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The Impact of Cloud-Based Digital Transformation on ICT Service Providers’ Strategies

  • Atlantic Technological University

Abstract and Figures

The relationship between digital transformation and strategy formulation in the context of new digital technologies is emerging as a research area which is ripe for investigation. Recently, information system researchers have focused their attention on exploring this relationship in the context of cloud computing-based digital transformation. However, while extant research has explored this relationship from an adopter perspective, there is a dearth of research which has used an information and communications technology (ICT) service provision viewpoint. Taking the perspective of fifteen ICT service providers, this comparative case study elucidates how cloud-based digital transformation has impacted these organisations strategy formulation processes. This paper provides the following insights. First, cloud-based digital transformation can positively impact the realisation of strategic objectives in terms of deliberate strategies such as agility and competitive positioning. Second, we present a process model which delineates how ICT service providers strategy formulation was observed to be an emergent process, encompassing recursive cycles of business model experimentation and iteration, organisational learning and organisational adaptation, primarily as a result of the profound disruptive and innovative impact of cloud-based digital transformation.
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Title The impact of cloud-based digital transformation on ICT
service providers’ strategies
Author(s) Clohessy, Trevor; Acton, Thomas; Morgan, Lorraine
Date 2017-06-18
Clohessy, Trevor, Acton, Thomas, & Morgan, Lorraine.
(2017). The impact of cloud-based digital transformation on
ICT service providers’ strategies. Paper presented at the 30th
Bled eConference Digital Transformation – From Connecting
Things to Transforming Our Lives, Bled, Slovenia, 18-21 June.
Publisher AIS Electronic Library (AISeL)
Link to
Item record
30th Bled eConference
Digital Transformation From Connecting Things to Transforming Our Lives
June 18 - 21, 2017; Bled, Slovenia
The Impact of Cloud-Based Digital Transformation on
ICT Service Providers Strategies
Dr. Trevor Clohessy
J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics, National University of Ireland Galway,
Dr. Thomas Acton
J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics, National University of Ireland Galway,
Dr. Lorraine Morgan
J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics, National University of Ireland Galway
The relationship between digital transformation and strategy formulation in the context of new digital
technologies is emerging as a research area which is ripe for investigation. Recently, information system
researchers have focused their attention on exploring this relationship in the context of cloud computing-based
digital transformation. However, while extant research has explored this relationship from an adopter
perspective, there is a dearth of research which has used an information and communications technology (ICT)
service provision viewpoint. Taking the perspective of fifteen ICT service providers, this comparative case study
elucidates how cloud-based digital transformation has impacted these organisations’strategy formulation
processes. This paper provides the following insights. First, cloud-based digital transformation can positively
impact the realisation of strategic objectives in terms of deliberate strategies such as agility and competitive
positioning. Second, we present a process model which delineates how ICT service providersstrategy
formulation was observed to be an emergent process, encompassing recursive cycles of business model
experimentation and iteration, organisational learning and organisational adaptation, primarily as a result of
the profound disruptive and innovative impact of cloud-based digital transformation.
Keywords: Digital Transformation, Cloud Computing, Strategy, Case study, ICT service
“We are the blind people and strategy formation is our elephant. Since no one
has had the vision to see the entire beast, everyone has grabbed hold of some
part or other and railed on in utter ignorance about the rest.
(Mintzberg et al. 2005)
Trevor Clohessy, Thomas Acton and Lorraine Morgan
1. Introduction
In recent years organisations have realigned their information and communications technology (ICT)
strategic objectives to provisioning and/or sourcing lower cost, flexible, resilient supply and delivery
options as a means of responding to the impacts of globalisation and the associated cost pressures
(Mohdzain and Ward 2007). Cloud computing represents an innovative technological advancement
which appears to offer a solution to these aforementioned objectives (Ward, 2012; Iyer and
Henderson, 2012). Subsequently, incumbent organisations are undergoing cloud-based digital
transformation journeys in order to reap the multitude of anecdotal business and strategic benefits.
In order for organisations to perform effectively in a digitized and networked economy, an
“understanding of the role and relevance of strategy is necessary for effective competitive behaviour”
(Mansfield and Fourie, 2004). The role of ICT in developing effective strategies has been well
documented (Porter and Millar, 1985; Henderson and Venkatraman, 1993; Atkins, 1994). Strategic ICT
can not only support and shape strategy but can also be pivotal in determining commercial viability
and represent a source of competitive advantage when used in innovative ways (Croteau and
Bergeron, 2001; Zott et al., 2011). However, the concept of ICT-enabled strategy formulation is
relatively ambiguous. For instance, Ward (2012) opines that the knowledge we have developed [over
the past 30 years] about information systems strategies appears to have had little impact in some
organisations, even though they invest hundreds of millions of pounds in new information systems
and digital technology every year. This is evidenced by a global survey conducted by McKinsey (Khan
and Sikes, 2013) of 807 executives which revealed that while they acknowledged the strategic
importance of digital technologies to their business goes beyond cutting costs (e.g. business efficiency,
product and service innovation, entering new markets and so on), they were also dissatisfied with its
effectiveness pertaining to enabling overall strategic objectives (e.g. the realisation of forward looking
strategies which support growth and innovation). In the context of cloud computing, strategy can be
defined as “a set of decisions required to create and deploy a network-based, information service
delivery strategy that results in both cost savings and organisational agility (Iyer and Henderson, 2010).
