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On this page you find some more recent dissertations, published by IMP members in the 2000s. By entering a search-criteria in the text field below you can limit the displayed dissertations to those matching the search.

Presented 2018


Relationship and Networking Strategy Tools: What are they and how do managers use them in practice?


Caroline Cheng


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This dissertation examines the topic of tools for strategizing in business relationships and
networks. Previous studies in the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) approach to
strategizing as well as selected strategy tool studies from Strategy-as-Practice (SaP) have
provided valuable insights on this topic. The term ‘strategy tools’ covers a set of concepts,
methods, models, techniques, frameworks and methodologies that structure or influence
strategic activity. While IMP studies have started to embrace strategizing and SaP has made
the position clear that tools are important practices that deserve empirical attention, the topic
of tools for strategizing in business relationships and networks remains underexplored in IMP
in two respects. First, too little conceptual attention has been given to tools for strategizing in
business relationships and networks, despite the recognition that tools are helpful to assist
managers to move beyond cognitive boundaries. Second, too little empirical attention has
been given to tools for strategizing in business relationships and networks, despite tools being
a significant part of managerial life as an empirical phenomenon.
The purpose of this PhD thesis is to provide a starting point to address ‘strategy tools’,
conceptually and empirically, within the IMP approach to strategizing focusing on two
questions: (1) Which types of tools for strategizing in business relationships have been
conceptualized and discussed in the IMP literature, and (2) How do managers use tools when
strategizing in business relationships? To examine these questions, this dissertation employs
a manual qualitative content analysis approach to systematically review literature and build a
conceptual framework. Regarding practices as a set of tools in the IMP approach to
strategizing, a multiple embedded case study design investigating tool uses in 16 buyer and
seller relationships using the qualitative research interview method was employed to conduct
the field research.
The thesis contributes to literature on the IMP approach to strategizing in five ways. First, the
term ‘relationship and networking strategy tools’ (RNSTs) has been put forth as a distinct
concept to encompass tools relevant for strategizing in business relationships and networks.
Second, a fine-tuned conceptual framework of RNSTs with four commonalities and six
differing dimensions to structure and stimulate discussions concerning tools for strategizing in
business relationships and networks has been developed. Third, an initial IMP strategy
toolbox, which more clearly outlines the IMP approach to strategizing using tools, is
presented. Fourth, this thesis also contributes by suggesting a six-part typology of interactive
strategizing categories where two additional strategizing configurations to the literature are
being discussed. Finally, taking a broader perspective, this thesis has also taken steps to
broaden the interpretation of strategy tool uses by proposing a ‘tools-in-interaction’ matrix,
which discusses an additional dimension further to the thinking of strategy tool uses in
systematic and experimental ways - that of using tools proactively and reactively in
interactive contexts.
Presented 2017




Nikolina Koporcic


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Presented 2016


Innovative Microenterprises in Mature Industry


Clarissa Sia-Ljungström


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The emergent nature of the innovation process has always rendered it an elusive subject of study. Nonetheless, academics remained undeterred in their attempts to articulate the innovation process in academics terms as attested by the growing amount of research on the topic. Existing theories for explaining innovation (or the lack of innovation) center on empirical samples from large firms in the high-tech sectors such as electronics, software and information technology. This partly explains why popular concepts of innovation processes are associated with firms having characteristics such as strong science and technology components or the ability to conduct research and development
(R&D) activities which should lead to commercialization. What these concepts do not explain well is how small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), in particular microenterprises, which are increasingly credited with contributing to innovative output, are acquiring and converting resources that they do not possess. Microenterprises (also known as small businesses, start-ups, family owned-businesses) possess similar characteristics to their SME counterparts when innovating through interacting in networks to access external resources as a way to make up for their lack of resources. However, the challenges faced by microenterprises can differ in scope from those of the
general population of SMEs, in particular by having an emphasis on the importance of external actor bonds, resources ties and activity links during their innovation process.

This thesis examined the interaction aspect of innovating microenterprises that are seen to be renewing the mature industry landscape. Set in the context of the food industry which have been viewed as traditional and having low levels of innovation, the innovation process of these Swedish microenterprises are examined through how they address the barriers to innovation each in their own way, utilizing and developing capacities through interaction in the network.
Findings suggest that recommendations for microenterprises to build up the networks to gain access to external resources should be accompanied by an awareness of the types and quality of external resources and an on-going evaluation of the capacities that microenterprises have and continue to develop during the innovation process. This involves considering a strategic combination of actor bonds, resources ties and activities links that will connect the synergy between the capacities of both past and present nodes in the network to help overcome barriers in the innovation process for microenterprises.


Business Relationships and Relationship value: A case study of value perceptions in a supplier-customer relationship


Kirsten Frandsen


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The notion of business-to-business relationships and networks attracts increasing attention among marketing researchers. Various aspects of networks and relationships have been studied, including the challenges and possibilities arising when firms engage in collaborative relationships. One of the main challenges concerns the issue of creating, delivering and capturing value. The concept of value is not new, and value discussions within academia can be traced back years within various research fields, such as organization, finance, economic and management. However, in recent times the concept of relationship value that has attracted most research attention concerns how value is created in and of business relationships. This is due to a realization that value is not only related to the transaction of products for price, but is being created through interaction between firms that work together. Realizing that value creation is far more complex and challenging than ‘just’ products for price, has made the concept of relationship value a popular and important topic. It is against this background that this thesis takes its point of departure. Despite the increasing attention given to relationship value, there are still areas that need to be explored further.
Presented 2014


The Determinants of Trust in Business Relationships (summary)


Noémi Piricz


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Presented 2013


Why Didn’t They Ask the Supplier? The Utilization of Supplier Information and Knowledge in the Fuzzy Front End of New Product Development.


Jarmila Kopecka


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Research Aims and Research Questions

In today’s world of multi-component and multi-technology products, firms are obliged to seek knowledge for new product development (NPD) from external sources. Supplier firms are one such external source.

The thesis aims to contribute to the development of a theory on supplier involvement in new product development (NPD) by advancing understanding of the motives and conditions for the utilization of supplier information and knowledge in the fuzzy front end (FFE) of NPD.

The term ‘fuzzy front end’ (FFE) refers to the activities that the firm undertakes prior to a NPD project. The FFE ends when the NPD project is launched, or rejected. The FFE of NPD is information intensive: it requires seeking, accessing and selecting different types of information from both internal and external sources. Previous research focused mostly on the external source of consumers and how ideas from consumers can lead to the generation of new product concepts. By comparison, the suppliers’ contribution to the FFE of NPD has received less attention.

The first empirical study on supplier involvement in the FFE of NPD was published only recently (Wagner, 2012). This is surprising given the fact that the earliest research on supplier involvement in NPD dates back to 1980’s. At first the focus was on the automotive industry in Japan. Later, the research was extended to other countries and other industries. The literature review in Chapter 2 (pp. 21-95) outlines the growing interest in supplier involvement in NPD in relation to the new product market performance.

The present thesis has a different objective in that it investigates supplier involvement in the FFE of NPD from the perspective of the use and non-use of supplier information and knowledge. The thesis examines the exchange and utilization of supplier information and knowledge at the micro-social level of the firm between the individuals who work in the FFE of NPD. Three functional areas have been selected for the study, namely: (Design) Engineering and Purchasing of the customer firm and Sales Engineering of the supplier firm.

As the (Design) Engineers, Purchasers and Sales Engineers exchange supplier information and knowledge with one another, they form pairs, or dyads, in which the (Design) Engineers and Purchasers are the users, and the Sales Engineers are the providers of supplier information and knowledge. The Conceptual Framework (Fig. 3.3) in the Methodology Chapter (Ch. 3, pp. 97-127) illustrates the possible dyad configurations. The supposition behind the Conceptual Framework is that the utilization of supplier information and knowledge in the FFE of NPD is an outcome of a dyadic information relationship between the user and the provider, and that the information relationships are enabled by tie modality (i.e., the type of social tie that exists between the exchanging parties).

The Conceptual Framework draws on the theory of “The Strength of Weak Ties” (Granovetter, 1973, 1982; Levin and Cross, 2004), when it conjectures that the type of social tie (e.g., strong tie, weak tie, and trusted weak tie) influences whether or not the exchanged supplier information and knowledge will be utilized. The thesis seeks answers to the following Research Questions:

RQ1: What does constitute an information relationship between the individuals in the functions of (Design) Engineering, Purchasing and Sales Engineering of supplier and customer firms during the fuzzy front end (FFE) of new product development (NPD)? What type of information and knowledge is exchanged?

RQ2: How does an information relationship between the individuals in the functions of (Design) Engineering, Purchasing and Sales Engineering of supplier and customer firms work? How does the exchange of information and knowledge take place?

RQ3: Why do some information relationships between the individuals in the functions of (Design) Engineering, Purchasing and Sales Engineering of supplier and customer firms lead to the utilization of supplier information and knowledge, and other do not?

Structure and findings of the thesis

The research design of the thesis is a multiple case study involving four firms. The structure consists of four Within-case Analyses and a Cross-case Analysis.

The Within-case Analyses (Chapters 4-7, pp. 129 - 231) follow an uniform pattern and analyse the firms in two steps. Step 1 briefly describes the external information relationships of the firm under study. Step 2 examines the information relationships of the firm at the micro-social level. It analyses the interpersonal dyadic information relationships between (Design) Engineers, Purchasers, and Sales Engineers. The analysis is guided by the Research Questions, and focuses on the What’s, the How’s, and the Why’s/Why not’s of these dyadic information relationships. A tabular display at the end of each chapter summarizes the findings (Miles and Huberman, 1994).

The Within-case Analyses of the dyadic information relationships in the four firms resulted in the identification of 22 Salient Issues (Table 8.1 in Chapter 8), drawn from the researcher’s Reflective Comments about the found case evidence. The Salient issues and the accompanying Reflective Comments can be found in text-boxes throughout the Within-case Analyses. In turn, the Salient Issues served as input for the Cross-case Analysis in Chapter 8.

The Cross-case Analysis (Chapter 8, pp. 233 - 300) identified and investigated four Multicase Themes that characterized the information relationships in the FFE of NPD across the four firms. The Multicase Themes were: Social Ties, Single Sourcing, Boundary Objects, and Trust.

The Cross-case Analysis examined the credibility of the Multicase Themes by analysing the Multicase Themes against the background of primary scholarly work (Section 8.3). Next, the Cross-case Analysis validated the Research Questions using the Multicase Themes and the underlying Salient Issues (Section 8.4). The Cross-case Analysis further resulted in the formulation of the Cross-case Assertions about the Multicase Themes (Section 8.5). Lastly, the Cross-case Analysis examined the Multicase Theme in relation to the Conceptual Framework (Section 8.6), which resulted in a modification of the Conceptual Framework shown in Fig. 8.4.

