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Paper info: Services innovation patterns: the case of Italian B2B distributionfirms


Services innovation patterns: the case of Italian B2B distributionfirms


Roberta Sebastiani
Catholic University
Roberta Sebastiani

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 21st IMP-conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2005.


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Companies are facing some hard questions about the unavoidable need to find sustainable means ofcompetition that enable them to face the challenges posed by new market players and dynamics.These challenges are made all the more difficult by the tendency of companies operating in a widevariety of sectors to follow and reproduce old patterns and approaches.The evolution path, however, is towards a reflexive modernization (Beck, Giddens, Lash, 1994)characterised by a new form of intelligence that we could define as “tertiary”. This modernization, moreclosely related to humans, their abilities and their interpersonal networks, is promoting the explorationof what is new and powering the engine of development (Rullani et al. 2005).This process, which highlights the role and weight of tertiary intelligence as a catalyst for the creationof economic value, is gradually shifting attention from the material transformation of goods to theimmaterial transformation of knowledge and relations.The tertiary sector, in this perspective, takes on added importance, especially with regard to theawareness of its increasingly vital role in the development mechanisms of advanced economies.Our analysis intends to outline the patterns that typify the development mechanisms through theanalysis of a series of concrete cases.This working paper, in fact, is a contribution to Research Project “Tertiary sector in the knowledgebasedeconomy” sponsored by CFMT (Centro Formazione Management del Terziario) and led byEnzo Rullani (Ca’ Foscari University, Venice).The need to outline the various innovation paths in the service sector has led to a period of fieldanalysis involving the examination – by means of in-depth interviews with the top management – 50companies operating in seven macro-areas: retail, B2B distribution, tourism and travel, culture andentertainment, wellness, KIBS (knowledge intensive business services) and logistics.The analysis has revealed several common features that represent a global development matrix forthe sector and at the same time some specific features of each macro-cluster that highlight originalinterpretations of the phenomenon.In particular, an in-depth analysis of the specific features of the B2B distribution sector points out someinteresting results.The reasons behind the analysis of this area lie in the increasing disintermediation, which tends toprogressively reduce the role of these players, in the consequent reduction in margins in traditionalbusiness and in growing demand for service with higher added value.The analysis highlights how, in a sector like B2B distribution in Italy, there are experience involving thereflexive modernization based on tertiary intelligence. The aim is to identify possible innovationpatterns able to develop business models which can assume the role of development activators incompanies operating in service industries and in particular in this specific sector.