However, the current state of art pertaining to cloud-based digital transformation strategies that
might be appropriate for ICT service providers is relatively ambiguous. As ICT service providers begin
to formulate their cloud strategies, “they need to understand the inherent capabilities that are
afforded by cloud computing…[which] can help them gain a competitive advantage by creating
opportunities for cost advantage and organisational agility”(Iyer and Henderson, 2010). Having a
comprehensive understanding of cloud-based digital transformation is “critical to forming a cloud
strategy that will unlock business value worth orders of magnitude more than the costs” (Linthicum,
2012). ICT are strategic insofar as they successfully implemented and are also used to realise strategic
intent (Arvidsson, Holmström, and Lyytinen, 2014). For instance, Khanagha et al. (2014) conducted a
longitudinal qualitative case study, from 2009 to 2013, of a telecommunication company (Telco) in
order to investigate how an established firm organised their digital transformation and strategic
arrangements when transitioning to provisioning cloud services. The authors identified that as a result
of the emergence of disruptive cloud-based digital transformation, the strategy formation process
encompasses a “collective experimental learning process revolving around a number of alternative
strategic intentions ranging from incremental evolution and transformation to complete replacement
of the existing business model” (Khanagha et al., 2014). Currently, there is a dearth of research relating
to how cloud–based digital transformation impacts ICT service providers’ strategies. Consequently,
research relating to how these concepts develop, interact and harmonise is also underdeveloped. This
is pertinent now as the cloud computing paradigm has reached a level of maturity which lays the
foundation for IS researchers to investigate how ICT service providers have moulded and sustained
their cloud-based digital transformation arrangments (Clohessy et al. 2016, Hess et al. 2016). In order
to ensure the long-term business viability and sustainability of the cloud computing paradigm, further
research is required to elucidate exemplars of successful and unsuccessful ICT service provider digital
transformation arrangements (Chang et al., 2013).
Cloud-Based Digital Transformation Strategic Impact
Thus, the objective of this research is to:
Explore how cloud-based digital transformation impacts ICT service providers’ strategies?
The remainder of the paper is structured as follows: The next section builds the theoretical foundation
for the study. Then we elucidate our research method. Next, the findings are presented and discussed.
Finally, we conclude with implications for theory and practice.
2. Theoretical Underpining
2.1 Cloud-Based Digital Transformation
Digital transformation is concerned with “the changes digital technologies can bring about in a
company’s business model, which result in changed products or organisational structures or
automation of processes” (Hess et al. 2016). The long journey towards digital transformation is often
fraught with complexity and ambiguity for incumbent ICT firms (Clohessy et al. 2017). This is
compounded by the fact that the transformation of mature business models to digital-based business
models encompasses potential nuanced legacy liabilities and issues. This is prominently evidenced by
ICT service provider stalwarts such as Dell, Intel, IBM and Hewlett Packard whose struggles pertaining
to how to best leverage the benefits of cloud-based digital transformation have been well
documented. Frequently, these organisations are operating in unchartered digital waters and as a
consequence lack the strategic clarity pertaining to what steps they need to consider prior to and
during their digital transformation journey. The cloud computing concept encompasses a
recombination of existing and new technologies and differentiates itself from antecedent ICT
paradigms via five essential characteristics: rapid elasticty, measured service, broad network access,
resource pooling, and on-demand-self-service (Mell and Grance 2011). Cloud computing enables ICT
service providers (person, organisation or entity responsible for making a service available to cloud
consumers) to virtualise their computational resources and concurrently provision them, via a service
orchestration process, typically in the form of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service
(PaaS) or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) (Liu et al., 2011). While there is anectotal evidence which
highlights the transformative business and strategic value afforded by cloud computing for ICT service
providers (Clohessy et al., 2016, Armbrust et al., 2009), our understanding of how these organisations
can develop digtal transformation strategies that effectively align with the value propositions inherent
to cloud computing technologies is still limited (Iyer and Henderson, 2012; Chang, Walters and Wills,
2013; Khanagha et al., 2014).
2.2 Bounding the Concept of Strategy
In order for IS researchers to have a comprehensive understanding of an organisation’s ICT strategy,
it is useful to understand the evolution of their intended and realised strategies (Chan, Huff and
Copeland, 1998). Mintzberg and Waters (1985) propose a widely cited comprehensive categorization
for strategy which identifies intended, realised, deliberate, unrealised and emergent strategy as
constituting key components of the strategy formulation process. This categorization of strategy is
suitable for investigating the “peculiarities” of modern emerging ICT (Peppard, Galliers, and
Thorogood, 2014) and thus provides a backdrop for this study to better explore the strategy
formulation process of ICT service providers (Figure 1). Intended strategy represents the
organisation’s official strategy (which may or not be written down) and realised strategy which reflects
the outcomes of decisions undertaken by the organisation stakeholders which may manifest from
deliberate, emergent, and unrealised strategies. Deliberate strategy is defined simply as “realised as
intended”, emergent strategy as patterns or consistencies realised despite, or in the absence of,
intentions” and finally unrealised strategy as “intentions that are unsuccessful in its consequences”
(Mintzberg and Waters, 1985).
Trevor Clohessy, Thomas Acton and Lorraine Morgan
Figure 1: Strategy Research Lens (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985)
We selected the aforementioned seminal categorisation as a basis for conceptualising the concept of
strategy for the following reasons. First, no single strategy can be a panacea for an organisation and
that the most optimal strategic variables alter due to certain conditions and factors (Zott and Amit,
2008). Given the rapidly evolving nature of the cloud computing paradigm (Ojala and Tyrvainen, 2011),
and the subsequent dynamic nature of cloud-based digital transformation (Clohessy et al., 2016), the
categorization is well suited for delineating the strategy formulation process and chronicling how ICT
service providers have arrived at their current realised strategy. Second, in the context of cloud-based
digital transformation, the categorisation enables the identification of problematic issues and
emerging patterns of events and behaviours which may have resulted in ICT service providers
deviating from their intended strategy (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985; Chan et al., 1998). Third, the
categorisation enables business strategy to be “viewed in a non-descriptive manner, being conceived
in terms of how companies actually decide and act, not how they should decide and act” (Jansson,
2008). In the next section, we delineate the research method operationalised in order to elucidate our
research objective.