The modification related to the framework’s construct of the utilization of supplier information and knowledge. The Conceptual Framework in Fig. 3.3 in Chapter 3 conjectured that the exchange of supplier information and knowledge would automatically result in the utilization of that supplier information and knowledge. However, the case evidence drawn from the analysis of the Multicase Theme of Trust (Section 8.3.4, Box 8.4), and mirrored in the Cross-case Assertion about the Multicase Theme of ‘Physical (Boundary) Objects’ (Section 8.5.3) indicated that the utilization of supplier information was not an instant action, but a process consisting of two phases: adoption and implementation. Moreover, the evidence revealed that the two phases were not temporally linked: there was no time-ordered sequence. The adoption phase was found to be a separate process from that of implementation, thus confirming the time-gap identified by Rogers (1983) in his theory of Innovation Diffusion. In modifying the construct of the utilization of supplier information and knowledge, the concept of ‘actionable knowledge’ (Cross and Sproull, 2004), identified in the literature review (Chapter 2, Section 2.4.3), has proved useful because it combines knowledge utilization and dyadic interpersonal social relationships.


The contribution of the final Conceptual Framework (Fig. 8.4) to the development of theory on supplier involvement in new product development (NPD) is fourfold.

First, the Conceptual Framework concentrates on the less researched field of the FFE of NPD and the potential benefit of supplier information and knowledge therein;

Secondly, the Conceptual Framework presents the customer/supplier interaction during the FFE of NPD as a dyadic information relationship between the functional areas at the micro-social level of the customer and supplier firm;

Thirdly, the Conceptual Framework links the utilization of supplier information and knowledge in the FFE of NPD to the theory of Innovation Diffusion (Rogers, 1983) by highlighting the time gap between the adoption and implementation of supplier information and knowledge; and

Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, the Conceptual Framework draws on the research on social ties and how social relationships facilitate and affect the exchange and utilization of information and knowledge (Cross and Sproull, 2004; Granovetter, 1973, 1982; Hansen, 1999; Levin and Cross, 2004). In consequence, the Conceptual Framework presents the utilization of supplier information and knowledge in the FFE of NPD from a relational perspective.

Future research could focus on how to measure the utilization of supplier information in the FFE of NPD. The present thesis has identified two objects of measurement (Dul and Hak, 2008), both of which are directly related to the utilization of supplier information and knowledge, and would therefore allow to extract evidence about the value of the utilization of supplier information and knowledge. The two objects of measurement are the Multicase Themes of Physical (Boundary) Objects and Single Sourcing. Thus, by measuring, for example, the frequency with which the Physical (Boundary) Objects were used in the FFE of NPD, or the frequency with which the customer firm engaged in Single Sourcing, would give an indication about the value of the utilization of supplier information and knowledge to the customer firm.

Managerial implications

The first managerial implication of the thesis’ findings is that firms need to acknowledge supplier firms as a knowledge source, and not only as a trading partner. The evidence from the four case studies suggests that such increased awareness of supplier knowledge is more likely to arise as a result of a bottom-up process, with (Design) Engineers taking the lead. The (Design) Engineers have frequent hands-on exchange of knowledge with the suppliers’ Sales Engineers and, therefore, are in a better position to appreciate the benefits of supplier information and knowledge than the NPD Managers, who have a tendency to downplay the potential contribution of suppliers’ knowledge to the FFE of NPD.

The second managerial implication is that the deployment of social ties to access and disseminate knowledge, both within the firm and across the firm’s boundaries, offers a complementary approach to managing customer/supplier relationships. The case evidence shows that exchanging expertise with another party takes time and mutual trust. Therefore, Management should empower and award the employees for investing time and effort to build social ties with their counterparts in supplier firms. Management should be aware that having a solid social network represents a new type of capability that is difficult to replicate and can therefore become a source of competitive advantage.


Cross, R. and Sproull, L. (2004). More than an answer: information relationships for actionable knowledge, Organization Science, 15 (4), 446-462.

Dul, J. and Hak, T. (2008). Case Study Methodology in Business Research. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Granovetter, M. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380.

Granovetter, M. (1982). The strength of weak ties: a network theory revisited. In: P. V. Marsden and N. Lin (Eds.) Social Structure and Network Analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, p. 105- 130.

Hansen, M.T. (1999). The search-transfer problem: the role of weak ties in sharing knowledge across organization subunits. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44 (1), 82-111.

Kopecka, J. A. (2013) Why Didn.t They Ask the Supplier? The Utilization of Supplier Information and Knowledge in the Fuzzy Front End of New Product Development. 379 pages. PhD thesis, Delft University of Technology. ISBN 978-90-9027742-4.

Levin, D. Z. and Cross, R. (2004). The strength of weak ties you can trust: the mediating role of trust in effective knowledge transfer. Management Science, 50 (11), 1477-1490.

Miles, M. B. and Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook. 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rogers, E. M. (1983). Diffusion of Innovations. 3rd Edition. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Wagner, S. M. (2012). Tapping supplier innovation. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 48 (2), 37-52.


Science in Business Interaction: A Study of the Collaboration between CERN and Swedish Companies


Susanne Åberg


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The aim of this thesis is twofold; to gain and understanding of how CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, interacts with industry; and to gain an understanding of how CERN can become a resource for industry. Both parts of the purpose also have implications for the issue of CERN’s usefulness to industry.

Starting from the popular argument that scientific research can be useful for society through its potential benefits for industry; the thesis investigates the interaction between CERN and Swedish industry. As a complex research organisation is not a homogenous entity, CERN is regarded as a collection of heterogeneous resources which companies can relate to, and benefit from, in different ways.

It is argued that, in order to understand how CERN can be useful for industry, it is important to understand what CERN is. A substantial part of the thesis is therefore dedicated to describing CERN and its context. Apart from a description of CERN’s activities, structures, and history; the case specifically describes two of the main contact points between CERN and industry; technology transfer and procurement. Of the 15 Swedish companies that constitute the industry part of the study, two of the CERN-industry relationships are elaborated on (Ericsson and ABB). The case is primarily based on interviews with over 90 people carried out at CERN and in Sweden, as well as informal conversations and observations during extended visits at CERN.

The findings suggest that companies can gain knowledge (and technologies) from CERN, but that it is through interaction rather than through specialised structures that these resources are acquired. The interaction between CERN and industry is restricted by CERN’s procurement rules, which affects what interaction is possible. The increased focus at CERN on knowledge transfer issues may result in increased transfer, but the study indicates that for this to happen an increased focus on interaction is necessary.

Keywords: Science-business interaction, resources, public procurement, technology transfer, technical development, big science

Presented 2012


Activity Linking in Industrial Networks


Lars Bankvall


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The ways in which industrial activities are undertaken and linked have profound implications for organizational performance. The linking of activities is therefore a phenomenon which, in various shapes and forms, has been of ample concern to both academic scholars and industrial practitioners. Recent developments of practice, such as just-in-time deliveries and build-to-order production, make activity linking increasingly significant. In addition, owing to enhanced outsourcing, activity linking increasingly crosses firm boundaries. The purpose of this thesis is to explore the basic principles for activity linking in the current industrial context.

The framework of the study builds on the Industrial Network Approach, distinguishing between three layers of business life: activities, resources and actors. The research questions derived from this approach concern (i) the interrelatedness between activity interdependencies and adjustments, (ii) the roles of enabling and object resources in the linking of activities, (iii) the roles of action, reaction and interaction in the linking of activities, and (iv) how interaction can be used in the analysis of the interplay between the actions and reactions of individual actors.

Empirically, the thesis consists of a single case study from the construction industry, with three embedded cases. The linking of activities in the cases is illustrated and investigated in terms of three central activity dimensions: activity configurations, activity structures and activity patterns. On the basis of this analysis, a conceptual scheme for the analysis of activity linking is developed. The tools in this scheme explore the connections between activities, resources and actors, as represented in the research questions. The scheme takes the individual activity as well as the links between activities into account, and applies both a structural (linking in space) and a dynamic perspective (linking in time).

The concluding discussion applies the tools in the conceptual scheme in order to analyse how adjustments propagate among activities in industrial networks. It thus discusses activity linking in both space and time, and in relation to resources and actors.

Keywords: Activities, activity links, activity linking, interdependencies, adjustments, interaction, networks, propagations


China’s Creation of Biopharmaceutical Drugs. Combining Political Steering, Military Research, and Transnational Networking


Åse Linne


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Not only the Western world is focused on creating new innovations based on scientific discoveries; this is also the case in China where discoveries in biotechnology science are aimed at creating new biopharmaceutical drugs in order to create a future biotechnology industry and in the end generate economic growth. The focus to invest in high-tech industries such as biotechnology can be traced to the “open-door policy” issued in 1978 with the aim to modernize China and transform China into a “socialistic market economy.” However creating new biopharmaceutical drugs in China is challenging due to the scientific and industrial conditions in China in the late 1970s, including a weak science base due to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), an industrial base mainly related to the defense industry and heavy industry along with a planning tradition where interaction between science and industry was forbidden. This thesis sets out to investigate how Chinese biopharmaceutical drugs are created. With the aim to increase the understanding of China’s creation of biopharmaceutical drugs the thesis is a case study with five embedded cases, representing five new drug innovation processes spanning the whole innovation journey including the developing, producing, and using settings. The investigated innovation processes were singled out through a specific method, more specifically by using a focal resource, a biotechnology system used in the scale between lab and process scale. Through this method it became obvious that among hundreds of Chinese drug development projects there were few that reached scale-up and actual use. By analyzing the resource interfaces that the five drugs encountered while being embedded in the developing, producing, and using settings, the creation of biopharmaceutical drugs in China could be revealed. Through the case study three main components was crystallized as important in the creation of Chinese biopharmaceutical drugs, more specifically

a) the active role of the Chinese government, b) the utilization of Chinese military research, and c) the utilization of transnational networking. The thesis concludes that Chinese biopharmaceutical drugs are created through something that could be characterized as a “command network economy.”

Keywords: innovation, biotechnology, China, resource interfaces, commercialization,

Chinese government, command network economy, biopharmaceutical

drugs, military research.
Presented 2011


Mobile Network Operators and Cooperation, A Tele-Economic Study of Infrastructure Sharing and Mobile Payment Services


Jan Markendahl


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Mobile network operators are currently faced with a number of challenges at the market.
The revenues from voice services have decreased the last couple of years.
Mobile broadband access services are being adopted and the demand is increasing.
The increasing traffic volumes require investments in order to increase the network capacity.

This development leads to a large interest in network solutions that can offer high capacity and low cost.
Besides the use of more efficient radio access technology mobile network operators use strategies
for network deployment and operation involving other market actors.
Operators share networks with competitors or out source network deployment and operation to other companies,
typically the supplier of network equipment. In these examples the mobile operators cooperate about the networks,
the relations to end-users are the same as if the operator would operate the network on its own.

However, in other areas other actors enter the market for mobile services where mobile operators traditionally have been the dominant
player. Handset manufacturers and Internet companies offer value added services and applications to the end-users.
They also establish relations with customers of the mobile operators.

Hence, mobile operators look into new technical solutions and services in order to reduce costs and find new services and sources of revenues.
Many of the networking solutions and services require that the operator cooperates with some other actor.
In this PhD thesis cooperation with competitors, customers and different types of partners are considered.
The partner can be a provider of a non-telecom service like public transportation, financial institutes or third parties taking intermediary roles.

