Digitalizing interorganizational relationships - How technology-induced transparency and digital mediation shape collaborative dynamics

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (article-based)
Degree programme
66 + app. 116
Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 196/2019
In this doctoral dissertation, I explore how the use of relationship-specific digital trace data for the optimization of interorganizational processes affects collaborative dynamics. In a multiple case study of seven interorganizational relationships, I show how digital real-time data technologies at interfirm boundaries create operational transparency. This transparency facilitates the coordination and control of increasingly complex digitally mediated interorganizational tasks. Through three essays, I contribute to strategic management and organization theory. First, I describe how digital real-time data technologies ease interorganizational coordination and control. I then theorize broader effects on the structures and dynamics of collaborative relationships. In the first essay, I situate the empirical phenomenon of interorganizational big data technologies theoretically within the academic discourse by conceptualizing technological embeddedness as a characteristic of interfirm relationships. I argue that greater technological embeddedness augments collaboration processes through richer data flows, which enable better coordination and control between partners. A digital organizational infrastructure, technological embeddedness is a precondition for the observations I discuss in my two empirical essays. In the second essay, I empirically analyze how organizations can use interorganizational big data technologies to manage collaborative tensions. I find that these technologies create what I term orthodox spaces, a data-based organizational design that leverages managers' data-driven mindset and technologically embeds specific interorganizational processes. This channels managers' attention to a subset of collaborative goals and thereby suspends tensions at the process level. In the third essay, I empirically explore how the varying types of operational transparency that the introduction of interorganizational big data technologies brings affect the development of interorganizational trust. I find that these technologies leverage managers' attitude for transparency, which privileges trust in numbers over trust in relationships. Organizations use technology-induced transparency initially as coordinative control, but over time start using it as monitoring control, thus modifying the composition and development of interorganizational trust.
Supervising professor
Schildt, Henri, Prof., Aalto University, Department of Management Studies, Finland
big data technologies, digital transformation, transparency, technological embeddedness, interorganizational tensions, interorganizational trust
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: Katharina Cepa, Henri Schildt. Technological Embeddedness of Interorganizational Collaboration Processes, Sydow, J. and Berends, H. (Ed.) Managing Inter-organizational Collaborations: Process Views. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 2019, Vol. 64, pp. 91-115.
    DOI: 10.1108/S0733-558X20190000064007 View at publisher
  • [Publication 2]: Katharina Cepa, Henri Schildt. Engineering collaboration with digital data: How orthodox spaces suspend interorganizational tensions. Unpublished essay.
  • [Publication 3]: Katharina Cepa. Transparency technologies and interorganizational trust – How observers use transparency to coordinate and monitor partners. Unpublished essay.