3. Methodology
This paper’s research objective is to explore how cloud-based digital transformation impacts ICT
service providers’ strategies? Due to the dearth of empirical research pertaining to examining the
relationships of the focal phenomena under scrutiny, our study is exploratory. Thus, a multi-method,
comparative case study research design was selected for the study (Stebbins, 2001, Yin, 2014). The
research sampling approach was directed by evolving theoretical concepts, whereby we identified
organisations and people from which we expected to elicit the majority of insights into the
phenomena of interest (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). For instance, this study encompasses an analysis
of both large and small and medium enterprise (SME) ICT service provider firms. The large business
model mature (BMM) ICT ventures represent organisations that have significantly longer tenure as
ICT service providers that are currently transitioning from ‘pre-cloud’ to ‘cloud-based’ business
models. The SME born-on-the-cloud (BOC) ICT ventures represent organisations who do not possess
the requisite existing maturity or tenure of pre-cloud business models. These firm’s business models
originated on the cloud. Data collection took place between January 2015 and August 2015 using semi-
structured interviewing based on a common protocol across 15 ICT service provider organisations.
Following the standard practice of using senior management as data sources, (Iyer and Henderson,
2012, Clohessy et al., 2016) we chose a senior manager from each targeted organisation. Interviews
lasted between 70 and 120 minutes. The interviews (including follow-up interviews) were conducted
until theme exhaustiveness was reached, which manifested when similar themes were being
identified and no new themes emerged. All interviews were transcribed, proof read and annotated
and then coded using NVivo 10. In order to improve the credibility of the data and provide cross and
complementary perspectives on emerging elements, secondary evidence in the form of archival
documents and published materials sourced from the ICT service providers’ websites (e.g. white
Cloud-Based Digital Transformation Strategic Impact
papers, specific ICT service providers case studies, brochures, reports) were collated and analysed.
While the study did not undertake a grounded theory approach, in analysing the data, the researcher
used an analytical hierarchical data analysis process adopted from Ritchie, Spencer and O’Connor
(2003) incorporating open and axial coding techniques based on the recommendations of Strauss and
Corbin (1998).
ICT provider*
Cloud Services/Business Model***
Inno Ltd.
Hybrid, public and private managed and self-service hosting cloud
Outsourcing and consultancy services. (BMM)
Provision connectivity into cloud IT solutions via their existing
next generation Telco network and bespoke software solutions.
Manage the design, build and implementation of their customers
cloud solution ensuring seamless network integration. (BMM(
Hybrid, public and private managed and self-service hosting cloud
Outsourcing and consultancy services.
Microsoft and SAP value added resellers. (BMM)
Gaviour Ltd.
Hybrid, public and private managed and self-service hosting cloud
Outsourcing and consultancy services. (BMM)
Hybrid, public and private managed and self-service hosting cloud
Outsourcing and consultancy services. (BMM)
Bespoke software solutions enable travel companies to derive
maximum benefit for their customers. (BOC)
Bespoke procurement software solution.
Enables customers to source and evaluate new suppliers.
Bespoke CRM sales management and membership body software
solutions. (BOC)
Supply IT infrastructure in the form of public, private and hybrid
cloud infrastructure hosting.
Disaster recovery and virtual desktop services. (BOC)
Supply IT infrastructure in the form of public, private and hybrid
cloud infrastructure hosting.
Microsoft value added resellers. (BOC)
Bespoke software solution enables customers to visualize their raw
log data in order to unlock real time critical insights. (BOC)
Bespoke software solutions aimed at the travel clinic service market
segment. (BOC)
Braavos PLC
Bespoke software solution enables customers to integrate and
connect their existing core IT infrastructure into an ICT service
providers’ offering. (BOC)
Supply IT infrastructure in the form of private and hybrid cloud
infrastructure managed hosting.
Outsourcing and consultancy services.
Microsoft and Citrix value added resellers. (BOC)
Bespoke software solution enables customers to design and build
cloud-based website solutions. (BOC)
Table 1: Data sources for the study.
*Company pseudonyms have been applied to protect anonymity. ** Firm size categorised using limits as set by the
European Union along the dimensions “number of employees” (e.g. Small 10 -49, Medium 50-249, Large 250+) and “annual
turnover”. ***Large firms categorised as ‘business model mature’ (BMM) ventures (e.g. extant pre-cloud business models)
while SME firms categorised as “born-on-the cloud” (BOC) business model ventures (e.g. current business model originated
on cloud).
Trevor Clohessy, Thomas Acton and Lorraine Morgan
4. Findings
In this section, we report the empirical results obtained during the analysis of the semi-structured
interviews (denoted as sanitised quotes), archival documentation and published materials. It was
evident from the study that cloud-based digital transformation not only have a dynamic and turbulent
impact on ICT service providers’ strategies (emergent and unrealised) but also have a cogent collective
impact in terms of agility and competitive positioning (that is, their deliberate strategy) (see Table 2).
Realised Strategy
Digital Transformation Impact
Deliberate Strategy
Emergent and Unrealised
1. Increased agility - organisational and
2. Increased strategic acquisitions
3. Increased strategic partnerships
4. The dynamic nature of cloud-based
digital transformation, in conjunction
with the fluid of the cloud computing
market, facilitates increased
incidences of emergent and
unrealised strategy.