The main research questions in the thesis revolve around why and how mobile operators cooperate.
The drivers for cooperation and the way the cooperation is organized is analyzed for a number of cases.
Three types of services and markets are analyzed:
- Public mobile broadband access services
- Services and solutions for indoor wireless access
- Mobile payment, ticketing and contactless services

A number of technical solutions, business concepts and different types of cooperation and business scenarios have been investigated.
Two overall research questions that are applicable for all cases of cooperation are identified for the analysis.
- What are the main drivers for a specific type of cooperation?
- In what ways can the actors organize the cooperation?


The conceptual model of success in buyer-supplier


Anikó Bódi-Schubert:


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This dissertation is an exploratory research, which aims to establish a conceptual framework for the meaning and role of success in the operation and development of buyer-supplier relationships. In addition to the above, a further research point is to analyze the time dimension of success: how success changes and develops over time?

The basic elements of my research are relationships between supplier and buyer business partners. The theoretical grounding of the dissertation focuses on the introduction of the different forms of buyer-supplier relationships and their development. The relationship approach of the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group (IMP) was applied in the dissertation.

As it has already been mentioned, my research has an exploratory scope. In order to support that aim, two qualitative methodologies were applied in my research: the grounded theory and the case study methods. Interviewing, document analysis and participant observation techniques have all been applied during the data collection phase.

The first research question focuses on how success can be understood in the context of buyer-supplier relationships. The results of the empirical research are as follows: success in buyer-supplier relationships can be understood as a subjective, organizational-level perception, which evolves following the fulfilment of both business and relationship success goals. It derives from the joint relationship performance of the relationship members, achievement of their prior expectations, and results in mutual satisfaction.

The second research question analyzes the role of success in buyer-supplier relationships and its changes over time. The third research question examined how success influences the development of relationships? Based on the research results the following answers can be provided for the above questions. The role of success in buyer-supplier relationships and relationship development can be interpreted with the following dynamics. Relationship members set up business and relationship success goals and the achievement of these goals depend on both their own and joint performance in the relationship. If business and relationship success goals are met and the parties understand it positively; it can lead to their mutual satisfaction that can be the basis of further development. But in case the perception of the performance of the relationship is negative, success can not be identified and it can be a breaking point in the relationship’s development. This breaking point however does not necessarily result in a breakdown in the development or the end of the relationship, because the relation of success and development depends on the actual relationship context.

Presented 2010


A Network Perspective on International Business: Evidence from SMEs in the Telecommunication Sector in Ireland


Bridget Kenny


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Research on business networks to date has focused on antecedents of network formation and relationships or relational content among firms rather than outcomes or consequences of such relationships and networks. Several researchers have thus suggested that there is an increasing need for business research to shift a focus from traditional dyadic relationships to a larger business context of network relationships in order to understand firms’ behaviour and performance.

Small firms are the focus of this study as they are a key economic sector in Ireland. SMEs constitute 97% of enterprises and contribute to the flexibility and resilience of the economy as well being active in international markets. This study draws on research from SMEs in the telecommunications and internet sectors in Ireland. Although there is no single agreed definition of High Tech SMEs (HTSMEs), these are generally characterised by small and medium-sized firms with advanced knowledge and capabilities in technology, an educated workforce, and the ability to adapt quickly to fast changing environments.

The research question for this study was to investigate how network theory contributes to our understanding of the internationalisation process of SMEs and to measure the effect of network capability on performance in international trade. The specific focus was on performance in international trade as opposed to the actual process of internationalisation. The dependent variable therefore was performance as measured through conventional means such as market, financial and customer satisfaction performance. The independent variables include factors that make up a firms network capability and comprise network characteristics, network operation and network resources.

The specific objectives of this research were: to offer new insights into the international market development activities through application of a network theory perspective; to gain a deeper understanding of networking capability; and to determine the impact of networking capability on the international performance of SME’s.

During the mail survey a useable response rate of 33.64 % (154 firms) was obtained. Nine hypotheses were analysed using structural equations modelling using LISREL. The hypothesis stating that stronger ties are more influential on international performance than weak ties was supported. Similarly, network coordination and human capital resources were found to be positively and significantly associated with international performance. Strong ties, trust, network initiation and synergy sensitive resources were all positively associated with international performance, but non-significant. Weak ties, relational capability, network learning and information sharing were negatively associated with international performance.

Major contributions of this study includes providing evidence of a collaboration-performance relationship for the international business literature, contributions to the dynamic capabilities, trust and international entrepreneurship literature, as well as advancing a re-conceptualised model of network internationalisation.


Ports as Actors in Industrial Networks


Carl Hatteland


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The purpose of this thesis is to consider how port authorities can be characterized as actors in industrial contexts. The thesis uses the Industrial Network Approach to avoid bringing in typical views of what a port is and hence to allow for alternative views and ideas about the port as an actor. Four case studies are used to assess and discuss how port authorities can be considered actors in industrial networks through the use of the Actor-Resource-Activity model. Overall, the main findings of the thesis are that (i) the industrial network Actor-Resource-Activity model can be used to investigate non-business actors in industrial settings and (ii) it is problematic for a port authority to as a non-business actor to actively intervene in an industrial context without creating wedges to interaction that leads to discrimination across users.


Consumers in Industrial Networks: a study of the Norwegen-Portuguese bacalhau network


Svanhild Haugnes


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The way in which industrial activities are organised among firms has been a fundamental theoretical concern for a long time” (Dubois, 1994). Typical studies do not include the division of work between consumers and firms. In practice, there are various examples of business actors’ ignorance of consumers’ participation in networks of activities. The aim of this thesis is to consider consumers in business networks by making use of the activity layer from the Industrial Network literature. This represents a reinterpretation of the ‘activity links’ concept.


Success as Science but Burden for Business? - On the Difficult Relationship Between Scientific Advancement and innovation


Malena Ingemansson


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Ingemansson M. (2010) Success as Science but Burden for Business? – On the Difficult Relationship
Between Scientific Advancement and Innovation. Doctoral Thesis No. 148, Department
of Business Studies, Uppsala University, 194pp.
Today, a general policy and investment recipe for economic growth and innovation, on both a
national and an international level, is to base commercial ventures on novel scientific solutions.
From this perspective, scientific research is seen as an untapped source of innovation,
and the ambition is to make new scientific knowledge more easily transferable to business
settings, where it is supposed to generate direct economic benefits.
Since the instigation of the Human Genome Organisation Project in 1990, which set out to
map the entire genetic composition of the average human being, great expectations have been
put on biotechnology, and it has been viewed as the new gold mine for both scientific and
business advancement. Through research it is expected to deliver new scientific knowledge
primarily about previously untreatable illnesses and, as an industry, it is expected to produce
new technical solutions realising this knowledge. This expectation has directed large amounts
of investment capital to biotechnology in the pursuit of capitalising on new scientific discoveries
through their commercialisation.
This investigation is an empirically based process study of one such innovation process.
With a network approach, focusing particularly on resource combinations, this study aims to
create a better understanding of what is involved in trying to achieve innovation based on new
scientific solutions. The specific case of the commercialisation of pyrosequencing, a new
method for the analysis of genetic material, demonstrates the difficulty of making a scientific
breakthrough into a useful business resource. The innovation process is investigated from
several perspectives. By looking at the development of something new, at its large-scale
production, and widespread use, this study shows how these aspects represent vastly different
economic logics. It also demonstrates how great a challenge it can be for these to function
together in the attempt of achieving successful innovation.
Keywords: scientific research, commercialisation, innovation, use, biotechnology, economic
logic, resource interaction


The Development of Industrial Buyer-Seller Relationships in a Chinese Context


Anna Kaunonen


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Abstract: Studies concerning industrial buyer-seller relationships have focused on the Western world. However, when conducting business in, for example, China, one should acknowledge the role guanxi, briefly translated as connections, plays in the society. In China, relationships are not limited to the buyer and seller, but governmental officials, customs officials, and trade associations also influence the smoothness of the business activities of the companies.
This study explores the manner in which industrial buyer-seller relationships develop in a Chinese context between a China-based buyer and a Finnish seller with presence in the Chinese market. The main research question of the study is: How do industrial buyer-seller relationships develop in a Chinese context? This question is divided into three research subquestions: (1) How does the relationship between a Chinese industrial buyer and a Finnish industrial seller develop? (2) How does the relationship of a Chinese industrial buyer and a Finnish industrial seller develop according to the current industrial buyer-seller relational process models? and (3) How does the relationship of a Chinese industrial buyer and a Finnish industrial seller develop based on the current development models of guanxi?

In order to answer the research questions, an action-analytical approach was chosen. The research was conducted as an inductive multiple case study. Four case relationships were studied: (1) a former Sino-British joint venture as the buyer and a Finnish seller based in China, (2) a Hongkongese buyer and a former Asian-Finnish joint venture as the seller, (3) a Chinese distributor as the buyer and a Finnish seller based in China, and (4) a Chinese subsidiary of an originally U.S.-based parent company as the buyer and a Finnish seller based in China. The companies participating in the four case relationships vary with regard to industrial type and international experience. The commonalities are that all the Finnish sellers are based in the Greater Shanghai area providing both products and services and all except one of the buyers have a plant in mainland China.

From the empirical and theoretical data, it was noted that the development of successful industrial buyer-seller relationships in China follows a common path for the first three states, which was depicted in a framework. Firstly, one of the actors needs to acknowledge the other in the Searching State. If the two parties do not share common background, they remain as outsiders to each other, existing in each other’s tertiary network with only instrumental ties. Otherwise, the actors are already associates within each other’s secondary networks with both instrumental and personal ties. Secondly, the actor contacts the prospective business party and tries to attract the other by, for example, having a local plant and R&D center. As the parties get to know each other more, the parties move to each other’s secondary networks as outsiders. The ties are now mixed, instead of only instrumental. If the parties are confident enough in each other, first orders are made and delivered. Thirdly, the relationship between the actors will continue to grow if the first order is handled well. The company representatives remain in contact at least at a biannual rate or more preferably at a bimonthly rate, and possibly new orders are made. As the parties trust each other more, they become associates instead of only outsiders. If the actors had a previous mutual background, they may have remained as associates in each other’s secondary networks with mixed ties. From this point onwards, the relationship may develop in any manner through different middle states or it may end.

Another main finding is that the Dormant or Inert State of relationships, which was previously considered to be only an end state, should be seen as a hybrid state being both a middle state and an end state. The relational actors may choose to have a quiet period in the relationship due to the inability of either to contribute to the relationship during a certain period, although they see a prosperous future for the relationship in a couple of years. The actors, hence, do not decide to end the relationship but just to have a short break from it.

Government officials and customs officials may affect the relationship by causing a slowdown for no apparent reason. Hence, it is important to cultivate and maintain relationships with these actors. However, as such they do not participate in the particular industrial buyer-seller relationships. Overall, the time in which the relationships remain in certain states may be longer in China than in the West due to, for example, bureaucratic issues in both the government and the organizational culture of the local companies.


Valuation, metrologies and judgements: a study of market practices


Frank Azimont


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This thesis investigates market practices and builds on the insight that markets are shaped and performed through multiple calculative agencies. It studies how the introduction of category management as part of a socio-technical agencement contributes to shaping goods, market place, configuration of buyers and sellers and their encounter in the fuel retail industry. After offering a critical analysis of four research strands (a practice based approach to markets, the Foucauldian study of governmentality, the sociology of translation and the sociology of socio-technical agencements) that take a performative view to the study of the economy and markets, I develop an approach that proposes to study markets rather than marketing through the analyses of bundles of practices. The

identification of socio-technical agencements (STAs), the exploration of calculative practices and the study of how calculation is linked to agency, frame the way we understand how particular calculative practices make operable the assemblage of ideas, artefacts, practices, people, etc. that form and shape mundane markets.

