was employed using an interpretive research methodology. In Study II, the research built upon the grounded theoretical model in Study I and created a synthesis between social network analysis and centering resonance analysis.
As stated earlier in this dissertation, the baseline assumption was that each social network at each stage of competitive activity would have essentially the same set of participants, with the social network architectures, and consequently the aggregate cognitive maps differing little at each stage of the competitive dynamics process.
However, while some similarities do exist, each social network configuration is different.
Huber and Lewis (2010) suggest two perspectives on social cognition that are important with regard to the way in which groups of individuals work toward a common outcome, and may help explain this phenomenon. There is the perspective that group members share important mental concepts about a phenomenon; thus, common understanding can be reached based upon a shared mental model (Klimoski & Mohammad, 1994 as cited by Huber & Lewis). Conversely, the group also recognizes that each individual possesses unique knowledge and expertise, without which, the optimal outcome could not be reached. Huber and Lewis (2010) call this group-level recognition of the unique knowledge and information of others in the group ―cross
words, not all mental processes are shared among members in a group; thus, it is essential that group members understand the mental models of others in the group. As a result of this understanding, managers know who to go to for knowledge and information that they themselves do not possess. These perspectives help explain why the social network configurations and aggregate cognitive maps at each stage of the competitive dynamics process are different. At each stage, while certain knowledge and information is shared by all managers or all managers share a common understanding, each manager possesses some manner of information, knowledge, or access to information that is unique and more or less important to that particular stage. Accordingly, the coordination of individuals (Malone & Crowston, 1994) varies along the competitive dynamics process, given that dependencies among individuals within the managerial team fluctuate based upon the knowledge and information needs at the stage in question. An IT-mediated social network infrastructure provides the platform for shared mental concepts as well as an efficient and effective coordinating mechanism for pooling unique knowledge, information, and expertise.
Firm-level competitive actions and responses are embedded in IT-mediated social network structures that both shape and provide the conduit for communication, and for information and knowledge flows. As depicted in Table 4 and in Figure 30, the IT Mediation Intensity indices at all four stage of the competitive dynamics process (conceiving = 0.91; enacting = 0.98; executing = 0.91; firm performance = 0.69) indicate that firms‘ managers heavily rely upon various digitized mechanisms to congregate,
firm-level actions become increasingly inseparable from IT. Furthermore, the aggregate cognitive maps provide evidence that as managers discuss competitive activities, concepts relevant to IT are embedded in the conversation. The evidence presented in this dissertation shows that IT directly affects the various stages of the competitive dynamics process. Therefore, it can be concluded that IT directly impacts firm performance.