All ICT service providers - Examples
from INNO, Zeta2k, FieldZuite,
MobCon, LYS, Braavos,
All large ICT service providers -
Examples from Sigmathen Systems,
All ICT service providers - Examples
from MobCon, Zeta2k , LYS, VClazz,
INNO, Med3Care
All ICT service providers- Examples
from VClazz, Yet3, FieldZuite,
MobCon, INNO
Table 2: The impact of cloud computing based digital transformation on realised strategy.
The strategies for ICT service providers (large and SME) encompassed short and long-term objectives
such as cogent market impact, increasing return on investment (ROI), enhanced agility, reinvestment
of capital, and reducing capex and opex. For example, study participants in Levatte and Sigmathen
Systems described how their strategy is focused on broadening their cloud geographic footprint and
growing their customer base in order to increase revenues while the CEO at FieldZuite explained that
their primary strategy is about increasing revenues through repeat customers.
All ICT service providers confirmed that their cloud-based business model(s) have significantly
impacted the realisation of their company’s strategic objectives (see Table 2) which has been largely
the cumulative result of a combination of deliberate, emergent and unrealised strategy. In terms of
deliberate strategy, all ICT service providers identified that their main objective for operationalising
cloud influenced business models was mainly for agility reasons. For instance, the CTO at INNO
described how their cloud strategy was focused on enhancing the agility of the organisation, stating
that the new religion is cloud and we are all about agility and DevOps principals. Our objective is to
develop new or improved services faster than we did in the past. All new offerings must be agile and
be able to be provisioned at low cost”. This CTO further elucidated that “our new strategy is that we
are going to become a SaaS organisation and get out of the hardware business”. The CEO at Braavos
pointed out that their cloud-based business models “foster agile and cost effective operations which
are currently enabling our strategic objectives of becoming a market leader as a cloud integration
service provider”. While the CTO at Zeta2k described how their “cloud enabled business model has
allowed us to be very agile and nimble in order to provide a service to a large number of users very
quickly, thus facilitating strategic objectives”. Similarly, the CTO in FieldZuite explained that their
business model has had a significant collective impact on the company’s strategic objectives by not
only enabling them to compete with larger ICT service providers but also to deliver their cloud services
with greater efficiency to multiple global locations around the world. Moreover, the CTO in MobCon
elucidated on two examples of the cloud business model impact on their strategic objectives.
Cloud-Based Digital Transformation Strategic Impact
First, he described how cloud computing facilitates enhanced efficiency (e.g. operational, cost and
resource) and faster innovation in terms of supporting accelerated cycles of development. For
example, cloud computing enables the early deployment of demonstration environments that would
otherwise require substantial capital expenditure as a precursor to a full business case. Second,
MobCon’s strategic partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS) facilitated stability in their business
model components, thus minimising strategy-business model misalignment issues which may have
manifested because of the disruptive nature of cloud computing technology. The CTO in
SandstemTech added, the cloud has enabled us to be more responsive. We have sales pitch for a
large airline next week and cloud computing has enabled us to create an enterprise demo
environment for them in a matter of hours. The traditional method we would have utilised three years
ago would have taken weeks in order to create the same infrastructure for the demo environment”.
Strategic acquisitions were also identified as deliberate strategy by all large ICT service providers. For
example, the CTO in Sigmathen Systems explained, “it was a deliberate strategic decision to acquire
an established managed hosting in ACD (company synonym)“. Prior to this acquisition, the company
were losing customers to public cloud offerings. In order to streamline the on-boarding process for
cloud customers, the company also acquired an independent software vendor (ISV) start-up company
who specialised in subscription billing.
The CTO in INNO also pointed out that their decision to acquire an established cloud provider such as
CEES was pivotal to their cloud success, stating that “INNO’s acquisition of CEES in 2013 accelerated
its cloud computing strategy overnight. We can now use the CEES infrastructure and platform to
rapidly deploy existing software services as SaaS. Partnerships were also identified as an example of
deliberate strategy by ICT service providers (e.g. Zeta2k, LYS, VClazz, INNO, Med3Care). Both the
interviewees in LYS and VClazz confirmed that it was a deliberate decision for their organisations to
operate as value added resellers (VARs) in order to avail of the economies of scale provided by their
large ICT service provider partner. All ICT service providers confirmed that their emergent strategy
manifested from cloud enabled accelerated rate of business growth and incidences of unrealised
strategy. For instance, the CTO in VClazz opined, “as a result of the exponential rate of growth we
have experienced provisioning cloud services, we have successfully transitioned from the end-user
market to the channel markets”. Similarly, the CEO in Yet3 pointed out that the company’s current
realised strategy has manifested as a result of emergent strategy based on their accelerated growth
in niche global target markets. In relation to unrealised strategy, IaaS was provided as an example by
ICT service providers (e.g. MobCon, FieldZuite, INNO). For example, the CTO in INNO explained how
prior to acquiring CEES, their efforts to build their own IaaS proved vexatious, further describing how
“it really was a painful process trying to develop our own bespoke IaaS. It didn’t have the scale of AWS,
Rackspace, and Azure. It failed simply as there wasn’t a big enough pool of resources for all the
customer requirements we had. We did not invest in it aggressively enough and were far too
conservative about investing in it”. The CTO in MobCon described how the company were initially
going to build their own cloud infrastructure. However, MobCon decided to partner with AWS, a
partnership that enabled the company to accelerate its move to provide cloud services to its existing
The study identified that the dynamic and recursive nature of ICT service providers’ strategy
formulation, business model experimentation, organisational learning and subsequent adaptation
when attempting to explore disruptive and/or innovative cloud business models. Figure 2 below
depicts the process model we have developed to reflect this recursive process. All ICT service providers
confirmed that their cloud strategy formulation and review decisions were largely management-led
(e.g. board of management, investors and so on) with changes being dictated by business model(s)
component performance (e.g. market analysis, revenue, cost). For example, the CTO at Zeta2k