The thesis uses empirical data derived from a longitudinal ethnography of the petrol retailing arm of a multinational oil company. My analysis highlights the role of category management, a fuzzy theory, that helps glue market constituents together. It argues that valuation necessarily combines metrological practices and practical judgement resulting from experience, experimentation and equilibration. I identify two types of contexts involved in calculative practices, heuristic and algorithmic situations, and four type of practices involved in creating desirable and intelligible futures: realisation, potentialisation, virtualisation and actualisation practices.


The Complexity of Actor Interaction


Sophie Cantillon


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This study is about actor interaction and it is set in the Norwegian seafood industry.
Since fish is a commodity, the idea of market complexity may not be the first thing
that springs to mind. Markets defined by commodities are usually studied by models
which are underpinned by neoclassical assumptions. Researchers from the
Industrial Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) Group consider interaction to be a
fundamental part of business exchange and this may explain why related studies are
usually based in empirical contexts that have a perceived technical complexity.
However, closer inspection of interaction between seafood actors reveals a
complexity that is not well described by traditional marketing models. Thus, the IMP
perspective provides an alternate view that formally captures more of the richness of
the empirical setting.
The data analysed has come from large seafood actors which are based in three
different countries (Britain, Portugal and Chile), each of which is connected to
seafood actors based in Norway. The interaction between the seafood actors in
these settings are analysed to find out whether interaction is as straightforward as
certain marketing models assume it to be. Once this has been done it is possible to
see how a generic marketing organisation, the Norwegian Seafood Export Council
(NSEC), is affected by the interaction.
This study presents a way of considering the complexity of actor interaction and how
this develops over time from the interplay between direct and indirect interaction
effects. This identification makes it possible to consider what NSEC can do in
response to the indirect effects of seafood actor interaction. The study employs a
multiple case study design and the cross sectional-like data enable interesting
insights into the development of seafood networks. The actor interaction
development model is one specific outcome of the analytical work and this, together
with other aspects of the inquiry, contributes to the existing body of IMP literature.


Supply chain strategising. Integration in practice




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Departing from a practice perspective of social systems, this thesis examines

customer ordered production. Building on Giddens’s theory of structuration,

the thesis analyses the principles and practice of a customer-oriented strategy in

the supply chain system. While relevant literature outlines the complexity of a

customer ordered production strategy, scholars have seldom appreciated the

challenges and opportunities of operating in an integrated supply chain.

Different supply chain actors are prone to undertake customisation in different

ways that counteract each other. Customer ordered production changes as it is

being practiced.

Usually customer-oriented strategies are in antithesis to cost-focused

strategies. Such an opposition has been revealed to be false due to contextual

complexities and dynamics. Instead, in this thesis I argue that planned supply

chain objectives and emergent supply chain actions constitute a duality that at

the same time enables and restructures strategic development. Learning how

this duality evolves might enable the alignment of degrees of customisation and

the restructuring of supply chain practices. Customer ordered production

implies in practice coordination and adaptation of actors along the supply chain

in order to achieve strategic advantages. Supply chain integration, which takes

different forms in different contexts and situations, involves various functions

and processes as well as enabling technologies with implications for alignment.

While departing from the assumption underlying the idea and studies of supply

chain management, that is to say, the capability and willingness of actors to take

advantage of supply chain integration to act more effectively and efficiently,

this thesis investigates what system integration and social integration mean in

terms of how they work and what they imply.

Empirically, the thesis builds on the case of a car manufacturing supply

chain, namely that of Volvo Cars. The case is presented in two ways: first, it is

framed as the strategic development process of a customer ordered production

and then as the performative development of a customer ordered production.

The two presentations of the case are then confronted with each other. Volvo

Cars is special in its industry because of its aligning of production system and

supply chains to customer demand and building cars in response to customer

orders. The specifics of customer ordered production at the same time facilitate

and impede the action of different actors. The recurrent practices of the supply

chain are influenced by several logics encountering each other, seen in terms of

durability and change. Conditions and consequences vary for different actors in

the supply chain, which causes dynamics and potentially conflicts and



This thesis aims to inspire social analysis of supply chain integration by

offering a practice perspective on the way supply chains work from strategy to

practice and in between by engaging in a conversation with different streams of

research, particularly supply chain management, industrial network approach

and strategising. As customer orientation is widely accepted as a desirable aim

for organisations and customer-oriented strategies are in use in business as well

as in social and health sectors, just to mention a few, the consequences of such

strategies, which this thesis critically investigates, have far-reaching societal

Presented 2009


A Bumper? An Empirical Investigation of the Relationship Between the Economy and the Environment


Andreas Brekke


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This thesis is concerned with the relationship between the economy and the environment. The relationship is often portrayed as a conflict in public discourse, as if what is good for the economy is bad for the environment and vice versa. The thesis tries to discern if there are common elements in the economy and the environment and how these have eventually become shared. The underlying model assumes that the economy and the environment can be depicted as two separate networks and that elements have to be shared for any relationship to exist.

Of course, in real life, the economy and the environment is interwoven, inseparable and too large to be contained within the pages of a thesis. In order to investigate the relationship, it has thus been necessary to delimit the study to only parts of each network. One of the more important assumptions is that industry is decisive for the production of the economy whereas science is decisive for the production of the environment. Hence, the study should focus on an object that is found in both industry and science. This is done by focusing on aluminium bumpers as the empirical object. Both aluminium and cars have been subject to environmental debates and they are both industries involving large sums of money. In order to aid the production of empirical descriptions, industrial network theory (IMP) and actor-network theory (ANT) have been employed.

ISSN: 1502-2099

ISBN: 978 82 7042 946 2

No. of pages: 300


The Contrary Forces of Innovation: An Ethnography of Innovation Processes in the Food Industry


Thomas Hoholm


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The purpose of the study is to contribute to our understanding of innovation processes. The overarching research question has been: How do innovation processes evolve over time, and, in particular, how are knowledge and technology developed and commercialised?

Through an ethnographic case study of innovation in between the biomarine and agricultural industries, I have traced and observed an innovation process from idea to commercialisation. Thus, the rich descriptions of this complex phenomenon are a central contribution from this study. Starting out with the development of a couple of novel technologies for processing fish, and establishing a collaboration between Tine (dairy/agriculture cooperative) and Bremnes Seashore (fish farm), the process ended up with what is now well known in Norwegian supermarkets and restaurants as ‘Salma’. This innovation process was related to industrial change within both the aqua- and agriculture industries, stimulated by the research policy on ‘blue-green’ innovation. Thus, it is both a detailed ‘inside account’ of an innovation process, and an example of how various local interactions may take part in shaping institutional/industrial change.

I have used the methodological and analytical tools of actor-network theory in the study, as I have ‘followed the actors’ as they strived to move the innovation towards realisation. An analytical scheme has been developed in interaction between the empirical data and my theoretical basis. This scheme has then been used to analyse, and theorise about, the case study, and in this way both challenge and complement existing theory on innovation processes. From this, it is suggested that innovation processes are characterised by uncertainty and controversy, in particular in the interaction between the mobilising of actors-networks and the exploration of knowledge. Moreover, the uncertainty and controversy are increased by the fact that the innovation process is situated within a network of interconnected processes. Some theoretical implications for the theory of innovation processes are suggested in relation to (1) the mobilisation of actors, resources and decisions towards innovation, (2) the exploration of knowledge to realise innovations, and (3) the interaction between mobilisation and exploration processes on the one hand, and between different actor-networks/organising processes on the other.


Scrutinizing a Policy Ambition to Make Business Out of Science – Lessons From Taiwan.


Tommy Shih


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Shih, T. (2009) Scrutinizing a Policy Ambition to Make Business Out of Science – Lessons From Taiwan. Doctoral Thesis No 143, Department of Business Studies, Uppsala University, 235pp.

The promotion of industrial development and economic growth is a vital issue for governments all over the world. The ideals guiding policymakers in their endeavours are that innovations based on new and advanced knowledge are central for industrial and economic development. In this context an issue, highlighted by local as well as national governments has been how to construct a system that can develop cutting-edge science and then transfer it to the business world for use.

Although identified generic features of successful regions such as Silicon Valley, have been copied there are few examples of how ambitions to “artificially” create policy supported high-tech based business regions and industries have succeeded. But one of the few successful examples of policy created high-tech industries often mentioned is the Taiwanese semiconductor industry. The envisioned development path of the Taiwanese semiconductor industry forms the foundation of contemporary Taiwanese industrial and innovation policy. This industrial development model applied on biotechnology in Taiwan, however, has been widely criticized for not fulfilling its promises.

This study aims to increase the understanding of this observation and sets out to investigate how developed solutions and resources become produced and embedded in business using structures. The dissertation is based on an empirical study of the industrialization of semiconductors and biotechnology in Taiwan, and is analyzed from a resource interaction perspective. By comparing the picture arising from this view with the Taiwanese policy interpretation it is argued that the Taiwanese industrial model is clearly over-simplified, omitting several important factors in the development of industries. The findings of this study are based on the notions that: resource combination occurs in different time and space; the new is always built on existing resource structures and; the users are important as active participants in development processes.


Enabling Supply Networks with Collaborative Information Infrastructures. An Empirical Investigation Of Business Model Innovation in Supplier Relationship Management


Chris Nøkkentved


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Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (Institute of Informatics and Institute of Management Politics & Philosophy) and IBM Global Business Services


The objective of this Industrial PhD. dissertation was to study whether the concurrent transformation and IT-enablement of an organization's business model leads to higher levels of performance. We focused our assessment on how companies are transforming their upstream collaborative supply networks or Supplier Relationship Management (SRM). Within that business domain we also evaluated how IT-enablement with enterprise applications (like SRM) is contributing in reaching such targets and improving the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the firm. The foundations of this study were hinged on the IMP-Group's Industrial Networks approach on studying Supply Networks, and the latest IS Research theories on Information Infrastructures and Technology Adoption, hence moving beyond the firm-centric views on Enterprise Architecture. We also utilized an Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) approach to broaden our perspective and evaluate our findings.In the course of the initial chapters we elaborated on: a) which are the prevailing Collaborative Supply Network models; b) what are the most common Collaborative Processes and their Benefits, and c) what level of SRM Enablement is currently available through Information Infrastructures provided by major enterprise application vendors (i.e. SAP). During the course of this research we have investigated and defined Business Model Innovation Initiatives that drive Transformation and studied their effect on performance. Transformation leading to organizational and technological change is constrained by the resident capabilities or skills, focus and state of the current operations, which in turn influence firm performance . We incorporated additional environmental contingencies affecting those same domain-specific factors, such as industry membership, region, and company size. Finally, we investigated whether different actors or leaders in-charge of such technology-oriented and organizational transformations have differences of opinion on the priorities of the firm. A comprehensive analysis was undertaken following an “Iterative Grounded Theory” approach that commenced from 2 qualitative analyses, the final utilizing Social Network Analysis (SNA) to identify and define these Transformation Initiatives. Subsequently these results led into a survey-based quantitative analysis. The data were sampled from a global survey conducted by IBM on the procurement, sourcing and enablement state and best-practices among 344 companies around the word. A comprehensive multivariate analysis was then undertaken that led to the evaluation of a Structural Equation Model (conducted via Partial Least Squares or PLS) that helped us evaluate the constructs and causal path dependencies between them in order to create a Business Network Transformation and Performance framework. Our research into the best practices of Collaborative Supply Networks provided evidence on whether the use of IT can help a company reach higher levels of performance. IT enablement of the optimized procurement and sourcing operation enables the teams to reach higher operational efficiency and effectiveness. In summary, companies that aggressively pursue realization and adoption of renewed organizational practices and processes embolded by IT-enablement have a higher propensity to differentiate themselves and reach higher levels of performance. In order to adopt such practices merging business change and adoption of technology, we have empirically identified a set of proactive initiatives that will help and streamline the efforts of the team to reap the benefits of eProcurement and eSourcing applications. Our conclusive framework identified a number of organizational context and IT-enablement parameters as direct determinants of firm performance, while proved that capabilities and transformation initiatives in companies have an indirect effect on performance as they "act" via the contextual layer of technology and organization, thus corroborating previous research.


