Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Digital Platforms as Sources for Organizational and Strategic Transformation: A Case Study of the Midblue Project

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Digital Platforms as Sources for Organizational and Strategic Transformation: A Case Study of the Midblue Project

Article excerpt


The paper is centered on the role of technology and specifically of IT in the recombination of the factors of production. Particularly, the objective is to see how this technology contributes to the formulation of business strategies, the outlining of organizational structures and the alignment with the business environment. A theoretical framework is proposed that combines three perspectives. The first perspective stresses the importance of digital architectures in the modalities through which firms organize for innovation. Second, organization as a platform outlines a scenario for generating multiple organizational forms based on recombination of existent resources, routines and transactions. Third, digital platforms are seen as determinant tools for a dematerialization process that consents to recombine the factors of production for achieving a competitive advantage. The Midblue project provides an illustrative example of how strategy, structure and information technology co-evolve in organizations and how digital platforms can trigger transformation at both strategic and organizational levels.

Keywords: Platform, Digital product, Dematerialization process, Infrastructure, Ecogenesis

1 Introduction

Traditionally, entrepreneurship is the activity related to the combination of the factors of production (land, labour, physical, human and financial capital) in order to produce goods or services for a market. The organizations support this combination. They represent the whole of roles and relationship (structure) led by a management able to follow a strategy that establishes an effective alignment with the environment [22], The maintenance of this alignment is an extremely complex task because organizations and business environments continuously evolve. Strategy and structure are the main instruments through which organizations deal with this situation. Strategy is the plan of action to achieve a competitive advantage and structure represents patterns and relationships of entities that allow the accomplishment of this advantage.

Since Chandler's seminal work [11], the relationship between strategy and structure has been object of a large research activity in management studies. In organization studies, contingency theory [18] has a long tradition for studying the organizational structure/environment relationship. In order to be competitive, a strategy is formulated, an appropriate structure is envisaged for following it, and Information Technology (IT) is implemented to support both internal processes and actions in the competitive environment.

However, the question is if these policies, such as the strategy/structure alignment, the structure/environment alignment, and the strategy/IT alignment are still valid in order to be competitive. To achieve these alignments is difficult and takes time. In contrast, the level of competition and technological development requires a continuous recombination of the factors of production according to organizational forms that are no more led by traditional approaches in management or organization studies [6],

The relationship between IT, organizational structure and strategy has been investigated in the strategic Information Systems research stream [7], [28], Previous works have focused on the degree to which an IS must be strategically, structurally and informally aligned with the organization, in order to achieve organizational performance [5], [19], As opposed to such traditional approaches, a focus on the relationship between new digital architectures and organizational transformation has been recently advocated [2], Organizational transformation is intended as the process through which an organization is re-aligned with its environment.

New digital architectures are more flexible and scalable than pre-lnternet ones [21] and therefore their transformative power is higher. Furthermore, since socio-technical, economic, and political trends enable new trajectories for transformation, organizational inertia is increasingly eroded [2], For instance, organizations can take advantage from the modularity, scalability, and interoperability of Service Oriented Architectures for transforming their structure and implementing new strategies. …

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