surmised, “our organisation’s strategy is management-led and informed by business model
performance, strategic roadmaps, whitepapers, analyst research reports and customer communities’
feedback”, while the CTO at INNO explained how they have a committee of fourteen people
Trevor Clohessy, Thomas Acton and Lorraine Morgan
responsible for developing corporate strategy for the company’s four divisions (that is, hardware,
software, business consulting and technology consulting). However, on the contrary, the CEO at Yet3
described how their strategy is more leadership-led, which is facilitated by the flat structure of the
organisation. The CEO elucidated, “while the advisory board help the company to see the forest from
the trees, we have employees in Israel, Vietnam and Japan who can influence strategic decisions
without ever having met the CEO or the advisory board as they know more about the lay of the land
than we do”. The CEO asserted that the ability of their globally distributed employees to provide
strategic insight on their national landscapes has been a cornerstone of the company’s continued
Figure 2: The relationships among strategy formulation, business model experimentation and
organisational adaptation when exploring an emerging disruptive and/or innovative business model
In an effort to maximise the realisation of their strategic intent, all ICT service providers are engaging
in business model experimentation and iteration. For example, the cloud manager at Levatte
described how they are experimenting and iterating their business model constructs at varying levels
within the organisation. The CTO in INNO also explained how their organisation was utilizing a bespoke
component business modelling (CBM) technique for formalising and reviewing their product business
models. The CBM technique breaks an enterprise down into its constituent segments and enables
INNO to take the aforementioned areas and break them down and identify elements which bring
business value to the company. The CTO at INNO further elaborated, the CBM breaks our IT function
down into segments which we do that is strategic and operational and tactical. Elements and segments
which are important for our operations are maintained whilst other which are not strategically
important are outsourced”. The CEO at FieldZuite also explained how the business model impact of
the cloud computing paradigm was different to antecedent technologies, pointing out that “customer
needs are constantly changing. An inability to review and change individual business model
components can result in detrimental effects to the longevity of a ICT service providers business”.
While the CTO at Sigmathen Systems explained that transition for traditional hardware and software
providers to more cloud focused provision methods has had a combined revolutionary and chaotic
impact on their business model. The study found that the learning accumulated from this iterative
Cloud-Based Digital Transformation Strategic Impact
business model process serves as a foundation for organisational adaptation based on the potential,
requirements and impacts of the new cloud business model. Strategic organisational adaptation
encompassed re-structuring, re-organisation, change of personnel and new ways of managing.
The outcomes of this organisational adaptation served as an input for re-evaluating the strategic
intent of the organisations. 0ur analysis complements and extends existing research - in particular
Khanagha et al., (2014). On the one hand, it confirms the dynamic nature of ICT service providers’
strategic intent in response to disruptive cloud-based digital transformation and also identifies the
salient roles of adaptation, business model experimentation and the resulting accruement of new
knowledge. However, on the other hand, contrary to their findings that presented structural
adaptation as a precursor to business model experimentation, our findings indicate that business
model experimentation and iteration and the subsequent derived organisational learning serve as
salient inputs to ICT service providers evaluating whether the level of organisational adaptation
required to pursue their strategic intent is feasible. This would suggest that ICT service providers are
operationalizing a cautionary and evolutionary approach prior to committing substantial finances and
resources to restructuring their organisation in order to realise their strategic intent. In the next
section, we conclude with implications for research and practice.
5. Implications for Theory and Practice
The objective of this study was to conduct an exploratory investigation into how cloud-based digital
transformation impacts ICT service providers’ strategies? Both theoretical and practice contributions
stem from this research. From a theory perspective, extant empirical research in the area of cloud-
based digital transformation has largely focused on adopter perspectives. This study provides a
contribution towards a vivid contextual understanding the broader impact of cloud-based digital
transformation on both large multinational and SME ICT service providers’ strategies using Mintzberg
and Waters (1985) seminal research lens. Moreover, our study can further be considered revelatory
in that we have incorporated our findings into a new process model (see Figure 2) which demonstrates
that business model experimentation and organisational learning serve as salient moderating
antecedents to determining the level of organisational adaptation that may be required to realise
strategic intent of a cloud-based digital transformation. From a practice perspective, our findings
suggest that ICT service providers should continue to focus on using business model experimentation
as a means for harmonizing their organisations strategies with the disruptive and/or innovative
idiosyncrasies of cloud-based digital transformation. While the comparative case study proved to be
rich in detail, the findings are based on a small purposeful sample of fifteen firms. Thus, this study is
naturally limited in terms of it generalisability. However, we took care in relating our research findings
in order to relate the idiographic details of the cases to theoretical concepts.
Given the exploratory nature of this research and the high-level nature of the new process model,
others will need to build theory and subsequently test it. From an organisational learning perspective,
future research is warranted from a resource-based view of the firm and dynamic capabilities
perspectives in order to explore how successful ICT service providers are exploiting their core
resources and competencies in order to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by cloud
technology. Additionally, a systems thinking approach could elucidate the implications of altering
existing complex relationships, processes, and feedback mechanisms. For example, different change
processes may conflict with one another (e.g. there may be potential interference between re-
structuring and individual learning). Finally, while the primary objective of this study was to examine
the broader impact of cloud-based digital transformation on the strategy formulation process, we
believe that studying the strategy archetypes which emerge as a consequence of explicit cloud-based
service models (e.g. SaaS, PaaS, IaaS) seems an area ripe for research.