Sensemaking in networks:Using network pictures to understand network change


Morten Abrahamsen


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The purpose of this thesis is to examine how business actors adapt to changes in networks by analysing their perceptions or their network pictures. The study is exploratory or iterative in the sense that research question, methodology, theory and context are revised as an integral part of the research process.

Although considerable research exists on explaining business network structures in different research traditions, changes within networks are less well researched. This thesis analyses changes in networks in terms of the industrial network approach. This approach sees networks as connected relationships between actors, where interdependent companies interact based on their sensemaking of their relevant network environment. The thesis develops a concept of network change as well as an operationalisation for comparing perceptions of change, where a template model of dottograms is introduced to systematically analyse differences in perceptions. The model is then applied to analyse findings from a case study of Norwegian/Japanese seafood distribution, and the thesis provides a rich description of a complex system facing considerable pressure to change. In-depth personal interviews and cognitive mapping techniques are the main research tools applied, in addition to tracer studies and personal observation.

The dottogram method represents a valuable contribution to case study research as it enables systematic within-case and cross-case analyses. A further theoretical contribution of the study is that it suggests that network change is about actors seeking to change their network position in order to get access to resources. Thereby, the study also implies a close relationship between the concepts network position and network change which has not been discussed within the network approach in great detail.

Another main contribution is the analysis of the role which network pictures play in actors’ efforts to change their network position. The study develops seven propositions in an attempt to describe the role of network pictures in network change. So far network pictures have mainly been discussed as a theoretical concept. Finally, important implications for management practice are presented.


Adaptation in Triadic Business Relationship Settings. A study in corporate travelling management


Anne Holma


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Business-to-business relationships form complicated networks that function in an increasingly dynamic business environment. This study addresses the complexity of business relationships, both when it comes to the core phenomenon under investigation, adaptation, and the structural context of the research, a triadic relationship setting.
In business research, adaptation is generally regarded as a dyadic phenomenon, even though it is well recognised that dyads do not exist isolated from the wider network. The triadic approach to business relationships is especially relevant in cases where an intermediary is involved, and where all three actors are directly connected with each other. However, only a few business studies apply the triadic approach. In this study, the three dyadic relationships in triadic relationship settings are investigated in the context of the other two dyads to which each is connected. The focus is on the triads as such, and on the connections between its actors.
Theoretically, the study takes its stand in relationship marketing. The study integrates theories and concepts from two approaches, the industrial network approach by the Industrial marketing and purchasing group, and the Service marketing and management approach by the Nordic School. Sociological theories are used to understand the triadic relationship setting. The empirical context of the study is corporate travel management. The study is a retrospective case study, where the data is collected by in-depth interviews with key informants from an industrial enterprise and its travel agency and service supplier partners.
The main theoretical contribution of the study concerns opening a new research area in relationship marketing by investigating adaptation in business relationships with a new perspective, and in a new context. This study provides a comprehensive framework to analyse adaptation in triadic business relationship settings. The analysis framework was created with the help of a systematic combining approach, which is based on abductive logic and continuous iteration between the theory and the case study results. The framework describes how adaptations initiate, and how they progress. The framework also takes into account how adaptations spread in triadic relationship settings, i.e. how adaptations attain all three actors of the triad. Furthermore, the framework helps to investigate the outcomes of the adaptations for individual firms, for dyadic relationships, and for the triads. The study also provides concepts and classification that can be used when evaluating adaptation and relationship development in both dyadic and triadic relationships.


Organising collaborative product development activities: a case study in the Danish food industry


Kristin Balslev Munksgaard


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This dissertation contributes to an existing and on-going academic discussion on the complex task of organising product development in interaction with external partners. The aim of the dissertation is to refine existing theory and deepen our general understanding of collaborative product development. The value of the contribution is to be seen in the light of the special setting of the Danish Food Industry. The dissertation studies how food-producing companies in collaboration with their customers define, divide and coordinate the joint product development effort. Furthermore, it ascertains how Danish food companies build routines for organising collaborative product development activities, and offers explanations of why this may restrict product innovativeness. Insights are obtained of product development as a negotiated process where partners’ strategic intentions collide, influenced by the relationship atmosphere and the involved parties’ pictures of their surrounding network setting. The dissertation findings suggest that interdependencies between product development activities and other activities are standardised and organised through routines to a degree that seems to hinder radical product development, also in cases of high customer involvement.
Presented 2008


The anatomy of relationship significance: a critical realist exploration


Filipe J. Sousa


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The markets-as-networks theorists contend, either explicitly or tacitly, the significance of business relationships for the focal firm – that is, business relationships contribute somewhat to the focal firm’s survival and growth. I do not deny the possible existence of significant business relationships but sustain, in contrast to the consensus within the Markets-as-Networks Theory, that relationship significance should not be a self-evident assumption. Significance cannot be a taken-for-granted property of each and every one of the focal firm’s business relationships. Instead, the notion of relationship significance needs to be discussed and its causes thoroughly explained. Adopting a critical realist position, the relationship significance is claimed to be an event of the business world, rightly deserving a robust causal explanation. My main research question is thus the following: How is the relationship significance brought about?
All the business relationships that the focal firm establishes, develops, maintains, and terminates with counterparts (most typically its suppliers and customers) can be adequately considered as entities which exhibit structural features namely continuity, complexity, informality, and symmetry. Owing to that peculiar structure, business relationships are endowed with certain causal powers and liabilities (e.g., allow the access to and exploitation of external and complementary resources and competences). Where those powers and liabilities (i.e., functions and dysfunctions) are put to work, inevitably under certain contingencies (namely the markets and networks surrounding the focal firm), effects (i.e., benefits and sacrifices) result for the focal firm – and the relationship significance is likely to be brought about. Two of those relationship powers – the ‘access’ and ‘innovation’ ones – are especially consequential, for their activation is likely to affect the delimitation of the focal firm’s vertical boundaries. The relationship significance can be brought about owing to the overall benefits in excess of sacrifices (i.e., relationship value) accruing to the focal firm as well as the dual influence that business relationships have on what the focal firm does and gets done by others. For the business relationships contribute respectively both (i) to the access to and exploitation (and on occasion the development) of the external, typically complementary competences and resources needed by the focal firm and (ii) to the creation of new, and the modification and enhancement (or impairment) of the extant, internal resources and competences of the focal firm. What the focal firm comprises
within its vertical boundaries (chiefly resources and competences) and what it does and gets done (activities) are both strongly shaped by the business relationships in which it is deeply embedded. The relationship significance can result from the influence of business relationships on the nature and scope of the focal firm.

Keywords: Markets-as-Networks Theory, relationship significance, business relationships, firms, resources, competences, activities


Development of new technology in a network context: The embedding process


Svein Minde


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The thesis conceives the embedding process as it did appear for several cooperating companies involved in the international space industry when new technology in terms of a production system and various associated products was conceived to form a feasible techno-economic concept for development. The embedding process comprises what has been dubbed courses of actions, which the companies may employ cooperatively over successive stages when new technology is connected to and integrated with its resource-related context consisting of an intricate web of industrial companies, funding organizations, and technological artifacts. The chosen courses of actions are carried out in relation to the idea world, and they may focus on one or a few aspects of the ideas about the new technology such as development costs. The possible courses of actions seem to be the adding, removal, substitution, and adaptation of technological and organizational resources as well as the ignoring of any connecting and integrating problems. The courses of actions are applied particularly to address the problematic or difficult-to-establish contact points between the new technology and its resource-related network context. Characteristics of the problematic contact points seem to affect the choice of courses of actions.

As the subject of the thesis has not been studied as such previously, the conceiving of the embedding process together with some of its important aspects and relationships is the main contribution to the research community and in particular to the IMP school. As the embedding process is assumed to be part of the process of developing new technology, the thesis may also contribute to the innovation literature in general. However, due to the single case research design, the potency of the results of the thesis is dependent on further studies.

The research associated with the thesis was carried out as a qualitative single case study. The data was analyzed by the adoption of a resource-related perspective or, more specifically, the 4R model of the IMP school.


Customer portfolio management – The construct and performance


Harri Terho


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Customer portfolio management (CPM) is an important area in theories of relationship marketing and customer relationship management. It focuses on the whole portfolio of customer relationships, from transactions to strategic partnerships and their management based on the value of the various customers to the selling company. The academic research so far has produced a wealth of conceptual knowledge about CPM in terms of proposing and testing a large number of relationship portfolio models. However, almost no empirical research about implementation of this concept in business or its effect on performance exists.

Consequently, the purpose of this research was to analyze companies’ CPM practices and performance in business markets. More specifically, there were three more specific aims: 1) to conceptualize customer portfolio management in B-to-B settings, 2) to form and validate a measure for studying CPM practices in business, and 3) to study contextually the relationship between CPM practices and performance.

The dissertation builds on several streams of research, including theories of relationship marketing and customer relationship management, interaction and network theories, and theories of information processing and market orientation related to organizational learning.

A definition of CPM was developed by synthesizing theory-based and field-based views of CPM (a qualitative pilot study in seven firms) in order to reach an operational definition that would explicate CPM activities and allow the empirical study of the practices. Further, a CPM measure was formed and validated based on the operational definition, the 17 interviews, and the survey data of 500 largest B-to-B companies in Finland (N=212).

The quantitative part of the study examined the relationship between companies’ customer portfolio management practices and performance in various business environments. The results indicate that CPM activities are connected to customer profitability and to overall customer performance but only weakly to firm performance. Further, the context formed by customer relationships was found to be pivotal from the perspective of portfolio management. Tailoring of the customer portfolio management style and activities to companies’ context of exchange with their customers was found to be connected to performance,

In the research, the companies were divided into two distinct groups representing market- and network-like exchange contexts. The market-like exchange context is characterized by the large customer base size, more transactional customer relationships, and lower dependency on individual customers, higher customer turnover and heterogeneity of customer base. In network-like exchange context, on the other hand, the size of customer base is smaller, customer relationships are stronger, dependency on the largest customers is greater, customer turnover is lower and the customer base is more homogeneous.

In market-like exchange context, the challenges of customer relationship management are connected with the structure of the customer base. What is pivotal in customer analysis is the ability to compare and group customers on the basis of their value. From the perspective of performance, cost-effective treatment of customers is emphasized. At the same time, the formal planning and implementation of customer portfolio management improves its performance.

In a network-like exchange context, the challenges of management rest in the complexity of customer relationships and exchange as well as in the interdependency on such relationships. The analysis of individual customer relationships instead of customer grouping becomes the central factor for performance. Further, the development of customer relationships becomes pivotal to the performance of customer portfolio management. In other words, it is essential to make low-value customers more valuable, to develop worthwhile customer relationships, and in certain situations to give up bad relationships and to acquire new ones.

Keywords: Customer portfolio management, customer relationship management, exchange context, markets and networks, formative measurement, PLS modeling.


Interacting Strategically within Dyadic Business Relationships. A case study from the Norwegian electronic industry


Fahad Awaleh


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The purpose of this thesis is to contribute to our understanding of how firms can act strategically vis-à-vis others when the objective is to enhance the way resources are economised on across firm boundaries. The organisational science literature offers numerous perspectives on the idea of strategy where the dominating ones view strategy as an individual firm activity that the single firm formulates, communicates and executes independently of others. In this thesis, the idea of strategy is viewed as a relationship activity and a process that the single firm does together with counterparts. The term interacting strategically is therefore introduced and builds on the idea that strategy is a dynamic and bilateral process carried out through interaction within dyads.

The Industrial Network Approach (INA) serves as the theoretical basis of the thesis and represents one school of thought that deals with the idea of strategy. In line with INA, firms are prohibited from developing independent strategies due to the embedded, connected and dependent nature of firms interacting in the business environment. While the idea of interaction and relationships is central to the INA literature, the idea of interacting strategically seems somewhat unexplored, especially when it comes to the impact such processes has on firms’ ability to change the connectivity that resides within relationships and/or when it comes to their ability to make prudent use of resources vis-à-vis counterparts. Reviewing the prevailing INA literature on strategy show how writers on strategy often fail to explain the intricate process that allow firms to be strategic when for instance attempting to purposefully change their position, connectivity, dependency vis-à-vis others. The majority of these writers in addition write about strategy from an individual firm perspective, which makes it difficult to grasp how in fact change comes about. I have chosen to focus on the INA perspective on strategy here termed the Relationship Strategy Approach, which focuses on the dyadic opportunities and limitations that constitutes relationship strategies. This perspective will allow me to address the complex and often difficult process that constitutes the strategy process.

The empirical base concerns one single case study of a dyadic business relationship (a product developer and subcontractor/producer) from the Norwegian Electronics Industry. The parties establish a new partnership arrangement in 2002 and I follow this arrangement over several years. The firms created the partnership with the intention to put in place a management group responsible for confronting the way the firms do industrialisation projects together. The firms share the responsibility for four industrialisation projects that stretches over several years switching from product-development to volume production. The research techniques used to gather the material concerns primarily face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews and participation in business meetings. The material is cased chronologically. It is also split into three main subcases, where each case is marked with a critical event that the parties dealt with within the frame of the partnership arrangement.

The case study is an example of how firms can interact strategically and the tactical, and the strategic decisions needed to deal with the limitations and opportunities experienced in the strategy process along the way. The findings demonstrate how firms relied on two purposeful acts to support and improve the way resources were economised on within the focal dyad. The first act concerns the efforts to initiate, develop and manage purposeful networking processes within the dyad. Specific groups of individuals became responsible for managing this networking and would function as connecter unit responsibility for ensuring intra –and inter-firm alignment of various tactical and strategic decision-making processes taking place within the relationship. The second purposeful act concerns the introduction of various purposeful interaction programmes. These programmes represented specific attempts to formulate specific rules of conduct between actors involved in the industrialisation process. The aim was to help these individuals prioritise certain acts and interacts that the focal firms believed would activate specific subsets of resources enabling them to reach their economising objectives. The study then reveals some of the factors that support and/or constrain the parties from achieving the strategic objectives pursued in the relationship.

Key words: Strategy, interacting strategically, interaction, relationships, economising on resources, networking


Understanding Change Processes in Business Networks. A study of convergence in Finnish Telecommunication 1985-2005


Anna Greta Nyström


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Before the information revolution of the late 20th century, the sectors for telecommunications, IT and media were considered as deploying different technologies, producing different kinds of services and products, and studied as different academic fields. Convergence, on the other hand, refers to the growing interdependency among these industries; convergence implies that actors are dependent on each other’s resources, also those active outside traditional telecommunications industry borders. Actors in the industry are forced to re-evaluate their roles and positions as the development continues and the technological bases of companies in the sectors of telecommunications, media, broadcasting and IT increasingly start to resemble and substitute each other. Today it is possible to view TV in mobile devices, make calls over the Internet and use a mobile terminal as a camera. Technological development clearly forces actors in telecommunications to act and react. One way of coping with convergence is through business networks, which form a pool of resources and assets for its members.

A historical review of the Finnish telecommunications sector reveals that contrary to the 1980s and 1990s, actors in the field are increasingly acting as members of business networks in order to develop core competencies, business, innovative services and products etc. The study focuses on investigating dynamics within business nets as a result of convergence processes and suggests that role confusion and identity crisis are a likely result of convergence in telecommunications. The study combines historical reconstruction, sensemaking and critical event analysis in order to form an understanding of convergence processes as well as the development of the Finnish telecommunications industry. This development and sensemaking process is then compared to business network dynamics, with focus on role and position, which act as indicators of change. Mobile TV based on the DVB-H standard is used as a case study, where both convergence and business network dynamics are analysed in detail.

Key words: telecommunications, convergence, Finland, business network dynamics, role, position






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For the past twenty years, drawing on the Industrial Network Approach, Industrial Marketing
and Purchasing Group researchers have been trying to get a better understanding of
organisational networks related issues. Researchers frequently highlight that whatever the
researched phenomena, it is important to consider actors’ subjective views of the world. The
concept of Network Pictures as introduced in the IMP (Industrial Marketing and Purchasing)
body of literature by Ford et al. (2002b), refers to those subjective views and despite its
recognised importance no in-depth research had been conducted so far on the concept which
has thus remained blurred. Ford et al. (2002b) brought in this concept to emphasise that the
network is in fact a varying thing depending on what people see. The question is whether this
can be translated into a research device, so that researchers may see in a structured and
analytical way what an actor’s picture is. This is what this research project is about.

The concept’s theoretical foundations are uncovered by reviewing some principles from
Sense-Making Theory. This review results most importantly in the identification of a close
association between actors’ views of the world and the outcome of those actors’ sense
making processes or frameworks. The relevance of actors’ views to obtain a clearer
understanding of organisational networks is highlighted when the relation that is believed to
exist between those views and action in organisational networks is addressed.

With the aim of developing Network Pictures as research tool a two-stage method is put
forward and carried out. The method consisted of operationalising the construct of Network
Pictures and then testing it in two different network contexts to see if it was usable and useful
for carrying out research in organisational networks. The results point to the usability and
usefulness of the developed device: not only does it allow for capturing what is believed to be
individuals’ views of the world in a rich and comprehensive way, as it also shows diversity
between individuals in different contexts. Also and interestingly, some of the identified
‘practitioner theories’ were found to be not coherent with some IMP theoretical cornerstones.

Keywords: Network Pictures, Sense-Making, Networking, and Research Tool
Presented 2007


Rethinking adoption - Information and communications technology interaction processes within the Swedish automobile industry


Jens Hultman
Lund University
Jens Hultman


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Decisions made regarding information and communications technology (ICT) are strategic and embedded in complexity, change and a dynamic and competitive environment. For the business manager, ICT paradoxically poses both potential promises and potential problems that need to be considered. Just as a “right” decision on ICT adoption can be fortunate, a “wrong” decision can have unfortunate consequences and affect the ability for a firm to develop and fulfill market needs. This thesis proposes that ICT adoption in an industrial context needs to be understood and evaluated through a processual and longitudinal approach, thereby considering the embedded nature of ICT applications. The empirical material in this thesis was collected through in-depth interviews with key actors and through observations and documentation, with a focus on capturing rich descriptions concerning five cases of organizational level ICT adoption processes. Through an analysis of ICT adoption in the industrial context, it is concluded that prevalent theory often fails to function as a foundation for understanding adoption and the dynamics and complexity found in the industrial context. Through its approach and empirical foci, this thesis contributes with an alternative view on adoption in the industrial setting with its focus on adoption as a process of interaction.


Inter-firm interaction for technology-based radical innovation


Anne Vercauteren


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The central aim of this PhD research is to study how inter-firm interactions contribute to the technology-based radical innovation process. The aggregated research gradually demonstrates the importance of business networks in the innovation process. A first study provides a rich account of how customer firms contribute to technology-based radical innovation in every phase of the innovation process. The second study indicates that such interaction can evolve into a relatively balanced cooperation between a customer and a supplier that share innovation as a joint aim. This study analyses how radical technological innovation benefits from uncertainty reducing effects in the customer/supplier cooperation. A third study is devoted to an investigation of the involvement of business networks in technology-based radical innovation.

The general methodology of the PhD is case-based research. The cases are radical technological innovation projects that are situated within large firms and that involve inter-firm interaction in the context of the innovation process. For data collection, semi-structured interviews are complemented with observations and the analysis of business documents. The first study relies on a multiple case study design comprising eight cases. The base technologies in the cases relate to electronics, metal transformation and chemicals. The application industries are very diverse: examples are the construction, the consumer electronics and the automotive industry. The second study constitutes a single, fully retrospective case of customer/supplier cooperation for the development of radically innovative fishing trawls for the fishing industry. Thirdly, the involvement of business networks in radical technological innovation is studied in a longitudinal, embedded single case research. In the case, a development team builds a business from a radically innovative laser additive technology and engages in multiple inter-firm interactions in doing so.

The aggregated research is characterised by a distinct learning process from one study to the next. The theoretical and methodological approach to the central problem evolves considerably. Methodologically, depth of the research results is enhanced by engaging in single case study research. The empirical validity of the research results is improved by an increased reliance on inductive, instead of deductive, reasoning during the case analyses. For theory, the aggregated research indicates the importance of surpassing a supplier-centred approach to innovation. Only by including the larger context of an innovation process can the role of the business network be identified. The results of this research clearly indicate that inter-firm interactions between supplier and customer as well as other kinds of firms, i.e. suppliers of complementary products and competitors, influence and contribute to technology-based radical innovation.