Trevor Clohessy, Thomas Acton and Lorraine Morgan
This work was supported, in part, by Science Foundation Ireland grant 10/CE/I1855 to Lero - the Irish
Software Research Centre (
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... It embraces digital technologies to transform digital marketing firms by replenishing non-digital processes with newer technology (Anthony Jnr, 2020;Metawa et al. 2021). The nature of these new disruptive digital technologies are popular with the SMACIT acronym (Sebastian et al., 2017;Vial, 2019), referring to technologies related to social, mobile (Hanelt et al., 2015a), analytics (Duerr et al., 2018), cloud (Clohessy et al., 2017), and the internet-of-things (I.o.T) (Petrikina et al., 2017). Due to this, the general strategic perspective for a digital marketing firm is to Sustainable Technology and Entrepreneurship ...
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The study examines sustainable digital transformation aspects, comprehensively unpack their nature and implications to digital marketing firms’ ambidexterity. Sustainable digital transformation building blocks are discussed in detail. It further identifies and delineates sustainable growth strategies for digital marketing firms in order to successfully transform digitally. Business Model Theory (BMT) has been used as the theory informing the current study and is based on the PRISMA methodology. Sustainable digital transformation is influenced by a variety of factors and as a process, it is triggered by digital disruption which forces digital firms to seek for value creation and structural changes. Systematic literature review period January 2012 to April 2022 (ten year time gap). A conceptual modelling framework has been developed for future research to test and validate its applicability and relevancy to similar studies to the current one. Future researchers are encouraged to consider alternative methodologies to examine sustainable digital transformation within a longitudinal research design.
... Other contributions investigate the role of cloud-based process changes. ICT service providers might benefit from the virtualization of their services in terms of a cloud-based digital transformation (Clohessy et al. 2017), while SMEs can improve their organizational performance resulting from serviceoriented digital transformation activities, such as B2B-portal functionality (Chen et al. 2016). Nwankpa andRoumani (2016) ascertain the positive influence of digital transformation on the performance and innovation competencies of a company. ...
Digital transformation (DT) has not only been a major challenge in recent years, it is also supposed to continue to enormously impact our society and economy in the forthcoming decade. On the one hand, digital technologies have emerged, diffusing and determining our private and professional lives. On the other hand, digital platforms have leveraged the potentials of digital technologies to provide new business models. These dynamics have a massive effect on individuals, companies, and entire ecosystems. Digital technologies and platforms have changed the way persons consume or interact with each other. Moreover, they offer companies new opportunities to conduct their business in terms of value creation (e.g., business processes), value proposition (e.g., business models), or customer interaction (e.g., communication channels), i.e., the three dimensions of DT. However, they also can become a threat for a company's competitiveness or even survival. Eventually, the emergence, diffusion, and employment of digital technologies and platforms bear the potential to transform entire markets and ecosystems. Against this background, IS research has explored and theorized the phenomena in the context of DT in the past decade, but not to its full extent. This is not surprising, given the complexity and pervasiveness of DT, which still requires far more research to further understand DT with its interdependencies in its entirety and in greater detail, particularly through the IS perspective at the confluence of technology, economy, and society. Consequently, the IS research discipline has determined and emphasized several relevant research gaps for exploring and understanding DT, including empirical data, theories as well as knowledge of the dynamic and transformative capabilities of digital technologies and platforms for both organizations and entire industries. Hence, this thesis aims to address these research gaps on the IS research agenda and consists of two streams. The first stream of this thesis includes four papers that investigate the impact of digital technologies on organizations. In particular, these papers study the effects of new technologies on firms (paper II.1) and their innovative capabilities (II.2), the nature and characteristics of data-driven business models (II.3), and current developments in research and practice regarding on-demand healthcare (II.4). Consequently, the papers provide novel insights on the dynamic capabilities of digital technologies along the three dimensions of DT. Furthermore, they offer companies some opportunities to systematically explore, employ, and evaluate digital technologies to modify or redesign their organizations or business models. The second stream comprises three papers that explore and theorize the impact of digital platforms on traditional companies, markets, and the economy and society at large. At this, paper III.1 examines the implications for the business of traditional insurance companies through the emergence and diffusion of multi-sided platforms, particularly in terms of value creation, value proposition, and customer interaction. Paper III.2 approaches the platform impact more holistically and investigates how the ongoing digital transformation and "platformization" in healthcare lastingly transform value creation in the healthcare market. Paper III.3 moves on from the level of single businesses or markets to the regulatory problems that result from the platform economy for economy and society, and proposes appropriate regulatory approaches for addressing these problems. Hence, these papers bring new insights on the table about the transformative capabilities of digital platforms for incumbent companies in particular and entire ecosystems in general. Altogether, this thesis contributes to the understanding of the impact of DT on organizations and markets through the conduction of multiple-case study analyses that are systematically reflected with the current state of the art in research. On this empirical basis, the thesis also provides conceptual models, taxonomies, and frameworks that help describing, explaining, or predicting the impact of digital technologies and digital platforms on companies, markets and the economy or society at large from an interdisciplinary viewpoint.
... The existing literature sheds light on the impact digitalization has on firms' business models, resulting in relevant changes to their structure, processes (Clohessy et al., 2017) and stakeholder relations. In fact, digitalization can be conceptualized as "a process that aims to improve an entity by triggering significant changes to its properties through combinations of information, computing, communication and connectivity technologies" (Vial, 2019, p. 118). ...
Purpose This paper aims to focus on the relation between digital transformation and banks’ reputation, as examined through the information disclosed by the five largest Italian banking groups’ efforts to extend and enhance their digital resources. Considering digitalization as a key strategy for managing reputation, which, in turn, can leverage financial and value performance management, the paper investigates whether and how digital activities might affect banks’ reputation. Therefore, this paper proposes the relationship between digitalization and reputation as a lever for performance management and for increasing efficiency. Design/methodology/approach The authors use content analysis to generate a digital disclosure index, categorizing activities human, structural and relational. For banks’ reputations, the proxies are a measure of corporate reputation and a reputational risk index. Methodologically the study used multiple case studies, considered as particularly suitable to gain an in-depth understanding of the topic in the case of the five banks. A collection of secondary data and semi-structured interviews are included. Findings Overall, the digitalization-reputation link shows that banks’ reputation is variously affected, not only by exposure to risk (including reputational risk) but also by strategic issues such as digitalization and the effectiveness of the corresponding communication. Consequently, banks should view digitalization as a key driver to be considered not in a stand-alone perspective, but in a combined approach. Research limitations/implications Continued research should include the Covid-19 implications. Additionally, it would be important to compare a larger number of banks, with different characteristics, also including variables indicating the corporate governance mechanisms. Practical implications The analysis contributes to fostering scholars’ and practitioners’ management of the digital transformation challenge that is a current key-factor, capable of increasing banks’ value. It considers not only the drivers directly affecting monetary value but also the institutions’ social and relational value, as well as their reputation. Originality/value This paper extends prior research on the digitalization-reputation relation by investigating digital transformation through disclosure of activities in this area within the Italian banking sector. It allows to leverage the key-factors that can contribute to increasing banks’ value, considering not only the drivers directly affecting monetary value but also the institutions’ social and relational value, as well as their reputation.
... Chanias (2017) Los cambios que pueden producir las tecnologías digitales en el modelo de negocio de una empresa, que dan como resultado productos o estructuras organizativas modificadas o automatización de procesos. Clohessy et al. (2017) Se distingue de las transformaciones comerciales anteriores habilitadas por TI en términos de velocidad y su naturaleza holística. ...
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El desarrollo de esta tesis doctoral se inscribe dentro del interés actual de las PYMES por adaptarse a los cambios que se están produciendo en la economía y la sociedad en general, debido a la integración de las nuevas tecnologías digitales. La transformación digital se está convirtiendo en una necesidad y los directivos buscan formas para transformar sus empresas exitosamente. Los estudios e investigaciones académicas realizadas hasta el momento constatan que las PYMES llevan un retraso en su transformación digital con respecto a las grandes empresas. Sin embargo, los modelos o guías prácticas que pueden ayudar a los directivos de las PYMES en la transformación digital son escasos. Para cubrir esta brecha de conocimiento se planteó el objetivo general de esta tesis doctoral: estudiar cómo las PYMES pueden avanzar en la transformación digital a través del desarrollo de capacidades organizacionales. Como resultado se obtuvo un modelo de competencia organizacional para la transformación digital validado por expertos que permitirá a las PYMES afrontar los cambios necesarios para avanzar en su madurez digital, así como una definición conceptual y única de competencia organizacional para la transformación digital. A través de un estudio de caso se pudo comprobar cómo las nuevas tecnologías digitales habían fomentado el cambio del modelo de negocio de las PYMES, y que las capacidades organizacionales de transformación digital identificadas habían actuado como potenciadores digitales del cambio, constituyeron el “motor” necesario para la transformación.
... To survive in a competitive environment, LSPs are forced to digitize (Hofmann & Osterwalder, 2017;Marchet et al., 2017). Digital transformation (DT) refers to the process of digital technologies integration into organizational business processes to improve business efficiency and create new delivery values for customers (Clohessy et al., 2017;Mathauer and Hofmann, 2019). DT has emerged as a key trend of modernization in the logistics sector of the economy. ...
Digital Transformation (DT) allows logistics service providers (LSPs) to gain competitive advantages by reducing costs, and creating customer experience, innovation and efficiency. This paper proposes a systematic framework to analyse the obstacle factors hindering DT of Thailand small and medium enterprises freight LSPs. First, thirteen obstacles are identified through the extensive literature and validated by a panel of experts. Second, a nine-level hierarchical structure is determined based on Interpretive Structural Modelling to demonstrate the complex interrelationships among obstacle factors. Finally, thirteen obstacles are categorized regarding the driving and dependence power by employing Matrix Impact of Cross Multiplication Applied to Classification approach. The results indicate a lack of digital culture being the most important obstacle hindering DT, followed by lack of support and commitment from top management and lack of risk taking initiative. This finding could help LSPs who aim for DT to take appropriate steps to alleviate obstacles.
Digital transformation is a highly debated subject in several fields. However, only a few studies discuss digital transformation focusing on non-profit organisations. This paper seeks to develop a taxonomy based on a systematic overview of the literature examining digital transformation in non-profit organisations over the last decades. This is the initial step of a research project which aims to investigate the impact that digital transformation has on non-profit organisations. For this research step, we initially identified the dataset of contributions discussing the topic under investigation. Then, we refined the initial dataset, restricting the corpus to 111 papers. The resulting dataset was used to develop the taxonomy. By adopting a conceptual and empirical analysis, we identified the following five dimensions (and their relative values): Digital Aim, Scope, NPO Relevance, Digital Technology, Business Aim. Finally, for every dimension, one single value was assigned to each paper, proposing a useful taxonomy for classifying the contributions investigating digital transformation in non-profit organisations over the last decades. Furthermore, focusing on a subset of dimensions (Digital Aim, Scope, NPO Relevance), we summarize some preliminary results.