Turbulence in Business Networks - A Longitudinal Study of Mergers, Acquisitions and Bankruptcies Involving Swedish IT-companies


Peter Dahlin


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The end of the twentieth century, and the beginning of the twenty-first, was a revolving period with many mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies among Swedish IT-companies. Such events are likely to affect more than just the companies directly involved, i.e. the bankrupt and consolidating parties, and this thesis considers the contextual embeddedness of mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies by studying them in a business network setting.
The primary aim of this thesis is to further the understanding of business network change and its underlying dynamics. A business network is a conceptual description of the interrelatedness of companies, which makes them problematic to describe and understand. This thesis suggests a force-based approach to business network change, which focuses on the forces underlying the change rather than the actual alterations of the business network. The suggested approach emphasizes the change and enables an exploration and description of business network change based on its underlying forces, linked to form a change sequence. The events that occur and the forces they give rise to can be used to describe the character of such business network change sequences.
To enable a study of a change sequence within the Swedish IT-related business network, this thesis will use a technique designed to gather information about events and parts of the business network structure by systematizing data from news items describing mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies involving Swedish IT-companies during the years 1994-2003. This data structuration technique enables a longitudinal and retrospective study of a business network change sequence. The analysis indicates a high possibility of inter-linkages between mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies involving Swedish IT-companies, and describes a business network change sequence with high intensity and wide extension, which is the type of business network change with the highest potential impact, here referred to as ‘turbulence in business networks’.


Buyer-Seller Interaction Patterns During Ongoing Service Exchange


Wendy van der Valk


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This dissertation focuses on the ongoing interactions that take place between buyers and sellers of business services after the contract has been signed. This ongoing interaction is important since services are produced and consumed simultaneously; therefore, both buyer and seller have to make an effort to ensure that the ongoing service exchange is successful. The Interaction Model originally developed by the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group for studying buyer-supplier interactions in marketing and purchasing of industrial goods, is adopted and adapted to business services. As such, a classification is brought forward that differentiates between various business services and the required customer-supplier interface and interaction patterns on the basis of how the service is used in the buying company’s business process. The classification distinguishes four types of services: component, semi-manufactured, instrumental and consumption services. The usability and validity of this classification is investigated in two subsequent series of theory-building case studies at various buying companies. As such, distinctive effective patterns of interaction were developed for the different types of services. Subsequently, theory testing research is conducted to investigate whether these effective patterns represent necessary conditions for successful ongoing service exchange. Furthermore, the usefulness of the classification for providers of business services is explored, and a link between ongoing interaction and initial purchasing is established.
Presented 2006


Incremental Product Development - Four essays on activities, resources, and actors


Nina Veflen Olsen


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Most innovations are incremental, and incremental innovations play an important role for the firm. In spite of that, traditional NPD studies most often emphasize moderate to highly innovative product development projects. In this dissertation the overall objective is to increase our understanding of incremental innovation.

The dissertation is organized around four essays that emphasize different aspects of incremental innovation. NPD in hotels, retailers and food manufacturers (e.g. dairy and fish) have been investigated. The different essays vary in accordance to both methodology and theoretical platform, and illustrate how my own understanding has evolved throughout the research process. Open- and closed-ended questions, emerging and predetermined approaches, and quantitative and qualitative data and analyses were utilized.

The theoretical frame of reference is first and foremost traditional NPD research (here labeled the Cooper school). In addition to this school, literature from the IMP approach has been utilized. Other theories, such as transaction cost analysis (TCA) and the resource-based view of the firm (RBV), have been drawn upon in particular cases.

One theoretical contribution of the dissertation lies in its attempt to illustrate how the different actors’ access to resources influences incremental innovation. In essay two and three we highlight that actors with access to different resources conduct different NPD activities, thus access to resources influences how actors organize the NPD process.

Another contribution of the dissertation is the attention drawn to an actor’s utilization of resources in incremental innovation. We emphasized the manager’s role in incremental innovation by exploring resource friction. The numbers of resource combinations possible are infinite, and the opportunities offered are only limited by the manager’s thoughts. Accordingly, a manager’s lack of imagination is a strong restrictor of innovation.

Finally, one contribution of the dissertation lies in its identification of the interplay between activities, resources and actors in incremental innovation. Resources in NPD can be created, not only allocated and utilized. The conventional perspective of resources as scarce and limited is broadened to include the possibilities associated with new resource combinations. Incremental innovation is a dynamic process where access to resources, utilization of resources, and creation of new resources influence what activities are conducted, and visa versa.


Learning Across Firm Boundaries - Learning Across Firm Boundaries The Role of Organisational Routines


Lena E. Bygballe


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The main purpose of the study is to contribute to the understanding of learning across firm boundaries. Such learning has often been associated with so-called knowledge-intensive firms engaged in formal learning collaborations in order to develop new products and technology. In this study, on the other hand, I look at learning in ongoing relationships between customers and suppliers in industrial settings. I argue that these relationships entail just as much learning as relationships set up with more explicit learning objectives. However, this type of learning is as yet unspecified in the literature. Building upon an adaptive perspective of organisational learning and an industrial network approach to business relationships, I address the topic by linking learning and relationships through the means of routines. Routines embed interaction between two relationship parties, co-ordinating the use and combination of resources involved in the relationship. When the parties interact through engaging in various routines, new experiences are gained, providing possibilities for learning and changes in routines and resource interfaces. As such a main role of routines in relationships is that they not only store existing knowledge but provide further possibilities for learning as well. An important dimension of routines is that they intersect, not only within a relationship but also between relationships. This implies that learning resulting in changes in one routine may propagate, leaving imprints beyond the original learning location. The organisational learning literature, here represented by the adaptive perspective, informs us about the learning process itself. However, the main focus within this perspective is on learning related to individual routines. The industrial network approach on the other hand, informs us about the relationship context in which the learning takes place, and directs our attention to the connectedness of routines and relationships, and subsequently the implications of learning. A single, qualitative case study with three sub-cases is used to investigate learning in business relationships in this thesis. The empirical study concerns one focal customer company and three of its supplier relationships. Combining the insights from the two theoretical perspectives referred to above forms the basis for analysing learning in these relationships. Learning is here related to changes in the inter-organisational routines embedded in the relationships.


Resource Combining across Inter-organisational Project Boundaries


Frida Lind


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This thesis focuses on the interplay between resource use and development that takes place in relation to inter-organisational research projects. Research and development efforts are characterised by resource combining in collaboration and networks among actors. One way of organising such efforts is inter-organisational projects. In the thesis, inter-organisational research projects are analysed in a network context.

The theoretical framework takes its starting point in the Industrial Network Approach. The notions of resource heterogeneity and embeddedness are taken as vital assumptions and points of departure for the analysis of resource combining in a network context. Empirically the thesis builds on an in-depth case study of an inter-organisational research project in the field of plant biotechnology. The project in focus consists of four project members: two companies and two university departments. This project has been studied between 2001 and 2004.

The case study illustrates how resource combining takes place across project boundaries. Thus, inter-organisational projects may not only use and develop resources internally in order to fulfil the project goals, but may also relate to research endeavours outside the project. “Project embeddedness” is discussed in terms of project members’ respective resource collections, including their access to project external resources. Five “patterns” are suggested for understanding how projects are linked to their contexts. It is argued that the mixture of these patterns sets the terms for how a project may cope with its context during a research process. Finally, the role of the project boundary is discussed in terms of two functions: separating and relating, both being of importance for resource combining across the project boundary. By extending the analysis beyond the project boundary, network effects can be observed, thus providing a wider scope of resource combining than what may be captured by focusing only on what takes place within projects.

Keywords: inter-organisational projects, research projects, resources, resource development, network contexts, network effects.

Presented 2005


Value Co-Creation in Industrial Buyer-Seller Partnerships – Creating and Exploiting Interdependencies. An Empirical Case Study


Birgitta Forsstrom
Åbo Akademi
Birgitta Forsstrom


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Relationships between buyers and sellers on industrial markets are often long term and catachterized by interaction and involvemement between companies over time. The parties are working together in solving problems and creating new ideas and innovations. One of the core concepts in the study is value. The argument is that value is something relative, and can be understood only at a specific time in a specific context. In the study value is seen as a subjective assessment of the trade off between benefits and sacrifices at a specific time in a specific context. Further value in the context of industrial buyer-seller partnerships is seen as something that is the parties are creating together. The concept of value co-creation is introduced, and by this is meant that value is created jointly through interaction between the parties. This view opposes the traditional view of value creation - where the supplier is seen to be creating something of value that the customer is consuming or destroying.
The study is an empirical case study based on interviews, participant observation and document analysis. The analysis method is qualitative. The object of study is a buyer-seller dyad in the marine industry. The story presented in the thesis is an illustration of how a buyer-seller partnership has developed over a period of 30 years, and how the parties create value, through interaction, over time, in the relationship.
The case analysis supports the initial notion of value being relative and something that is co-created in the relationship. The case demonstrates both the difference in how value is perceived by the involved parties, and illustrates what is perceived as value. The study concludes with a discussion on interdependencies between the parties - that value co-creation potential is realized through developing and exploiting interdependencies - with the ultimate aim of achieving efficiency in transactions and/or more efficient resource use. The main theoretical base for the thesis is the Industrial Network Approach and more specifically the initial works of the IMP group, namely the interaction approach.


Strategic management of customer relationships. A Network Perspective on Key Account Management


Robert Spencer
EuroMed Marseille
Robert Spencer


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Customers have progressively become undeniably core elements, and indeed often represent a passage obligé, in the marketing literature. Such is their importance that to discuss marketing strategy and derived marketing methods and approaches without giving a central role to the customer component would seem inconceivable. The notion of customer itself translates a certain vision of the market, and specifically the demand market, from a conceptual point of view.
Fundamentally the way the market is conceptualised leads to the adoption of specific approaches to handling the market. These approaches thus dictate marketing behaviour of the firm. This behaviour consequently affects marketing outcomes. As a conclusion, inadequate or inappropriate conceptualisation of the market will inevitably result in unsatisfactory and/or unexpected outcomes.
Existing approaches in marketing strategy relating to the customer dimension – namely market segmentation, CPM (customer portfolio management), CRM, and KAM (Key account management) – are still very much based on a conceptual approach which considers markets as atomised in nature - with the customer as predominant or sole entity - and static. These approaches are moreover more often than not considered as stand-alone issues rather than holistically.
Alternative conceptualisations of markets have however emerged which provide scope for and, we would argue here, demand a revised approach to handling the customer dimension of the market. These alternative conceptualisations are discussed.
The thesis then takes a closer look at the approach issues mentioned above. Starting with a general discussion of the customer dimension of marketing strategy, the literature in the fields of segmentation, CPM, and CRM is subjected to a brief critical review. Focus is then placed specifically on the state of the art of the literature in the area of KAM, in industrial markets. In simple terms this sees KAM as the largely stand-alone task of organising the supplier firm’s internal resources in such a way as to optimise sales to those large multi-site, multiple buying-centre, customers perceived as demonstrating high economic returns to the supplier firm.
This critical review is then related to empirical findings in the six published contributions to the thesis. The first three of these contributions address issues which examine and support a rather different conceptualisation of markets and the nature and role of customers and thus, accordingly, the need for revised approaches to the market in general. The last three, building on the first three, address specifically the need for a revised approach to KAM.
As a result an alternative model to KAM is proposed, that of SMCR – Strategic Management of Customer Relationships – which views KAM firstly as an indissociable part of the strategic dimension of customer management, and indeed corporate strategy, necessitating a holistic approach integrating segmentation, CPM and KAM. Secondly KAM is seen to be a rather more complex issue than organising supplier resources to match large, important customers’ requirements and optimise on economic returns. Rather it translates as the identification of multiple forms of return on investment of different forms and origins, and as the handling of potentially complex internal and external networks of relationships. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the customer dimension is itself seen to be embedded in a network context which goes beyond simple management of relationships with customers. This encourages a vision of KAM as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, hence the SMCR model.


Exploring the Interplay between Standard Products and Customer Specific Solutions


Daniel Hjelmgren


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This thesis deals with how a company may handle the interplay between the development of standard products and customer specific solutions. There are three aims of the thesis. The first aim concerns how a buyer and a supplier in interaction arrive at a solution involving a mix of standard and customer specific product features. The second aim concerns how the supplier can manage the balance between exploitation of standard products and exploration of new product features during the development of a particular solution. The third aim concerns how the development of specific solutions affects the development of the standard product.

The frame of reference is primarily based on the Industrial Network Approach, and deals with utilization and development of products within networks of interdependent resources. While resource utilisation is seen as dependent on how the resources are embedded into the network, resource development takes place when their features are changed in order to make the resources fit into new combinations.

The thesis is based on a case study focusing on a Swedish ERP-system provider’s development of new product features. The main part of the case deals with the company’s development of a customer specific solution in interaction with one particular buyer whose requirements could not be met by existing product features. The buyer is a subcontractor on the second tier in the automotive industry and implemented the ERP-system in order to improve the coordination of certain sequentially dependent operations. To understand how the products have developed over time, a series of preceding and subsequent customer interactions and their influence on the use and development of the product features is also part of the case.

The thesis concludes that when developing specific customer solutions the supplier must exploit on existing resource features while adjusting to the customers’ particular resource constellations. Likewise, the customer needs to maintain most of its resource constellation while adjusting some parts of it to the new resource. Different strategies that a supplier and a buyer may apply in order to deal with the effects that a certain change may have on other parts of the resource network are suggested. Furthermore, it is concluded that a company, in order to balance between exploration and exploitation, needs to manage three interrelated aspects of resource embeddedness. First, it needs to economise on existing product features when developing customer specific solutions. Second, the company needs to identify similarities among different customer specific solutions when developing the standard product. Third, it needs to deal with a large number of interdependent interfaces, both within the product itself and towards different customer solutions. Finally, it is concluded that separating the issue of efficiently developing customer solutions, and the issue of developing standard product features, into different organisational units may benefit the balancing between exploration and exploitation.

Keywords: interaction, resource, dependence, network, utilization, adaptation, exploitation, product development, exploration, standardisation.
Presented 2004


Product Development – Effects on a Company’s Network of Relationships


Espen Gressetvold
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Espen Gressetvold


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Product development is of great importance to many companies. Development of relationships is also of great concern to many companies. This thesis connects these two development processess by focusing on how a company through product development can influence the development of its network of relationships. The thesis makes use of a research tradition referred to as the industrial network approach. The empirical material takes an electronics company and its network of relationships as a point of departure.


The Role of Personal Contacts of Foreign Subsidiary Managers in the Coordination of Industrial Multinationals. The Case of Finnish Subsidiaries in Portugal.


Ricardo Morais
Portuguese Catolic University
Ricardo Morais


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This study attempts to extend current knowledge of inter- and ultra-firm relationships in industrial markets. In particular, the study seeks to illuminate the distinction between individual and organizational actors in business-to-business markets as well as the coexistence of formal and informal mechanisms of coordination in multinational corporations. The main questions addressed are: 1) what factors influence the occurrence of personal contacts of foreign subsidiary managers in industrial multinational corporations? and 2 j how such personal contacts enable coordination in industrial markets and within multinational corporations?
The theoretical context of the study is based on: 1) the interaction approach to industrial markets, 2) the network approach to industrial markets, and 3) the process approach to multinational management. The unit of analysis is the foreign subsidiary manager as the focal actor of a contact network. A contact network is conceptualised as encompassing "formal"" and "informal"" contacts within the multinational corporation as well as "private" and "business" contacts in the industrial market. The study is empirically focused on Portuguese sales subsidiaries of Finnish multinational corporations, which are managed by either a parent country national (Finnish), a host country national (Portuguese) or a third country national.
The study suggests eight scenarios of individual dependence and uncertainty, which are determined by individual, organizational, and/or market factors. Such scenarios are, in turn, thought to require personal contacts with specific functions. The study thus suggests eight interpersonal roles of foreign subsidiary managers, by which the functions of their personal contacts enable inter-firm coordination in industrial markets. In addition, the study suggests eight propositions on how the functions of foreign subsidiary managers' personal contacts enable centralization, formalization, socialization and horizontal communication in multinational corporations.

Keywords: coordination, industrial markets, multinational corporations, foreign subsidiary managers, personal contacts, qualitative research
Presented 2003


New Uses of an Agricultural Product? – A case study of development in an industrial network


Magnar Forbord
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Magnar Forbord


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This thesis in business administration at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) deals with a certain resource, goat milk. How this resource was used in Norway in the 1980s and how this use changed in the 1990s is described through some more or less interconnected case stories. The Industrial network approach is applied in order to understand this use and change. The interaction taking place between various actors in a certain industrial network, ‘The Norwegian milk network’, is emphasized. This interaction affected the resource and resources it was tied to. More specifically, over time various resources had been mutually adapted across organizational borders in order to facilitate certain economic uses. The actors in the network undoubtedly judged use of cow milk, a much ‘bigger’ resource in the network in terms of physical and economic volume, as most important in the 1980s. This had the effect that the various resources in the network were adapted primarily for the utilization of this resource (product), while goat milk was handled more or less as a residue. However, in the 1990s, driven by some enthusiastic and critical actors, among them a goat farm couple, a series of interactions took place in the network. This led to a new view of how goat milk could economically be used. Gradually a number of small changes were made in the way resources were combined. This facilitated new and ‘improved’ uses of the goat milk, not at least in the form of new white goat cheeses.

Hence we can say that in the network, over the period of two decades which we study, goat milk changed from a ‘cost’ to a ‘value.’ It is argued that this change is difficult to explain and understand unless one takes interaction and (industrial) networks into consideration.

The thesis was made at the Department of Industrial Economics and Technology Management, NTNU and was financed by Interreg II and III Sweden - Norway (1998-2003).

Keywords: Agricultural resources; new economic uses; industrial network

A more refined download of the thesis can be done at the NTNU Library at:

The thesis can be ordered as printed Report no. 05/03 from:
Centre for Rural Research, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, N-7491 Trondheim; Tel. +47 7359 1729; E-mail:


When Information Technology Faces Resource Interaction. Using IT Tools to Handle Products at IKEA and Edsbyn


Enrico Baraldi
Uppsala University
Enrico Baraldi


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This thesis investigates the interplay between information technology (IT) and the other resources in business networks. IT tools and systems are important facilities that firms utilize in several managerial tasks. Investments in IT have been massive for the last 40 years, even if the actual effects of using IT tools seldom correspond to the expectations. Therefore, this thesis addresses two main issues: (1) how does IT affect the surrounding resources? and (2) how does the value of IT emerge in relation to these resources? This study applies to these issues a business network theoretical framework that relies on four core concepts: resources (viewed as heterogeneous and interacting within “resource networks”), information (viewed as a meta-element that represents “concrete” resources), IT systems (viewed as facilities that digitalize information into “digital meta-networks”), and managerial tasks (the restricted arenas where IT is applied to handle certain specific resources).

The empirical setting consists of two “twin” case studies that present how the furniture retailer IKEA and the furniture producer Edsbyn use IT tools to handle various tasks concerning the products of these two firms. More precisely, the empirical material concerns IKEA’s coffee table Lack and Edsbyn’s electrically adjustable table El-Bord. Personal interviews (130 in all) and many visits to the premises of several firms were used to create a detailed picture of the resources, information patterns, and IT tools intervening in twelve managerial tasks (six for each product) that were selected for a deeper analysis. The effects and the value of IT in each of these managerial tasks are viewed as emerging from the interplay between IT and the other resources (products, facilities, business units, and business relationships) that embed the IT facilities.

The effects of IT on the above resources vary greatly across the twelve managerial tasks that were grouped into two categories, exploitative and explorative. In exploitative tasks (aiming to efficiently utilize given resources), the informative and the concrete effects of IT are comparatively stronger, thanks to highly relevant digital models embedded within IT systems and thanks to highly routinized and structured information patterns (the input required by IT facilities). Conversely, IT has restricted effects in explorative tasks, because (1) IT tools are unable to model non-given resources and untried resource combinations, (2) IT tools are unable to handle highly network-embedded information, and (3) IT is unable to steer the non-linear development processes typical of explorative tasks. However, IT produces some (mostly informative) effects that stabilize exploration, such as formalizing ex ante and freezing ex post the involved resources: IT creates “islands of certainty” in “a sea of uncertainty”.

As for the value of IT, there exist no perfect IT tool in relation to the many and conflicting resources handled within managerial tasks – tasks that stretch across the boundaries of firms, embracing external resources. Even technically downscaled IT systems can act as highly proficient tools if favourably embedded by the other resources. The value and contribution of IT appear more evident in exploitative tasks, where IT can more easily model the involved resources and digitalize the needed information: in such tasks, IT structures resources and automates activities, as required for maintaining efficiency in resource utilization. In explorative tasks, instead, the stability created by IT entails a conservative force, because IT only displays established resource combinations, while blocking wholly new ones.
Presented 2002


Variety in Distribution Networks: A Transvection Analysis


Kajsa Hulthén
Chalmers University of Technology
Kajsa Hulthén


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In recent years, the debate concerning changes taking place in distribution structures has been intense in both academia and in practice. One main standpoint is that distribution is subject to considerable reorganisation. Furthermore, some observers point to an increasing degree of variety in the distribution 'reality', both in how production and distribution structures are organised and in end-user needs.

In this thesis, the overarching phenomenon dealt with is variety in distribution. The theoretical framework is based on two main sources of inspiration. First, the Industrial Network Approach (e.g. Håkansson, 1987), highlighting the interdependencies between actors, activities, and resources in industrial systems, is applied. Second, as a means to deal with interdependence in distribution networks, the transvection concept (Alderson, 1965), based on two main types of activities, transformations and sortings, is used to describe and analyse the 'entire process' from raw material to the delivery of the end-product to a specific end-user. Combined, they provide a framework for analysing variety in distribution, where distribution networks are conceptualised as 'sets of crossing transvections'.

To explore variety in distribution networks, the framework is applied on distribution of PCs. Variety is analysed by identifying and analysing a number of transvections, and how they are interconnected. The analysis focuses on how objects, starting as raw material and ending up as an end-product, are changing in different dimensions as they are sorted and transformed.

The thesis concludes that the key to understanding variety in distribution networks is sorting. Sorting directs objects to different resources and actors and is therefore essential for how variety in the objects' features is created. Sorting by a mix of postponement and speculation strategies allows efficient resource utilisation to be obtained at the same time as end-user needs can be taken into consideration.

The study indicates that the focus in mainstream distribution literature on 'channels' only captures a limited part of the inherent complexity, owing to interdependence, in distribution structures. The transvection is brought forward as an analytical concept, taking into consideration both the producer and the user side in distribution networks, and their different kinds of logic. Furthermore, the thesis suggests that a network perspective brings about a more profound understanding of variety in distribution compared to a 'channel' perspective.


The Value of Business Relationships


Tibor Mandjak


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