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Conference Paper
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Almost every industry is facing a real risk of disruption from cutting-edge technologies. New technologies drive the Digital Transformation (DT), which induces significant changes in the business landscape. This reality forces companies to change and adapt their business models to remain competitive. While transforming digitally, companies also face the challenge of complying with sustainability aspects. There is a growing understanding by politicians, managers, investors, and scholars that it is not enough for companies to be concerned with short-term profits because natural disasters, social unrest, and economic inequality can affect long-term prosperity. This paper explores publications related to sustainable business models (SBM) and digital transformation (DT) to uncover common ground between the underlying concepts of sustainability and digitalization. A science mapping approach is applied to review Scopus indexed articles and conference papers related to SBM and DT. This paper aims to reveal the size, growth path, and geographic distribution of the knowledge base and trends in the common SBM and DT literature. It is the first attempt of a bibliometric review for this merged research field and shall guide practical implications and future research possibilities.
Conference Paper
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There is broad acknowledgment among the majority of leaders in almost every industry that digital technology's role is rapidly shifting, from being a driver of minor efficiency to a source of significant disruption and innovation. In our fast-paced world of digital and technological advancement, being prepared for digital disruption and being able to transform a business digitally is indispensable and will ensure the survival of the organization in the competitive market. Consequently, the growing digitization and digitalization of business processes, products, and services make it imperative for companies to better understand the critical drivers for a digital transformation (DT). The digital age already started, and far too many companies do not take advantage of the possibilities or even understand the consequences of the rapidly changing economy. However, to stay competitive and avoid disruption by a new market entrant, incumbents' companies need to adapt and even remodel their core business models in alignment with the digitalization trend. Organizations need to decide which technologies to adopt and how to incorporate them into their day-to-day operations. However, to do this efficiently, organizations first need to understand the critical drivers of DT that affect their business and their industry sector. This paper reports the result of an explanatory mixed-method research project to discover the most relevant key drivers for a DT. The quantitative and qualitative analysis has highlighted two drivers in particular: rising customer expectations and continuously changing customer needs. These two drivers represent the most significant challenge, and the opportunity companies face nowadays in the business environment. The overarching objective of this conference paper is to give a universal outlook about the general mechanisms that could alert and subsequently drive a company to undergo a DT.
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CIOs and other senior executives face the challenge of how to handle the opportunities and risks of digital transformation. To help managers address this challenge more systematically, we describe how three German media companies successfully approached digital transformation. Based on their experiences, we provide a list of 11 strategic questions and possible answers managers can use as guidelines when formulating a digital transformation strategy.
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Cloud computing enables firms not only to mitigate risks in today's hyper-competitive business environment, but also to gain competitive advantages. Based on field interviews with seven early adopter companies, supplemented by some published reports, the authors describe six cloud computing benefit patterns and five business-related strategic risks that can be managed using cloud computing. Dynamically dealing with a mix of legacy systems and cloud solutions is but one of the dimensions of management required today as companies compete as members of ecosystems that include such entities as competitors, complementors, infrastructure providers, development platform providers, and orchestrators.
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Information systems (IS) are strategic in so far as they are used to realize strategic intent. Yet, while much has been said about aligning IS functionality with the strategic intent and how to organizationally implement strategically aligned systems, less is known of how to successfully implement strategic change associated with system use – a truly critical challenge within strategic IS implementation. Drawing on a strategy-as-practice perspective we address this gap by developing a multi-dimensional view of IS strategy, conceptualizing three key challenges in the IS strategy process, to explain how and why a paper mill, despite successfully implementing a strategic production management system, failed to produce intended strategic change. We call this outcome strategy blindness: organizational incapability to realize the strategic intent of implemented, available system capabilities. Using a longitudinal case study we investigate how cognitive rigidity of key actors and fixed, interrelated practices shaped the implementation of the new production system. We also identify core components and dynamics that constitute a richer multi-dimensional view of the IS strategy implementation (alignment) process. In particular, we identify three salient factors that contribute to strategy blindness – mistranslation of intent, flexibility of the IT artifact and cognitive entrenchment – and discuss how they affect strategic implementation processes. We conclude by discussing implications of our findings for IS strategy theory and practice, especially the contribution of strategy-as-practice to this stream of research.
This paper presents the findings of a longitudinal study of a large corporation's transition to a new business model in the face of a major transformation in the ICT industry brought about by Cloud computing. We build theory on the process of business model innovation through a qualitative study that investigates how an established firm organizes for an emerging business model. Contrary to previous findings that presented spatial separation as the optimal structural approach for dealing with two competing business models, our findings indicate a need for recursive iterations between different modes of separated and integrated structures in line with the emergent nature of strategic intent toward the new business models. Our analyses reveal strategy formation to be a collective experimental learning process revolving around a number of alternative strategic intentions ranging from incremental evolution and transformation to complete replacement of the existing business model. Given the fundamental differences in the nature and requirements of those alternative intents, iterations between different structural modes and differing combinations proved to be crucial in enabling the organization to make transition to the new business model.
Conference Paper
This paper outlines the increasing challenges and perspectives of service innovation in new business models and the relationship between service innovation and business development procedures such as service engineering and business model design concepts. It describes the main drivers of service innovation and identifies what makes service innovation so important today, consequences for (service) business modeling as well as the implications for an integrated development approach of service and business model innovation. A comparative analysis shows that in general Osterwalder's Business Model Design approach compliments the strategy-based service engineering process well in most areas. Using the toolbox of the Business Model Canvas complemented by specific methods and tools from the service engineering approach, new complex service systems can be developed in a systematic and holistic manner. Our findings from applying the theoretical results in a case study to developing a new business model for a cloud-based SaaS solution show that business modeling needs to be continuously cross-linked to the entire service engineering process to adapt to ever changing customer needs and vice versa.